Second Reformed Church

Monday, June 26, 2017

Review: "Hope for the Same-Sex Attracted"



Having heard of thee author and become “friends” on Facebook, I looked forward to reading Ron Citlau’s Hope for the Same-Sex Attracted.
Citlau, who has SSA, but is in a joy-filled life with his wife and their children, wrote this book, not to show that the Scripture calls homosexual acts sin (see his book, Compassion without Compromise, for that discussion), but to help those who minister to those with SSA and those who have SSA, by showing them there is hope in Jesus (13ff).
First, he explains three obstacles for those with SSA.
Gay Christian Identity (21ff) – this is an obstacle in identifying the person with the temptation, rather than there life in Christ.  For that reason, calling oneself, a “gay Christian,” is self-defeating.
Gay marriage (37ff) – this is an obstacle because the sexual differentiation and its unity and outcomes cannot occur between two persons of the same gender.
Spiritual Friendship Movement (55ff) – this is an obstacle I want to read more about –   Citlau explains that SSA Christian leaders, such as Wesley Hill, have argued for SSA person to live together in celibate friendships.  While the idea of intentional and knowing support is a good one, it can lead to sinful relationships and the affirming them as good.  (I look forward to reading Hill’s book on this subject myself.)
Then, Citlau explains several gifts.
The Church (73ff) – through gathering together as the body of Christ, we meet and are ministered to by Christ in the Word and through the sacraments, being grown into the Image of Christ by God the Holy Spirit.
Therapy (89ff) – Citlau explains that persons who have SSA have a fractured sexual identity (101).  Hope and healing can come through pastoral and Christian counseling.  I do wonder about those who live in fear of being “found out” by other Christians.  How would Citlau address this issue?
Singleness (103) – it may be that God gives the SSA person the gift of singleness for a time or a lifetime.  In this way, one may also find hope.
Marriage (117) – for some, like Citlau, God works in them such to bring them to a heterosexual – biblical – marriage – though that does not mean one will never experience SSA again, as he candidly explains.
Prayerful Lament (133) – we find in the Psalms prayer laments – cryings out to God for healing, change, forgiveness, etc.  It is appropriate and hope giving to be able to call out to God in this way and see how God will respond.
Citlau ends with some suggestions for the church leaders and those with SSA.
Citlau does not give easy answers.  He does not promise that one will never be tempted again.  He does not promise that one will not sin again.  What he does – and does powerfully and biblically – is to show to all Christians – and especially those with SSA – that God is a God of hope and He gives us hope, both in this life and in the Kingdom that is coming.  The SSA person may struggle greatly for all of his life, but God’s grace is sufficient, and the hope is for full restoration in the Kingdom.  Still, there is hope today, even after the greatest struggle, that God may deliver and heal now.
This is a book the church and people with SSA need.
Thank you, Ron.
  #Hope for the Same-Sex Attracted
[This review appears on my blog and on Amazon.com.  I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.]

Sunday, June 25, 2017

"It Is Finished" Sermon: John 19:28-30



“It Is Finished”
[John 19:28-30]
June 25, 2017, Second Reformed Church
            Last week, we saw Jesus crucified as a curse for us, bearing the full Wrath of God for our sins.  As Jesus is crucified, Pilate identifies Jesus in a short summary of the Gospel – being led by God – “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews,” and Jesus fulfills His duty to His mother, by making sure that John will take her into his home and care for her.
            John then skips over a number of comments Jesus makes – as well as the decent of darkness, the tearing of the Temple veil, and the resurrection of many of the dead – all of which John knows his readers can find in the other three Gospels.  Therefore, he moves on to the last moments of Jesus’ life.
            And we see, Jesus knows it is finished.
“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth.”
In order for the Savior to accomplish salvation for all those the Father gives Him, He must do and be everything that the prophets prophesied about Him.  If Jesus fails in any word of the prophets, it is proof that He is not the Savior.
Therefore, in order to fulfill the Scriptures, Jesus cries out for a drink – He cries out that He is thirsty.  This was not just a prop to fulfill the prophecy – there is no doubt that He was thirsty.  The sour wine – vinegar – was available for the soldiers, and, if they desire to give it to them – those being crucified.  As Jesus hangs on the cross for three hours, alternating between pushing up on the nails – in horrific pain – to be able to catch a breath and slumping down – causing His lungs to collapse, Jesus exerts a lot of energy – He gets thirsty.  Therefore, He says He is thirsty – knowing that it is finished – and the soldiers condescend to give Him a drink.
In Psalm 69, a psalm in which David is pleading with God to saving him from his enemies, David writes, “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink” (Psalm 69:21, ESV).
And, as we mentioned last week, as we looked at another Psalm, this is poetry and David is using symbolic language.  Here, David says he was fed poison and sour wine.  Since David lived, we know this symbolically represents how he felt on the run – food was distasteful to him – it made him ill.  However, he was not really poisoned.  In addition, in the Providence of God, David wrote this line of his poem, that God would have it fulfilled in Jesus.
Jesus drinks the bitter wine – the vinegar.  And are we not reminded of what Jesus said in the Garden:  “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11b, ESV).  Again, think symbolically – when Jesus talks about the cup His Father has given Him, He is talking about His death – the work that the Father gave His Son to accomplish.
And again, we might think of the symbolism of living water: “Jesus answered [the woman at the well], ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water”’” (John 4:10, ESV).  Hear, we have the symbolism of “living water” – that is, of full and eternal purification – given by Jesus.  And as Jesus suffers thirst and is quenched with a drink that burns His throat –  that we who believe are made eternally well – forever quenched – to carry out the symbolism.
Jesus knows it is finished, and as part of it being finished, Jesus drinks the bitter cup, fulfilling the Scripture, drinking the bitter cup for our sake and in obedience to His Father.
Second, Jesus says it is finished.
“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
Notice, after Jesus says, “it is finished,” He gives up His spirit.  No one took His spirit from Him – no one took His life from Him.
Yes, the Romans and the Jews – symbolic of all people – put Jesus to death.  However, remember what Jesus says:
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:14-18, ESV).
Jesus is sovereign in the moment of His death – He does not die until it is finished.
And that’s it.
But there is one more question to consider:  what is “it”?  What is the “it” that Jesus knows is finished and says is finished?  What has just been accomplished?
Listen carefully to what Paul writes:
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
“But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:12-21, ESV).
Paul begins:  sin and death – physical and spiritual – came into the world by one man – Adam – who functioned as humanity’s representative in the Garden – so every mere human being is now born a sinner – with a sin nature – inclined towards sin – at odds with God – condemned by God.
            God’s governmental system is representative – just as we have in the United States.  What our representatives do apply to all of us.  When our representatives pass a law, we are all bound to the rules and regulations of that law. 
            In the same way, Adam is humanity’s representative in the Garden, and Adam sinned – himself – and on our behalf, because he is our representative, so we are all born sinners, law-breakers, haters of God, and so forth.  We are born condemned by God.
            Now, God chose to save a people for Himself, and the Trinity sent God the Son to become the incarnate – enfleshed – human, God-Man – representative for all those people that God the Father gave to His Son.  God chose a people for Himself and appointed Jesus as our representative.
            As our representative, Jesus did what Adam did not do – Jesus kept the whole Law of God – Jesus kept the Law of God perfectly.
            Jesus always, only worshipped God Alone.
            Jesus never put anything in God’s place – Jesus never worshipped an idol.
            Jesus always used and represented God’s Name rightly.
            Jesus always kept the Sabbath rightly.
            Jesus always honored His parents perfectly.
            Jesus never murdered – He never got angry unjustly.
            Jesus never committed adultery – He never lusted after anyone.
            Jesus never stole anything – He never took things home from work like everyone else does.
            Jesus never lied about other people.
            Jesus never coveted – He never lusted after what other people had – He never thought He deserved better.
            And besides the Ten Commandments, Jesus kept every other law of God – over six hundred over them – perfectly.  Unlike Adam, Jesus kept every law perfectly and sinlessly.  Jesus loves God and neighbor perfectly.
            And, because Jesus acts as our representative, we who believe in Him savingly are counted as righteous – our account is credited with His perfect and sinless keeping of the Law of God.  So God looks at us through Jesus and declares us righteous.
            But that’s not all:
            Since we are born with a sin nature and sin and continue to sin, in order for God to be just, that sin has to be paid for.  Either each individual human must receive the Wrath of God for our sin, or another Man can take the Wrath of God for us – He can be our Substitute before God – He can represent us before God.
            Our representative, God the Son in the Person of Jesus, is the Only One Who can do such a thing, since He, Himself, has no sin.
            As the author of Hebrews reminds us:  “look[] 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 12:2, ESV).
            “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, ESV).
            Our sin – the sin of all those who will ever believe – is credited to Jesus – as our representative and substitute before God – a position Jesus willingly and sovereignly took “for the joy that was set before Him” – the salvation of His people – and He endured and survived the full punishment and payment to God as justice for our sin against God.
            So, the “it” that Jesus knows is finished – the “it” that Jesus says is finished – is our salvation.  Jesus knows and proclaims that He has done everything necessary to save the people His Father gave Him:  He has paid the debt for all of our sins and He has credit us with His perfect keeping of the Law of God.  So we are now what we are becoming – the holy people of God.
            Over thirty-three years, Jesus patiently and lovingly works to accomplish and finish our salvation – and on the cross, He knows and proclaims, “It is finished.”  In addition, His physical resurrection proves the efficacy of His works.
            So, what is left for us to do to achieve salvation?
            Nothing.  It is finished.
            All the work of salvation is done.
            There is no intermediary to go through – except Jesus.
            We are to do good works in response – in thanksgiving – for what Jesus finished.  But these works do not – they cannot count towards our salvation.
            We can commit our souls to God with confidence – it is finished.
            We can live lives of joy – it is finished.
            We look forward to the Kingdom with confidence – it is finished.
            We can know we are at peace with God – it is finished.
            Let us pray:
            Almighty God, what can we do but thank You and worship You and say that You are worthy?  Thank You for the gift of salvation that You have given to all of Your people through the work of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Thank You for making us righteous and for forgiving all of our sin through Him, so our salvation is finished and complete.  Help us to remember that and not to think that we are earning approval with You.  But let us rejoice and give thanks in all that You have given us, and let us be faithful stewards in going forth to the ends of the earth with Your Gospel.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.