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Various Christian Life Questions

2000

In the following e-mail exchanges, the e-mailers' comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.


Christmas Comments

 >Having had really enjoyed the festivities of what we as followers of Jesus Christ commonly call Christmas has, made me think of the origins of this festival.< 

Yes, at one time Dec. 25 was a pagan festival to the roman god Saturnis. Before that, there was simply a Winter Solstice celebration. But it was changed to a celebration of the birth of Christ sometime during the early centuries.

Some people make a big deal out of this. To me, it's a big so what? Many churches today have "alternative celebrations" on October 31. I think this is a great idea. No reason not to have a party; just make it one that's Christian oriented rather than pagan. And that is exactly what the church did with Dec 25th in the early centuries.

> The reverse seems to be happening to the church these days as if the Roman emperor is raising his ugly head again in the form of the media and the coercion is rather subtle in the form of information from the media that has an agenda through and in the guise of political correct language and the so called great panacea to global dysfunction, multiculturism.<

A few years ago, the mayor of Pittsburgh decreed that this time of year would officially be "Sparkle Season" in Pittsburgh. Many were and continue to be very upset about this, especially since the term has been pretty much picked up by the media throughout the greater Pittsburgh area.

As for me, I was upset at first but now I realize it was inevitable. This country no longer has a "Christian consensus" as Francis Schaeffer put it; so it would be expected it would move away from even the externals of Christianity.

Now, I really don't care how the "world" celebrates this time of year. What concerns me is more how even in my Christian family the Real Reason for the Season seems to get lost. Food and presents is the focus not Christ.

But my church did have a Christmas Eve service, which of, course, focused on the Real Reason for the Season. In addition, I even have a few instrumental Christmas CDs I've been listening to, along with a few regular Christmas tapes and CDs. But none of that "ho, ho, ho" stuff; just “real” Christmas music (i.e. music that talks about the Real Reason for the Season). So there are ways to focus what the season is really about, but it is easy for the Real Reason to get lost in all the activities surrounding Christmas.

> I guess as usual I have been rather long winded trying to make my point of validity and concerns if possible and, I would be glad as usual to have some feed back either constructful or critical.

Your brother in Christ.
12/30/2000<

I don't know if the above is helpful or not. I guess my main point is, I'm not surprised at how the "world" does things, its how Christians do things that should matter. If we don't keep Christ in Christmas then it shouldn't surprise us at all that the world doesn't.


Public Confession and Church Leadership?

>We are studying 1Cor. 5, and where told that we must confess our sins in front of the church at altar call and then it shall be write down in the record book of the church.  Is this Biblical based?< 

In this passage, Paul is not dealing with the issue of how one repents, but the fact that the entire church has sinned and has not repented. It is because the entire church has not acknowledged that the action is wrong that a church-wide repentance is needed. It has nothing to do with a personal sin that is recognized to be sin by a church. 

Now there are some passages in Scripture that could be taken to mean that sins must be repented of publicly. But these must be considered in light of Jesus' remarks in Matt 18. A person must always be approached in private, and if he repents privately, that is the end of it.

Furthermore, public repentance is generally only for church leaders, and then only when the sin is well know. It does no good for unknown sins to be made known to the entire congregation when  one is already repenting. The only purpose that would serve is humiliation, which is not Biblical.

And finally, requiring public confession can become very manipulative and threatening, and I would personally never attend a church that required it as a matter of course. Each person could end up living in fear that he would be "exposed" to the entire congregation. It is only God that we really should be concerned about if we sin.

>  Also If a church hires  a pastor is he the leader and what right do he have...This is a big  question with the older congregation since we have not had a pastor for ten  years..<

It depends on the type of church you're in. Since you've been without one for ten years and are Baptist, then I'll assume it's a congregational church. In such a church government, the congregation has the final say in all matters, but the opinion of the pastor should be given "extra weight" over that of others and be considered carefully. His opinions should only be overruled if they are clearly unbiblical or damaging to the church, such as requiring public confession would be.

> Please try to help a new Baptist understand and thanks for having a web that I can ask question on.

Audrey
12/7/2000<

Thank you. And I hope that above helps. 


Is Smoking a Sin?

>I have a question about smoking. Is it a sin or is it considered under Christian liberty? I have heard both and I am unsure of the answer. Is it part of the sinful nature or idolatry? I have heard these things also. My problem is, if smoking is sinful and I am a Christian than I am rebelling against God and makes me wonder about my salvation. If smoking is considered under Christian liberty with no sin or righteousness attached than it is okay to partake of without guilt. I am really struggling with this issue. Can you please help me.

Thank you,
Candice
9/2/00<

This is a difficult one. The Bible doesn't specifically mention smoking. So its hard to say its definitely a sin. Those who do generally base their idea on one or both of the following verses: 

[1Cor 6:19] Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?

 

[1Cor 6:12] All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

The point of the first is: since the body is the temple of the Spirit then we should take care of it. And there is no doubt there are health risks associated with smoking. But note, the same could be said about many other things, like eating a junk food filled diet, not exercising, not wearing seat belts, etc.

I've always found it rather hypocritical for a Christian to condemn a smoker, while the Christian is standing there with a donut in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other, and a stomach sticking out between them!

As for the second, nicotine is addicting, as I'm sure you well know. As such, a person can definitely be "brought under its power." But again, the same could be said for any addiction, including such things as TV watching or better, watching football on TV given the NFL season starts this weekend!

Both of these points definitely argue that smoking is not a wise thing to do. But if it is a sin or not, that is another question that would be hard to answer. To be honest, I find cigarette smoke to be rather repugnant, so its hard to for me to be objective in this case. My first inclination is to encourage you to quit due to the health concerns, but I'm sure you've already considered it.

But trying to be as objective as possible, I'd say not to feel guilty about it. The above points are worth considering, but they don't go so far as to argue that it's a sin. So guilt shouldn't be a motivating factor if you decide to try to quit, but a desire for better health and not to be controlled by an object.

But whatever you do, I would suggest bringing up the above points if someone gets on your case about it. Ask the person what their diet is like, or their TV habits. It will probably shut them up.


 >Thank you for taking time to answer my question. I really appreciate it. You have helped me a great deal.

Candice
9/3/00<


Singles and Sexual Thoughts

 >Gary,

You have a lot of good treatises on sex and marriage on your web page. < 

Thank you. 

One thought crossed my mind recently. What kind of biblical principles would be involved for singles and sexual thoughts (or spontaneous dreams that result in climax)? You have to make the some distinction between natural desire (which every normal red-blooded human experiences as an automatic result of common sights, sounds, and touch) and illicit lust. To deny normal desire is to deny that God made everything good. You might want to write an article on the difference along those lines.

RT
8/15/00 

Very good and difficult questions. I would say in regards to "spontaneous dreams" given they are spontaneous, and hence, involuntary, I don't see how someone could be held accountable for them. So there's no reason to feel guilty if one has one. However, it should be noted, that if you're filling your mind with sexual thoughts and images during the day, then you'd probably be much more likely to have such dreams at night. And purposely filling your mind with such things would be wrong.

As for the other issue, it is much more difficult. The verse usually quested in this regard is the following:

[Mt 5:28] “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

But note, the verse specifically says "adultery" not "fornication." And a single person cannot commit adultery with another single person. However, a single person can commit adultery with a married person. So this verse would be saying it is wrong to lust after a married person.

But as for lusting after another single, that would be more difficult. As you say, such things are "normal." In fact, I would image there must be some kind of physical or emotional difficulty if a single person never had sexual thoughts! However, I do believe the issue is how much you dwell on them. Passing thoughts are one thing (just as passing looks an attractive woman are one thing), but dwelling on such thoughts (just as staring at a woman) are quite another.

Just some quick thoughts on this matter. As you say, it does deserve a more in-depth treatment as many single Christians struggle with such matters. But I really don't have the time right now. Maybe someday.


 Appropriate Christian Entertainment?

>Gary,

I am working with the singles ministry at my church and we wanted to suggest some things that Christians could do for entertainment.  I know that there are a lot of events for Christians to attend. What I need to know is what does the Bible say about Christians and entertainment, if anything?  Could you give me some Scripture references, I don't know where to start?  Also have you published anything that I could read on the Darkness to Light web site or in paper copy for that matter.  I would appreciate anything that you can do to help. 

Thanks
Melissa

P.S.  I love your web site, I am a baby in the things of Christ and your web site has helped me tremendously with understanding and research.  Continue God's work and be blessed.

Thanks again
8/6/00<

The main verse that comes to mind is:

[Phil 4:8] Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things.

I would say, as long as something is not contradictory to such standards, it is not a problem. So one would have to be careful what movies or TV shows one watches, what music one listens to, what computer games one watches, and the like. But I would see nothing wrong with such "neutral" things as sports, going to places like the zoo, etc.

Otherwise, the following two verses might be relevant: 

[1Co 10:23] All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. 

[1Co 6:12] All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

So even something that is not necessarily "edifying" might be okay, provided it does not tear down one's walk with Christ. And no activity should become an "obsession" no matter what it is. 

I haven't written specifically on such a subject, but it can get controversial. The problem comes in when one person tries to impose their standards on another. 


Role of Women in the Church

 >Subject: 1Corinthians 14:34,35

I would really like to understand this.  I was under the impression that it was the culture of the day that caused this admonition.  The women yelling across the room to where the men sat as in the Jewish manner of service.< 

Understanding the historical background to Scripture passages is helpful. But it's not helpful when people "invent" a historical background to evade the implications of a passage. And unfortunately, the latter is what has been here with the "women yelling across the room" idea. I know of no historical source that verifies this idea. It is a recently "invented" idea.

> If we are " in Christ" there is no male or female.<

You're referring to Gal 3:20, but note, the epistle of Galatians is about salvation. The issue of church order is not being addressed. However, in 2Corinthians, and even more so with the related passage in 1Timothy 2:12, the issue of church order is the point of the context.

>Thanks for you consideration of this matter.  I do hope to hear from you.<

7/3/2000<

This is a controversial subject. But it needs to be addressed by looking at real historical contexts, along with the literary context of passages, not by inventing historical contexts.

As for my opinion of the subject, personally I would not attend a church with a female head pastor, or a Bible study which is primarily taught by a woman. The above two passages do seem to me to be saying that a woman should not be teaching doctrine to a man. And I have never seen a satisfactory way to interpret the verses otherwise.

However, I do not make a big deal about it as it is just two verses. I am uncomfortable with telling half of the human race what they can or cannot do in the church based on only two verses. So I just quietly don't attend when my church has a Bible study being taught by a woman.

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