Abstinence is Not the Answer

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ImageI’ve been researching statistics on teen sexuality the past couple of weeks in preparation for a series we’re doing at Crash (our student ministry) entitled, “Sex on Fire.” I am more than saddened by some of the numbers that I’ve been seeing. The United States still leads among other developed countries in regards for teenage pregnancy rates. States that teach abstinence only have some of the highest pregnancy rates in the nation.¬†

For a nation that boasts in being a “Christian Nation,” our numbers sure do not prove that to be true. By saying that, I am not saying that I support the idea that America is a “Christian Nation.” That opens up a whole can of worms that I am not willing to dive into at this time. I am simply saying that the American evangelical church boasts in this title and yet, we lead among other developed nations in teen pregnancy.

As I’ve been preparing for the next three weeks of this series, I’ve come to the following conclusion: abstinence is not the answer.¬†

The problem is, biblically speaking, we are only teaching half of the answer. I have sat in on many purity rallies. The speakers talk about how sex is fantastic but should be saved for marriage. They encourage students to not participate in sex until marriage. They talk about the dangers of premarital sex. But that’s it. We talk about abstinence. But we never talk about pursuit.

I’m not talking about the pursuit of a relationship. I’m talking about the pursuit of holiness. Paul, in his letter to the church in Ephesus says, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Ephesians 4.28, ESV).

The Church Father, John Chrysostom, wrote about this passage: “Where are they which are called pure;¬†they that are full of all defilement, and yet dare to give themselves a name like this? For it is possible, very possible, to put off the reproach, not only by ceasing from the sin, but by working some¬†good¬†thing also. Perceive¬†ye how we ought to get quit of the sin?¬†They¬†stole.¬†This is the sin.¬†They¬†steal¬†no more.¬†This is not to do away the sin. But how shall they? If they labor, and¬†charitably¬†communicate to others, thus¬†will¬†they do away the sin. He does not simply desire that we should work, but so¬†work¬†as to¬†labor,¬†so as that we may¬†communicate¬†to others. For the¬†thief¬†indeed works, but it is that which is evil.”

It is not enough to just say, “STOP.” There has to be more. There has to be something else. There has to be the pursuit of holiness. This applies to so much more than premarital sex. This applies to any sin in our life. I fear that we teach “stop,” but not “pursue.” Of course, this line of thought is prominent in our society; it’s not a problem if we don’t talk about it. We ignore things and hope they will go away. But Paul never supports this idea.¬†

One must stop, but one must also pursue and labor. 

No longer should the evangelical church be promoting abstinence only. We should be teaching something more. We are teaching half-truths. We must begin changing the mindset from only “stopping” to “stopping and pursuing.”¬†

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God Isn’t Holy…Anymore

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If God was not holy, what would change? Honestly, what would truly change? 

Simply put, I guess we could say that He would cease to be God. If holiness is synonymous with divinity, then God would cease to be God and instead become a god. 

If God lost His holiness, we would be worshipping a normal person. We would become a cult (in some aspects, we may have already achieved this status). Christianity would no longer be different from any other world religion.

Wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t everything change? Unfortunately, we are beginning to find out…because God isn’t holy anymore.¬†

Or at least this is how we behave (I had you thinking I was completely heretical). Lately, I have been reading “God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism” by Abraham Joshua Heschel. While reading the book, one thing has continually struck me in every chapter: the Jews see God holier than Christians do.

Take a look at some of our songs:
“I am a friend of God. I am a friend of God. I am a friend of God. He calls me friend. Who am I that you are mindful of me? That you hear me when I call? Is it true that you are thinking of me? How you love me? It’s amazing.”
“I want to know you. I want to hear your voice. I want to know you more. I want to touch you. I want to see your face. I want to know you more.”
“Come closer closer to me. Find me broken. Find me bleeding. ‘Cause I need more now than a fairy tale, a God who lives in a book. I need someone real. So would you come?”
“And he walks with me. And he talks with me. And he tells me that I am his own. And the joy that we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”

¬†Songs aren’t the only thing. So many times, I have said, and I have heard others say, “I just want to hear something from God,” or “I wish I could see God,” or something along those lines. We desire this dramatic relationship with God. These thoughts and attitudes and thoughts formed the “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs. Fortunately, we’ve moved away from those a bit, but I still think we have removed the holiness of God.

In Heschel’s book, he says, “the gift of prophecy was not a goal for which the prophets strove…revelation occurred against the will of the prophet. It was not a favor to him, but a burden of terror…Moses hid his face…When called, the prophets recoiled, resisted, and pleaded to be left alone” (page 224).

We desire some intimate relationship with God where we are bffs and talking about our weekend plans, but the prophets viewed what they did as a burden. Their communication with God was terrifying. Hearing God speak caused them to say things like, “Woe is me! For I am lost” (Isaiah 6.5). Jeremiah practically hated his life for what he heard from God. Ezekiel was also terrified of what he heard from God. Rereading the prophets, one sees that prophecy was not a gift that was desirable. For when God spoke to the prophets, they were burdened with carrying out the word of God.¬†

A professor in college, Dr. David Reece, would always say that preaching was not something we should be excited about or want to do, it was something that we had to do. It had to be something that we had to get off our chest. Much like how the prophets felt.

I think that our eagerness to follow God has removed His holiness. Holiness is no longer something that we fear. We now replace fear with excitement. We no longer fear what God may ask of us, but we get excited at what God will do through us.

Excitement has destroyed the holiness of God. 

Don’t get me wrong, I think that we are excited to follow God. I think that there will be excitement. We are taking part in something greater than ourselves! What isn’t exciting about that? At the same time, however, it is terrifying. It is truly terrifying. God entrusts us with the Gospel? That’s a daunting task.

Recognizing God’s holiness has to evoke fear. Not terror. Fear. Good fear. The kind of fear that reminds you that God is great and you are not. The kind of fear that reminds you that God is in control and you are not. The kind of fear that reminds you that the task at hand is great and not to be taken lightly. There is joy in serving God…but there is also fear.

So the next time we say, “I want to see you, God,” remember that God blinded Paul. Or the next time we say, “I want to hear you, God,” remember that it caused Isaiah to say “Woe is me!” and it caused Moses to say, “Don’t send me! Send someone else!” The next time you begin to pray by saying, “Hey daddy,”…well, just don’t do that. It’s kind of weird, actually.

We have removed God’s holiness in the way we communicate with him. We think that because Jesus came and did what He did, it meant that we no longer had to view God as holy as Israel did. However, this is far from the truth. God is still holy and still needs to be viewed as holy. It is time that we restored His holiness in the way we interact with Him.