Thursday, June 22, 2017

Re-Issue of “Ethical Standards and Changing Morality”-June 22, 2017

          I am about to begin preaching through Matthew 5-7, better known as “The Sermon on the Mount.”  This message was presented by the Lord Jesus Himself and sets the bar extremely high for the conduct of life.  In my preparation I have confronted again and again the issue of “ethical” standards as they relate to Jesus and His penetrating Words.  Nearly 3 years ago I wrote about my concern for people forgetting about true biblical ethics as they slowly accepted the ever changing morality of this world and the age.


Allen Raynor Weblog: Ethical Standards and Changing Morality

(Nov. 6, 2014)


          What or who determines standards?  In times past in America, the obvious answer was the Bible.  This was true even for individuals, marginal in their Christian commitment.  But no such standard exists anymore – at least not in the minds of a great number of people.  Where there is no standard, confusion will rise to fill the void left in its absence.

          It is near political suicide for a candidate running for office to quote from or refer to the Bible.  The only exceptions might be vague, general reference to a passage that is hardly controversial.  The 1828 edition of Webster’s Dictionary defined a great many terms by appealing to the Bible as the absolute standard.  Our American laws all are rooted deeply in the standards found in the Word of God.  Laws were not simply pulled out of the air.  Their basis was overwhelmingly in Scripture.

          Over time morality and ethics have become largely lumped together and essentially are now viewed as being one and the same.  However, drawing a clear distinction is valuable.  Morality is a measure of what “is” taking place; what people are doing; their attitudes toward certain issues and standards of behavior.  Therefore we can conclude that morality is forever in a state of flux and change.  The phrase “moral standards” is mostly an oxymoron.  A standard is set and unchanging, whereas morality is merely a reflection of what “is” taking place.  There is no guiding principle.  Ethics, on the other hand, speaks to the “ought.”  Ethics are grounded in a true and unchanging standard.  Christians would appeal to biblical ethics, in particular, and see Scripture as the standard of all ethical conduct.  In other words, “ethics” should determine “morality.”  Even if it is not perfectly followed, believers would claim that we “ought” to follow the teachings and standards of the Bible.

          In our present world, no such distinction is made between ethics and morality.  The absolutes of ethical standards have given way to the moral norms of the ever-changing culture.  To say someone is “moral” only means they are consistent with what is generally seen by a society as being moral.  However, to say someone is “ethical,” means they are following standards that may be outside normal behavior and might even be quite counter to the culture.  To say someone is “biblically ethical,” means someone is ordering their life around the teachings of Scripture.

          Many Bible-believing Christians lament that their adult son or daughter is, for example, now living with their boyfriend or girlfriend out of wedlock, or are engaging in other behaviors that are contrary to the standard taught by the parents in the home.  This standard was based in the Bible.  What has happened?  Presumably, the parents taught an “ethical” standard to their child, particularly a “biblical ethical standard.”  However as the child left home, went to college or joined the military, and got out into the world their biblical ethics came into sharp conflict with the morality of the culture.  In the back of his/her mind the biblical ethic remained, but the morality of those around them was such that they were made to feel uncomfortable and felt tremendous pressure to conform.  Typically this does not happen overnight.  It usually takes time.  It is very hard for those with ethical standards to consistently live up to the standards in which they believe when their encouragement for doing so is minimal or non-existent.  And it is further difficult when their encouragement to adopt the moral norms of those around them is strong.  You see this, for example, on a college campus.  What is more common, to see incoming Christian freshman influence the campus with Christian ethics and teachings or to see the moral norms found on campus to influence the incoming Christian freshman?

          God knew of this dilemma long before human beings ever gave it a thought.  He knew believers needed to encourage one another, because “lone wolf” Christianity was always destined for failure.  “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”  (Prov. 27:17)  Church is the institution He gave, not only for that “sharpening” or “encouragement” to take place but also a place for instruction.  Many have sought answers to why there is such a decline in morality today, when compared with previous generations; but the answers are fairly simple.  People attend church far less frequently, and the Bible is read and studied more infrequently than before.  Add to this the fact that culture is imposing itself on all people with far greater intensity.  Christianity is under direct assault, and the price to be paid for living by biblical ethical standards is much greater than it has ever been for men, women, boys and girls.

          There is more to life than living for the moment.  Moments come and moments go.  According to James 4:14 our lives are a “vapor” that appear for just a moment and then are gone.  The “morality” of the moment is here, and then it is gone.  But biblical ethics are standards that come down to us from God and they do not change.  God declared in Malachi 3:6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change.”  As mankind in every generation grapples with trying to determine morality, God’s ethical and absolute standards remain preserved in the Bible. 


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Re-Issue of “Fatherhood” - June 13, 2017

          Ten years ago today I wrote and sent out this weblog about fatherhood in honor of Father’s Day.  Sadly, the concerns I raised back then have not gotten any better – only worse.  But, over the course of this past decade I have become more and more convinced that reliance on God’s Word is the only answer for the overall decline of society. Also, I am convinced that a bible-based modeling of fatherhood, by the world’s fathers, is ground zero for changing a rapidly deteriorating society.


Allen Raynor Weblog: Fatherhood (June 13, 2007)


          In the early years of television the family was represented in a way quite different than it is today.  Instances of persons living together outside the bonds of marriage, single parenthood by choice, homosexuality, etc. were almost unthinkable.  By the 1970s television reached a critical turning point from which it has never recovered. Since that time the downward spiral has continued without mercy.  Along with America’s growing comfort level with homosexuality, cohabitation, the non-traditional family, and sex outside marriage, we have seen an increasingly hostile attitude develop towards traditional family values.  Many factors contribute to the problems we now find ourselves facing and there is no quick and easy solution.

          Perhaps more than at any other point there have been increasingly severe attacks centering upon the whole concept of fatherhood. It is not uncommon today for a woman to go to a sperm bank to become impregnated without even a man in her life.  Homosexual and lesbian couples are, in some cases, now able to adopt children.  That which would have been almost unimaginable even 20 years ago is now just part of life.  God however does have much to say about these issues.  The magnificent truth is that His voice in all of this is not just another opinion but is the definitive Word!  Rosie O’Donnell and her cohorts may think they have a corner on the truth but they most surely do not know the God of the Bible!

          Fatherhood is highly celebrated in the pages of Scripture.  Specific guidelines are given to a father as to how he should lead his family and his home.  He is never called upon to be perfect but to be God-honoring in his conduct as he raises his children up in the fear and admonition of the Lord while genuinely loving his wife.  Real men do not bow out of the picture when the going gets tough.  Instead they step up to the plate.  Our society has a lot of easy outs, or so it seems; abortion, separation, divorce, etc.  Real men do not opt for the easiest way, but the right way.

          On the positive side of things there are many men who have indeed stepped up.  Many have difficult circumstances they face on the job, at home, with extended family, with their children, and even habits they struggle with but they choose to work through it because they have made a commitment.  I recently heard about a wedding ceremony in which the couple, instead of vowing ‘til death do us part,’ vowed ‘for as long as love shall last.’  What kind of a commitment is that?  Honestly it is no commitment at all.  It is essentially saying, “I’ll stay with you as long as I feel like doing so and then I’m gone!”  I hope the wife never burns the toast, or has a bad hair day and I hope he is never late for dinner without calling or it is over!

          Men by nature love a good challenge.  Countless times in my own life I have made it my mission to do something just because someone else told me I could not do it.  Not only that, I have lived with the mantra, “If something is worth doing at all, it is worth doing right!”  There has never been anything more worthwhile than fatherhood!  There has never been anything so rewarding and fulfilling.  There has never been anything which will last so long and have a bigger impact.  Fathers, we do thank you for your investment in the lives of the next generation.  Thank you for caring.  Thank you for fulfilling your God-given responsibility and living out your God-given roles.


In Christ


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Friday, June 9, 2017

Pornography and The Gospel of Christ - June 8, 2017

Allen Raynor Weblog: “Pornography and The Gospel of Christ”
(June 8, 2017)
The world is full of problems some of which we hear about constantly, some occasionally, and some hardly at all. Pornography falls into that last category but make no mistake, porn is a huge problem. Andrew Walker says “Pornography is perhaps the most widespread, supposedly anonymous sin afflicting both American culture and the culture of the local church.” (“Introduction” in The Gospel & Pornography; 1) The numbers are almost too overwhelming to comprehend while the effects are hidden, yet destructive, much like carbon monoxide in a sealed garage. Tim Challies reports “In 2016, people watched 4.6 billion hours of pornography at just one website [Pornhub] (the biggest porn site in the world). That’s 524,000 years of porn or, if you will, around 17,000 complete lifetimes. In that same time people watched 92 billion videos (or an average of 12.5 for every person on earth). Significance: So many people are using so much porn today that it is really impossible to tabulate. But understanding how much is consumed at just one site can at least help us see that this problem is nothing less than epidemic. (Tim Challies; “10 Ugly Numbers Describing Pornography Use in 2017” available at…/10-ugly-and-updated-numbers-abou… )
In the past people had to go to a store and purchase a magazine or go to a seedy adult theater in a bad part of town to view pornography. It involved a lot more effort than it does today to simply set at your computer or with your iPhone. There was risk involved in the past that you might be seen by someone your knew, but the anonymity of the internet has created a near perfect environment for pornography to grow exponentially and flourish.
It is not just a problem for men. Increasing numbers of women are getting hooked on porn. Children at younger and younger ages are seeing porn for the first time, then becoming regular viewers. Not so long ago, the answers were “filtering software” and keeping your home computer in a public, open area of the house. Now children and teens have access to the entire internet on the phones they carry and even with filtering software they can easily access it by picking up a Wi-Fi signal somewhere else.
Statistics point to widespread usage among Bible-believing Christians and even many church leaders. Believers are taught to present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is our reasonable service and be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12 1-2). The mind has always been a battleground where demons, the Holy Spirit, and we ourselves battle it out. Satan wants to see our minds captivated by sin. Pornographic sex scenes never present sex as God intended but a deviation from His design because what God really said is never good enough for Satan. You can almost hear Satan saying as he perverts sex in many different ways "Hath God said” . . . just like he did in the Garden of Eden.
Trevin Wax writes “Pornography is a vice that touches on many aspects of human sinfulness: the glorification of sex outside of marriage, the objectification of other human beings made in God’s image, the fanning of the flames of lust, and the indulgence of our worst instincts . . . The world sees porn as something to be managed; the Bible sees it as something to be killed” (Trevin Wax; “What Are We For?” The Gospel & Pornography; 6-7) Perhaps surprisingly, the root of the pornography problem is not sex, but rather dissatisfaction with God. Wax goes on to write “When Adam and Eve ate from that forbidden fruit, they were taking something good that God had made and directly violating His command. They were grasping for something ‘delightful’ and ‘desirable’ apart from God’s original intention and design.” (Wax; 13)
God is not against sex. He created it and even gave mankind the command to “Be fruitful and multiply.” When God first made Eve and presented her to Adam, his response was “Wow!” He immediately recognized that she (woman) was the perfect complement to him in every way, including physically/sexually. Sex is one of God’s many wonderful gifts, but there are certain parameters which God gave. In the Garden of Eden there was all things to enjoy except for the fruit that grew on one tree and God said to leave it alone. God is 100 percent in favor of sex inside the commitment of the marital relationship. But God warns that expressions of sex, including pornography, outside marriage is hurtful and harmful to us.
One-hundred years ago sex was almost universally associated with marriage, and it was almost universally linked to procreation. Further, this had been the overwhelming pattern of all of history. But the 20th century saw rapid changes one stacked upon the other. The highly flawed Kinsey Reports of the 1940s were a major factor in the society’s movement toward more deviant behavior. The advent of sexual liberation and free love in the 1960s, no-fault divorce, birth control pills, cohabitation and its widespread acceptance, homosexuality and its widespread acceptance, easy access to pornography, etc. have made the sexual values of the past almost unrecognizable. Little by little sex and marriage were separated and little by little sex and having children were separated from one another. Wax writes “Pornography is just one [of many] examples of sexuality being severed from its original purpose . . . We separate sex from procreation, then separate sex from marriage, and even separate sex from partnership (think of the ‘recreational’ or ‘casual’ sex). Pornography goes further than these other steps, leading to the separation of sex from another person . . . In pornography, the ‘one-flesh union’ of a man and a woman becomes the ‘no-flesh’ aloneness of a man or woman before the flickering image of a screen, or in the pages of a novel.” (Wax; 15-16)
No one is really safe from pornography’s reach. It is pervasive in our culture. It is hard, even embarrassing, to address. It makes for uneasy conversations, sermons, and lessons. But, the church of the Lord Jesus has to admit the ugly reality taking place in our midst. Christ has already defeated pornography, along with all sin which brings forth death in the most ultimate sense; however carnal, weak, human flesh seeks to fill certain, unmistakable voids. It has been pointed out that many do not have a “porn” problem, but rather a “worship” problem. Jared Wilson writes “Every sinful act is the product of a sinful belief, a disbelief in God. Sin is faithless. It is how we demonstrate our distrust in God to satisfy us, comfort us, or provide for us. When we sin, we are saying essentially, ‘God, You cannot be trusted to meet my needs. Right now I choose instead to trust this.” (Jared C. Wilson; “How Should the Church Engage?” The Gospel & Pornography; 72) These may seem like strong, even harsh words, but they are true words. He goes on “Until we replace the idol of porn with the glory of Jesus found only in the gospel, we will just be switching out one idol for another.” (Wilson; 75)
The allures of the flesh are undeniably strong, but the Holy Spirit of God is stronger. All people must continually submit themselves to God and prayerfully ask for His strength. We also should be praying for our families, friends, and leaders that they too will have strength to not be led astray. The availability of pornography is so overwhelming that we are all vulnerable all the time. As we submit ourselves to the Lord Jesus we echo the words of the old hymn and make it the prayer of our heart today; “Just a closer walk with Thee; grant it Jesus is my plea; Daily walking close to Thee; Let it be, dear Lord let it be.”
In Christ,
Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor