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Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. – Genesis 3:22-24

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After the fall into sin, Adam and Eve began to feel shame, covering themselves with fig leaves, and hiding from God. God searched them out and asked them four questions – all of which he already knew the answers (see the text below).

  1. Where are you?
  2. Who told you that you were naked?
  3. Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?
  4. What is this you have done?

God asked these questions to help Adam and Eve own their sinful rebellion, and confess to him, looking to him for redemption and help. Alas, however, such was not to be the case: Adam and Eve both played the blame game, had no faith in God that he could undo their terrible deed, and got honest enough only to admit that they were ashamed of their nakedness.

God gave the first Gospel promise in v. 15 (speaking to the serpent):

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

There would come a descendant of the woman (Christ) who would crush the head of the serpent (Satan), but who would suffer a mortal wound in the process. It would cost Jesus his life to defeat the devil. But he would do so, and even then his death would be a mere bruised heel in the context of eternity, for as we know, Jesus rose from the dead and reigns on high at the right hand of God.

There is the curious conclusion to this chapter when God determines to keep Adam and Eve from taking the fruit of the tree of life from the garden and live forever. Adam and Eve are banished from the garden and angelic sentinels are posted to prevent them from attaining immortality while on this earth. 

God wanted man not to live eternally in this state of fallenness, as “poor miserable sinners.” This benefit would come to those who sought God’s reign in Christ and the salvation that he offers by grace, received by faith. 

You might wonder just how merciful such an action was. Wouldn’t it be better to live eternally here on earth? On a good day we might think so. But as we age, or see our parents aging and dealing with the onslaught of physical frailty, we might reconsider. What if you didn’t have the hope of a new heaven and new earth? What if truly even the best of life here and now was as good as it gets? 

The Preacher says, “he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In other words God has designed us so that there is a sense of transcendence and spiritual reality that is the faint echo of eternal glory. When we yearn for something better, for justice, truth and love, it is because though guarded, God has revealed the existence of such things. And though guarded from experiencing them fully on this earth, we have been promised this eternal glory in the life of the world to come.

Genesis 3:7-21

7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
16 To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”

17 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Jeremiah 30:11I am with you, says the Lord, to save you. 

Philippians 1:6
Paul wrote: I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 

  
A few questions this morning…What if we really, really did need to be saved? What if our sins and our sin was actually so bad that only the intervention of God in the affairs of the world could deal adequately with them and that condition? What if the things we know and feel – guilt, shame, discouragement, loneliness, doubt, and the like – were only the tip of the iceburg that is our sinful, fallen nature? What if God really is holy, righteous, just, and all knowing? What if our sins actually separate us from God so that he does not hear when we pray?

Those rhetorical questions may seem silly and unnecessary to those who read this blog. They speak to the reality of our sinful, fallen nature. We know these things to be true. We know we are part of the “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) reality. We confess this regularly. 

God, however, knows all that and has committed himself to our redemption and salvation. He has intervened in the affiars of the world in Jesus Christ and appeased his own wrath through Jesus’ death on the cross. As if that isn’t enough, he then vindicated Jesus, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand. And those who look to him have the promise of abundant, eternal life. 

This bit of good news reported to us from Jeremiah and reiterated by Paul is more precious than we can even imagine. When we do encounter the reality of our fallenness and need for salvation, and then the joy of God’s mercy and grace in Christ, we at best get only a glimpse of how profoundly good this news really is. 

God has saved us. And he won’t give up on us until the saving is done. That will certainly be some Day! In the mean time, however, as we encounter the reality of our sinfulness, let us rejoice even more in God’s love, redemption and eternal commitment to our glory and joy in Jesus. 

Numbers 25:6-9

Then an Israelite man brought into the camp a Midianite woman right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the tent of meeting. When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear into both of them, right through the Israelite man and into the woman’s stomach. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped; but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000.

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The final days of Israel’s wilderness wanderings are marked by a sad refrain of complaint, rebellious sin, and strong judgment. They moved from place to place, prevented from entering the Promised Land, and having experienced testing and triumph. Whether it was water from a rock, or the infestation of fiery serpents, God was constantly shaping them by means of favor or punishment.

The stakes were high, and the judgments were severe. On one occasion 3000 people died, on another people were put to death by the swords of the priests. On this occasion (above) 24,000 people died. I shake my head as this saga of sin and judgment, repentance and grace. On this occasion, however, the true level of sin and rebellion becomes clear: the action of the Israelite man is so open and defiant that action must be taken. Phinehas exacts ruthless, immediate, and the ultimate judgment against this flagrant sin.

I am tempted to gloss over these extreme examples of immediate retribution on God’s part. They are so far from our current experience and challenge our more refined sensibilities. In fact, we are inclined to consider these incidents as wrong on God’s part. We recoil at the idea that God could be so severe in his judgment and extreme in his punishment. The Israelites may have been wrong in their actions, but not so wrong that God should kill them.

To be sure those were different times. The world was a far more severe place. The stakes were much higher. But more importantly, we must understand the grave danger of sin and rebellion against God and his ways. This might well be a time for us to gulp in recognition that disobedience, and grumbling, defiance and sin bring grave consequences. While we know that Jesus has taken on our punishment in his death on the cross, his bitter and brutal suffering ought not be lost on us. The honest recognition of our own rebellion and need for God’s mercy and forgiveness would serve us well. For, “these things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:11-12)

Genesis 3:1-6

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

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A few days ago a friend who had returned from a fishing trip to Alaska gave us several salmon fillets. What a treat! We love to grill salmon on the barbecue and consider this gift most generous. We are looking forward to the fresh wild caught Pacific salmon! We will invite our friends to join us when we grill these.

Just this evening several of us who are part of the discipleship huddle at St. John went on a missional service project to the home of a single mom. We raked leaves and brush, cleaned out gutters, power washed, trimmed trees, cut off branches that were on the roof of the house. 14 man hours later we had made a significant dent in the neglected care and upkeep of this house. We hope she receives the blessing with thanks to God.

Our friend gave us the salmon not because we need food, or even because we cannot afford salmon (though it is not inexpensive!). He gave it out of the goodness of his heart; because he respects me as his pastor and friend. We gave the ministry of lawn care and exterior house maintenance also out of the goodness of our hearts. But there is another wrinkle to our gift: the wrinkle of sin. She is no longer married to the father of her children. He is not in her life or providing for the care of their house. There is no fault implied in regard to that, just an observation. But the reality of broken relationships – especially marriage – and broken homes and needy women is a fault of life in a broken and fallen world.

When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit more than just nakedness and shame ensued. Sin entered the world, and death because of sin. We see it everywhere we turn. Our desire as followers of Jesus was to shed the light of his redeeming love wherever we can. We don’t know whether she will recognize it as such. But we do know that there was a need that we were able to fill.

While we were working there several neighbors passed by on the street. None asked what we were doing. None offered to help. That’s sad, but yet more evidence of the fallen nature of this world: neighbors and communities do not always respond to others needs as they should. Thank God he responded to our need by sending his Son to be our Savior. The blessing of his forgiveness and abundant and eternal life is the greatest blessing of all.

Genesis 6:5-9

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.

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Cal Thomas believes the movie is a good sign, but suggests that the book is better than the movie, while others say we ought to go see it. Pastors.com (founded by Rick Warren) says Christians should go see the movie. World Magazine’s Sophia Lee offers a most significant insight. She says the film, “nails God’s wrath, but but misses His mercy.” I believe that to be a significant issue, and worthy of much conversation.

The wrath of God is real but too-often-dismissed characteristic of God. He is often ignored, or rejected, or made into some sort of grandfatherly doter in the minds of many. He becomes merely an old man, sitting in a rocking chair, white hair, and at best watching, but perhaps sleeping. But look at the skies break loose and the waters rushing in to drown mankind. Even better watch as God’s Son bears the brunt of his wrath on the cross. God’s wrath is real, and not to be dismissed lightly.

But God’s love is greater, even, than his wrath. That’s what the cross of Jesus is all about. It’s about God’s love intervening between us and himself, and in love for us, Jesus sacrificing himself for our sins on the cross. If for no other reason than that we appreciate the reality of God’s wrath on account of our sins, Noah the movie is a good start. But since there is far more than just God’s wrath, let’s never consider the job done when we convince someone that the Bible is true, and that a man named Noah and his wife and sons and their wives were saved by God through the ark – together with the animals.

Let’s also remember the great drowning that happened at our baptism: the sinful nature was drown, the body of sin was put to death. We were buried with Christ in baptism, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead, we too may walk in newness of life. Thanks be to God!

Romans 7:1-14

Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

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The growing social movement toward legalization of marijuana is an example, some would say, of forbidden fruit creating desire. The idea is that if the fruit were not proscribed we would be less likely to desire it. It’s the fact that the fruit is forbidden that makes it so appealing. Legalize pot, so the argument goes, and it will become less and less desirable. That may not be the main argument, but it certainly is one of the reasons put forward.

Paul speaks of the war against his soul by the unholy alliance of the Law and sin. Here he speaks of the 10 Commandments, and of the 9th and 10th commandments against coveting. Because he knew it was wrong to covet, any temptation to covet became an opportunity for the law to incite sinful desires in him.

The solution to this, however, is not simply to legalize covetousness, or any other sinful behavior. In fact the purpose of the Law is to awaken in us a knowledge of our sin, so that we may be drawn by the Gospel to the cross of Jesus. The Reformation Study Bible has it this way:

The God-ordained role of the law in a fallen world is to reveal the nature of human sin. The law not only defines sin, but acts as a catalyst, provoking the precise sinful reactions that it forbids and condemns (vv. 8–11). In itself the law, which brings us to know the reality of sin in our moral and spiritual system (3:205:1320), is “holy and righteous and good” (v. 12). The law is a faithful revelation of what is right or wrong, and does not lose its validity to measure and direct our moral behavior.

God’s higher desire is that we live and serve in the new way of the Spirit, rather than in a misguided attempt to dot every “i” and cross every “t” of the law. That is not to say we are being urged to covet so long as we do it in a godly way! It is to say we are to live out of our new and true identity as sons and daughters of God in faithful obedience inspired by the Holy Spirit. We don’t obey our way into a right relationship with God. We obey because of our relationship with God.

This is the new way of the Spirit. Rather than asking, “What good thing must I do to be saved?”, we now ask, “How shall I live today as a child of God?” Our identity defines us. Our obedience expresses our identity. We don’t even obey so that we may retain our identity as God’s sons and daughters. We are his, by his grace, and through the redemption of Christ.

I wish I could express the heaviness of heart that I feel when I think of keeping the laws and commands of God, of keeping every theological nuance perfectly expressed, or of making certain that I have kept all my life and ministry within the proper lines. Believe me, I want to please God; I have no desire to abandon that which he has said is good. But to live in the new way of the Spirit is a joy and delight to my soul. How about you?

Romans 5:18-6:2

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life forall men. 19 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. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

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The Good News of God’s love and grace is a deep and inexhaustible wellspring of blessing. The simple but remarkable truth is that God’s grace is abundant to the extent that it never runs out because sin depletes it. Though sin may abound, and evil may flourish, grace abounds all the more and God’s gifts flow forth richly. The more sin, the more grace. It’s God’s ultimate word and final answer.

Recently, however, I was asked a very unexpected question: “What is grace?” On the one hand the answer is simple: “Grace is ‘God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.'” That acrostic really does help one define grace. Embracing that grace and experiencing God’s gifts is far more rich than even the best definition or acrostic. God’s riches come to us in the form of answered prayers, daily provision, protection, joy, and all good things – chief of which is the forgiveness of sins, the hope of the resurrection and the promise of eternal life: God’s gift of salvation. These all come to us at Christ’s expense. And there is always an abundant (more-than-enough) supply of God’s grace.

So the question comes: If God’s grace does not run out, why not sin more so that we can experience more of it? Why not drink deeply of God’s love and grace, forgiveness and joy of our redemption by sinking deeper into the miry pit of sin and degradation? Because grace, after all, will not run out. Something has happened in the heart and lives of those who have been captured by God’s grace. We have died to sin, through the grace of God. We have been shown a better and new way of life. We live no more in sin, but in grace. Such grace is not depleted by sin. But sin has lost its sway. It is the way of death. We live in grace, and that’s where we find the truest joy.

Romans 5:12-17

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— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 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.

15 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. 16 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. 17 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.

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When I was in Sunday school a girl in our class asked me whether I believed in original sin. I didn’t realize I had the option! I just assumed that because of the sin of Adam his sinful nature was passed down to all people. I didn’t have a very developed theology of this, but simply embraced the idea of its reality. In these verses Paul unfolds the implications of Adam’s sin: its consequences for all people. Death spread to all people because all sinned. It is a fact. All are under the judgment of God for their sin. That, too, is a fact. Struggle as we might try against it, it stands true.

Then, however, there is the other truth that brings joy to the sinner’s heart. For the sake of one man, Jesus Christ, God grants the free gift of justification. In the face of our sins, and because of Jesus’ act of righteousness in our behalf, God declares us righteous. We are saved. The most grave consequence for our sin has been set aside. We who have received the more-than-enough grace of God and the free gift of righteousness will reign in life through Jesus Christ. This is extraordinarily good news: For Christ’s sake, God forgives us all our sins, and declares us righteous. The gift is better than the consequence. Thanks be to God!

Romans 2:23-24

You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

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The Facebook post/image comes to mind again (cf, Unintelligent Chaos). It shows a pierced and tattooed person with the words superimposed: Some of the most kind and accepting, loving and understanding people I’ve met are covered with tattoos and piercings. Some of the most judgmental and unloving people I’ve ever met go to church every Sunday. Why is it that the charge can ever be leveled against church-goers that they are hypocrites? What moves us to think and act as though we are in any way superior to anyone else?

These verses (and the larger context of 2:12-29 below) translate well to Christian and Non-Christian behaviors and relationships. We all too easily  fall into the trap of presuming we have our act together when in fact we do not. How is it that we can worship in a church (Lutheran in my case) in which we confess our sins every Sunday, yet believe, act, and speak about others’ sins as though we have none? Simply put: this ought not to be true.

Paul has set out the nature of divine judgment in chapter 2: It is something that we all must face. It is based on truth (v. 2) and marked by righteousness (v. 5). It is according to works (v. 6), impartial in nature (v. 11), and executed through Christ (v. 16). Such judgment will bring agonizing ruin to all sinners (vv. 89). (From The Reformation Study Bible) Now he turns to the manner in which the Jews show themselves guilty under the law. The situation he paints is hopeless, for even the righteous show themselves to be unrighteous. And the comparison between the Jews and Gentiles is that both groups express righteousness as well as sinful behavior. Later he will say, “For there is no distinction, all have sinned…” (Romans 3:23).

The sins Paul lists are particularly obvious to those who look on from outside. But what is worse is that the Jews want to hold themselves up before others while looking down on them. Their two-faced behavior is so vile that people curse God because of them. May it never be said of us that we bring such a poor witness that others turn us off and reject Christ. Unbelievers have plenty of reason to reject the truth of God’s word and his claim on them. Let’s not add another reason by means of our behavior!

Romans 2:12-29

For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

John 2:12-25

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) elected an openly homosexual person as a Bishop on June 3.

The parallel between this recent action on the part of the ELCA and the money changers in the temple is greater than one might imagine. For the issue is the defense of an action or lifestyle that is not pleasing to God. The people of Jesus’ day were committed to their practice of selling animals and changing money in the temple as a proper means of serving God. The people of the ELCA who elected this bishop are committed to the support of openly homosexual persons as having full privilege and place in the church. Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple. I wonder what will come of the ELCA church leaders. Members, pastors, and entire congregations have left the ELCA since its 2009 decision to lift its ban on openly homosexual clergy.

From a CNN blog post reporting the most recent move:

The ELCA lifted its ban on openly gay, partnered clergy in 2009, clearing the way for pastors like Erwin, but angering conservatives. By some estimates, some 600 congregations have since left the ELCA for more conservative churches.

The Rev. W. Stevens Shipman, director of the Lutheran Coalition for Renewal, said the ELCA is not keeping promises it made in 2009 to respect the views of churches and individuals who regard homosexuality as a sin.

“The promise was also made publicly that no congregation would be required to call a pastor in a same-sex partnership,” Shipman said, “but now an entire synod has been forced to live under the authority of a bishop who is in such a relationship.”

Sadly, this should not surprise us. Sinful self-righteous action did not surprise Jesus. It angered him. It saddened him. It moved him to extraordinary action, but it did not surprise him. John tells us that Jesus did not entrust himself to man, for he knew what was in man (v. 24-25). John doesn’t name it, but the implication is clear: man is corrupted by sin. Our hearts are evil. That’s why Jesus came: to seek and save lost, corrupted, sinful, broken, and deceived people.

The question is this: are you one of those for whom he came? Are you willing to admit your own sinfulness and lostness? While we cannot judge the hearts and motives of those in the ELCA, we can make this clear: the issue is not just the sin. The issue is seeking to normalize a sinful lifestyle and claiming that homosexual behavior is not a sin.

It should not surprise us when the church shows its corrupt nature in actions such as this; we are a hospital for sinners after all. But people are not cured of any disease by defining it as health. The move to normalize homosexuality should make us deeply sad, and righteously angry. Our recourse should always be that of prayer. Jesus says here, “My house shall be a house of prayer.” And he teaches us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth – as it is in heaven.”