From Scripture, we know with confidence four things about man/woman: Imago Dei (created in the “Image of God), gender, life, and depravity. Because the world is in a state of mass confusion about the state of mankind, as we continue our series, “The 7,” John Elmore teaches us about our image, gender, and mission in light of God’s creation, man’s destruction, and Christ’s redemption.
Contending for the Faith
From Scripture, we know with confidence four things about man/woman: Imago Dei (created in the “Image of God), gender, life, and depravity. Because the world is in a state of mass confusion about the state of mankind, as we continue our series, “The 7,” John Elmore teaches us about our image, gender, and mission in light of God’s creation, man’s destruction, and Christ’s redemption.
Watermark’s Belief Statement – Man
We believe man was created innocent and in the image and likeness of God, but that man sinned, bringing both physical and spiritual death to himself and his posterity (Genesis 1:27, 2:17, 3:19), can do nothing to merit God’s favor and as such is in need of salvation (Isaiah 59:1-2; Romans 6:23). We believe that mankind’s sinful nature is rebellious toward God, and His good design for life and worship (Romans 1:20-24; Ephesians 2:1-3). Mankind’s rebellion causes confusion about good and evil, and harm to people ultimately ending in judgment, despair and death (Genesis 1:31; Galatians 5:16-21; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; James 1:13-15).
We believe God created mankind in His image, forming each person in the womb from conception (Psalm 139:13-16; Isaiah 44:2, 49:5; Jeremiah 1:4-5) until the point of death when they breathe their last (Genesis 25:8; Luke 23:46); and assigning gender to His people, male (man) and female (woman), as He created them sexually and biologically different, but with equal personal dignity and value (Genesis 1:26-28).
We believe that God ordained marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:18; Matthew 19:4-9; Ephesians 5:31-33). Those who accept and live within God’s design for sex, biological gender and marriage experience the blessing of His good design (Psalm 1:1-3, 128:1-4), and decisions to change, alter or modify God’s will in marriage, sex or gender are part of man’s brokenness and lead to despair (Romans 1:21-22; James 1:13-15).
We believe that God loves and pursues mankind despite our rebellion (Romans 5:8). He offers forgiveness, healing and abundant life to anyone who turns to Him in humility (John 3:17, 10:10; Titus 3:3-7; 1 Peter 5:6-7).
Image - God made us to relate and create
Gender - Gender is defined by the Designer, not desire
Mission - Our mission is to live for God
Image – Man is now depraved and enslaved
Gender - Gender is defined by desire, not the Designer
Mission - Our mission it to live like gods
Image – We have been saved
Gender – We are being sanctified
Mission – We have been sent
Hey, everybody! My name is John Elmore. Aww! Oh, that's for him, not me. I'm the director of community and re|generation here at the Dallas Campus. I'm so thankful to be with all of you, including Plano, Fort Worth, and Frisco.
This is not a random baby I grabbed. No parents need to worry. This is our boy, Judd. He is our third child, and he is a hoss. Do you ever have one of those dreams where you show up somewhere, and you're only in your underwear? It's his reality. Thank God he doesn't know, but we'll share it at his rehearsal dinner.
I used to be in advertising before I worked in the church. I was in advertising for a few years down in Austin, Texas. There's kind of this golden rule of advertising. If you have a bad product, you have something you're trying to sell, or whatever it is, you can always throw a baby or a puppy on the screen, and you can sell things.
I'm running that offense not to sell you anything (it's certainly not a bad or dated product), but this is to compel you rather to the truth God says about mankind…all of mankind, every person who has ever lived, including and especially you and every person you will ever encounter.
That's why I brought Judd up here. He is going to help teach us some of the points about what it means to be made in the image of God and the personhood, worth, and dignity of each person. That's why he is here as we continue in our doctrine series called The 7, the seven essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Today is covering mankind.
If Judd will cooperate, the first thing you can learn through Judd is imago Dei. He was made in the image of God. Even here as a little baby, what he represents and what he will grow up to be is already within him. He has an immortal soul inside of this little boy. He will live forever in eternity in heaven or hell.
We pray it will be heaven, that one day he will trust in Jesus (as he cries out for peanut butter Cheetos). No judgment! You'd feed your kid whatever if he was on stage too to keep him quiet. You're like, "Peanut butter Cheetos? Are those non-GMO?" No, but he loves them.
In addition to his immortal soul, he has morality and a conscience wired into him. There are certain things he will inherently know because God has wired that into every single human being. They inherently know. Every civilization for all time has always known it's wrong to murder, steal, rape.
You can look at the most ancient of written texts and social codes, and you will find the ancient Samarians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, and all across the world, knew somehow it was wrong to do certain things. That's God creating him in his own image (mankind). There's morality there.
There's also a volition, which means will. He has the ability to decide things. He'll see something across the room and start army crawling toward it because he decides, "I want that. I need that." He has emotions, which he will let you know maybe up here because he is past his naptime and his lunchtime. He'll let you know certain things.
Then beyond that, that's the imago Dei. He is trying to check himself out. That's vanity and depravity. We'll get to that. That is the biggest of your problems, son. The other thing is what I just called him: gender. It's son. He came out a boy. He is a boy. He will always be a boy. He will grow up into a man. He will wear male clothes. He will wear his hair in male fashion if I have anything to do with it, although he has more hair than I do, except his is still growing and mine is going. That's not funny.
That's important because his gender was determined by God. It wasn't just when he came out, and it's not dependent upon what his desires are or aren't. He is a boy and will always be a boy. His choice will be singlehood or marriage to a woman for the rest of his days. In fact, we could have taken a blood test even before he came out and known he was a boy. The Creator determined his gender.
The other thing we can learn is life. You can look at this little boy and know there is life there, and that life is valuable. He is no more or less valuable than I am. We are of the same value, dignity, and worth. Just because he is 9 months doesn't make him any more or less valuable than me at 42 years of age.
In fact, even when he was in the womb, when that began 18 months ago, he was still of the same value at conception. He didn't start having value somehow just because he came into the world. He came into the world when he was conceived. That's when his value began.
Now despite all those wonderful qualities, there is another thing God did not give him. His parents gave it to him because my parents gave to me, my grandparents gave to them, and the great-grandparents throughout all generations from Adam and Eve. That is this: he was given depravity. This little boy (this little chunk of love, despite all the wrinkles that shouldn't be in places they are), as cute as he may be and the coos he makes, is depraved. He is a slave to sin and addicted to peanut butter Cheetos.
He has a sin nature. Right now he is a slave to sin. In fact, 2 Timothy 2 says he is even a slave to Satan. The only way out of that slavery is through Jesus Christ. My greatest hope for this boy and all of our children is they would know Jesus. My greatest hope for every single person I ever encounter is they would know Jesus, because otherwise we are born into this world with a sin nature, and we stand condemned apart from the saving work of Jesus Christ.
Now if that's not enough to give you motivation to listen either because of how cute he is or because of the serious nature of the depravity of man and all God wired up into him, that's where we're going to be today. Now because he sleeps and eats like it's his job, I'm going to pass him off to his mama. Thank you. Thank you, baby. Y'all, that's Laura, my wife. She is such a gift to me. Thanks so much for allowing us to introduce the two of them.
Today again we're covering mankind. The reason why this is critical in case you're like, "I don't know. A big, theological doctrinal discussion on mankind probably doesn't have a whole lot of relevance to me. It sounds like a seminary class," here's why it matters to you. If you start to unravel, if you'll pull that thread of how God made mankind, every single human… If you start to pull that thread and undo any part of it, the whole thing unravels. It will in your life.
If you start to live outside of the doctrine of humanity God has ordained, it will unravel. That sin will have no end. We see this in culture today as it is unraveling at a rapid pace before our eyes. That's why it is important for us in our lives as we glorify God and also as we interact with every single person we could walk with him.
Now I'm going to give you a little bit of a caveat up front. There's some heavy stuff in this. We're talking about depravity of man. Of all of our other doctrinal statements (of all seven of the essential doctrines), this is the longest one. It's becoming increasingly longer as man continues to redefine things. We're having to bring clarity about how God defines them. Right now, the doctrine of man is the longest thing.
When I say "doctrine of man," ladies, anytime I say that, I mean all of mankind. That encompasses every human being as we talk about doctrine of man. With that, I think the good place to start would be to read the statement the elders and the equipping team have put together for us to be informed about the truth of mankind. It will be on the screen.
"We believe man was created innocent and in the image and likeness of God, but that man sinned, bringing both physical and spiritual death to himself and his posterity, can do nothing to merit God's favor and as such is in need of salvation. We believe that mankind's sinful nature is rebellious toward God and his good design for life and worship. Mankind's rebellion causes confusion about good and evil and harm to people ultimately ending in judgment, despair, and death.
We believe God created mankind in his image, forming each person in the womb from conception until the point of death when they breathe their last and assigning gender to his people, male (man) and female (woman) as he created them sexually and biologically different, but with equal personal dignity and value.
We believe that God ordained marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman. Those who accept and live within God's design for sex, biological gender, and marriage experience the blessing of his good design, and decisions to change, alter, or modify God's will in marriage, sex, or gender are part of man's brokenness and lead to despair. We believe that God loves and pursues mankind despite our rebellion. He offers forgiveness, healing, and abundant life to anyone who turns to him in humility."
Today we're going to be taking a look at mankind with some eternally impacting and life-altering statements about it: what God designed, what man has done with it, and how we then should live as a result. The way we're going to walk through this is by image, gender, and mission. Those are the categories we're going to talk about today as we look at how God defined mankind, how man now has defined mankind, and what we do as a result of that.
Now here's the interesting thing about what we're going to talk about today. Everything I am going to share is included in the first four chapters of your Bible. The first four chapters unpack immortality, morality in conscious, the mission of God, created in the image of God, the dignity in life, sanctity of life of every human being that has ever lived, sin, Satan, and wrestling with the flesh. We are emotional, volitional beings. Also, the gospel, that Satan will strike the heel, but there is one coming who will crush the head of the Serpent. The gospel is there in Genesis 3:15.
All of that is in the first four chapters of Genesis. It's as if God ordained by the Holy Spirit written by Moses that any person on any continent reading any translation of this book, the only Holy Scriptures, whether they find that in a hotel, in their living room, or by circumstance online, they would find, "Who am I? Who is God? What is this brokenness I am experiencing in my life and the world? What is the only hope I have?" All of that is compacted right there if they read no further than the first four chapters. How amazing is God?
1._ Image. The first point under _image and how God set this up is God made us to relate and create. He made us to be in right relationship with him and with all of mankind and to create. He made us as vice regents or stewards. Just as God brought order to the chaos that was, he has put us now on earth to carry out that same mission through creation. We are co-laboring with him in a creative sense and in right relationship with him.
As such, because we are imago Dei (this Latin term that means "made in the image of God," reflective of him), he alone through mankind got apparently on his knees having formed Adam and breathed the very breath of God into man, uniquely into man and woman that they would be image bearers and immortal, spending eternity in heaven or hell because of how God designed them.
Because of that worth, in Genesis 1:26, it says, "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.'" Now all of us here today know from our own lives, from reading the news, and from interacting with family at holidays, "Man, God. Something has gone awry because man is not still in the image of God. There's a lot of strife. There's a lot of hurt. There's a lot of pain. The image has been marred."
How God originally created man is not as it always was. This was in perfection in the garden before there was sin. Now we have something different. There's a picture I want to show you that's going to come up on the screen. It's Salvator Mundi ("Saviour of the World"). It was painted by Leonardo da Vinci in the 1500s.
Now the painting you're seeing right now has been restored. It was marred over time. It's over 500 years old. Over the course of time as it deteriorated and as it passed through various hands, other people covered over it. They put paint upon what the original creator determined it would be. They were trying to make it better. They made it worse. They defaced it. They marred it. They lessened what it was to the point that in 1958, that painting by Leonardo da Vinci, any single person I would argue in this room could've purchased at one point in their life.
That painting was sold for $58. You're gasping probably because it was sold last year for $450 million. That's a pretty good return! Leonardo didn't get a penny. It was bought by a Saudi prince for $450 million. It's the most expensive thing that has ever been auctioned in the history of the world on known record.
In the incredible irony of ironies, "Saviour of the World" (a picture of Jesus) is now going to be displayed in Saudi Arabia in the louver they're putting there. It's really a strange way. Praise God for oil money because they alone could probably buy this painting and stick it there in a Muslim country where all of these Islamic followers are going to be staring at a picture of Jesus that says, "Saviour of the World." God is incredible that he would do that as a grace to them.
The reason why I share that is though it had been marred and was sold for $58, there was one person who said, "No, I'll pay $450 million." The point is this: a thing is determined its value by what someone is willing to pay for it. Something is valued by what another is willing to pay for it.
In the case of humanity, when God looked down on a marred, defaced, altered, changed, and covered-up-with-sin humanity and was asked the question in the cosmic realm, "What's that worth to you now, now that they've fallen from your good perfection of relate and create?" he said, "My very Son of infinite worth and value, my sinless Son, the only begotten Son, God in flesh. I will send him to atone for every single person who has been marred and defaced by sin. He will go. He will live a sinless life. He will be crucified on a cross and raised again for their redemption of infinite worth, the Son of God."
That's what he says your value is: of infinite worth because you were created in the image of God. Romans 5:8 says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." While you were still a sinner, Jesus died for you. You're of infinite worth created in the image of God.
Now when I used to hear about Jesus and the Bible as a child, my teen years growing up, I thought the deal was this: "You trust in Jesus. He keeps you out of hell. Then you have to live the rest of your life for him by following all of his rules." It was this impossible, crushing weight. I remember being in junior high and high school and being like, "All right. This week I'm going to try harder. This week I'm not going to sin, God. I'm so sorry."
I would fail him time and time again. It was a crushing weight, all those rules that were upon me that I would always fail. I just said, "Forget it. Do you know what? It's probably not you. It just must be me. I'm just a colossal screw-up." That's never what God intended. He created us for a relationship, that we would be in a relationship with God and man.
Jesus says in Matthew 22:37 through 39 that all of the Law and Prophets are summed up in this: love God, and love others. That's it! To love God is to walk with God. I can't keep all the rules, but if I am loving God and in a right relationship with him, I'm going to walk with him all days. He will be the one to keep me on the path. I can't. It's a sheer impossibility, and he knew that. That's why he said, "Just love God all day every day, and love others as you go. I made you to be in relationship with them."
2._ Gender_. Gender is defined by the Designer, not the desire. Gender is defined by the Designer and not whatever desire may be within your heart. God gets that choice. It's like Steve Jobs when he created the iPhone, the iPad, the "i" everything else. This man created a thing, kind of redefined a category, and he got to choose everything about it, whether it was like Space Gray, Silver, White, what apps could or couldn't work on it, how it would function, what would go into that thing.
He gets to determine to change the plugs with every iteration so the technology is obsolete. He got the right on everything! He was the designer. What he said went, and we were all in understanding with him. In the same way, God, having designed mankind, says, "This is the way you're to operate." It's from Genesis 1:27. "Male and female He created them." Genesis 2:24: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."
Compacted within that verse, you have gender, marriage, and sex, which is incredible. Right there in one verse, God lays out some truth. "Male and female he created them." They are equal in dignity and worth and yet distinct in who they would be and complementary to each other in marriage and even within the body of Christ here in the church that we would complement each other and co-labor together for the kingdom of God.
We're not different in a bad way. We're different in this really incredible way that builds up the body. That's the gift of God. We don't dismiss that and try to come together into the middle into one uni-gender. Rather, he uniquely created in really beautiful giftedness marriage…one woman and one man for one lifetime. That's his design. You see it reflected even in some of the animals in nature how they will have one mate for life. There's a reflection there.
Then sex only within the context of marriage. How mankind has broken that! It's only within the context of marriage for procreation and for pleasure that glorifies God, but again within the context of marriage. He says in Hebrews, "Keep the marriage bed pure!"
3._ Mission. The third thing you will see how God designed is _mission. Here for mission we were intended to live for God. The Westminster Catechism, which is this lengthy way we can unpack theology written in the 1600s, said this: "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever." That's it! That is the summation of our life. It's to glorify God and enjoy him forever. In that, there is fullness of life.
There's a guy in re|generation. He went through with a lot of heaviness and pain. After that year in re|generation, he came to a leader dinner meeting because God appointed him to be a leader. Through interviews and applications, he became a leader. I walked in, and I saw him for the first time. He was like leaning on the table, just kind of staring off into the distance. I was like, "Hey, man! How are you doing?" He kind of looked just lost in his thoughts.
He was like, "I don't know what's going on, but I have never felt so alive in all of my life." I was like, "Oh! Yeah, I know what's going on." He was like, "You do? What's going on? What is it?" I was like, "Bro, for the first time in your life you are doing what you were created to do. You're making disciples. That's what God intended for you to do all of your life. It was to live for him, to live for God. That's why you feel so alive. You're now doing the role God gave you to do."
In Genesis 2:15, it says, "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it." This was his worship. Man is made to worship, to focus on God, to bring him glory, to co-labor with God for his kingdom unending, for his glory, and by his power (how the Lord's Prayer ends).
Given the fact that every person is an immortal… Every single person you pass by at work, in your neighborhood, and at family reunions or whatever it may be is an immortal who will spend eternity either in heaven or hell, that should be one of the most sobering thoughts to ever cross your mind and put you on mission to live for God, because there is only one hope: communion with God.
Now if this is what God ordained and we take a look at our lives in the world and we're like, "Man, there's like a disconnect because that's not where the state of affairs are locally (on a micro level) or globally (on a macro level) as I read the news. What in the world has happened?" here's what has happened. God had creation. Man brought destruction.
Now many of you know the Genesis account. In Genesis 3 (well, earlier than that), God gives them one command (Adam and Eve). He says, "Hey, there is a Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Don't eat of it, because when you eat of it…" Genesis 2:17: "…in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."
Then Satan (the serpent who was the craftiest) comes along, whispers to Eve, and says, "Did God really say you'll die? No, no, no, no, no. You won't die. The reason why God told you that is when you take of that fruit, he knows you'll become like God. That's why he doesn't want you to eat it. You can be like God. He is trying to keep you down."
Eve saw the tree was a delight to the eyes, pleasing to the flesh, and able to make one wise. She took of it and ate, gave it to her passive husband standing by watching the whole thing unfold. He ate of it, and sin entered into the human race forever as they then have children who have evil sin within them (we know the Cain and Abel story as Cain murders Abel) and ripples out throughout all of eternity right into my boy, Judd. A sin nature entered into Adam and Eve and has not left the human race since.
There's another thing theologians would call this: total depravity. As sin entered into the human race, they have no hope apart from God sovereignly intervening by the Holy Spirit to regenerate them. It means, it says in Ephesians 2, we are children of wrath, dead in our sins and transgressions, following the world, Satan, and our flesh.
There's no spark of good in us, but apart from God's sovereign and providential intervention to rescue us, God makes us alive in Christ because he sees us in our depravity. How great of a God we serve that he would go on that rescue mission! Because as Adam and Eve left the garden that day… You see, they were banished from the garden, which at first glance looks really cruel like, "Man, it's like one strike, you're out, God? They took a bite of a piece of fruit, and you kick them out of paradise in the garden?"
It seems kind of harsh like, "Man, really rough landlord. One rule. 'Get out!'" In the Genesis narrative, what you see is God says, "We have to get man out of here because otherwise they're going to take another bite of another piece of fruit from another tree called the Tree of Life. If they do that, they will be locked eternally in this state of sin before I can redeem them. They will be locked into their depravity."
God ushers them out of the garden into the world, but they weren't the only ones to leave the garden that day. Someone else left the garden that day: God himself. God himself followed them out of the garden that day on a rescue mission for them, for you, and for every single person who has ever walked this earth. He left the garden.
He rested on the seventh day, and he has not rested an hour of a single day ever since creation. He has been working day and night, 24/7, for you that you would be saved, that you would find hope from the depravity into which you were born. That's how incredible and loving our God is. As sin entered into the world, there's this other thing. You might be thinking like, "Wait. Where's God? There's so much evil in this world. There is disease, destruction, and natural disasters. Where is God?" which is a really good question.
That's called theodicy. Like, "How can there be a good God in all the bad I'm experiencing?" The answer given alone in Christianity that makes any sense at all is sin entered into the world. When sin did, it separated God from man and brought depravity and enslavement. It separated man from man. Now we would be at enmity with one another. Titus 3 says we are hated and hating one another.
Sin brought depravity to creation. Creation was subject to decay. That's where you get the disease, disaster, and destruction. The other thing it did is sin brought destruction against self. You see this with self-exaltation, self-deprecation, self-harm, and suicide. Sin has destroyed and brought depravity into this world, which is why we're in the state in which we are.
When I heard Genesis 2:17 ( "…for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" ), I used to hear this phrase that would say, "Hey, sin leads to death, and there's freedom in Christ." I was like, "Yeah, that's bogus. It's not true. Sin doesn't lead to death." I would look around in junior high, high school, and college. I would watch the people as they would drink, have inappropriate relationships with girls, looking at pornography, smoking, then weed, and pills. The sin progressed the older I got.
I'm like, "It doesn't lead to death. Cheating on tests doesn't lead to death. I've been lied to. It doesn't lead to death. In fact, it looks like it leads to a lot of fun! It looks like an incredible amount of fun, and nobody is dropping dead because they looked at porn or got drunk on the weekend and hooked up with that girl. It just seems like they're having a better life than I am and a lot more fun than me trying to follow all these rules."
I was like, "Freedom in Christ? Jesus is keeping me from doing everything I want to do! It's not freedom." I thought that for a while until 2005 when I was 30 years old and I had a loaded shotgun to my head. Then I realized, "Yeah. Sin leads to death. Sin leads to death! It just has a slow fuse." Satan wants you to go down that path as long as you can, as despairing as you can, as depressed as you can, as distanced from God as you can so he will absolutely lead you to death. Sin brings death. I can attest to the truth in the Scripture.
The personhood of God now, if you think about this how we were made to relate and create, now depraved and enslaved… You think how else sin might lead to death and how God created dignity and value that he ordained from conception. Psalm 139 says he formed every man and woman in the inward parts, in the womb, knit the child together, from the very time they breathed their last. It says God ordained all of their days before yet one of them came to be.
God ordained life beginning and end into immortality, and yet man now has overruled that and says, "No, no, no, no. No, we will determine who lives, how long they live, when they die, and how they die." Let me unpack that for you. We know from wars, massacres, holocausts that to be the case. Now we have legalized that because it wasn't enough to do it illegally. Now there's a legal way.
Euthanasia, which is a Greek construct (eu- meaning good, thanatosis meaning death)… Put them together: euthanasia, which is such a misnomer that there would be a good death administered by another man. You have euthanasia that's now legal in parts of Europe, parts of South America, and even parts of North America right to the north of us in Canada. It is spreading throughout the world.
This is not like, "Hey, I feel like I don't have a quality of life. Therefore, I'd like someone to assist me." This is someone else determining, "We don't like who you are or where you are. We don't think you have a quality of life despite what you think. We are going to call it euthanasia. What we're going to do is execute you either because of a physical disability, a mental disability, a lack of quality of life." It's been done in the past for what they've called "genetic cleansing." It is evil, and it's spreading throughout the world.
You think about assisted suicide. This is now right home here in America. It's in seven states, the District of Columbia, and spreading as the case builds for that that when someone voluntarily says, "I feel I do not have a quality of life," there can be a medical practitioner who says, "Okay, well, I will assist you in committing suicide," which is really just an accomplice to murder, but we've legalized that. There is a brokenness.
Suicide. NBC News reported in the last 10 years, suicide rates have spiked 30 percent. In the last 10 years! By the time you came into this parking lot and the time you go, 10 people will have committed suicide in the United States. Exponentially more will have attempted it, but 10 lives will be lost as Satan and man's destruction just ripple through.
Abortion. Here locally in Dallas, Texas, we have a billboard right now (you'll see it on the screen) that says, "Black women take care of their families by taking care of themselves. Abortion is self-care." There are so many lies in that billboard, and it's so misleading to people that a woman could take care of her family, including the one in her womb, by committing an abortion.
Let me just tell you something. If there is a man or woman in this audience (and statistically there are) who have been a part of an abortion, God is not mad at you. We are so sorry for your pain and the situation you were in. We love you, and God loves you. There is forgiveness in Christ, and we have ministries here that will walk with you through that: Someone Cares and Forgotten Fathers. You are loved. You are loved deeply.
Our relationships have changed dramatically, clearly, as I talked about man against man, which we just covered. Also we have two enemies: external and internal. Satan (externally) is our enemy who has followed us all throughout this. He has followed us in the depravity and the enslavement. Again, it says we're enslaved to sin and Satan prior to Christ and apart from him.
Here's a little phrase if you're in Christ. Satan can't take your soul. If you've trusted in Jesus, he can't take your soul. You have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, and you belong to God. He can't take your soul, but what Satan now aims to do… He will settle for second best. His aim is now to take your role in life, what God has ordained for you to do to live for God, to love God, and love others, to be on mission for him. If he can't take your soul, he will settle gladly to take your role.
You don't have to read enough news to see all of the pastors who have fallen to sin, and they have been sidelined, even taken out of the ministry because of choices they've made as Satan whispered in, their flesh took hold, and now Satan has taken their role. He has moved them out of a place of speaking truth. I want you to know I'm not immune to that. No person in this church is immune to that.
It terrifies me. It keeps me running scared to Jesus on a daily basis, which is why every single week (if not more frequently), my Community Group is confessing sin on a really frequent basis (because we are sinning unfortunately on a really frequent basis), bringing it into the light, praying for each other, and reminding each other of truth so we would not fall prey to the whims and whispers of Satan that he would try to take our role.
That's not reserved just for pastors. That's any Christian who has trusted Christ. You are called a minister of reconciliation and an ambassador on behalf of God. That's everyone's role. We are marked men and women, but greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.
The other thing is the flesh. The daily default setting of every single person whether in Christ or not is the flesh. It says in Galatians 5 that the flesh and the spirit war against one another so you do not do what you want to do. Therefore, we have to (as Todd shared in the Spirit doctrine) yield ourselves to the Spirit that we would walk with him and thus not gratify the desires of the flesh. That's the only way.
Rules are like a chalk line on a football field. They can't keep you in or out. You have to walk with God. He is the one who will keep you on the straight and narrow. The Spirit will keep you. John Owen, a theologian from the 1600s, said, "Be killing sin, or it will be killing you." There's no neutral. Either you're on the offensive by the Spirit putting to death sin, or it will be putting you to death. We are to bring order instead of chaos, and yet the world is in this chaotic flip.
The second thing we'll talk about is gender. Now we've flipped that as well. Now gender is defined by our desire rather than by Designer. Culture has determined gender is now defined by desire rather than the Designer. This is from Romans 1:24 through 25. "Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen."
As we think about gender, I want to tell you about Facebook right now. Facebook arguably is the most influential organization in the world (certainly in America) because two-thirds of people in the U.S., 1.x billion (it's on the rise) globally, are on Facebook. What Facebook will offer you as you log in and create a profile is "Male, female, other." It's not just "other." When you type in a letter, a dropdown menu you'll see on the screen will appear before your eyes giving you one of currently 56 genders. Fifty-six!
When you exchange this truth, when you begin to pull that thread and say, "I don't believe," it unravels. Y'all, it's 56 right now. I guarantee you in real time there is someone trying to find their gender bias or preference, not finding it, and emailing Facebook and saying, "How dare you be not inclusive of how I identify as my gender." It's 56 now. By the end of the year, I bet it will be 70 because God's design is now defined by desire, by culture.
You think about the implications of this. If there are 56 genders, how many options for marriage will there be? It's going to continue unraveling. Now we as a church don't hang our heads in dismay. We speak truth. We love. We don't hurl insults, but we bring light, truth, and influence to the place where we live.
We vote for candidates who are upholding godly truth, and we keep in perspective this home isn't my home. I live for another kingdom. I am a citizen of heaven. This world and its desires are passing away. My hope is not in what anybody ordains because I know God ordained marriage, and his will will stand.
You think about the design of sex and how now it's riddled with pornography, anonymous hookups, artificial intelligence sex through virtual reality, robotic sex, sex trafficking. Abuse is through the roof of children and minors because people are given over to porn and then acting out on the vulnerable. I was sexually abused when I was a kid. I know many of you here have been. God will redeem your pain.
Now before you cast judgment on everything we've just described, John Owen also said, "The seed of every sin is in every heart." Don't be disgusted by the culture and how they are embracing sin. Of course they are! They're depraved and enslaved. Be disgusted by the sin that is within you, and fall on your knees before the Lord. Ask him to cleanse you, and confess it to your brothers and sisters that you may be healed.
The third thing that's gotten flipped here is we were intended to live for God; now we're living like gods. Our mission in life is to live like gods. Genesis 3:5. This was Satan's lie. Now we're living it out. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…"
Now that wasn't the case. That was a lie, but we've been trying ever since the fall to clamber to live like gods. Now you might think, "What are you talking about? I don't want to live like God." We want to live like God through entitlement. Anytime you've ever complained about any amount of suffering or how things are, our First World problems, we are wanting to live like gods.
Anytime you're checking your likes, your re-tweets, and how many friends you have, you're wanting to be worshiped and thought highly of. That is wanting to be like God. All of the comfort we crave rather than being on mission for God, we settle to eat, drink, and be merry, though Paul says that's what people who don't know the resurrection do. I do that. I set my sights so often on comfort because I want to worship and be worshiped.
Going back to Facebook, Forbes and the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology have linked Facebook and depression. I would go further and say any social media and depression have been inextricably linked. They know there is a direct one-for-one parallel that people who engage with Facebook are headed toward depression.
For a while they just knew that was happening. They didn't know why. Now they know why. It's social comparison. "You have what I want. You have who I want. You have the experience of life I want. You have more friends than I do. You went to a party I didn't get invited to. Your body looks better than my body. You go to a school I wanted to go to. Your career is better than mine. It appears you have more money than I do," which is all just wanting to live like gods.
We've flipped it, and now it's (go figure) bringing death, depression, and depravity further and further and further. I tried this as a 12-year experiment. I tried for 12 years living according to the world, and I chased money, women, status, career, drugs, alcohol, cars, house, property. I tried to get everything the world said, "This will satisfy you. Live like a god as best as within your ability."
It ended up with me as a recovering alcoholic wanting to die because I couldn't numb the pain. I hated my life. It was so vain and worthless. I felt like a dog chasing my tail until I prayed to God, this God who I thought was distant and unknown. I said, "Jesus, I have squandered everything you gave me. Everything! Twelve years of my life." I was kneeling beside the couch I was living on, having lost everything. I said, "Whatever I have left is yours: my money, my mind, my body, my geography, where I live, what I do, the relationships I have. Everything is yours, Jesus."
Do you know what happened? He forgave me, and he didn't treat me as my sins deserve. He not only forgave me, because he saw all of the depravity that was in me… I lived that as best as I could, and then Jesus not only forgave me and saved me. He took all that was within me, all that sin that had wrecked me and devoured me, and sanctified me by the Spirit, working to undo all of this desire and make me back to how God designed and intended me.
Then not only that. As if it wasn't enough that he saved me and was sanctifying me, he then gave me my mission back. He said, "I know you were trying to live like a god. Now would you go live for God?" He sent me on mission to go live for him. Brothers and sisters, that is the call upon every single person's life.
If you are in Christ, you have been saved. He will sanctify you unto glorification. You have been sent. It is not to, "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die." Rather it is to live for God for his glory that all may know (all who are still in their depravity and enslaved) that there is hope through Jesus Christ our Lord. Every person who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. Let me pray.
Father, I thank you and praise you that you have saved us through Jesus. You have reversed the curse. You've not only saved us, but also you sanctify us by your Word, through the Spirit, and the sharpening of our brothers and sisters. Not only that, you have ordained that it wasn't just enough to rescue us, but you have sent us on a rescue mission to go and proclaim the truth, the only hope, that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through the Son. Amen.