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What does the Bible say about human sexuality and sexual sin?

The Bible affirms human sexuality as a good part of God’s original creation. The Genesis account tells us that God created human beings in His image as male and female—a complementary pair designed to bond and work together for a greater purpose. Our Creator-God intended the first couple to use the gift of sexual union to reproduce His image across the earth[1] and to enjoy and deepen the unique bond between a husband and wife.[2] Jesus reaffirmed this when he quoted from Genesis: “‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation. ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’”[3]

The first couple’s rebellion against God caused sin to enter the world, setting in motion many ways human beings can “miss the mark” of the Maker’s design for our lives, including sexual union. Even within the marital context, husbands and wives can distort God’s purpose for sex and dishonor each other and the Creator’s design.[4]

God intended sex for a specific purpose, but there is nothing in the pages of Scripture that suggests human beings are to fulfill this purpose by any and every sexual practice. Nor does the Bible teach that all humans need to be sexually active (in whatever way they prefer) to be whole and complete. Human completeness and identity are found in being created in the image of God and being recreated in the image of the risen Jesus.[5]

From slandering to stealing to sexual immorality, the Bible shows that all sin affects us negatively and keeps us from flourishing as the men and women God intends for us to become in Christ. While some sexual sins can have more far-reaching consequences than others, the Bible does not encourage the people of God to single out one sexual sin as the worst. Nor are we to be offended by and condemn those who struggle with sins that we don’t. [6] Instead, Jesus calls us to compassionately meet people where they are and to humbly invite them by word and example to God’s new way of life found in Him, never losing sight of our own persistent capacity for sin. [7]

Both the Old and New Testament reveal the Creator of heaven and earth to be a God of love, mercy, and second chances.[8] He doesn’t write off the sexually permissive any more than He writes off the greedy or the gluttonous. He longs to show mercy toward those who confess to all forms of behavior outside of His divine intent.[9]

Though God’s forgiveness doesn’t absolve any of us from the present consequences of sexual sin, the pages of the Bible also show that we who fall short of God’s design can be forgiven and restored to live a new creational life found in Jesus.[10]

[1] Genesis 1:27-28

[2] Genesis 2:24

[3]  But ‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation. This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.'”  —Mark 10:6-8 (NLT)

[4] Hebrews 13:4

[5] 2 Corinthians 3:17; Romans 8:29

[6] John 8:3-11

[7] Matthew 9:12-13

[8] Lamentations 3:22-23

[9] Psalm 32:5

[10] Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 5:17

Does God Hold Me Responsible For What I Do In My Dreams?

It’s unlikely God holds us much more accountable for the fantasies that appear in our dreams than He does for the predispositions to sin that we all share, including temptations or evil thoughts that drift into our minds. In fact, some of the things that happen in the theater of our dreams may help us be more aware of our deepest longings, conflicts, and fears.

Sexual fantasy, rage, and violence often occur abruptly and seemingly uncontrollably in dreams. We don’t know how much we are capable of regulating behavior in dreams. Some of the ascetic church fathers thought we are responsible for what we do in dreams, but Scripture nowhere indicates that this is true.1

Dreams are generally things that “happen to us,” not things we consciously choose to do. To the extent that our dreams are “lucid”—that is under the control of our conscious mind—we may find we encounter some genuine temptation. (See What should I think of what I experience in dreams? and Is it possible that some dreams contain important symbolic meaning—or even a message from God?)

If troubled by dreams, we should commit them to the Lord, asking for protection as we sleep. We should also ask Him to instruct us as we sleep and strengthen our ability to resist both conscious and unconscious temptation.

  1. Furthermore, Scripture nowhere implies that we adopt the other extreme forms of self-discipline the ascetics embraced, such as living in isolation, eating starvation diets, tormenting themselves with hair shirts that constantly itched, remaining unbathed so that lice could multiply, and so on. Back To Article

 

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Is it wrong to ask God to provide financial gain?

Jesus made it clear that the measure of a person’s value has nothing to do with their material possessions. In fact, He declared that “mammon” (Syriac for wealth or riches) is one of the most common obstacles to having a right relationship with God (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:9-13).

If we pray for improvements in our finances, we are like a child asking his father for a new bicycle. There is nothing wrong with asking, as long as we are willing to accept “no” as a possible response.

Just as a father may realize that his child isn’t mature enough to ride a bicycle on busy streets, God may realize that we aren’t ready for a financial windfall. He may know that we still need to learn discipline and self-control in order to achieve financial gain and handle it when we have achieved it. Or he may know that would be better for the development of our character if we never gained it.

If we pray for financial gain, it should be worded something like this:

“Heavenly Father, if it is Your will for me at this time, please help me financially. I have (list them) serious concerns, and don’t know how to deal with them. Please give me guidance and wisdom.”

 

 

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Why did God Give our Pets Such Short Life Spans?

Although land tortoises can live over 150 years and parrots sometimes live as long as people, most pets have short life spans Perhaps the Lord gave our pets short life spans to keep us from getting more attached to them than to our fellow human beings. Since the love of some intelligent pets for their human masters is remarkably unconditional, they often establish a deep emotional connection with us. In fact, we sometimes find it easier to love them unconditionally than each other.

The emotional impact of the death of a family’s pet is like the loss of any family member, though on a lesser scale. It offers opportunities for learning important lessons in preparation for future losses that will be worse. The grief at a pet’s death can bring an awareness of our need for deeper relationships with the people in our lives.

 

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Should I Believe in the Doctrine of Eternal Security?

Many Bible passages emphasize the reality of our security as believers in Jesus Christ: John 10:27-30; 13:1; Romans 8:29-39; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30; Jude 1:24.

But even genuine believers can backslide and lose the joy of their salvation. The New Testament gives many examples of believers who drew back from their fellowship with Jesus Christ: the disciples (Matthew 26:56); Peter (26:69-75); the Christians in Corinth (2 Corinthians 12:20-21); and the Asian churches (Revelation 2:4,14-15,20).

There is a stark difference between backsliding and apostasy—a permanent departure from the faith. A true Christian can backslide, be chastened, and then repent and return (Hebrews 12:6; Revelation 2:5). A person who has merely professed faith without a genuine encounter with Christ may depart, prosper outwardly, and never return. The apostle John said that some who had left the fellowship of believers and were now teaching false doctrine showed by their actions that they never really belonged (1 John 2:19).

The doctrine of eternal security is taught in Scripture, but it is intended to comfort true Christians who are earnestly concerned with living faithfully for Jesus Christ. People who once professed faith and are now living sinfully without remorse should not be comforted by assurances that their profession of faith guarantees their salvation. We gain nothing by examining the nature of the “decision” they made. We need to point out to them that their present lifestyle is out of keeping with their profession by showing them Scriptures such as 1 John 3:4-9. They must be led to self-examination. If they are genuinely saved, God will chasten them (Hebrews 12:6). They will repent and return.

It may be impossible for us to make a judgment as to whether a person is a backsliding Christian or an impostor. Sometimes only time will tell.

 

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How Can We Love our Neighbor as Our Self, as Jesus Commanded?

Loving other people as oneself is a difficult goal. But Jesus clearly made it fundamental to Christian living. On one occasion, an expert in the Jewish law challenged Jesus with the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Luke 10:27 NKJV).

Although the goal of loving one’s neighbor as oneself is difficult, it isn’t impossible.  In Luke 6:36-38, Jesus gives some basic principles that help us understand what it involves:

Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you (NKJV).

This passage contains two principles. One principle is that our expectations of our neighbors are directly related to the expectations that will be placed on us. As Jesus said, “With the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” The expectations we have of others will be required by them (and God) of us. But even subjectively, we already love—or hate—our neighbors as ourselves. We subconsciously project our own attitudes and values upon other people, expecting them to perceive us as we perceive them. If we are impatient and judgmental towards others, we assume others will be impatient and judgmental towards us. If we are compassionate and patient towards others, we won’t have to deal with the pressures that come from assuming that others view us with hostility and impatience. Love or hatred directed outwards is always matched by love or hatred directed inwards.

The second principle is that love for one’s neighbor should never be confused with indulgence. A father who gives his children anything they want spoils them. If we love our neighbor as our self, we must be as careful in setting standards and goals for him as we do for ourselves. If God were a genie in a lamp who gave us anything we wanted, would we ever be satisfied? Of course not! Love for our neighbor involves the same principle. While love always seeks to promote the other person’s well-being, at times it is manifested in acts of charity and at other times in firm confrontation.

Our neighbor is just like us. At times he needs mercy, at times he needs correction, but he always needs our love.

 

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Isn’t Investing Money Just Another Form of Avarice, Like Gambling?

Investment seldom seems like a good idea in the midst of a bad economic downturn. This doesn’t mean that investment is always wrong. There are times when a farmer will invest a lot of time and money in seed and soil preparation and planting of crops, only to see crops destroyed by a drought, flood, or hailstorm.

Scripture doesn’t teach that we should avoid money, but that we should keep it in proper perspective. It is a tool that should be used wisely, not an idol at the center of our life.

In his parable of the unworthy servant, Jesus made it clear that one of the indications of bad faith is an unwillingness to take appropriate risks with the assets God has given us (Matthew 25:24-30).

In our present-day culture, careful investment of money is no different than it would have been for an Israelite to provide for his family through the purchase of property or other marketable items. Life involved risks in ancient Palestine, just as it does today. Droughts or disease could destroy crops, thieves could steal wealth, and war or disease could deprive a person of everything they labored to accumulate.

In a simple “iron age” culture, such as the culture in which the Israelites lived, many of their circumstances were different from ours. Nevertheless, the Israelite farmer would have to plant his seed, trusting God to provide the proper amount of sun and rain to nourish his crop. Most of us don’t make our living through agriculture, but we must wisely invest our time, skills, and our financial assets to provide for our families, the work of the church, and the care of the needy.

The fact that the master was angered by the servant who did not gain interest with his mina (Luke 19:20-24) implies that God expects us be wise in handling everything He gives us—abilities, opportunities, and finances. This can be applied to individuals and to Christian organizations. All of us must handle money as a sacred trust—not letting it “be idle” but using it to do the utmost for the glory of God. This doesn’t mean recklessly gambling or giving it all away—something we might do to avoid the responsibility of managing it properly—but using it wisely so that it can be a source of blessing not only to our family, but to others in need.

The principle from Scripture that is most applicable is that we should not be enslaved by mammon.1 There are many passages that make it clear that God expects us to be good stewards of the assets He has given us, and this principle would undoubtedly include our financial assets.

  1. The New Bible Dictionary offers a concise definition of mammon: “This word occurs in the Bible only in Mt. 6:24 and Lk. 16:9, 11, 13, and is a transliteration of Aramaic mamona. It means simply wealth or profit, but Christ sees in it an egocentric covetousness which claims man’s heart and thereby estranges him from God (Mt. 6:19ff.); when a man ‘owns’ anything, in reality it owns him” (p. 730). Back To Article
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How Can It Be Morally Right For Jesus Christ To Die For Our Sins?

On the surface, it appears impossible for one person to rightfully die for another’s sins. If a judge arbitrarily chose an innocent man — say, a faithful husband and loving father — to be executed in the place of a notorious serial murderer like Ted Bundy, we would be morally outraged. Here are a few reasons:

Punishing an innocent man turns the principles of justice upside down. Instead of being rewarded for his virtue, he would be punished for another’s evil deeds.

The man chosen for punishment would have no special relationship to the murderer. He would die, not to save a brother or a friend, but a stranger.

Killing a good man in place of an evil man would be unlikely to have any positive effects. The evil man would probably thank the devil for his good luck. If anything, the outrageousness of the substitution would only reinforce his evil perspective.

If killing an innocent man in place of a guilty one is so unthinkable, how can Christians believe it could be right for Christ to die for the sins of the world? Such a belief is based on the radical differences between Christ’s substitutionary death, and the arbitrary killing of a good man in place of a bad one.

First, Christ is intimately related to us (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6). He is a man, but not only a man. He is the eternal Word, the Creator of the universe, the Architect of existence, life, and consciousness.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made ( John 1:1-3 NIV). (See the ATQ articles How Could Jesus Be Both God And Man At The Same Time? and How Could Jesus Be God If He Had The Limitations Of A Human Being?)

Second, Messiah’s death satisfies the principles of justice rather than violating them. It reconciles God’s holiness with His love. In fact, apart from Christ’s substitutionary death, God’s plans for the universe could never have been fulfilled.

Had God created the universe to function like a clock, it would have been a colossal, perfectly designed machine requiring no risk or cost. It would contain no randomness, freedom, or sin. It would require no redemption. But it also would not be the cradle of self-aware creatures made in God’s image. It would be void of creativity, moral choice, and intelligent contemplation.

But God desired much more than mechanical perfection. He longed for a human society with the spiritual perfection of freedom in self-awareness, creatures made in His image with the capacity to choose fellowship with Him. Therefore He created the angels 1 and the universe (Genesis 1:31) in a way that made freedom possible. Rather than a clockwork universe, He made the universe the perfect place to bring creatures in His image into being — creatures capable of worship and love.

Like the father of the prodigal in Jesus’ parable (Luke 15), God gave His sons and daughters freedom to fail and even to reject His lordship. And like the father of the prodigal, He loves them beyond measure and longs for their redemption.

Although the fallen state of nature grieves Him far beyond our ability to conceive (Romans 8:18-23), God intended from the beginning to undo the evil consequences of freedom while preserving its benefits. Just as the universe was created (and is sustained) through His Son, it was His Son’s task to redeem it.

The sacrifice of God’s Son in our place accomplished something that could be done in no other way. Only God’s infinite power and wisdom can cancel the effects of our sin and bring it into conformity with His holy purposes. By totally and unreservedly identifying Himself with His fallen creatures, He achieved what they in their freedom had failed to do, and took upon Himself the consequences of their misused freedom.

The death of God’s Son on our behalf brought salvation for a lost and helpless race. His perfect obedience and sacrifice were confirmed by His resurrection from the dead and appearance to hundreds of witnesses (Acts 1:1-11 ; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8). His willingness to become a human being and personally prove His love to our lost race made it possible for us to see how we can live fully in this world while cherishing goals that include the next (Isaiah 53:6-12 ; John 15:12-13 ; Romans 5:6-10 ; 1 John 4:8-10 ).

So unlike the death of a mere man for another, the self-sacrifice of God in Jesus Christ made it possible for us to reach for the perfection of the children of God ( Romans 8:16-21 ; Galatians 3:26-29 ). It’s not only morally right for Christ to die for us, it’s the only hope of our ever being morally right before God, the righteous Judge.

  1. God made the angels perfect and without flaw. He made them free, and some angels chose to rebel (Ezekiel 28:13-17). Back To Article
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If Jesus was God Incarnate, Did God Die on the Cross?

A basic doctrinal truth held by all orthodox Christians—including Catholics and evangelicals—is that in Jesus Christ God became incarnate in human flesh (Matthew 1:16-25; John 1:14; John 20:26-29; Romans 8:3; Philippians 2:4-8; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 10:5).

Even though Scripture clearly describes the passion of Jesus Christ, many Christians are unwilling to acknowledge that the divine Son of God suffered and died for our sins. While they affirm that Jesus Christ was truly one human/divine person, they say it was only Christ’s human nature—not His divine nature—that suffered and died.

But if God was truly incarnate in Jesus Christ, how could only Jesus’ human nature suffer the agony, separation, and death described in the Gospels? If only Christ’s human nature experienced suffering, agony, spiritual and physical death, how can we speak of a true incarnation; and how can we be assured of the infinite value of His suffering and death on our behalf?

The Bible makes it clear that we could not be saved if Christ Himself hadn’t borne our sins on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 9:28). In AD 325, the Council of Nicaea strongly affirmed the deity of Jesus Christ, realizing that our salvation depends upon the incarnation. If Jesus Christ were not both truly God and truly man, His death couldn’t atone for our sin. Only God would be capable of the infinite sacrifice necessary to the sins of the world. (See the ATQ articles, Is it necessary to have a clear understanding of Jesus Christ’s deity in order to be saved? and How can it be morally right for Jesus Christ to die for our sins?)

One of the most fearful truths taught in Scripture is that physical death is not the greatest evil. The greatest evil is “the second death” (Rev. 21:8). Spiritual death is the second death. It is separation from God.

What Jesus dreaded when He said “Let this cup pass from Me” (Matthew 26:39) could not have been merely death by crucifixion. Other martyrs have faced equally horrible deaths with composure. Nor could it be a premature death in Gethsemane at the hands of the devil. Our Lord said that this cup came from God—“Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” (John 18:11). Moreover, Jesus expressly declared that He wouldn’t die until He voluntarily laid down His life. He said, “I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17-18).

Scripture makes it clear that the Son of God suffered most when He was experiencing separation from the Father. This “cup” is the agony of hell Jesus had to endure on the cross. It was the experience of God’s wrath, as in Psalm 75:8, “For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is fully mixed, and He pours it out; surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth drain and drink down.” On the cross, God made His Son “who knew no sin to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21). He poured upon Jesus Christ His wrath against all sin, causing Him to endure the desolation of hell. This sense of abandonment began to sweep over Jesus in Gethsemane. On the cross, it finally caused Him to cry out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). The cup that Jesus dreaded, therefore, was the abandonment by God, which makes hell, hell.

Although most classical theologians taught that Jesus Christ suffered only in His human nature, a distinguished minority, including Ignatius of Antioch, Tertullian, Martin Luther, A. H. Strong, Jurgen Moltmann, and D. A. Carson, disagree. Charles Wesley wrote:

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’ Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace!
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race.
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Scripture itself speaks of God’s capacity to suffer (e.g., Judg. 10:16; Jer. 31:20; Hos. 11:8). Isn’t it presumptuous to assume that the Creator knows less of suffering and emotion than His creatures.

Perhaps the assumption that Jesus Christ’s divine nature couldn’t experience suffering and death is based on faulty reasoning rather than Scripture and reality. Any argument used against Jesus Christ’s divine nature experiencing death can be applied against the incarnation itself. How could the eternal God be incarnate in a time-bound, finite man? How could the eternal God set aside His omnipotence and omniscience? We don’t doubt these things, so why should we doubt that in some sense the second person of the Trinity suffered and died on the cross of Calvary?

While we raise these questions, we acknowledge the need for humility No one should assume they have an absolute answer to this question any more than they can pretend to understand the Trinity or the incarnation.

 

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Are the Ten Commandments for Christians?

The Mosaic Law, including the Ten Commandments, was given to the people of Israel (Exodus 20:1-17), not Gentiles. It included both moral principles and ceremonial laws and regulations. It was intended to bring awareness of sin and guilt (Romans 3:19-20; 7:7-13; 1 Timothy 1:7-11), not to be a way of earning salvation. (Hebrews 11 explains how Abraham was saved by faith long before the law was given through Moses.)

The Jews referred to the Ten Commandments as “the ten words” (Deuteronomy 4:13). They were the basis of the entire Mosaic system, and as such they contain principles that remain the foundation of Christian ethics.

Christ fulfilled the requirements of the law (Romans 5:5; 8:1-4), so that Christians are no longer under the external Law of Moses (Galatians 3:1-14; Colossians 2:8-17). The Ten Commandments contain elements of ceremonial law. Christians aren’t required to follow these. Yet, when obedient to the Holy Spirit, Christians manifest God’s love and righteousness in harmony with the Ten Commandments’ moral principles (Romans 13:8-10).1

  1. The works of the flesh and the works of the Spirit listed by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5 demonstrate clearly how impossible it would be to live a Spirit-filled life while violating the moral principles within the Ten Commandments. Back To Article
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