October 29, 2012

It’s Only Natural: The Inevitable Messiness of Being Human Pt 2

by Clint Archer

Last week Monday we established the point that God made us messy. We asked in exasperated curiosity  “Why would God, make humans naturally messy and disgusting, and then consider them unclean and unacceptable in the Mosaic Law?” As an example we cited the foot-shuffling chapter of Leviticus 15 and its unblushing legislation on various bodily discharges. I preached that chapter recently and am still recovering.

Today we want to proffer a second point: God wants us clean.

hosed down

Yes, God is the one who made us to need fixing up (since the Curse of Gen 3). But God also reserves the prerogative to call our natural state unclean and unacceptable.

First, lets establish that in the Mosaic Law being “unclean” in not always linked to sin.

For example, in Leviticus 12 women are considered unclean after giving birth, even though this is not at all sinful, and in fact called a blessing and reward by God. Mary even offered the cleansing sacrifice after delivering Jesus, who was neither conceived in sin, nor contained the original sin nature. Having babies is not wrong, it’s just ceremonially sullying.

It’s like when my mother used to ask my brother and I to work in the garden. We’d get our shirtless selves all sweaty and muddy while enthusiastically pulling weeds for hours. Then, as recompense we would be called in for a lavish lunch spread and ice cold lemonade. But before we were allowed to partake in the cornucopia of cold meats and cheeses, we had to take a shower and put on a shirt. Why? It wasn’t that Mom was angry or upset with us. She was, in fact, pleased (and surprised?) by our compliance, and she was offering us a reward. But she still had unyielding standards of cleanliness. No one is allowed at table without cleaning up and putting on a shirt.

It’s the same with ceremonial uncleanness in the Pentateuch. Being unclean means that you are not allowed in the corporate gathering to worship with God’s people. God was not angry with the unclean person who had inadvertently touched a corpse, for example. But God has standards. “Be holy for I am holy.” You need to go get “cleaned up” ceremonially before being allowed into the gathering of God’s people.

So, being considered unclean for a perfectly natural emission of bodily fluid, seems at first harsh; but it’s not. It has to do with God’s picturesque standards of spiritual hygiene.

Second, the polemic role of this legislation played is also significant. Pagan religions used sexual acts in their corporate worship service, making what should be private into something grotesquely public (what pornography does today). But in Leviticus 15 sexual activity would place a person in the category of being unclean and unacceptable, and was not allowed near the corporate worship service. But there is more to it than that.

cleaning crewIt’s Only Natural.

The reason, I believe, God made us messy and then calls us unclean, is because He wants us to long to be fixed. He wants us to desire to be made perfect. He designed us to constantly be aware that our leaky bodies are broken, malfunctioning, marred by the Fall, even when they are in “perfect health.”

What we call perfect health simply means the bodily fluids are not escaping our bodies at an unusual rate. When nothing wet is embarrassingly darting out of our noses, oozing from our skins, or jail-breaking from other orifices without our sayso, that’s a good day for us.  It’s only natural, but natural is not perfect.

Jesus displayed this understanding when He was being brutally tempted by Satan in the wilderness after a forty day fast. Satan tempted Him with the prospect of wheaty whole-grain carbohydrates–something His (very human) body would have been naturally craving. Jesus could have said, “Oh, it’s only natural, it’s not my fault, it’s my body’s.” But He didn’t. He understood that sometimes natural is still unacceptable to God. God has the right to declare natural bodily function to be wrong at certain times.

You can’t tell your teenage boy, “You have hormones and sexual desire, it’s only natural, so it’s ok to lust.” No, you have to tell him, “It’s only natural, but you need to fight it. God says it’s wrong until marriage.” The “God made me this way” defense is flimsy. And yet it is exceedingly popular today, especially among the homosexual community, angry people, the hypoglycemic (I get cranky when my blood sugar is low, so deal with it), some ladies at some times of the month, and alcoholics. But it doesn’t matter that it’s natural; God can still limit what responses He considers to be acceptable. He is the Potter, we are the clay.

So what do we do with all this? Thanks be to God that He made a way for us to be cleaned up. This hosing down was only temporarily in the Mosaic sacrificial system, but it served as a picture, a preview of forthcoming attractions. There will be a day of permanent perfection. But more on that next week Monday. 🙂

[Please note that Clint is still annoyingly unplugged from the Internet, on a missions trip. He’s not ignoring your comments, just busy surviving enjoying foreign cuisine for the sake of the Gospel.]

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Heather

    Clint, thanks for posting these past two articles. I’ve gleaned a lot of Scriptural truths from them. You know, I love when our weaknesses are so blatantly shown forth, especially in the Bible. We focus so much on the spiritual, but I think things make most sense when we see it in the physical. When we are shown how broken and weak we are, physically, we can see clearer how much more whole and strong we can be spiritually. We all know that it is in our weaknesses that His strength is perfected in us…it’s just hard to swallow, and especially believe, sometimes. Thanks for the honest and messy reminder 😉

    “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” 2 Cor 12:9

  • Mark

    “You can’t tell your teenage boy, “You have hormones and sexual desire,
    it’s only natural, so it’s ok to lust.” No, you have to tell him, “It’s
    only natural, but you need to fight it. God says it’s wrong
    until marriage.” ”

    I am just looking to clarify this statement. I am sure we would be on the same page in identifying that lust is not not okay in marriage either.

  • Sarah Nelson

    “…especially among the homosexual community…”

    Maybe if you were born this way, you’d understand. Until you know what it’s like to be a homosexual, you have no right to comment on it.

    There is nothing wrong with homosexuality. There is something wrong with you if you think it’s your business where two consenting adults put their sexual organs. Again, there is nothing wrong with two people loving each other and expressing it physically.

    I’m not here just to bash. I find this series of articles very interesting and well thought out. I just don’t understand why an intelligent adult is concerned in matters such as these when it doesn’t affect him in any way. I hope this doesn’t come off as inappropriate but I have very strong beliefs about human rights.

    • Mark

      Perhaps matters such as these may not affect us directly however God’s truth does affect everyone. God’s truth is our business. God’s truth is our right – in fact it is our command and marching order. We do not dictate what is our business but God has and does. Every person who is created by God is subject to Him and His truth whether he or she wants to acknowledge God or not.

      In the Bible, God has said “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10). So no human has dictated whether homosexuality is wrong, but God has! Whether we like it or not God says everything is wrong with homosexuality. Whether people experientially like this sin or not does not matter, but God’s word trumps experience and any philosophy of human rights. God’s truth is the pinnacle of human rights, not our own standards.

      It is a sorrowful state when “God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another” (Romans 2:24-27). All sin is irrational and unintelligent. Every person is born into a state of sin (Romans 3:10). So we all understand what it is like to be in sin. Oh how I wish and long that every person would be saved and know God!

      However thanks be to God, for there is one way to be delivered from sin. If we believe upon Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior by faith, any person will be saved! This faith will produce repentance, which is turning from sin to God to yield the fruit of all righteousness. A homosexual person who turns to Christ from his or her sin will be saved. He or she will no longer find pleasure in the actions or thoughts of homosexuality, but will have a new heart and mind in Christ. He or she will love Jesus Christ and find everlasting pleasure in Him! Sin will become bitter but Christ will become so sweet. He will become our very pleasure and joy and peace. Obeying God will become a delightful privilege and desire of our heart. There will be absolutely nothing that will surpass Christ. We will have everlasting life where we will know and enjoy God forever (cf. John 17:3). If people only knew Christ they would understand. Ah! But they can know! “Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation” ” (1 Corinthians 6:2). Every person is charged with this gospel, homosexual or not, to believe upon Christ by faith and be saved. Consider this so great a salvation.

      • Sarah Nelson

        The Bible was written by man. The culture of the time period influenced the Bible.

        If you met someone from that time period today, would you trust them with your faith if they told you it was the word of God? I doubt it. They would seem barbaric and delusional. But because you never actually met these men from thousands of years ago, you place your existence into their words? I don’t understand.

        Also, in the words of Timothy, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”

        Do you agree with this passage? I would hope not or my argument falls flat. I’m going to assume you think women have rights. But why is this passage not true today? Because we realized there is nothing wrong with being a woman even if the Bible is sexist against them. Do we discredit the bible because of it? No, because we realize it was written from men living during a different time period where the culture was different.

        I think we should apply this same principle to homosexuality. Is there anything wrong with being a homosexual? (besides “God’s word”) NO! .

        So why don’t we stop this cycle of hate? Stop trying to change people who have nothing wrong with them. I bet one day our children will look upon their ancestors in shame the same way we look at ours in regards to gender and race.

        • The Bible was written by man.

          Yes, by man, under the sovereign superintendence and inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Timothy 3:16).

          The culture of the time period influenced the Bible.

          That’s undeniable, inasmuch as any culture influences the language and literature of its time. But because the Bible was “breathed out by God” Himself (2 Tim 3:16), the Bible is not merely another piece of literature, but is exactly what God has intended to speak to mankind.

          Also, in the words of Timothy…

          Those are actually Paul’s words in a letter he wrote to Timothy.

          Do you agree with this passage? I would hope not or my argument falls flat.

          We very much do agree with this passage. We have no authority to disagree with it, as it’s the inspired Word of God. As a result, churches which remain faithful to God’s Word recognize that a woman is not to teach men in the church, nor exercise the authority of leadership (in particular eldership) over a man. This isn’t sexist; it says nothing about the inherent worth or capabilities of women. It simply recognizes that God has created men and women differently, and has given them different, complementary roles in marriage, family, and the church.

          Besides that, though, you must realize what you’ve done in using that as an argument for your position. You’ve admitted that the Bible does indeed condemn homosexuality as sinful. You’ve also assumed that we disobey other parts of the Bible for the sake of convenience. And based on those two propositions, you’re calling us to consistency — not in obedience to God’s Word, but in disobedience. That is neither a very sound nor tolerant method of reasoning.

          Is there anything wrong with being a homosexual?

          I think your confusion and incredulity regarding the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality stems from the fact that you’re not sure why it is sinful. I wrote this post to explain why. I hope you’ll read it. In summary, marriage is an institution ordained by God to be a picture of the covenant-keeping grace between Christ and His Church, where Christ is pictured by the husband and the Church by the wife. Any tampering with those participants confuses and obfuscates the Gospel — the very heart of the Christian message that sinners are saved purely by grace through faith in the work of Christ alone.

          A “marriage” between two men would communicate that Christ is lovingly serves and leads Himself. And yet that is not Good News, because the Church is left to herself to deal with her sin. A “marriage” between two women would communicate that the Church should follow and submit to herself? There’s no Gospel there either, because that’s just self-willed autonomy. It doesn’t illustrate loving dependence upon a sufficient Savior, but self-trust and self-righteousness. Marriage, as a parable of the Gospel, only makes sense when the husband’s servant leadership pictures Christ’s loving headship over His people, and when the wife’s respectful submission pictures the Church’s joyful submission to her Lord.

          So why don’t we stop this cycle of hate?

          This is not hate. It is never hatred to warn someone of the danger of pursuing a lifestyle that will end in their destruction and misery. In fact, it’s loving to issue such warnings. Hate is pretending that such danger doesn’t exist, and affirming someone unconditionally in a choice that robs them of true, abiding satisfaction and leads them to ruin. I explain more about this thought in this post. I do hope you’ll read this one as well.

          • Sarah Nelson

            Thank you for your thoughtful post, I did indeed read it.

            While of course my view has not been changed. Homosexuals should not be judged because of their lifestyle and should be allowed to be married by the state. Churches can stick to only heterosexual couples if they wish.

            And I acknowledge I won’t be changing your view. But I have some questions.

            Do you really believe that the Bible is all God’s word? Do you know how many translations it has been through? How many people of power have inserted their own opinion into it? How it was compiled/written long after the events took place? Have you studied the history of the time period?

            It is sexist. It is completely sexist. If the roles were equal, I could understand. But they are not. Why do men get to lead? Get to have powers of position? Get to decide for women? Get to tell them what to do? Women are just child producing machines in the eyes of God. Designed to serve man. That’s not fair. I can’t take you seriously as a man if you support this. You’re on the same side as the Taliban which is completely disgusting.I can understand gender roles, but the roles laid out in the Bible were written during a bad time period for women.

            You have authority to disagree with it. If you were in the army and your higher-up told you to kill innocent mothers and children, would you because you have no authority to disagree? Just because God is infinite times “higher-up”, doesn’t give you an excuse to follow blindly. If you disagree with something in the Bible, don’t follow it.

            Yes, I am intolerant of the disregard of human rights. I don’t just blindly follow what others claim to be right. I see suffering and I want to stop it. Anyone can claim anything is religious. Just because something is “religious” doesn’t make it sacred.

            Do you think homosexuals deserve hell? Honestly. I don’t want an answer of what God says. I want your honest opinion. Is what they are doing really so sinful and why? WHY?!

            “God says so” is NOT a reason.

            The article about love and hate was pretty good. But it doesn’t explain why God thinks homosexuals deserve hell. Have you thought about how awful hell is? Should homosexuals be punished like that today? Would that hold up in court? Of course not, they are doing nothing wrong. How can God think that homosexuals deserve that awful of a punishment, forever, while on Earth most places have no punishment for homosexuality?

            By “in the words of Timothy”, I meant the section they came from. Sorry if this wasn’t clear.

          • Homosexuals should not be judged because of their lifestyle and should be allowed to be married by the state.

            Homosexuals are allowed to be married by the state. They choose not to act on that right because they prefer to be involved romantically with members of the same sex.

            Do you really believe that the Bible is all God’s word? Do you know how many translations it has been through? How many people of power have inserted their own opinion into it? How it was compiled/written long after the events took place? Have you studied the history of the time period?

            Yes, I do. And yes I have. Your objections indicate that you’re merely repeating objections you’ve heard, and don’t quite have an understanding of biblical translation, manuscript transmission, or biblical history.

            1. Each translation of the Bible is done from the original languages. It’s not done from the previous translation. Each translation is going back to the source.

            2. People of power could not have inserted their opinion into it because at no time were all the copies of the Bible in the possession of a single power. If someone did try to insert things into it, it would disagree with other manuscripts in different regions. And when those manuscripts are compared, additions become obvious and the original is easy to find. That is the science of textual criticism. If you’d like to read more about it, you could pick up a copy of Metzger’s “Text of the New Testament,” or James White’s “The King James Only Controversy.” (Though White is dealing with another topic, he gives a great intro to textual criticism.)

            3. The writing of every text in the New Testament happened mostly within 30 years of the events described and not longer than 65 years after, all by eye-witnesses. No other ancient writing in history comes close to that kind of attestation, all of them coming decades and even centuries. (See the chart here, for example.)

            If the roles were equal, I could understand. But they are not.

            Sexism is not defined by equal roles, but by equal essence. There is no ontological difference between male and female, but there are differences in roles. Even basic biology tells you this.

            Men lead because maleness pictures the servant leadership of Christ and femaleness pictures the joyful submission of the Church. See 1 Corinthians 11:1-10.

            Men don’t get to tell women what to do or decide for them. They get to lovingly serve them, lead them faithfully, love them as their own bodies, and dwell with them in an understanding way (Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Peter 3:1-7). Women are not just child-producing machines, but fellow-heirs of the grace of life that comes in Christ Jesus.

            You’re on the same side as the Taliban which is completely disgusting.

            This kind of assertion shows the weakness of your argument. The Taliban finds it OK to kill women who dress or even look at people the wrong way. I believe nothing of the sort, and call husbands to honor their wives and lovingly serve them as they lead them in the way of Jesus. It’s ignorant and grossly offensive for you to make such a comparison.

            Just because God is infinite times “higher-up”, doesn’t give you an excuse to follow blindly.

            It’s not following blindly. It’s being informed that God is infinitely wise and infinitely good. I know Him to be so as I encounter Him in His Word, through prayer, and through fellowship with His people. He has totally won my trust — my eyes-wide-open, totally-informed trust.

            If you disagree with something in the Bible, don’t follow it.

            That’s not an option for a true Christian. A true Christian is a disciple of Christ. A student does not teach the Teacher. A servant does not dictate to the Master. I am not the Lord of my life. Christ is. And your refusal to submit to His Lordship is what most fundamentally makes you a sinner. And it is for that self-worship that we all deserve to be punished in hell.

            Just because something is “religious” doesn’t make it sacred.

            And liberals accuse conservatives of trampling on first amendment rights…

            Do you think homosexuals deserve hell?

            Yes, we all do.

            Is what they are doing really so sinful and why? WHY?! “God says so” is NOT a reason.

            I answered this question in my previous comment. It’s in the paragraph that starts, “I think your confusion and incredulity…” Ctrl+F to find it.

            Have you thought about how awful hell is?

            Yes, I have. It’s that thought that makes me proclaim the truth to them, to warn them of that terrible, terrible danger.

            Should homosexuals be punished like that today?

            Not by human beings. Homosexuality is a violation of God’s law, not the state’s law, and so God is the one to exact punishment, not us.

            How can God think that homosexuals deserve that awful of a punishment, forever…

            Because homosexuality tells a lie about the nature of Christ, the Church, and the Gospel (see above answer), and God is righteous and just, and rightly punishes sin.

            Sarah, the bottom line is that you have not created yourself. You have been created by another. And that Creator lays claim to the Lordship of your life. He created you to know Him and worship Him. But because of your love for your own sin, you’ve exalted your own reasoning above His, and you’ve rejected His loving rule over you. Because of that, you have broken His Law. And in His righteous judgment He’s determined that the just punishment for sin and law-breaking is hell. And if you don’t submit your thinking to the truth of His Word, and submit your life to the rule of His lordship, you will go there.

            I know that this comment thread has required me to be so to-the-point that it sounds terse. But let me assure you that I don’t want hell for you. I want you to find life, and life as it was meant to be. That only comes in Christ. Because rather than let all humanity die in their sin, which would have been just, God sent the Lord Jesus to live and die as a perfect substitute for sinners. And three days after His death He rose again, demonstrating His victory and authority over sin and death. And He promises that those who repent of their sin of self-worship, and trust in the sufficiency of Christ to provide them acceptance with a holy God, will be forgiven and will be saved. Please repent and believe in Jesus.

          • Sarah Nelson

            No thanks.
            If there is a God, I would hope he would judge by life by the actions I’ve made, not by my willingness to serve him. Because I have no willingness.

            Final comments:
            “Homosexuals are allowed to be married by the state.”

            Not to the person they love.

            I view <30 years as still a long period of time, even if it good for it's time period, I wouldn't call it accurate. I guess we differ on this.

            To expand on the Taliban comment and "Just because something is "religious" doesn't make it sacred."
            I meant to compare them. The Taliban are following their religion by doing these horrible things. Does it make it okay because it is religious? Should I be tolerant because it is religion? No.
            But you're right, it was a horrible comparison. It was the first thing that came to mind when thinking of religious things I don't approve of.
            I think if a religion isn't doing any harm and isn't discriminating against anyone, people should be tolerant because it doesn't affect them.

          • I view <30 years as still a long period of time, even if it good for it's time period, I wouldn't call it accurate.

            There’s no basis for that view. You can’t possibly comment on a text’s accuracy simply by virtue of the time lapsed between the events and the record. If someone was dead, buried, and then came back to life, and all your friends die because you go around telling people that that guy who came back to life is the Lord of the universe, I don’t think it’s something you forget in 30 years. Besides this, it’s definitely something you don’t forget when the Holy Spirit of God Himself is sovereignly causing you to remember and record accurately what God Himself calls His own Word (2 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Timothy 3:16; John 16:12-14)..

            And if you were to be consistent, you would have to be suspicious of pretty much every bit of history before the American Revolution (which is the point the chart is trying to make). You would need to be just as skeptical about all of Greco-Roman history, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance. But of course you accept that history because doing so doesn’t ask you to submit your life to a standard of righteousness that grates against your own autonomy and self-will. You love your sin, Sarah, and so no matter how much evidence for the existence of God or the veracity of the Bible is presented to you, you’ll try to rationalize it and explain it away to suit your own self-centered worldview.

            If there is a God, I would hope he would judge by life by the actions I’ve made, not by my willingness to serve him.

            I’m not sure why you see those as two different things. Whether or not you submit your life to the Lordship of Christ is what your actions are made of. There is a God, and He will judge your life by your actions, against the perfect standard of His character, which is embodied in the commands of Scripture. And the most important command in all of Scripture is the command to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. If you’ve ever not done that, your actions are not good enough to escape God’s righteous judgment. Because God is perfect, fellowship with Him requires perfection. Unless you’ve been perfect, according to the standard of His law, you will die in your sins, and pay the eternal penalty of them.

            That bad news condemns us all to hell. But the Good News is that Jesus Christ was perfectly righteous, and perfectly fulfilled the commands of God on behalf of guilty sinners. The Bible says that for all who repent of their sin and trust in Christ alone, it’s like Jesus trades places with us on the Cross. By repentance and faith, God treats Jesus like He lived my sinful life and punishes Him (the equivalent of Hell) on the Cross. And then He treats me like I lived Jesus’ perfect life. The perfect righteousness I need to go to heaven is His righteousness applied to my account.

            And that gift of grace is available to you as well. I pray that God will grant you repentance, and that you’ll turn to Christ in faith and know the joy of forgiveness, and the true and lasting satisfaction that is found only in following Him. You were created to worship Him. That is the purpose for your existence. I pray you’ll not waste your life.