I don’t know when it was that I first heard the terminology, open-minded. I found it first used in English literature in 1819 in a book titled, Solitude, by Johann Georg Zimmermann with the following sentence: “How frequently do we observe, even in persons of rank and fortune, who reside continually on their own estates, a haughty manner and arbitrary disposition totally incompatible with that candid conduct that open-minded behaviour, . . . . !” It was used a little over a dozen occasions in total up until the 20th century, so uncommon. Now whole books have been authored on open-mindedness, which might be tell-tale. The Economist in 1892 reads, “What is wanted is not a mixed body of advocates, each eager to show the goodness of his own particular case, but a jury of impartial, uncommitted, open-minded men, who have no prejudices one way or the other; who will hear the evidence fully, and who will report upon it on its merits.” The first dictionary in which it arises is The Century in 1895. I don’t think that being open minded advanced as a desired trait in relations to modernity. The opposite seems to be “narrow minded,” which is viewed in a negative way. Can someone be both narrow minded and open minded? Do the two contradict? You can’t learn without open-mindedness, it seems, and you’ll be easily swayed toward error without closed-mindedness. The two ideas themselves don’t contradict. However, an unwillingness to change, that is, to recognize, admit, and then believe the truth is closing the mind, no matter how narrow it is.
AB2943 passed the California assembly this week, 50-18-10, so overwhelmingly. The exact wording in it is the following: “Existing law prohibits mental health providers, as defined, from performing sexual orientation change efforts, as specified, with a patient under 18 years of age. Existing law requires a violation of this provision to be considered unprofessional conduct and subjects the provider to discipline by the provider’s licensing entity. This bill would include, as an unlawful practice prohibited under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual. The bill would also declare the intent of the Legislature in this regard.” The bill later says, “The task force concluded that sexual orientation change efforts can pose critical health risks to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.” It also read, “Contemporary science recognizes that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is part of the natural spectrum of human identity and is not a disease, disorder, or illness.” Based on how the law is interpreted, which would be normal as I’ve watched it, this would make evangelism or at least pastoral evangelism of the stated categories to be illegal, and the writing of biblical or theological books to help those categories as also illegal, essentially taking away freedom of speech and of religion. I’m writing this to inform you. There are many assumptions being made that offend God, reject truth, and infringe on God-ordained rights.
I’ve been thinking some about the subject of social justice. I considered a very often quoted Old Testament text, which is Amos 5:24, “But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.” If you look at that verse in its context, which is not often the case with those quoting it, it relates to God’s relationship to the nation Israel. Consider the next few verses after that one (vv. 25-27, ending the chapter), “Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves. Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the LORD, whose name is The God of hosts.” God will bring justice, but it’s because of their false worship. Justice relates to God, breaking His laws. It’s not about equality, but about equity, two different words. Lady justice pictures it with her two scales. An illustration would be a classroom where students take a test, and when you grade it as a teacher, you give equal retribution, treat it according to the outcome. Someone got all the answers right, good grade, a few or more wrong, average, and many wrong, bad grade. You don’t give a D to everyone. Only those who missed a lot would appreciate a D for everyone. Karl Marx saw justice as giving the same outcome to everyone. That’s actually injustice in society. Marx thought history showed that the powerful, usually property owners, would uneven the ‘playing field’ to advantage themselves. The law would benefit themselves and hurt the poor, who did not or could not own property. Biblical justice treats every one the same and refused to give anyone an advantage, no matter if they are rich or poor, but including the rich. As this applies to the church, everyone is treated the same, judging everyone by the same standard.
While listening to a 24 lecture series on the history of London, I heard for the first time that I remember, the terminology, “pleasure palace.” Hampton Court was one of Henry VIII’s favorite houses. With its tennis courts, bowling alleys and lavish apartments, it was his pleasure palace, where he entertained foreign ambassadors and visiting guests. The Royal Pavillion was built in the Southern coastal city of Brighton by the fast living George Prince of Wales, later the Prince Regent and then King George IV, as a pleasure palace away from London and its prying eyes. Versailles in France was called The Place of Pleasure with its history and use. Luke 8:14 says, “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.” The word “pleasures” translates the Greek word, haydone, which is the basis for the English term hedonism. That word is not a positive in scripture. It isn’t characteristic of a believer. Including Luke 8:14, the term is used 5 times in the New Testament (cf. Titus 3:3, James 4:1, 3, 2 Peter 2:13). The world is not intended as some kind of “pleasure palace,” where we can find use for disposable income. As Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:17, God “giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” The Greek word translated “enjoy” is found there and in Hebrews 11:25, where Moses did not “enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” It really is a matter of what we’re living for.
Today’s pastor desk will include somewhat connected statements of wisdom. There is a major difference between being smart and being wise. There are some very smart people, who are not very wise. We should strive to be smart, but it’s more important to be wise. James said, pray for wisdom, not smarts. You need some smarts to be wise, because you have to know the right things to apply to your life, but if you know it all and you don’t know how to live it, you’re missing most of what you need. On this point, someone said, experience may be the best teacher, but the tuition is very high. It would be better to listen to someone, who already knows what he’s talking about, based upon scripture. However, until it’s tested, it’s only your opinion, not a conviction. All over scripture you will see that sin makes sense only to sin itself and then to apostates, but it should not make sense to you if you are saved, and it won’t if you’re living for the Lord—instead, sin makes you irrational, actually crazy. People locked into a sin, I’ve noticed, are impervious to scripture, logic, or facts, will always say it’s someone else’s fault, hate anyone who tries to tell them the truth, no matter how humbly nor lovingly, and will always find dire and horrendous fault with anyone who tries to part them from it.
In Titus 2 Paul gives instruction for behavior in the church. At one point, he calls it “behaviour as becometh holiness.” He calls what he is teaching the church, “sound doctrine” (v. 1) and “the doctrine of God” (v. 10), that he wants Titus to “speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority” (v. 15). For what Titus says, that Paul writes to him, he commands that “no man despise thee” (v. 15). On top of all this, Paul wants all this behavior “that the word of God be not blasphemed” (v. 6). The word of God would be blasphemed by not behaving in the way that Paul teaches. How big a deal is that? All of this is so important that Paul characterizes it in a very great way and brings with it a lot of serious talk. He says, “Rebuke with all authority.” That really sounds, you know, mean – to rebuke with all authority. How about, rebuke with tremendous sympathy and sensitivity? Paul was a man. Titus was a man. It was required in the qualifications of the pastor, to be a man. Acting like a man means strength, which is necessary for maintaining the behavior God wants. People are more concerned about the style and the sympathy today, then they are the actual right behavior and, therefore, call it “toxic masculinity.” It’s not true. We need strength today and a stand on what God says.
Nothing in the Bible tells us how many hours to evangelize every week. The strong impression someone should get from the New Testament as a whole is that we are never to stop evangelizing. This is like the command from Paul, pray without ceasing. We don’t pray nonstop, but it is characteristic to the extent that it could be called, without ceasing. Jesus says, don’t hide your light or lamp under a bushel or basket. The inclination is toward preaching the gospel, at least being a Christian testimony. This might be passing out a tract. If we are going to preach the gospel to everyone and everyone hasn’t yet received the gospel, then we need to keep going until that is done. It won’t get done by not doing it. Everyone is responsible to do that. We should want to do that, because there is no greater message and no more important message, if it is true. It is true, but whether we believe it is true could be measured by how much we talk about it. I bring up the topic of how much to evangelize, because faith in Christ is different than sheer fulfillment of obligation. You get your minimal or token evangelism in, so you won’t need to do it for awhile, and you’re happy for that. That’s not belief. That’s not love. The Bible doesn’t give us a requirement, but that doesn’t mean none.
If salvation doesn’t cost anything, then where did the idea of “counting the cost” come from? They seem like a contradiction, or do they? The concept actually comes from Jesus in Luke 14:28, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” When you believe in Jesus Christ, you’ve got to really believe, and really believing means believing that Jesus is Lord. That means that He owns you as His servant, so you’re actually giving everything up to Him. The reality is that you get everything, but in a temporal way, you are giving up your own self, your own life, your soul. Are you willing to do that, because that is believing in Him? That is counting the cost, and Jesus illustrates that. If you believe in Jesus Christ, saving faith, then you believe that He is better than everything, He is good, and you trust Him, which means trusting that you are better off with Him. Do you believe that or not? That is counting the cost. Am I really giving that up or not, or am I just going through the motions here? Actual costing you something would be something of value. Your life, you assess, as Paul did, is dung, so you count it, as He said, as loss. You win Christ, who is of eternal benefit and all that goes with Him.
Very often in describing salvation, I explain that you don’t have to give up anything to be saved, except for everything. Someone might ask if you have to give up smoking to be saved. Someone doesn’t get saved by giving up smoking. However, smoking might be the reason why someone doesn’t receive Jesus Christ, believe in Him, knowing that smoking is not in accordance with faith in Christ. Repentance might require the willingness to give up smoking, since that’s what stands between someone and Christ. We don’t have to give up anything in particular to be saved, except that we can’t keep going our own way in be saved. You can’t worship Jesus Christ and everything else. It is Him or nothing. If someone has the grace of God through salvation, He can give things up that are worthless. Paul said that all things were lawful, that is, they might be permissible, but they were not necessarily expedient, that is, necessary. If something keeps you from running your race as fast as you should, then you lay it aside to run the race that is set before you. I ask myself why certain meaningless things really matter to me. Sometimes what really matters doesn’t matter and what doesn’t matter, really does matter. If we believe in Jesus Christ, then we should consider what it is we should give up for Him.
I was thinking of a song I sang in congregations while growing up and into my adult life, Jesus Is the Joy of Living. The idea just popped into my head, while considering what to write. I wondered about the song, because the music seemed like it came from a certain revivalist era. I read about the author and composer, Alfred Henry Ackley (1887-1960), who wrote 1500 religious and secular songs in his lifetime, trained at the London Royal Academy of Music, attended Westminster Seminary, a Presbyterian pastor, but had worked with Billy Sunday for his campaigns. His music mainly doesn’t match the content of the old hymns and the psalms. Overall, I don’t like the trajectory his songs took church music with less focus on God and exegetical language. They are not up to that standard, but some of them serve as good hymns and spiritual songs, worthy of being sung. Even as I meditated on the song of which I’m speaking, I loved the biblical truth again, Jesus is the joy of living. It is true. The next line helps tell why, He’s the King of life to me. There is a love and affection that Ackley communicates that represents worship in spirit. The end of the first verse reads, “Ev’ry blessing of His favor fills my heart with hope so bright.”