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Shaken to Become Unshaken: The SCOTUS Decision

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Shaken to Become Unshakable

My Reaction to the SCOTUS Decision

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29, ESV)

Today, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. I must confess myself shaken, but perhaps not for the reasons you think. I knew same-sex marriages would be legalized soon. Frankly, I don’t despair over it either. My sorrow over same-sex marriages is in line with my sorrow over greed, selfish ambition, dishonesty, envy, and exploitation of the needy, all of which has been institutionalized and normalized since the dawn of time in every society, all of which should nauseate us. It is in line with my sorrow for when I, myself, mar God’s image through my own normalization of escape, self-centeredness, impatience, and a host of other nasty things flooding out of my idolatrous heart. No, legalization of same-sex marriage doesn’t shake me. But what does shake me is seeing peoples’ knee-jerk reactions. I literally shake with emotion when I read them. It pulls me to join in with my own hasty, ill-thought-out reactions. It pulls me to judge. It draws out my detached, judgmental accusations of, “How could you…” and “What’s the matter with you?” Holy Spirit help me!

I have many friends who are gay or lesbian or whose worldviews consider homosexuality to be perfectly fine. I also have friends who would be considered staunch, religious, and conservative. I see one Facebook post from a friend who I know has a past of marital brokenness proudly say, “Let me remind you what real marriage is.” I see yet another post saying, “Our country has really gone down the drain.” Yet another post says, “Finally, the religious right’s tyranny is at an end.” A church I know of took the opportunity to publically reveal that they see nothing wrong with homosexuality, applauded by many with expressions of relief and approval. Two camps. One typically disregards God’s loving commands and refuses to trust them where they don’t fully understand. The other disregards God’s pursuit of sinners and refuse to trust when it feels uncomfortable. In the middle live real people, real image bearers of God, being objectified and turned into fodder for detached rhetoric.

I find myself shaken by the rigidity of the division. No, I’m not claiming the church should embrace homosexuality as perfectly fine any more than they should embrace greed as perfectly fine. But didn’t Jesus embrace both the gay and the greedy as He placed His love on them and drew them out of sin and to Himself? Sin destroys, period. And Jesus pursues and rescues many sinners of all kinds, period. Both are true, and they are in harmony. A gospel that does not rescue us from sin is no gospel at all. A gospel that does not pursue us in our sin is also no gospel at all. The divide that shakes me is when the church forgets the Apostle Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11.

"A gospel that does not rescue us from sin is no gospel at all. A gospel that does not pursue us in our sin is also no gospel at all."

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:9-11)

We aren’t supposed to be divided from the world. We’re supposed to be engaging them with a message and a living testimony of its power. It shakes me because I know I suffer the same disease in my own propensity to forget scripture when it says, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6). I want to be rash and quick in my anger with my brothers and sisters in the church. But that dishonors God’s name as much as their sins. Holy Spirit help me!

What shakes me more than anything is my fear of being rashly pigeon holed into one of the camps by people I love and respect. I care what people think, and I loathe the idea of being simplistically identified as something I am not. I fear for my reputation. After all, Stephen was martyred in a situation stemming from false rumors about him. He died being misunderstood. Think about that. It’s is a big fear of mine. I’m shaken, and I feel very unsettled. My guess is that you, too, feel unsettled for one reason or another. We are being shaken, and I know for a fact that God is doing it on purpose. I even know, at least partly, why He’s doing it because He has told us some things. The scripture that began this post starts with a command toward thanksgiving! Of all things, thanksgiving! We are to be grateful to God in the midst of the Supreme Court’s decision. In fact, the context of this passage in Hebrews is warning that we not refuse God’s gospel. It’s a serious deal. God shakes His people “in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.” I want this to leave you with reasons to be thankful and restful.

God shook Israel with fear and trembling at the sight of lightning, fire, and thunder at the foot of the mountain, calling them to come up to Himself to be His treasure and His very own people. They did not trust Him, and therefore when they were shaken, they fled from Him in distrust as if He were something foreign. We would surely have done the same because we are also very shakable people. Jesus had to go up the mountain on our behalf so that we could finally become God’s treasured, intimate people. That’s why Hebrews says, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” If we didn’t receive it, we would never have it at all. But we did receive an unshakable kingdom. We have a core in us that truly cannot be shaken, and God will shake us until that is all that remains. He promises to do so, and it is for our good. So, let us be thankful to God that the Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage, friends, not because we agree with the decision, but because a wise God is in control, and He does only good to His people. Yes, let’s grieve for sin that seeks to destroy others and ourselves, but let us keep our eyes on God!

I am shaken with fear of being placed into a camp I don’t belong in. There isn’t much of a category for people like me, and I feel even brothers and sisters close to me isolating me with their rhetoric and hemming me into a place I don’t belong. Being misunderstood shakes me deeply. But why? Asking the Holy Spirit to be kind to me and open my eyes, I believe it is because I am very protective of my reputation. I find identity in how others view me. And this is an idol. God is shaking me to expose that which can be shaken, and idols are very shakable. God, I repent for fixing my eyes on how other people view me. God, I repent for letting my fear of being misunderstood outweigh my awe of your Son. Please help me to keep my eyes fixed on you and your gospel as Stephen did when he was being murdered. Help me to be enamored with your justice, wisdom, power, and pursuit of sinners. May my only fixation be on you being known as you are throughout the ends of the Earth. May my hope be in your message of reconciling sinners to yourself through your Son’s death and resurrection. May I rest in that message and depend on it utterly! May my sole desire be for your reputation, not mine. May I belittle shame as Jesus did on the cross, with my eyes fixed on you. Rescue me, God!

"May I rest in that message and depend on it utterly! May my sole desire be for your reputation, not mine. May I belittle shame as Jesus did on the cross, with my eyes fixed on you. Rescue me, God!"

 Friend, I imagine that you, too, have been shaken in some way by this decision. It is for your good. Please join me. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what is shaking in you and why. Find the idols that God is exposing. Is it pride in how you behave or with whom identify with? Is it fear of discomfort? Is it the need for Christianity to be normal or the fear of suddenly being seen as an outcast? Is it fear of being misunderstood either as a hater or as “emergent”? Is it feelings of inadequacy in approaching your LGBT neighbors and a fixation on what you’re innately capable of? God, the Holy Spirit, is wise and capable. You can depend on Him to reveal what is being shaken. Ask those close to you to tell you what they see in you. Then, press into God with the gospel of His Son rich on your mind, repenting with empty hands that beg for grace and power to overcome and change.

The sole purpose of our existence is to make God known more deeply and more widely. The sole means of this is through a message, a simple, powerful message that exposes a God who pursues so many vile, blind, people (like me) to rescue them and bring them to Himself. Lay aside the hindrances that God is shaking and revealing, and hold onto that which cannot be shaken. Hold onto the gospel, and expose its work in your own life to see it work in others’ lives. Any country can make any law they want, but God’s people will desire Him above everything no matter what the context. That which is unshakable has not changed, friend, so take comfort, and let this shaking do its work. God works all things for the good of His people, so let this be an opportunity to be deeply thankful and find healing from your own idols.

Posted by Matt Norman with

"Why I'm signing on the dotted line..."

One of the things I’m learning as we implement a formalized church membership (what we call partnership) is how much people absolutely abhor signing their name to things and formalizing a current reality.

“It feels too corporate.” “I don’t know why it’s important.” “It’s not in the Bible.” “I’m already showing up.”

I have heard it all and I realize why most churches just don’t poke the sleeping dog. It seems like too much trouble and even threatens to run folks off. To be honest, it is much easier to just let people show. “Why can’t we all belong?”

We sign our name to thousands of documents in our lifetime to secure anything from homes to cell phone agreements and do it without even reading the contracts most of the time. When it comes to “belonging” to a people of God however, we turn into a conspiracy theorists and feel threatened. It’s an interesting thing to watch.

As I prepped the sermon for this week (5/24/15 “Why I Sign on the Dotted Line...”) something struck me as to how formalizing an already existing reality is something we already do without blinking an eye. When we marry each other and sign a marriage license and vow to love each other, we never feel like a signed covenant cheapens the union or is unnecessary. We are excited to do it because it is a celebration of the love we already have. Church partnership isn’t very different.

As Christians, we are already members of a body we don’t deserve to be in. Jesus is our head and we fit together to nurture and care for each other. This all came by the Gospel’s effect on our lives. We are truly members who cannot lose our membership because the dues were paid by Another.

This is why we use the word “partnership” to formalize the reality that already exists. We know most traditional churches refer to this as ‘membership” which is fine, but we believe that word is empty freight in our culture and is already taken Biblically through salvation. We aren’t trying to be hip, but clear.

Formalizing such a union (church partnership/membership) is a way we can know who we are responsible for as a church AND who we as leaders are responsible for. It also allows church discipline to occur to the glory of God. (See the sermon audio) Without it, we as leaders are unable to love and protect the body and serve it well.

To simply attend and volunteer at a local church without partnership is nothing more than “hedging your bets” as we are ready to extricate ourselves and cancel our “belonging” when it doesn’t fit. It’s saying, “I love this place and love coming, but want to remain a private individual with no responsibility or covering, and covenanting with you guys is too much.” It also reminds me of finally getting a heart tattoo on our arms but not putting a name inside the heart, because the "beloved" might change. 

My question is this, If signing and formalizing a covenant with your local church is too much for you to swallow, what will you be like when the persecution around us gets much hotter? If a signature causes us to balk, what about losing our reputation, or business, or life?

Jesus didn’t die to create a service where people went based on convenience, but to create a church where people were committed to each other and partnered with each other in a covenant. The local church is God’s instrument to change the world and to not partner to one is to be sitting the bench.

Jesus died and rose - we are good to leave the bench now.

Jesus died to glue you into community - you are good to stop being all about the individual

More resources on church membership

Legacy's Covenant Partnership Explanation (and Q&A)







Posted by Luke Thomas with

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