Do You Know How to Rebuke?

Do You Know How to Rebuke?

When was the last time someone sat you down to tell you that you were wrong?

These have been some of the most memorable and important conversations in my life, the conversations when someone I loved — father, mother, mentor, pastor, roommate, friend, wife — had the compassion and courage to tell me when I was out of line. However I felt in those difficult (and often painful) moments, I now treasure those memories — the kind confrontations, the caring corrections, the loving rebukes.

We all need a steady diet of friendly course correction, because our hearts — even our new hearts in Christ — are still susceptible to sin (Hebrews 3:13; Jeremiah 17:9). Do you value the hard conversations that keep you from making more mistakes, and guard you against slowly wandering away from Jesus?

One reason rebuke is often underappreciated — in our own lives, and in many of our local churches — is because we have such small definitions for rebuke. If we are truly going to speak the hard truth in love — or appreciate when others say the hard thing to us — we need a bigger, fuller picture of what this kind of love looks like in relationships.

Reprove, Rebuke, Exhort

As the apostle Paul closes his second letter to his son in the faith, Timothy, he says, “Reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Paul is building steel reinforcements into this young pastor’s ministry. He warns Timothy that people will turn away from faithful preaching, preferring instead to listen to messages that conform to their desires and make them feel good about themselves. They will gladly trade away truths for myths, as long as the myths make much of ‘me’ — and downplay their sin and need for help and change.

Paul may be talking specifically about public preaching, but what he says about Timothy’s ministry has everything to do with our rebuking. Do you love the people in your life enough to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort,” even when they don’t want to hear it?

Reprove with Honesty

Why reprove, rebuke, and exhort? It may sound redundant and excessive at first, as if Paul was saying, “Rebuke, rebuke, by all means, rebuke!” The three words are related, but distinct, each highlighting a critical aspect of healthy, biblical correction.

The word Paul uses here for “reprove” appears several other times in his letters, and can mean simply to rebuke (Titus 1:13) or correct (Matthew 18:15). But in most or all of the uses, it means to reprove by exposing sin or fault. For instance, Paul writes, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). Or, “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Timothy 5:20).

Similarly, the apostle John writes, “Everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed” (John 3:20). And then again, about the Holy Spirit, “When he comes, he will convict [or expose] the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). Timothy, be ready to call out sin, not just when it’s convenient, but when it’s needed, and even when it’s socially uncomfortable or costly to do so.

To care for each other well, we need to ask God for the courage and faith to tell the truth about sin, and expose it as such, even when doing so might offend someone we love.

Speak Up with Boldness

“Reprove, rebuke . . . ” This is the only place Paul uses this word, but it appears almost thirty times in the New Testament, all but two in the Gospels — and in every instance but one, Jesus is the one doing the rebuking.

  • “He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” (Matthew 8:26)
  • “Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.” (Matthew 17:18)
  • “He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her.” (Luke 4:39)

When Jesus rebuked someone or something, he demanded, in effect, on God’s authority, that it cease and desist. Winds quieted. Demons exorcised. Fevers dismissed.

And sin forsaken. Jesus says, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3). Timothy, after you have exposed sin for what it is — deceitful, empty, fatal, evil — summon your brother to stop, on the basis of God’s word and authority. Open the Bible, point to or quote a particular text, and call for repentance. And if he repents, extend forgiveness from that same Book and with that same authority.

If we are going to rebuke well, we must ask God to show us in his word what sin is, and what it is not. And having seen sin in one another, we must consistently and boldly — and graciously — speak up and charge one another to change, to turn, to cease from sin.

Build Up in Love

Reprove, rebuke, and finally, “exhort.” When you rebuke one another, expose sin, call for repentance, and exhort one another.

Paul uses this word far more than the other two. Over and over, he is appealing to believers to walk in a way worthy of the gospel.

  • “I appeal to you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” (Romans 12:1)
  • “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions.” (Romans 16:17)
  • “I urge you, be imitators of me.” (1 Corinthians 4:16)
  • “I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” (Ephesians 4:1; see also 1 Thessalonians 2:12).

What makes the charge to exhort any different from the charge to rebuke? One prominent thread in Paul’s 48 uses suggests that wrapped up in all his exhortations is a strong desire to encourage, comfort, and build up other believers.

He uses the same word when he writes, “Encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Or, “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers” (1 Timothy 5:1). He also says, “You should turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him” (2 Corinthians 2:7–8).

Timothy, when you expose sin and call for repentance, aim to build up your brother in his faith, hope, and love. Resist the natural, sinful impulse to heap guilt and tear down, and instead correct in order to encourage. All Christian correction aims at restoration. We are people who relentlessly have something good to say.

If we are going to rebuke well, we must ask God to help us reprove and rebuke with compassion and hope — to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:25).

Recipe for Loving Rebuke

Satan would love for us to simplify rebuke to something small: “tell someone else they are wrong.” That kind of proud and shallow vision creates division, not delight in God. But God himself gives us a fuller vision for loving rebuke, with greater color and texture and warmth.

Despite what our society suggests at every turn, to point out sin in one another, and call for change, is not necessarily hate speech, but it may be a courageous act of genuine love. When you see a brother or sister in Christ acting out of line with the gospel — either because of blind ignorance or stubborn rebellion — ask God for the grace and humility and love to gently expose the sin, appeal for repentance, and build up your beloved.

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“My Life Feels Pointless”

“My Life Feels Pointless”

Our aging bodies and nearness to death need not sap the joy that God gives us while we remain on earth. He still has a purpose for us.

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Do You Enjoy Reading the Bible?

Do You Enjoy Reading the Bible?

When we read the Bible, we don’t just want to learn about Jesus. We want to love him.

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Praise God for Answered Prayers

Christians are robbed of help and God is robbed of praise when we are too proud to ask others for prayer.

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The Pinnacle of God’s Glory

God’s glory shines brightest in his grace. Everything points us to the miracle of God’s mercy for sinners.

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Before the Throne of Social ‘Likes’

Before the Throne of Social ‘Likes’

Four friends of mine have recently deleted their social media accounts. No more Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. They’re done. Of course, they continue to read and write blogs, answer email, and engage online here and there. But they’ve come to believe their use of social media hinders their spiritual growth.

Whenever someone tells me they’re cutting out social media for spiritual reasons, I applaud. The cultivation of personal virtue matters far more than the cultivation of a public platform.

Still, we recognize that the people leaving the world of social media are far fewer in number than the people joining every week. Our generation and the next will be increasingly formed — for good or for ill — by this constant connectivity.

So, as Christians who want to be faithful to Jesus in this era, we need to consider what our online interaction is doing to our hearts. How do these online habits shape us? What are the benefits, the promises, and the dangers?

Pursuit of the Mythical “Like”

I’m encouraged to see new books from Andy Crouch and Tony Reinke providing wise counsel on new technology. Because our phones are such a big part of our lives, I devoted the first chapter of a new book to the idea that the phone is a “myth-teller.” With us at all times is a device that is tailored to our needs, reinforcing the myth that we are the center of the universe. And social media can seduce us into finding our approval and satisfaction from the attention we receive.

Some younger social media users sometimes refer to their online presence as a “game.” And, for sure, you can spot an element of social competition at work in their online habits. Like any game, the social world has winners and losers, fame and shame, scorecards and setbacks. On Instagram and Facebook and Snapchat, you can see the social world of your high school or college mapped out. Popularity and peer pressure can now be measured — based on likes and comments in social media contexts.

What’s more, this game extends its reach into the business world and into our personal lives once the educational years are over — when we are pursuing our careers or starting out as parents. Which means, this isn’t just a world for adolescent angst. All of us have the potential for being affected.

Seen in this light, a “like” on a Facebook post or an Instagram picture is a symbol of social status. It represents much more than a simple nod of affirmation. To gather “likes” or increase “followers” or elicit “comments” is to build up social significance in public. On the flip side, the absence of likes can make us feel like we are being silently judged, or that we are not as popular as we think we are.

Fig-Leaf Selfies

What happens when we invest likes and comments with this mythical power of determining our social status?

On the one hand, we fall for the myth that, unless something happens in public, it is not as real, or important, or enduring. We transform our phones into cameras because we think capturing a moment on film and posting it online is the way to prove that this event happened and it matters! It’s a way of proving our worth and putting ourselves out there in public. Unless we are seen, we fear we do not matter. Or as Os Guinness has said, “I post, therefore I am.”

On the other hand, we hide ourselves by creating an online persona we want others to see and admire. Even being “real” about our struggles and sins can be a way of eliciting support and admiration. We hide the parts of ourselves we worry would bring rejection, while we promote the parts of ourselves we hope will bring glory.

Put these two practices together and we are left with a paradoxical conflict: online, we hide in full view. Adam and Eve—clothed in fig leaves, taking a selfie.

In this environment, “likes” maintain their hold over us. We check in and count likes and comments and blog stats because we hope to be affirmed in the way we have presented ourselves. The phone becomes an IV dripping the drug of “likes” into our hearts, until we find ourselves turning into affirmation-craving addicts. To maintain our control over our image, we become the person we think others like instead of the person we know God calls us to become.

Leveled and Loved

God has prepared a remedy for this problem. For some, it may mean following my friends who have deleted their accounts in order to focus more on pursuing Christ. But leaving Facebook or Twitter doesn’t immediately deal with the heart — whether we stay or go, we need to let the truth of the gospel shatter our lust for “likes.”

Whether it is pride that drives our social habits or a sense of inferiority, the answer is the same: God’s climactic work for us in the sacrifice of his Son:

At the cross, we are fully exposed and fully leveled.
At the cross, we are fully known and fully loved.

No social hierarchy stands before the judgment seat of God. Lord, if you were to count iniquities, who could stand? (Psalm 130:3). Answer: None of us. Our sin list far outweighs all the likes or online metrics we could ever win in the social game.

The cross also reminds us that the God who fully knows us is also the God who fully loves us. He knows everything about us, not just what we choose to present online. We do not earn his approval. In Christ, we already have it. Our good works flow out of his acceptance, not for it.

Pursuit of Likes or Pursued by Love?

If you feel the downward pull of the social game, talk to others. Take time away from the online world. Monitor your online habits. Soak in the Scriptures instead of scrolling through a timeline. Resist the urge to practice your righteousness online, in order to be seen by others.

This all may seem trivial, but remember, we’re talking about some of the deepest issues of the heart: whose approval we value and whose judgment we fear. God is not glorified, and we are not truly satisfied, with the shallow affirmation of more likes, follows, and shares.

Being faithful in our day means giving up our pursuit of likes and living as the people pursued by Love.

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Will You Cleave and Leave Your Man?

Will You Cleave and Leave Your Man?

Dear Wife,

Cleave is a strange word. It’s a contranym — a word that can have opposite meanings.

In an upper story of a concrete apartment block in a small Chinese city, I watched Rene wield her cleaver like a top chef, preparing vegetables for her family’s dinner. I was impressed how she positioned her fingers so they didn’t get chopped with the carrots. “Wow! I want some of those knives to take home as gifts,” I said. Rene pointed out the window toward a shop across the busy street. “You should be able to find them there.”

The name of one brand was Family Cleaver. It was easy to see how the difficulty of grasping a double meaning in English must have tripped up a Chinese translator. I was glad to discover a different brand with a happier name (that wouldn’t have implications of splitting a family apart).

On the opposite side of the word, there’s the other meaning of cleave, as it’s used in a time-honored wedding text: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 KJV). Or as the ESV translates the same word, the husband shall “hold fast” to his wife.

Johnny Picked Me

At a small country church in middle Georgia, on a mild Saturday afternoon in December almost 49 years ago, we were married. We had waited two and a half years for this day. I still could hardly believe that Johnny Piper had chosen me, and that he wanted to spend his life with me just as much as I wanted to be with him.

Will You Cleave and Leave Your Man? gcvgay8r

I understood — as well as a person can at the beginning of the rest of her life — the happy, solemn weight of promising to be faithful to him until death parted us, no matter what challenges God might bring into our lives. It didn’t seem possible I would ever want anything else.

“Noël, do you take John to be your wedded husband to live together in holy matrimony? Do you promise to love him . . . and forsaking all others, be faithful only to him so long as you both shall live?” There was not a doubt in my mind or heart when I declared, “I do!”

How could I have known that the worse of “better or worse” would lead to a season of sleepless nights when I wondered how I could keep on? I felt desperate for something different. That’s the time in our marriage when I would have been most likely to turn to someone else. But thank God, it didn’t happen. He held us together. There were a few habits that helped.

Faithfulness to Johnny, through the years, from boyfriend to husband, meant:

  • Not flirting with other men.
  • Avoiding men who seemed too interested.
  • Not meeting alone with any other man.
  • Having regular devotions together with Johnny.

Faithfulness required more than four habits, but these four have been central and essential.

Hardest Habit

The last is the hardest, but most important. My appreciation for it began, as with many things, with my parents. It is amazing my parents stayed together. About twenty years into their marriage, their rampaging differences seemed about to rip them apart.

Through even the most difficult months — years, really — Daddy and Mother took us all to church every Sunday. And every evening of the week, one of us kids was sent to the front porch to holler down toward the pasture and out toward the woods, “Sto-o-ory and pra-a-yers ti-i-ime!”

After all nine of us kids (later we were ten) had tumbled into the living room from the barn and creek and kitchen, Daddy read the next passage in our years-long path through the whole Bible. Then we kneeled at our chairs and took turns praying.

I realize now how difficult that must have been for my parents. Often they must have felt like hypocrites, going through motions when they didn’t feel like worshiping or praying together.

Of course, it would have been ideal if they had come before God with whole and happy hearts. But it was better to come somehow than not at all. And God held them together until he brought their marriage through the tempest into peace, using his glue of faithfulness — his faithfulness to them, and their faithfulness to each other and to those family devotional traditions.

What Kind of Cleaver?

What did it boil down to during my darkest nights? I was saved from wandering by some form of this question: What kind of a cleaver am I? Am I the deadly implement who will split my family — with a husband and five children — into shreds? Because, with or without divorce, that is what unfaithfulness will do to us.

Or will I cleave to the husband God has given me? Will I cling to my marriage and pray desperately for something different? I chose to cling, and God is still proving his faithfulness. He will do the same for you.

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Does My Sex Life Affect My Prayer Life?

Does My Sex Life Affect My Prayer Life?

When couples temporarily suspend sexual intimacy for the purpose of prayer, they say with their bodies how desperate they are for God to answer.

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It Is Impossible to Read the Bible

It Is Impossible to Read the Bible

Reading the Bible should always be a supernatural act.

By “supernatural act,” I don’t mean that humans are supernatural. We are not God, and we are not angels or demons. What I mean is that the act of reading, in order to be done as God intended, must be done in dependence on God’s supernatural help.

The Bible gives two decisive reasons: Satan and sin. That is, we have a blinding enemy outside and a blinding disease inside. Together these two forces make it impossible for human beings to read the Bible, as God intended, without supernatural help.

It seems to me that thousands of people approach the Bible with little sense of their own helplessness in reading the way God wants them to. This proverb applies as much to Bible reading as to anything else: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5–6). At every turn of the page, rely on God. That is a supernatural transaction.

If more people approached the Bible with a deep sense of helplessness, and hope-filled reliance on God’s merciful assistance, there would be a far more seeing and savoring and transformation than there is.

Blinding Enemy Outside

Satan is real. His main identity is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). His way of lying is more by deception that bold-face falsehoods. He “is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9).

Jesus described how Satan takes away the word: “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart” (Matthew 13:19). How does that happen? It might be by sheer forgetfulness. Or Satan may draw a person from Bible reading to an entertaining video, with the result that any thought of Christ’s worth and beauty is quickly lost in the ash of fire and skin.

Or Satan may simply blind the mind to the worth and beauty of Christ, which the Scriptures reveal. This is what Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 4:3–4:

Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

“The god of this world” is Satan. He is called “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30), and John says that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). It is this enormous blinding power that puts us in need of a supernatural deliverer. The thought that we could overcome this satanic force on our own is naïve.

No Divine Power, No Open Eyes

When the risen Christ sent Paul “to open the eyes [of the Gentiles], so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18), he did not mean that Paul could do this in human strength. Paul made that clear: “My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:3–4). That is what it takes to overcome the blinding effects of Satan.

Let it not be missed that the specific focus of Satan’s blinding work is the gospel. That is, his focus is on our reading — or hearing — the heart of the message of the Christian Scriptures. Satan “has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” Satan would be happy for people to believe ten thousand true facts, as long as they are blind to “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” Let them make A’s on a hundred Bible-fact quizzes as long as they can’t see the glory of Christ in the gospel—that is, as long as they can’t read (or listen) with the ability to see what is really there.

Satan Loves Some Bible Reading

So, Jesus (Matthew 13:19), Paul (2 Corinthians 4:3–4), and John (1 John 5:19) warn that Satan is a great enemy of Bible reading that sees what is really there. Bible reading that only collects facts, or relieves a guilty conscience, or gathers doctrinal arguments, or titillates esthetic literary tastes, or feeds historical curiosities — this kind of Bible reading Satan is perfectly happy to leave alone. He has already won the battle.

But reading that hopes to see the supreme worth and beauty of God — reading that aims to be satisfied with all that God is for us in Christ, reading that seeks to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) — this reading Satan will oppose with all his might. And his might is supernatural. Therefore, any reading that hopes to overcome his blinding power will be a supernatural reading.

Complicit in Deception

When we speak of the power of Satan over the human heart, we are not saying that all spiritual blindness is the sole work of Satan. We are not implying that Satan can take innocent people and make them slaves of deceit. There are no innocent people. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We are complicit in all our deception.

There is a terrible interweaving of satanic influence and human sinfulness in all our blindness to divine glory. No one will ever be able to scapegoat at the judgment, claiming, “Satan made me do it.” Our own sinfulness is another source of our spiritual blindness that puts us in need of supernatural help, if we hope to see the glory of God in Scripture.

Mind of the Flesh

Paul tells us in Romans 8:7–8: “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

These are very strong words: “It does not submit to God’s law [God’s instruction, God’s word]; indeed it cannot.” This is our rebellion prior to, and underneath, all satanic blinding. Before Satan adds his blinding effects, we are already in rebellion against God. And, Paul says, this rebellion makes it impossible (“cannot”) for us to submit to the word of God.

This inability is not the inability of a person who prefers God but is not allowed to cherish him. No. This is the inability of a person who does not prefer God and therefore cannot cherish him. It is not an inability that keeps you from doing what you want. It is an inability to want what you don’t want. You can’t see as beautiful what you see as ugly. You can’t embrace the glory of God as most valuable when you feel yourself to be more valuable.

Ignorance Is Not Our Deepest Problem

One of the implications of this pervasive human condition is that ignorance is not our deepest problem. There is a hardness of rebellion against God that is deeper than ignorance. That is why every natural attempt at enlightenment is resisted. This hardness of rebellion cannot submit to God’s revelation.

Paul issues an urgent call to all Christians at Ephesus to decisively turn away from this condition, which, he says, is typical of their Gentile roots:

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. (Ephesians 4:17–18)

Notice the relationship between “ignorance” and “hardness of heart” as Paul describes it: “ignorance due to their hardness of heart.” Hardness is more basic. Hardness is the cause. This is our deepest problem. Not ignorance.

This is the condition of all mankind, apart from the saving work of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9–10). And it makes reading the Bible impossible — if our aim is to read the way God wants us to read. We cannot prefer the light when we love the dark. “This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light” (John 3:19). Our problem is not that there is insufficient light shining from the Scriptures. Our problem is that we love the darkness.

God’s Word Radiates His Wisdom

The Scriptures are radiant with divine wisdom. This wisdom shines with the glory of God — and shows us the glory to come, which is the way Paul describes his own inspired teaching:

We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. . . . We have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:6–7, 12–13)

The problem is that apart from the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, we are not “spiritual,” but “natural.” Reading the inspired Scriptures must be a supernatural act if we are to “accept the things of the Spirit of God,” and if we are to “understand what is spiritually discerned.” Without God’s supernatural aid, we are merely natural and cannot see the glory of God in the Bible for what it really is — supremely beautiful and all-satisfying.

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Twelve Questions to Ask Before You Watch ‘Game of Thrones’

Twelve Questions to Ask Before You Watch ‘Game of Thrones’

“Pastor John, do you believe there is a difference between film nudity versus pornography? I know many Christians who are against porn, but they have no issue watching movies or TV shows that show graphic nudity.” A young woman named Emily emailed this question to the Ask Pastor John inbox.

A day later, Adam emailed to ask, “Pastor John, what would you say to a Christian who watches the cable TV show Game of Thrones?” This is a television series rated TV-MA, and has become rather infamous for its explicit nudity and sex scenes, and for graphic scenes of rape and sexual violence against women. Game of Thrones is now the most popular series in HBO history, with an average audience of more than 23 million viewers.

What follows is a lightly edited transcript of John Piper’s response.

The closer I get to death and meeting Jesus personally face-to-face and giving an account for my life and for the careless words that I have spoken (Matthew 12:36), the more sure I am of my resolve never intentionally to look at a television show or a movie or a website or a magazine where I know I will see photos or films of nudity. Never. That is my resolve. And the closer I get to death, the better I feel about that, and the more committed I become.

Frankly, I want to invite all Christians to join me in this pursuit of greater purity of heart and mind. In our day, when entertainment media is virtually the lingua franca [common language] of the world, this is an invitation to be an alien. And I believe with all my heart that what the world needs is radically bold, sacrificially loving, God-besotted “freaks” and aliens. In other words, I am inviting you to say no to the world for the sake of the world.

The world does not need more cool, hip, culturally savvy, irrelevant copies of itself. That is a hoax that has duped thousands of young Christians. They think they have to be hip, cool, savvy, culturally aware, watching everything in order not to be freakish. And that is undoing them morally and undoing their witness.

So, here are 12 questions to think about, or 12 reasons why I am committed to a radical abstention from anything I know is going to present me with nudity.

1. Am I Recrucifying Christ?

Christ died to purify his people. It is an absolute travesty of the cross to treat it as though Jesus died only to forgive us for the sin of watching nudity, and not to purify us for the power not to watch it.

He has blood-bought power in his cross. He died to make us pure. He “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession” (Titus 2:14). If we choose to endorse or embrace or enjoy or pursue impurity, we take a spear and ram it into Jesus’s side every time we do. He suffered to set us free from impurity.

2. Does It Express or Advance My Holiness?

In the Bible, from beginning to end, there is a radical call for holiness — holiness of mind and heart and life. “As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15). Or 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” Nudity in movies and photos is not holy and does not advance our holiness. It is unholy and impure.

3. When Will I Tear Out My Eye, If Not Now?

Jesus said, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” (Matthew 5:28–29). Seeing naked women — or seeing naked men — causes a man or woman to sin with their minds and their desires, and often with their bodies. If Jesus told us to guard our hearts by gouging out our eyes to prevent lust, how much more would he say, “Don’t watch it!”

4. Is It Not Satisfying to Think on What Is Honorable?

Life in Christ is not mainly the avoidance of evil, but mainly the passionate pursuit of good. Remember Philippians 4:8, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

My life is not a constrained life. It is a free life. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).

5. Am I Longing to See God?

I want to see and know God as fully as possible in this life and the next. Watching nudity is a huge hindrance to that pursuit. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). The defilement of the mind and heart by watching nudity dulls the heart’s ability to see and enjoy God. I dare anyone to watch nudity and turn straight to God and give him thanks and enjoy him more because of what you just experienced.

6. Do I Care About the Souls of the Nudes?

God calls women to “adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control” (1 Timothy 2:9). When we pursue or receive or embrace nudity in our entertainment, we are implicitly endorsing the sin of the women who sell themselves to this way and are, therefore, uncaring about their souls. They disobey 1 Timothy 2:9, and we say that’s okay.

7. Would I Be Glad If My Daughter Played This Role?

Most Christians are hypocrites in watching nudity because, on the one hand, they say by their watching that this is okay, and, on the other hand, they know deep down they would not want their daughter or their wife or their girlfriend to be playing this role. That is hypocrisy.

8. Am I Assuming Nudity Can Be Faked?

Nudity is not like murder and violence on the screen. Violence on a screen is make-believe; nobody really gets killed. But nudity is not make-believe. These actresses are really naked in front of the camera, doing exactly what the director says to do with their legs and their hands and their breasts. And they are naked in front of millions of people to see.

9. Am I Compromising the Beauty of Sex?

Sexual relations is a beautiful thing. God created it and pronounced it good (1 Timothy 4:3). But it is not a spectator sport. It is a holy joy that is sacred in its secure place of tender love. Men and women who want to be watched in their nudity are in the category with exhibitionists who pull down their pants at the top of escalators.

10. Am I Assuming Nudity Is Necessary for Good Art?

There is no great film or television series that needs nudity to add to its greatness. No. There isn’t. There are creative ways to be true to reality without turning sex into a spectator’s sport and without putting actors and actresses in morally compromised situations on the set.

It is not artistic integrity that is driving nudity on the screen. Underneath all of this is male sexual appetite driving this business, and following from that is peer pressure in the industry and the desire for ratings that sell. It is not art that puts nudity in film; it’s the appeal of prurience. It sells.

11. Am I Craving Acceptance?

Christians do not watch nudity with a view to maximizing holiness. That is not what keeps them coming back to the shows. They know deep down that these television shows or these movies are shot through with the commendation and exaltation of attitudes and actions that are utterly out of step with death to self and out of step with the exaltation of Christ.

No, what keeps those Christians coming back is the fear that if they take Christ at his word and make holiness as serious as I am saying it is, they would have to stop seeing so many television shows and so many movies, and they would be viewed as freakish. And that today is the worst evil of all. To be seen as freakish is a much greater evil than to be unholy.

12. Am I Free from Doubt?

There is one biblical guideline that makes life very simple: “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:32). My paraphrase: If you doubt, don’t. That would alter the viewing habits of millions and, oh, how sweetly they would sleep with their conscience.

So, I say it again. Join me in the pursuit of the kind of purity that sees God, and knows the fullness of joy in his presence and the everlasting pleasure at his right hand.

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