We should get clear on definitions of “pride” (an inflated view of self) and “humility” (an appropriate acknowledgment and realistic self-assessment).  To be proud is to live in a world propped up with falsehoods about oneself, taking credit where credit isn’t due.  Humility includes recognizing not only weaknesses but also strengths.  To be humble is to know our place before God.  Worship-which comes from the Old English word worth-ship is an appropriate recognition of who the triune God is and of our relationship to him.  Worship is simply self-forgetfulness as we remember and acknowledge God.  Naturally flowing praise simply completes and expresses the creature’s enjoyment of God.  To worship God fulfills our humanity rather than diminishes it.  We are made to know and love God.  To worship God reflects our place in the universe—God is Creator, and we are his creatures.  Atheism takes more effort to sustain since the evidence suggests we are naturally wired to connect with the divine.

The biblical God actually shows concern for the world rather than remaining aloof from it by getting his hands and feet dirty to rescue humans from their miserable plight.  By contrast, the Christian faith’s key miracle – Jesus’ resurrection – is both historically supportable and has a well-formed religious context.  These four facts are available to all historians:  (1) Jesus’ burial in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb, (2) the discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb, (3) the postmortem appearances, and (4) the origin of the earliest disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection.

The Bible also insists that sexual gratification isn’t a right.  Self-control is called for whether one is heterosexually or homosexually inclined.  We are to honor God in our bodies (1 Cor. 6:20); our bodies are “for the Lord” (6:13).  In a society that emphasizes “freedom” and “rights,” we shouldn’t neglect talking about personal responsibility in the sexual realm.  God’s salvation is from sin, from the bondage of doing what I want apart from God.  We are to find our identity in Him – not in “finding” or “authenticating” ourselves.  God requires us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before Him (Micah 6:8; Deut. 10:12).  Romans 1-3 is making the argument that all of us are under God’s judgment, everyone is without excuse.

Scripture makes clear that there are degrees of sin-some sins are worse than others. Consider the distinction between unintentional versus defiant sins (Num. 15:24, 30), “greater” and “least” commandments (Matt. 5:19), “weightier provisions of the law” (Matt. 23:23), “the greater sin” (John 19:11), and the unpardonable sin (Matt. 12:30-32).

God lays down laws for his people that help them make dramatic moral advances in contrast to the surrounding societies.  For example, the first series of judicial codes in world history, Hammurabi, consisted of dreadful laws that are notable for the ferocity of their physical punishments, in contrast to the restraint of the Mosaic Code and the enactments of Deuteronomy and Leviticus.  And while the Law of Moses makes certain accommodations due to human hard-heartedness regarding divorce or slavery or polygamy (Matt. 19:8), the sweep of Scripture reveals an underlying spirit, a redemptive movement that consistently affirms the full humanity of slaves and eventually encourages slaves to pursue freedom and declares that in Christ there is no difference between slave or free.

Everyone is deeply loved by God; Christ has died for our forgiveness.  The church has an obligation to express this love to them in appropriate ways.  While the church shouldn’t affirm sinful activity, it should welcome anyone to discover who God is and to find his forgiveness. Jesus would never react in fear or avoid anyone; he would welcome them, sit with them, and tell them of God’s deep interest in them.  Jesus came to heal, help, and set all people free to live for God.  “God accepts you the way you are, but he loves you too much to leave you as you are.”—Pastor Bill Stepp.  Often those who claim to be saved by God’s grace are amazingly judgmental, hateful, and demeaning rather than being compassionate and embracing.  Even though we are born with a sinful, self-centered inclination, God judges us based on what we do.  We can get guidance from Scripture’s basic affirmations about our roles as God’s image-bearers, about God’s creation design, and about our identity and redemption in Christ. The church itself should be an interpretation of authoritative Scripture: “You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, no on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor. 3:2-3).  The church should be, as Kevin Vanhoozer writes, a commentary on God’s Word and a witness to Scripture that is lived before God and a watching world.

Denominations remind us of a common denominator—a “mere Christianity” that different Christian groups share.  There are basic commonalities that Christians share despite differences in secondary doctrines.  Rupertus Mendelius states:  “In essential matters unity. In non-essential matters liberty.  In all things charity.  Denominations serve as a call to humility rather than pride, and we should be willing to learn from Christians of other denominations, of other cultures, and throughout church history.  Not all denominations will be correct in their unique doctrinal emphases because they cannot all be right.  Certain Christian denominations can offer different emphases that enhance and bring illumination to other Christian groups.  No on Christian denomination will fully capture the totality of the Christian faith in its particular denominational expression.  Protestant Christianity has stressed: Christ alone by Scripture alone by faith alone by grace alone to God alone be the glory.  The Scriptures alone are the infallible guide and norm for our faith and practice.  There is truth outside of Scripture since all truth is God’s truth.  Luther spoke at the Diet of Worms of being persuaded or “convinced by the testimonies of Scripture or evident reason.”

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