Westside Church of Christ in Springdale, Arkansas
When we popped in to visit the exceptionally friendly Westside church of Christ in Springdale, Arkansas there was one thing that stood out. It’s something that often shines in the churches that are interested in restoring New Testament Christianity in its entirety, and is perhaps at present one of the most counter-culture teachings that distinguish those who realize God means every word He says, from those who don’t really see the point in reading the Book with regularity or focus, much less returning to its moral standards that are over 2000 years old.
The best classes are often a hike through a specific text, and the hike that Chuck Durham headed up for us at the Westside church of Christ in Springdale, Arkansas was about being imitators of God as Ephesians 5:1-14 describes. In preparation for our key text, Chuck reviewed the ending of the previous chapter where he made note of the subtle differences between wrath (explosive, hot, thermo-rage) and anger (that settles inside us to seethe), and Clamor (Speaking what ought not to be spoken), and malice (which intends harm). We were reminded that God instead calls us to agape love --- the kind that moved Christ to die for His enemies that hated Him, and finds room for forgiveness by looking beyond an offense to the person (1 Peter 4:8). This review was helpful given the fact that the key topic Chuck would address from chapter five makes a lot of “sons of disobedience” angry, so much so that most of them now attempt to redefine love in a way that most certainly does not “imitate God”.
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.””
So you know when a couple gets in a heated argument over something, but in reality whatever the argument was about wasn’t really the issue, but was more an offshoot of a more deeply rooted, core issue? I’d like to suggest to you that that’s the very thing going on with the present culture wars around any kind of sexual recklessness. You know what we’re really arguing about, right? What the culture is actually at war about is three core issues: 1. Is there a God? 2. Is the Bible the Creator’s written expectations of us? And within many man-made religions, the root issue is 3. Does God mean what He says? Sexual preferences would be about as controversial as one’s ice-cream preference if there was no God, or if He had not spoken or if He did not mean what He says.
Since this is the core issue, allow me this side note: We who believe in God, believe because we are so blown away by all the objective, undeniable, overwhelming logical evidence that enters all our senses every day. The same is true as to why we are absolutely certain that God has spoken. We know the Bible is the word of God because we are buried in pre-scientific foreknowledge and thousands of years of archeological proof over fulfilled prophecies one after another after another. There is a God. And the Scriptures? They are God-breathed. In that Bible, one repeated theme becomes crystal clear: God means what He says on the topic every time. No matter how long ago He said it and no matter how far-fetched His predictions sound --- they happen. Noah’s flood arrives right on time. Thriving nations fall when God says they will and how God says they will (Daniel 2).
God has spoken ever so clearly on His expectations around human sexuality and most certainly means what He says. For example, God says in Leviticus 20:13 “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.”
In (1 Cor. 6:9) God says “...do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality…”
Romans 1:25-27 describes the pattern: “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.” NIV
Because of the accessibility of spiritual poison online, I’ve no doubt that sexual impurity is the sin that is taking out more soldiers of Christ on the frontlines of spiritual battle than any other sin. The enemy of your soul and mine wants us to be sexually reckless. The enemy of your soul and mine doesn’t want you and I to see God. So here’s a heads up on how he slowly markets evil in the culture: “First we overlook evil. Then we permit evil. Then we legalize evil. Then we promote evil. Then we celebrate evil. Then we persecute those who still call it evil.” Dwight Longenecker
In fact, if this was the only sin that was collectively repented of in “Nineveh” fashion, it would raise the standard of living for the very poorest, and every taxpayer. It would ensure that virtually every child has all the emotional, financial and spiritual advantages that come along with having both a mom and a dad. It would eventually vacate orphanages. Repentance of this one sin would remove the strain of the foster care system and would prevent every case of child molestation as well as every future case of sex trafficking and exploitation. If (you guessed it) fornication alone was repented of, it would save us the $16 billion we spend annually treating the 20 million new STD infections, and we could put those savings toward research in curing heart disease, cancer and diabetes – the actual leading causes of death for around 3 million people every year! A return to God’s divinely set moral boundaries would wipe out AIDS in one generation --- an expenditure that averages $380,000 per case over a lifetime for the new 40,000 cases annually. Repentance would result in the replacement of every strip club and porn shop from coast to coast with businesses that actually improve our communities. Honorable businesses could recoup the estimated $16.9 billion in productivity they presently lose when they think their employees are working, but they are really watching porn. Sexual purity would even lower the divorce rate. It would end the abortion debate because my idea would virtually end abortion. The positive ripple effects of my idea are immeasurable and incalculable.
What would our culture look like if instead of using sex recreationally like it’s nothing, if we considered it so incredibly holy, symbolic, sacred and priceless that we only had sexual experiences with our spouse. This sounds crazy, and it WOULD be crazy… if we were merely animals. But the thing is, since we are actually human beings, it’s high time we realized this idea has worked quadtriplezillion times throughout history and makes for a culture beautifully safe and happy, especially when people are living out the other virtues the Inventor of humanity mandates (for example, gentleness over violence, humility over pride, contentment over greed). The Creator’s ideas (Romans 13; 1 Corinthians 7) work. We just need to work them.
Christians, like those in Springdale Arkansas are not listening to all the voices that say "There is no God. I'm okay. You're okay. Being sexually reckless is okay. It's all okay" and realize with eyes wide open that such an arrogant proclamation is recycled propaganda --- even when it’s being recycled by a college professor, a gorgeous celebrity, a hilarious television personality, a powerful boss, a charismatic spiritual leader, a brilliant author, an interesting podcaster, a cool sports figure, or an adored family member.
No matter what any human says, Christians believe what God says because He alone has all wisdom and power. His creation proves that. We stand firm in what the Supreme Judge has already said is the truth and what the Supreme Judges says is the consequences of disregarding truth in this matter and all others. We stand firm for the eternal, physical, and mental well-being of the souls we love.
The Westside church of Christ in Springdale, Arkansas and everyone else who tells the God-given truth on sexual purity are often referred to by the culture as “haters”, when actually they are loving sexually reckless people the best. Why? Because they tell them what God says is true, so they can have the chance to purify themselves before they meet their Creator face to face.
Christians love all people. That’s the reason Christians don’t hold back what the Creator says is the cure for spiritual cancer although we know we’d gain many more members if we walked lockstep with the culture on this.
If you are involved in this kind of self-destruction, the truth is, you have been lied to and are being used by our culture left and right like a pawn for others to gain all kinds of advantages. That’s not love. They are not your ally. A real ally does not withhold the cure from the dying. Thank heaven for the courage of this congregation and others who “expose the unfruitful deeds of darkness” by standing firm against the tides of culture.
In Matthew 5:8 Jesus said, "Happy are those whose hearts are pure, for they shall see God." Whoever you are, and whatever you are doing, Christians want you to see God and God wants to deliver you from self-destruction and give you the love you are presently looking for in all the wrong places. Real love. Not transient, superficial love. Eternal love. Agape Love. Fatherly love.
At the close of our Bible class, a brother has a short talk about how resisting temptation in one’s youth is easier when one has a father one “belongs to”, and that sometimes that good dad will gently say as he hands his son the car keys, “Remember who you are. You wear my name”, and how sometimes when temptation presses in the hardest, all you have left is “I'm not going to do it because of what it would do to my dad.”
Your Heavenly Father adores your soul and wants to set you free. He wants to be the love of your life throughout all eternity. See Him there, like the father in Luke 15, waiting on the road that is your life, with His arms wide open, eyes full of longing tears. Abandon the world now, and run to God, precious soul. The sacrifices you will make to do so are as a fragrant, sweet aroma to Him.
WESTSIDE CHURCH OF CHRIST
5196 Apple Rd
Springdale, AR 72762