A Time For PrayerErwin W. Lutzer | June 28, 2015
Selected highlights from this sermon
The Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage across the United States of America. The consequences of this decision will be enormous. Children will be forced to grow up without a father or a mother, and our religious freedom laws will be tested.
But we are somewhat responsible for what has happened. We have contributed to the decline of marriage, by our sins. We are all broken, and we all need the life-giving message of Jesus Christ. Therefore, may we confess our sins and pray for our homes, our churches, and our nation.
Today I want to speak to you on the topic of the Supreme Court decision that was made that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. I don’t know what your reaction was to it, but when I saw it come down on Friday morning, I was deeply grieved, but I was able to hold back the tears. But the next morning when I saw the White House bathed in a rainbow color, I couldn’t stop the tears from coming.
You have to understand that many of you, most of you, were probably born in this nation. I happen to have been a Canadian but I became an American ten years ago, and I am proud to be an American. I have to say that. I am proud to be an American, but that White House, therefore, also belongs to me, and I grieved over this country. I also wondered how they could turn on those floodlights so quickly. I wonder if some people knew things that we only discovered later, but there it was.
Yesterday I was on a plane riding from Colorado to Chicago, and I took with me my new yellow pad. I like to use yellow pads. I have it here. And I jotted down seven certainties
regarding this decision. I’ve been praying that as I speak today, I will not say anything I shouldn’t say but say what needs to be said and to say it in the right spirit. I trust God to do that to me and through me today. I am adlibbing much of this, because what I have before me is actually some rough notes. When I got home last night I rearranged the order, but basically what came to me on the plane after reading some articles and studying is what I am sharing with you today.
Seven certainties in a world of uncertainty! Are you ready for them? Are you ready for the seven certainties? Isn’t it nice to have some sure things? (applause) I think so!
Certainty number one is that the Supreme Court is limited in what it can do. The Supreme Court, actually usurping the place of God, trying to overturn God’s formula for marriage and even denying natural law, made a tremendous step. Many people think it overreached in terms of its decision and jurisdiction, but the Supreme Court can’t do everything. I like the words of Roger Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention. “The Church should not panic. The Supreme Court can do many things, but it cannot put Jesus back into the tomb. (applause) Jesus of Nazareth is still alive and calling the universe toward His Kingdom.” John MacArthur points out that the Supreme Court cannot change God’s ordained reality of marriage, and every marriage will eventually be judged by the biblical standard. (applause)
Well, this got me to thinking about other things the Supreme Court can’t change. The Supreme Court cannot erase our names from the Lamb’s Book of Life. Aren’t you glad for that? (applause)
The Supreme Court cannot erase a single one of God’s promises toward His people. The Supreme Court can’t stop us from witnessing to those we care about, and to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
You know that rainbow that was there on the White House? Did you know that there’s another rainbow? I was reading the fourth chapter of Revelation yesterday and John actually saw heaven – not like some of these books that purport to have been to heaven – but John actually saw heaven, and there he has a description of God, and he has the throne of God, and around the throne of God there is a rainbow, and that rainbow rules the universe. (applause) And the rainbow on the White House cannot usurp the throne and the rainbow of God. The Supreme Court can’t do everything.
The second truth that I hope all of us remember is this: God was grieved by this decision, but He was not surprised. I want to read a verse of Scripture, and you know that there is a pride parade today in Chicago. And these are the words of Paul. He says this weeping, and that’s why I preached a message on June 14th, A Time for Tears because we should not say anything or do much unless we also weep. But you’ll notice he says, “I’ve often told you, and now tell you even with tears (I’m actually in Philippians 3 at the end of the section), some walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their belly, and they glory in their shame with minds set on earthly things, but our citizenship (the Greek word is policuma)- our politics, if you please - is in heaven, and Jesus Christ,” he says, “is going to return.” And the Supreme Court can’t stop Him from returning when He wants to return. (applause)
A word about the judgment of God! All sin has immediate judgments. People say, “Well, is God going to judge America?” God has been judging America for years. The very fact that 20 million children go to bed at night with a single parent in the home is the judgment of God on a nation that has lost its moral compass and lost its way. This will accelerate the judgments both in terms of immediate judgments and some future judgments that I think are coming. We can leave those for today, but the fact is that the Supreme Court of the United States must understand that God was grieved and there will be judgments. Of course, all sin, yours and mine, has its miseries and its judgments. But this will accelerate it. Just read Romans 1 if you perhaps doubt that.
And by the way, if you disagree with what I’m saying today, I hope that you will wait until the end of the message to judge it. But secondly, God was grieved by this decision. He was not surprised. And do you know what that means? I am so excited about this. That means that you and I were born for this moment of history. You say, “Oh, we wish that we had lived in another era when things were simpler and when you didn’t have this.” Look into my eyes. God created you. He gave you the DNA that you have. For those of you who are believers, He saved you, and He says, “This is your moment in history. For this cause you were born. For this cause you came into the world. For this moment! And at the end of the day what is going to grant us a great deal of strength and power is to recognize the sovereignty of God in a nation that has lost its way.
Well, I have a third certainty, and that is children will be greatly damaged as a result of this decision. Now, I’m not only talking about those children that same-sex couples adopt. I’m not just speaking about them, though you remember when I spoke about A Time for Tears (and if you missed that sermon I sure hope you listen to it. It’s online. It can be purchased here on CD and so forth.), do you remember the story I read about the young woman raised by two loving mothers, and how she longed for her daddy, but she couldn’t say anything or she’d be called a hater? I’m not just referring to those children. I’m referring to school children who are now going to be told that it is their responsibility to experiment with the different genders that are available, and to see in the LGBT community which one of the categories they actually fit into. That’s already being said in some schools. Expect that to increase. When children are asked to do assignments, they will be going into libraries, and they will be studying, and it will be so important that there be no prejudice, that there be no bigotry. Children who disagree will be marginalized, and sometimes vilified. Children are going to be deeply hurt by this and that’s why I could not hold back the tears. And you and I should weep as well.
You know that sexual confusion is very important in this particular society because if you are confused sexually that means you will not think of one basis or one act of sexuality as different from another, or more important or better. You will be led to confusion.
Years ago a gay writer whom I quoted in something that I wrote said that if we ever achieve same-sex marriage, it just won’t be a change in the law. It will be a change in society, and will bring many other things with it. Many other things! Children will be damaged.
Number four: the next battle is freedom of religion. It’s being talked about already. Churches that will not perform same-sex marriages are going to be targeted. Perhaps their tax-exemption is going to be taken away. In an earlier message some time ago I told you that the original law here in Illinois regarding same-sex marriage – the original law - only protected the pastor and some teachers in the church. In other words, if a secretary were to say, “Well, I’m going to marry my same-sex lover over the weekend; please come and join with me,” and if she were to be terminated (or whoever who works in these kinds of ministries), there’d be an instant lawsuit. You have no right to do that. It is a violation of civil rights. And then the original bill said that if you rent out your facilities (your church) for other weddings, you have to do it for same-sex couples. If not, you have another lawsuit. But I have to tell you today, and I want to be very optimistic here, did you know that the church has functioned for centuries without freedom of religion? I once gave a lecture on the history of freedom of religion in Europe, and pointed out that Europe didn’t have freedom of religion until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Luther, with whom I disagree, but also admire, did not have freedom of religion when he stood there in Worms and said, “My conscience is taken captive by the Word of God. I cannot and I will not repent.” Charles V wanted him dead for reasons that I wish I could explain to you but do not have time. Luther was not killed, but the fact is this, that the church throughout the centuries has been faithful even without freedom of religion.
What we have in America today is an anomaly that we should have such freedoms. We hang onto these freedoms. We defend them, but we do not need freedom for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to go forth from our lips and our ministries. (applause) So to those who think that they are going to silence the church by a multiplication of laws and lawsuits, we say it humbly, but we’re not going anywhere, and we’re not going to quit. (applause) We’re here to stay. We’re not going to go home, pull the blankets over us, assume the fetal position, and wait for everything to blow over. We are called to this ministry, and we gladly accept the cost that might be associated with it. Alright? That’s number four.
Number five, and this is critical: We must prepare for our expanding mission field. Many of you know who Christopher Yuan is. He was deeply into the lifestyle – homosexuality, drugs, the whole bit! He’s in prison. (Do you remember his story? He told it to many of us in different contexts.) And he sees this Bible in a trashcan, and he picks it up, and then is converted. Do you remember him?
And this is what he said now, as he lives a holy life celibate. He believes that that’s what God calls him to in light of this, and we agree with him. He said, “We the church should see the LGBT community not as opponents, to be defeated, but as broken sinners who need the life-giving message of Jesus.” He said, “We must find ways to reach this unreached people group so that those who do not yet know Christ may be brought into the fold for the glory of God. Isn’t that wonderful?” he said. For the glory of God!
We’re all broken. Have you ever really entered into the brokenness of some other person who may live in this alternate lifestyle? A number of years ago I was asked to speak at a conference sponsored by an organization that works with people who are coming out of the lifestyle. And it wasn’t planned this way, but at breakfast I was sitting with five or six women who all were in various stages of struggle. And I said to them, “You know, to the extent that you feel comfortable, will you share your stories with me?” Oh, my dear friends, there were stories of rape and abuse, and stories of molestation, and abuse by fathers, and baby sitters. And I thought, “Oh God, help me to see through the eyes of Jesus the brokenness that exists today in the world.”
And I say to you and to me today, we can be very self-righteous. It’s been my experience that it is easier for us to repent of our sins than to repent of our self-righteousness. It’s very easy for us to stand in judgment on a community that desperately needs to know that there’s a Savior who came to save us from our sins and to give us hope in the midst of hopelessness.
And so I say to this church today, as I mentioned in that previous message, we want to be welcoming. We want to encourage people to come here to understand the life-giving message of Jesus and the hope-giving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Can we, as a church, say today that we will be the outstretched arms of Jesus to communities of all types who need to know His love and His grace, and the warmth of the Father’s love? Do we stand together in that?
(applause) And we have the privilege of showing people the Father through Jesus.
I told you that I was on a plane yesterday from Denver to Chicago. Beside me was a man who had been a history professor so he was actually reading a history book. Have you ever been on a plane and seen somebody read something that was really quite deep and worthwhile? This was wonderful so we talked history. I explained the Gospel to him, but he was not interested. He was brought up in church, turned off, wouldn’t take the 21-day challenge, you know, of reading a chapter a day of the Gospel of John. He said he had a Bible but he wouldn’t do that. How do we leave a person like this? I hope I did the right thing. As the plane was coming down, I said, “This is my last word to you. Someday when you are overwhelmed with your guilt, and someday when you are close to death and full of fear, would you remember that it’s Jesus whom you need? And you may remember that you sat on this plane with this guy from Denver to Chicago, and he told you that what you really need is Jesus?”
I left the plane thinking, “You know, we can’t cause people to believe.” And there are many people who aren’t going to listen to us, but what we must understand is that we represent Christ, and the church always throughout history has responded to the brokenness of its culture and been a beacon of hope and light and blessing to a world that needs the Gospel. May we be that!
Number six is very important. We are called to bear the reproach of Christ. Now, what we’ll discover is that there are those who will hate us for our convictions. How do we respond to those who hate us for our convictions? The answer is, of course, we love them. We don’t respond in kind. We don’t render evil for evil.
This could be a separate issue and this message is a lot longer than I intended it to be, but this is a watershed issue because there are those who are saying, “No, in the name of love, what we need to do is to accept same-sex relationships as legitimate.” Even Evangelicals do that, but they go through the Bible and they try to reinterpret it all so that it all makes sense. There’s no place for us. There’s no neutrality now, and what we need to understand is that we do not bow to the cultural icon, the cultural narrative.
Someday I want to preach a message on, say, the top five cultural narratives. Well, one cultural narrative that is really making the rounds and has our young people captured oftentimes is this: that if you love me you have to accept and agree with my lifestyle. That’s a cultural narrative that people accept. But I’m here to tell you today that God loves everybody, but He doesn’t like everything that people do. And God loves everyone, but He doesn’t like all ideas. And so you and I must remain strong and explain that love – yes! But in the Old Testament and in the New, love is defined as obedience. That’s why Jesus said, “If you love me keep My commandments.”
Oh my! There’s so much more that I could say, but we must hurry on to number seven. We are partially responsible for what has happened. By the acceptance of divorce, by the struggles and failing to deal seriously with sin, whether it’s addictions or pornography, or alcoholism, we have a high tolerance of sin within the church. And we are partially responsible. I don’t think that we’re totally responsible. Some people think that it’s all the church’s fault. I don’t go there for reasons again I can’t take time to explain, but we are certainly partially responsible. And we’ve not been very good at explaining to the world the beauty of marriage, the relationship of Jesus and His bride, and showing the richness of the relationship, which can only exist, by the way, between a man and a woman. Those evangelicals, you know, who want to justify it, don’t deal with those issues. They just say, “Let’s look at this passage. Let’s give as much time as we need to try to reinterpret it and make it say something different than it says.” But what we must do is to realize that we are partially at fault. When you get to the New Testament you discover that almost always all prayers are for the church. All prayers are prayers of repentance.
Now, what we’re going to do in a few moments is we are going to pray. Daniel prayed for his people, and this is Daniel 9, and at some later time I may expound the prayer, but to say this. The Jews are in captivity. They are where we are – a minority in a sea of paganism. And he begins to pray, and he bases his prayer on promises.
And now I want you to notice how he humbles himself. I’m now in verse 3 of chapter 9. “Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.” Do you know what’s going on there in the text? He is saying, “I come to God with nothing except pleading for His mercy. I’m done with all human ideas.”
Do you remember the days when we thought we could actually win the culture war? Well, if there’s any doubt in your mind as to whether or not we have lost the culture war, think of what happened this past week. We have lost the culture war, and things are so bad that there’s no way that we can turn it around simply by electing the right people, even though I hope we elect the right people. I believe that politicians have a great contribution they can make toward our good and toward our downfall, but that being said, at the end of the day, it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is going to rescue this nation from its fall into moral oblivion. And we must recognize that the real battle is going to be the Gospel.
Daniel says, “I become before God like that.” He confesses sins such as the fact that (I’m now in verse 4) “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant.” Verse 5: “We have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants.” And he goes on to say, “You have spoken to us and we’ve ignored it.” That’s where we are.
Last night as I was reading this ninth chapter again I thought, “I’m going to underline every time Daniel uses the word us. “We have sinned. We have done wickedly.” He maybe didn’t do it personally. I’m sure he didn’t because he was a righteous man, but he identified himself with his people. And today, even as we pray, we pray for our nation, yes, but we pray for ourselves in repentance and brokenness, coming to Him in absolute, total desperation. At the end of the day what we need is God, and we need His Gospel in our lives.
And by the way, if you are here and you’ve never received Christ, and you’re not sure what we mean by the Gospel, Jesus died to reconcile us to God. And He’s the only One qualified to bring you to the Father. If you feel guilt, if you feel your need, you come to a Savior who can actually save – the Lord Jesus Christ.
Father, we pray for ourselves. Help us, we ask, to be broken, to be repentant, and to call on You at this great moment of history. Show us, Lord, we have nothing in ourselves. All that we have is Your mercy and grace. In Your name we pray, Amen.