According to John Piper, it’s not sinful to desire homosexual relations as long as one does not “give way to” or “embrace” those desires. The same goes for adulterous heterosexual desire. Those desires are just a consequence of the brokenness brought on by the Fall; they are “owing to sin,” but not sin per se.
I think it is fair, then, to assume that Piper would say the same of sado-masochism, pedophilia, bestiality, and the whole range of sexual perversions.
Having gone to that extreme, it is only fair and logical to include idolatrous, disrespectful, murderous, and slanderous thoughts, but not covetous thoughts, of course, because it is clear in that case that the beginning (Commandment 10) is as sinful as its end (Commandment 8). But only in that case. And the case of murder (1 John 3:15). And adultery (Matthew 5:27–28).
Wait, adultery? But Pastor John said . . . Oh, forget it. What do I know?
Me, I’m off to repent of beginning three consecutive sentences with a conjunction, because I actually did that.
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!” —Psalm 40:16
God Magnified by Those Who Love His Salvation Phillip Doddridge, (1645–1694) God of salvation, we adore Thy saving love, thy saving power; And to our utmost stretch of thought, Hail the redemption Thou hast wrought. We love the stroke that breaks our chain, The sword by which our sins are slain; And, while abased in dust we bow, We sing the grace that lays us low. Perish each thought of human pride; Let God alone be magnified. His glory let the heavens resound, Shouted from earth’s remotest bound. Saints, who His full salvation know, Saints, who but taste it here below, Join every angel’s voice to raise, Continued, never-ending praise. —Worthy Is the Lamb (Soli Deo Gloria, 2004).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. —Romans 5:6–11
This hymnal disappointingly truncates this hymn to three verses. See the entire hymn here.
107 And Can It Be That I Should Gain* And can it be that I should gain An interest in the Savior’s blood? Died He for me, who caused His pain? For me, who Him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? Refrain: Amazing love! How can it be That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? He left His Father’s throne above So free, so infinite His grace, Emptied Himself of all but love, And bled for Adam’s helpless race; ’Tis mercy all, immense and free, For O my God, it found out me. Refrain Long my imprisoned spirit lay Fast bound in sin and nature’s night; Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray, I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee. Refrain —Favorite Hymns of Praise (Tabernacle Publishing Company, 1967).
* Read R. C. Sproul’s comments on this hymn here.
In his book Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever placed expositional preaching at number one. This is no novel opinion. The Belgic Confession of Faith of 1561 also placed preaching of pure doctrine first of three distinctive of a true church. Mark Dever explains why preaching holds such a high position in the life of the church:
God’s people in Scripture are created by God’s revelation of himself. His Spirit accompanies his Word and brings life. The theme of “life through the Word” is clear in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, God created life in Genesis 1 by his breath. God spoke and the world and all living beings were created. In Genesis 1:30, the living creatures are described as having the “breath of life” in them. So in Genesis 2:7, God breathed this same breath of life into those creatures made specially in his image—men and women. After the first man and woman fell away from God by rebelling against him, God sustained them and their descendants by his word—a word of promise given to them in Genesis 3:15. Again in Genesis 12:1–3, his word called Abram from Ur of the Chaldees to become the progenitor of God’s people. In Exodus 3:4, God called on Moses with his word to bring his people out of Egypt. In Exodus 20, God gave his people his 10 “words,” and throughout the Pentateuch, God’s Word is the shaping influence on his people. Throughout the Old Testament, God ministered to his people by his word. He created them and recreated them through the priests’ teaching of the law and the prophets’ inspired guidance. Ezekiel 37 presents a dramatic picture of recreation in particular. The people of Israel were in exile, depicted as an army so devastated only their bones remained. God commanded the prophet Ezekiel to preach to these bones. As Ezekiel did, the Spirit of God accompanied Ezekiel’s words, and the bones were brought to life: And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. (vv. 7–10) The consistent message of Scripture is that God created his people and brings them to life through his word. Moving to the New Testament, God’s word again plays the central role as the bringer of life. So the eternal Word of God, the Son of God, became incarnate for the salvation of God’s people (John 1:14). Jesus came to preach God’s word, to uniquely embody it, as well as to accomplish God’s will through his perfect life, atoning death, and triumphant resurrection. He founded his church and taught his followers to go into all nations, preaching the message of reconciliation to God through faith in him (Matt 28:18–20). Therefore, Paul wrote that “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). —Mark Dever, The Church: The Gospel Made Visible (B & H, 2012), 22–23.
The Nicene Creed describes the church with four words: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Concerning meaning of the latter, the church and Rome disagree. Mark Dever writes:
The church is apostolic and is to be apostolic because it is founded on and is faithful to the Word of God given through the apostles. Early in Jesus’ public ministry, Jesus “called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles” (Luke 6: 13). Toward the end of his ministry, Jesus then prayed “for those who will believe in me through their [the apostles’] message” (John 17: 20). From the apostles until the present day, the gospel which they preached has been handed down. There has been a succession of apostolic teaching based on the Word of God. Paul tells the Ephesian Christians that they had been “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Eph 2: 20). The succession which followed the setting of this foundation may not always have involved a person-to-person transmission, but there has been a succession of faithful teaching of the truth. Writing to the Galatians, Paul stressed that their allegiance to the gospel message he had already given them superseded any allegiance to him personally (see Gal 1: 6–9). What does that mean for today since the apostles are long gone? Some Protestants have been hesitant to affirm this attribute because the Roman Catholic Church has interpreted it as being tied to the authority of the bishop of Rome. Yet the apostles’ teaching rather than their persons are the focus of this attribute. Edmund Clowney put it succinctly: “To compromise the authority of Scripture is to destroy the apostolic foundation of the church.” The physical continuity of a line of pastor-elders back to Christ’s apostles is insignificant compared to the continuity between the teaching in churches today and the teaching of the apostles. Only with the apostles’ teaching is the church “the pillar and foundation of the truth,” as Paul described it to Timothy (1 Tim 3: 15). —Mark Dever, The Church: The Gospel Made Visible (B & H, 2012), 18–19.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. —2 Timothy 3:16—4:2
It is popular today to separate doctrines into categories of “essential” and “nonessential,” the first indicating doctrines necessary for salvation, and the second being everything else: doctrines that may be taken or left, as the individual sees fit. Further, it is thought that only those things explicitly stated in Scripture are worthy of serious consideration. This is especially true in the area of ecclesiology. The problem with that opinion is that Scripture teaches much more than what it states explicitly, and it should be the desire of every disciple of Christ to search out, understand, and obey the whole counsel of God. Mark Dever writes:
The Scriptures teaches us about all of life and doctrine, including how we should assemble for corporate worship and how we are to organize our corporate life together. The Bible certainly doesn’t teach us everything. But neither does it teach us nothing. It should be our desire to search out everything that God has revealed about himself and then to joyfully accept it, adopt it, explore it, submit ourselves to it, and enjoy God’s blessings in it. —Mark Dever, The Church: The Gospel Made Visible (B & H, 2012), xv.
If you prefer, in your pursuit of liberty, to remain ignorant of specific instruction in “nonessentials,” be aware that ignorance of Scriptural teaching on any subject is not without effect:
We need to know what a church is intended to be before we can evaluate what our churches are doing and what we should do going forward. Imagine trying to be a good husband or wife if you didn’t know what marriage was. One kind of freedom comes with ignorance, and another (very different) kind comes with instruction. The freedom of ignorance is unconstrained but also unfruitful. Feel free to try to use that piano as a vacuum cleaner! The freedom that comes with instruction—using something in accordance with the purpose for which it was designed— is far more satisfying, like using a piano to make music. —Ibid., xx.
R. C. Sproul Jr. writes today on the difference between fundamentalists and evangelicals. Click here to read that.
I have another (but not contradictory) opinion on the current state of both movements:
The fundamentalist says, “If you’re having fun, you’re doing something wrong,” while the evangelical says, “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.”
Those representations are, of course, somewhat facetious, but only somewhat, and neither has anything to do with historic fundamentalism or evangelicalism.