Children in the Garment of Baptism

infant baptism

Perhaps we have let the world define us.  Perhaps we have believed the lie that we are “sexual from birth”.  Deceived by the lie, perhaps we have compromised our faith.  Do we ask, “What does it matter now?”  Or do we stop to remember our Baptism?

Martin Luther wrote,

Let everybody regard his Baptism as the daily garment which he is to wear all the time.  Every day he should be found in faith and amid its fruits, every day he should be suppressing the old man and growing up in the new.  If we wish to be Christians, we must practice the work that makes us Christians.  But if anybody falls away from his Baptism let him return to it.  As Christ, the mercy-seat, does not recede from us or forbid us to return to Him even though we sin, so all His treasures and gifts remain.  As we have once obtained forgiveness of sins in Baptism, so forgiveness remains day by day as long as we live, that is, as long as we carry the old Adam about our necks. (Large Catechism, 84-86)

It is important that parents view their children in the garment of their Baptism.  Sending a child to sex education to help them become “more comfortable with their sexuality” — in public school or Christian classroom — does not tighten the weave of their Baptismal garment but, instead, loosens the threads one by one.  Identified as a “sexual being” and more at ease with all things sexual,  a child is ill-equipped to do battle with the “old Adam” hanging about his neck.

Dear Lord Jesus, help our sons and daughters to see themselves as their Father in heaven sees them.  Clothed in holy garments, may they live as holy people clinging to Your Word of life.  Amen.

Linda Bartlett is the author of
The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity (Amazon)

 

 

Think You Are Gay? Jesus Says: Come!

crown of thorns with cross

Jesus Christ welcomes sinners.  He wants us to acknowledge and repent of our sins, but He does not identify us by our sinful desires and inclinations.

It is for this reason that I, a confessional Lutheran, am appreciative of the documentary produced by Blackstone Films to help the Catholic Church share its view on homosexuality.  The film is entitled The Third WayMercatorNet notes that even though it is “not perfect” and features “stereotypical religious” settings, the film is powerfully compelling because of the “authentic, convincing and coherent” voices of seven men and women who live with same-sex attraction.  These men and women  do not deny their personality nor do they argue that same-sex attraction must lead to same-sex lifestyle and same-sex “marriage”.  They confess that homosexuality is a sin even as they confess the struggle to live self-controlled and pure lives.  In the struggle, however, comes joy.  Joy comes when we relinquish our own identity and, in Jesus Christ, see ourselves the way God sees us.

The Word tells us to remember Whose we are and to live accordingly.  In Baptism, Jesus assures our true identity as sons and daughters of God through His sacrificial and redemptive work.  What does this mean?  It means that we are daily called to resist the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature.  It means that we are not common for use by anyone, but uncommon for use in the hands of the holy God.

I am especially appreciative of The Third Way because, for many years, I have been moved by the stories of men and women who were caught in a lifestyle shaped by the lie of a homosexual identity.  Their life experiences and encouragement of the Holy Spirit motivate me to speak Truth on their behalf.  Forgiven of every sin, the repentant sinner stands at the foot of the Cross where we hear Jesus say: Come!  Deny yourself!  Take up your cross and follow Me!  Lose your life and in Me you will find it.  (Matthew 16:24-25).

Please.  Take the time to watch this film.  Its message is for all who are deceived by mistaken identity.

Linda Bartlett is the author of
The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity (Amazon)

What Is Mature Manhood & Womanhood?

people on beach

What is mature manhood and womanhood?  Here is perhaps one of the most important questions for Christian parents to help their adolescent children answer.  If we place emphasis on an identity as a “sexual being,” we miss the opportunity to discuss what masculine or feminine personhood really is.  Men are not men and women are not women because of their sexual urges or desires, nor does marriage make a person more fully male or female.  By labeling children or adults as “sexual beings,” we can actually distort the purpose and vocation of manhood and womanhood.

Genesis 1:27 tells us four things about the first man and women.  They were created by God to be human, not the same but male or female, in the image of God (not animals) and, because they were created in God’s image, they were created to be holy.  There is no mention of anything of a sexual nature (“one flesh”) until God brings man and woman together as husband and wife (Gn. 2:24).  Too may of us scurry from Genesis 1:27 and skip straight to that union.  But in doing so, we miss something very important about the essence of male and female.

We are more than sexual beings because God first spoke to Adam about being a man.  Man was put in the Garden to “work and keep it” (Gn. 2:15).  Man was to be a good steward over all of creation.  In faithfulness to God, he was to defend life and avoid death (Gn. 2:16-17).  “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gn. 2:18).  The creation was incomplete without woman.  Man had no one like himself nor did he have a way to procreate.  God made (literally “built”) woman from man’s rib.  In marriage, the woman is her husband’s “helper” (Hebrew: ezer), assistant and ally.  The vocation of “helper” is not inferior.  Jesus called the Holy Spirit a “Helper” in John 14:16 which can be translated as “comforter,” “encourager,” or “advocate.”  In her “one flesh” union with Adam, Eve became the bearer of life who would nurture, comfort, and encourage husband and children.

Sin distorted God’s perfect design and rhythm of life.  Sin causes the relationships of men and women–married or not–to be difficult.  But even in chaos, God’s order of creation stands.  Whether  married or single, men are stewards of creation.  Whether married or single, men are called to defend life and lead away from death in faithfulness to God.  In or out of marriage, women are called to help men do good (not evil), be encouraged (not discouraged), built up (not torn down).  Mature manhood and womanhood are not dependent on being married; thus, neither are sensually or sexually driven.

Do you see that boys can be mentored to work, build, protect and engage life without sensual implications?  Do you see that girls can be mentored to help, encourage, counsel and build relationships without sensual suggestions?

From The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity (pp. 100-101)
by Linda Bartlett (Amazon)

 

Sexuality: Gift or Design?

father reading bible

One of the reasons given for sex education in the Church is so that we might share perspective on “God’s gift of sex” and “sexuality”.

Let’s discern the language.  Does God speak about his “gift of sex” or “sexuality” in Scripture or is this phrase coming from another source?

The words we use matter.  When we speak about “God’s gift of sexuality,” we turn eyes toward the created; but when we speak about God’s design for sexuality, we turn eyes toward the Creator.  God’s design for sexuality is within the boundaries of one man/one woman marriage, but His design for mature womanhood and manhood is not bound by marriage and, therefore, does not have to be sensually driven.

One of the failures of sex education in the Church becomes evident once we acknowledge the foundation upon which it was built.  Sex education was intended to make children who are “sexual from birth” understand how central their “sexuality” is to their humanity and to express that sexuality in ways different from their parents.  It was important to both secular humanists and feminists that boys and girls see themselves not compatibly different as male and female, but the same as uninhibited “sexual beings.”  Denying God’s design and created order is doomed to failure and there are  many casualties.  When the Church brought in the language of social scientists, the faithfulness of instructing in biblical manhood and womanhood was set aside.  Many girls and women I talk with are comfortable with their “sexual identity” but uncomfortable with being a woman.  Boys and men in my relational circle are bombarded by a feminized and sexualized culture but don’t know how to engage as mature men.

So what is mature manhood and womanhood?

The answer is found in the next post.

From The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity (pp 99-100)
by Linda Bartlett (Amazon)

 

Shall We Stir Their Desires?

candy store

Male and female do have a “sexual” side that includes more than sexual organs but also desires and feelings.  With that in mind, shouldn’t we help our children become acquainted with that part of themselves?

We have sexual organs, feelings, and desires for a special purpose, but little boys and girls are not interested in or ready for that special purpose.  Children cannot be lovers and marry but they can be friends.  They can work and play together.  Not until they are mature should they think about relating to one another as lovers.  A Christian parent or teacher should not stir up ideas of sexual love because, in God’s world, sexual love leads to the establishment of the home into which new life comes.  No child is ready for this privilege and responsibility.

Children need the discerning wisdom of parents who trust God’s Word more than voices of the world.  Christian parents are well acquainted with sin.  We are born in sin.  We battle sin daily; therefore, in a highly sexualized culture, it is not helpful to give detailed sexual information to adolescents who are just beginning to experience new emotions and thoughts about themselves but who do not have the ability to discern the proper use of that information.

Imagine if we described to a child the most delicious candy he could ever want.  We walk with that child by the candy store to look in the window, but tell him he must not go in.  We promise him that the day will come when he can enter the store and enjoy some of the candy he sees on display.  We talk with him about the candy all the way home.  During the week, we ask him if he has any questions about candy.  What desire have we stirred in him?  What will he think of candy?  Will he be curious about candy and desire a taste right now?

Our sinful human flesh too easily desires what it should not have.  Our flesh, like human instinct, cannot be trusted.  Obeying human instinct is like obeying people.  But people, with all kinds of opinions, tell us different things.  So do our instincts.  In The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis reminds us that our instincts are at war; each instinct, if we listen to it, will claim to be gratified at the expense of the rest.  So it is with our flesh.  Our flesh carries the sin inherited from our first parents.  Our sinful human flesh is fickle, selfish and easily deceived.  Better than helping young people be at ease with their flesh is helping them to stand guard.

In Gethsemane, Jesus knew His disciples would intend to be faithful.  Nevertheless, He said, “Watch and pray that you  may not enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41).  For this reason, the faithful parent or instructive adult begins early to teach a child their identity and purpose in Christ, explain the order of God’s creation, and set boundaries for behavior.  God’s Word teaches self-control.  Parents need to help children practice self-control even as they model it themselves.  We are like athletes in training, but our prize is not perishable (1 Co. 9:25-26; 1 Tim. 4:7-12).

From The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity (pp. 9-98)
by Linda Bartlett (Amazon)

 

Male & Female Beyond Sexual

male & female symbols

To be male or female is to be far more than “sexual.”

Male or female describes the kind of human we are.  It is a specific description of our physical and spiritual being.  It is also a vocation.  Our maleness or femaleness is a way for us to live with purpose and bring glory to God.  God did not create  male and female in the same way, at the same time, or for the same purpose.  The man is the steward and manager of creation.  It wasn’t good for man to be alone in this endeavor.  He looked at all the animals, but none was an appropriate companion.  Man needed someone who would complement him–someone who was like him in spirit, but different in function and purpose.  He needed a “helper.”  “I will make him a helper fit for him,” God declares (Gn. 2:18).  “Fit for him” (Hebrew: keneged) literally means “opposite him, facing him, in front of him, corresponding to him.”  The two types of human beings–male and female– are different in a multitude of ways.  One of those differences is sexual, but there are other compatible differences.

Both man and woman can think, reason, be creative, love, and communicate.  But evidence proves that we do these things differently.  As co-workers and stewards of this earth–young or old, single or married–our complementary differences serve well as we live in anticipation of Christ’s return.  Men and women are the

two eyes of the race, and the use of both is needed [for] a clear understanding of any problem of human interest . . . If, in viewing the human problems of life, we have the man’s view only, or the woman’s view only, we have not the true perspective.” (Mary Wood-Allen, M.D. in What A Young Woman Ought to Know)

There is more to male and female than “sexuality,” “sensuality,” or anything related to the intimacy of the sexual act.  Men and women, married or single, can relate to one another in completely non-sexual ways and, in doing so, use their thinking skills and talents for the good of society.

It is folly to think of every interaction of male and female as being sexual in nature.  What an abhorrent mess that would be!  Being male and female is not so much sexual as it is the partnering of our complementary differences to bring glory to Jesus Christ and affect the culture for good.

From The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity (pp. 96-97)
by Linda Bartlett (Amazon)

Sexual Describes Male or Female, Right?

children painting

When Christians use the phrases “sexual from birth” or “sexual beings,” we’re simply describing our maleness or femaleness, aren’t we?

This is likely how many sincere Christians understand it.  Remember, however, that male or female describes the kind of human we are.  You may never have heard it explained this way before, so it bears repeating.  Male or female has more than a sexual connotation; it is our divinely appointed vocation.  It is a way to engage life.  The vocations of male and female are God-given roles rooted in God’s creation of each individual human, as opposed to the kinds of vocations that men and women choose or take up later in life (such as father, mother, teacher, or pastor).  Those who oppose God don’t care about this because, like Kinsey, they have no respect for male or female.  God does.  So, let’s consider this in light of His Word.

God did not make male and female at the same time, in the same way or for the same purpose (Gn. 2:7, 15, 18-22).  Their differences did not conflict, but were complementary.  As husband and wife, Adam and Eve were lovers, that is, they were sexually intimate.  The human race came from their procreative sexual union; Eve because the “mother of all the living” (Gn. 3:20).  But, not every complementary man or woman marries and thus, becomes a lover or sexually active.

There is sexual love and there is agape love.  Husbands and wives share sexual intimacy, but all males and females of any age can share (and practice) agape love.  Scripture says it is the “will of God, your sanctification,” that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his [or her] own boy in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like [those] who do not know God” (1 Thes. 4:3-5).  Scripture is clear.  The sexual part of us is designed for use within the parameters of marriage.

To be lovers or, in other words, to share sexual intimacy and literally fit together in the procreational act of sex, is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman.  To be male or female, however, is a design and vocation for daily use in glorifying God.  God does not tell us to abstain from being male or female.  God does not tell us to abstain from being the human beings He created us to be, but He does tell us to abstain from sexual activity except within marriage.  Sexual activity is not an intrinsic part of what it means to be human.  We don’t do battle with the attributes of maleness or femaleness, but with “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry . . . [T]hose who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:19-24).  Unmarried males and females, of any age, are not to be lovers, but they are free to practice agape love which is this:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Co. 13:4-).

From The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity (pp. 94-95)
by Linda Bartlett (Amazon)

 

Sexuality is Central to Being Human, Right?

backs of children

It is true, isn’t it, that sexuality is a central part of being human?

That’s what SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S.) says.  One of their core values is that “sexuality is a central part of being human.”  But what does God say?  Does He say that sexuality (understood as sexual desires and the ability to be sexually intimate) is a central part of being human?  If so, where does He say that?  And what does this  mean, specifically when speaking about children?

Animals and humans bear similarity in the fact that both continue their species sexually, not asexually like amoebas.  But should we be defined by the way we procreate?  Central to being human is our distinction from animals.  It is having the attributes of God.  Unlike animals, humans have the ability to reason; to be kind, faithful, patient, and just.  We derive knowledge of God’s will for creation.  In our vocations a male and female humans, we have opportunity to make use of our humanness in different yet compatible ways with glory to God.  Even in the Garden of Eden, God did not clothe Adam and Eve with sexuality or sensuality.  He clothed them with His glory.  If sexuality is central to being human (as defined by Kinsey and company), what happens when we can’t or don’t express sexual desires and needs?  Are we less human?  The present culture seems to demand sexual rights.  But is sexuality a right from God or a privilege and responsibility within the boundaries of marriage?

It would be cruel, don’t you think, if God were to identify even children as “sexual beings” but then tell us we cannot freely be the very thing He created us to be?  God wants us to be what He created us to be: holy people who live our daily lives as male and female not just in marriage, but in familial and social relationships, in school, at work, and in worship.  He created us to be relational people but, because He did not make sexuality central to being human, we can relate to one another in non-sexual ways.  We can be in all kinds of selfless relationships– parents and children, brothers and sisters, caring neighbors, co-workers–that draw attention to Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ was fully human, but only in error would we identify Him as a “sexual being.”

Sin warped the image of God that we humans were created to bear.  But the moment a person trusts Christ, he or she begins to receive a new nature (2 Cor. 5:17).  Baptized, we are saints–or holy ones–set apart for God through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Holiness–whether it is reckoned to us freely (justification) or begins to characterize us (sanctification), whether we are receiving it as a free gift or cooperating with God to bring it about within us–is central to being human.  We are “debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh” (Ro. 8:12), but to Christ in whom the fallen nature has no claim on us.

We might want to say, “I am a sexual being.  I can’t help being who I am!”  But in Christ, we are not obligated to obey impulses of the flesh or satisfy its desires.  Why?  Because Christians are sanctified.  Sanctification is the process by which God develops our new nature, enabling us to grow into more holiness (not sexiness) through time.  This is a continuous process with many victories and defeats as the new nature battles with the “old man” (Ro. 6:6) in which it presently resides.  In heaven, the new nature will be set free, not as a sexual being (understood as sexually active), but as a holy being in the perfectly restored image of God.

From The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity, pp. 92-93
by Linda Bartlett (Amaz0n)

 

 

Not Identified by Our Stomachs

eating

Aren’t we making too much out of this sexual identity thing?  After all, humans are sexual and we do need sex, right?

Well, we have stomachs and appetites, too.  Some have even claimed, “You are what you eat.”  But, observes  my friend Bob Morrison,

No one considers himself an alimentary being.  Food– nourishment–is essential to human life.  It’s natural.  But if we focus on that as the essence of our being, then, as St. Paul writes, our “god is in our belly” (Phil. 3:19).  Sex within marriage is right, but we should not forget that this gift is given so that the human race might continue and generations may know Christ.”

C.S. Lewis agrees with my friend Bob and with St. Paul.  He writes,

There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips.”  (Mere Christianity)

from The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity
by Linda Bartlett (Amazon)

Identity Affects Behavior

potter's hands verticalThere is an inevitable result of identifying myself as a “sexual being.”  Such thinking will affect the way I fear, love and trust God. It will affect the way I act in His presence and understand His purpose for my life. It will also tempt me to see God in a way He is not.

As a fallen creature, I have a troublesome habit of projecting onto the Creator God my idea of Him based upon how I see myself. If I see myself as His daughter in Christ, I will be more inclined to recognize Him for who He is and acknowledge His authority. But if I see myself as “sexual being,” then I will be more inclined to define God according to my human perspective and on my human terms and less inclined to acknowledge His authority. This corrupts the image of God. Why? Because God does not bear the image of man nor is He sexual or sensual. God is holy.

God mandates holiness and He reveals its source. It is nothing other than Himself, His very essence and character. God is holy and expects me to conform to Him. “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Pet. 1:14-16).

It is not absolutely necessary that I experience the joy of “one flesh” in biblical marriage, but it is absolutely necessary that I should be holy. That which is sexual should never be viewed as a way to become more intimate with God nor should it become the intrinsic identity of the male and female first made in the image of God. In my Baptism, I put on the “new self” which is “the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).

Identity affects my behavior. Let’s imagine that I am pregnant but contemplating an abortion. I need to ask, “What is it? What is this that I want to abort?” Women have explained to me that when the doctor called their unborn child a “blob of tissue,” it made the wrong thing that they knew they were doing much easier to do.  If I identify myself as a “sexual being” and my child as a “choice,” then I may fail to guard the treasure for which Jesus died.  I may fall into fear, then into idolatry.  It is then that I will find arguments for abortion, adultery, homosexuality and the counterfeiting or abolition of marriage.

The mistaken identity of “sexual from birth” tempts me to please myself. God did not have this in mind, so He does not identify me in this way because that phrase confuses my created femaleness with the corrupted state of my current sexual desires. A “sexual” identity is all about “me.” It means being in debt to my own flesh and bound to live according to its fickle ways. But a “holy” identity is all about God claiming me as His dear child in Christ. In Christ, my fallen nature has no claim on me. My flesh side may tempt me, saying, “This is who I am,” or “I owe it to myself,” but I am not obligated to obey its impulses or satisfy its desires. Why? Because I “did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear” (Rom. 8:15). What a difference this makes in the way I live and who I worship.

In the biblical context, holy usually means “set apart for God”. It means being different from the sensual world. I am “His own possession” (1 Pet. 2:9). As a “temple of God,” I have no agreement with idols (2 Cor. 6:16). This means no foolish or improper talk of sexual desire, no crude joking or teasing of the imagination. My purpose in this world flows from my identity as God’s holy one. My purpose is to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called me” (1 Pet. 2:9). My behavior, just like my identity, is not common. Something that is common is useable by anyone. But I am useable by God. My conduct as a baptized child of God— indeed, “holy one” or saint— should not reflect the ways of the sinful world, but reflect God’s ways.

I am called to be “a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21). God is the master. The house is my body. My good work is to turn the heads of others toward the master and away from myself. “[B]e holy in all your conduct” (1 Pet. 1:15). Why? Because I was created for God’s glory, not my own. I am to “walk as [a child] of light . . . and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph. 5:8-10).

Adapted from
The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity
by Linda Bartlett, Amazon