The Beauty of God’s Design for Human Gender

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 ESV)

Love the hurting

We have a saying around Bethel, if we have to err on any side let’s err on the side of love. I personally think this has great application with people struggling not just with gender but same-sex attraction or the brokenness of past gender/sexual sin.

Should we refer to a transgendered individual by their preferred gender pronoun? Personally, I think we should. There is the air war here and the ground war. The air war is the big ideological/theological/cultural/political battle for which Christians must be courageous and stand for truth. We will increasingly be the minority saying, there are two genders. Someday that may get you jailed.

But the person you work with or live next to or meet in church is not a global ideologue. They are simply a person living their life. Not all struggle, but many do. One study says that after a sex change operation an individual is 20 times more likely to commit suicide. Real people are really hurting.

Your relationship with them is not a battleground, it’s a relationship. I would recommend calling them by whatever they would like to be called. Refusing to do so will tell them you reject them at the personal place of their self-identity. Take a deep breath. It will be OK.

Everything for His Glory

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36 ESV)

“Everything to Him” Means Everything Matters

Everything is part of the everything that is from God, the everything that is through God, the everything that is for God. It means everything in this creation has a reason and purpose.

It means our lives are not meaningless. It means our families and our stories have enduring purpose. It means power and injustice and suffering don’t have the final word. It means in Christ not even death has the final say.

It means that everything that is and everything that happens fits the larger purpose of God. Even our suffering works together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

Everything to him means that Christian relationships go on forever. Think of that. All to him means every Christian friendship, every Christian family relationship, every Christian marital relationship is a relationship that lasts forever!

I will be friends with my wife Jennifer forever and ever in a friendship that is even better and closer than the best earthly marriage. My two girls—I can’t tell you how precious they are to me and how deeply I long for them to know Christ as their Savior. All to him opens the door to me knowing them and loving them and playing with them and talking with them forever.

This week I took Kiralee to a Christmas party thing as a daddy/daughter date (see picture below).

I told her on the way to the event that we were running late and by the time we get there, the only food that will be left will be vegetables. On the way home I said, “What was your favorite part? The food?” No. “The candy cane you’re sucking on right now?” No. “What was your favorite part?” The hand holding.

I want to hold her hand forever. Madeline too. Mommy too.

What basis do I have for any hope of my life mattering one second after I am dead? Why should I think my life this week makes any difference in the scale of eternity? “To him are all things.”

I’m a thing! I’m an infinitesimally small thing in the universe. Yet I was created by God. In Christ, every aspect of my life is through him and to him.

Christian, your life matters forever. Your service to God matters forever. Your quiet and behind-the-scenes obedience matters forever. After you’re dead and nobody remembers your name or anything you did, God does and will forever and ever. Everything matters because everything is for his glory.

Oh, what a difference salvation makes! Oh, what a difference from Romans 1 to Romans 11. Who makes the difference? God through his son Jesus for all who trust in him as Savior and Lord. By faith in Jesus, God declares us righteous and completely changes the worship direction of our lives.

Is your life in Romans 11 or Romans 1? Do you still worship created things or the Creator? Are you still trying to find meaning in life without God or have you jumped into the river that flows to the ocean of God’s glory?

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2019 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

Our Incomprehensible God

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33–36 ESV)

Right theology should always lead to doxology

Doxology isn’t a word we use much but we should. It basically means “glory.” Doxology is “to give glory; to give praise.” We might use the word worship. The reason I point this out is because of the location of this praise passage in Romans. For nearly 11 chapters Paul has gone deep on the gospel and God’s ways and purposes. He has unfolded God’s amazing ways in saving sinners and making us righteous. It is the richest 11 chapters of doctrine in all the Bible. What is Paul’s response? Silence? Does he merely clear his throat and go on?

This (Israel) Looks Like That (Me)

Israel: an eternal monument to God’s magnificent mercy

“For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy” (Romans 11:30 ESV).

“For just as you.” Who? Gentile Christians. “Just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy.” What is God saying? This looks like that. The Jews’ salvation looks just like Gentile salvation. How? The starting point is the same. Disobedience. “You were at one time disobedient to God.” This is everyone’s pre-salvation status before God. We all were sinners. We all were disobedient to God’s law and desires. We are sinners by nature and by choice.

So, when we look at the general Jewish population scoffing at the claims of Christ, it’s like looking in a mirror at our pre-Christian selves. Perhaps not as hostile, but none of us were born righteous no matter how good your Christian parents may have been.

“So, they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy.” (Romans 11:31)

If You Continue: How God Keeps Us Saved

“Then you will say, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.” (Romans 11:19–24, ESV)

Think soberly about the kindness and severity of God

“Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness.” (Romans 11:22)

The kindness of God and the severity of God, these are like two divine counterbalances. Both are true in God. The kindness of God is the grace, love, and mercy of God.

But we must also consider the severity of God. The NIV translates it, sternness. The lexicon includes harshness. This side of God flows from holiness and justice. God was severe in his judgment on those branches that were broken off.

One of the great failures in evangelical Christianity is that we have distorted God by emphasizing only those qualities we like about God.

Grafted by Grace, Branches by Faith

“If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.” (Romans 11:11–24 ESV)

You don’t have to be a tree expert to get this anymore than they needed to be in the first century. Paul goes with the very familiar olive tree. If you’ve been to the Middle East, this tree and wood is everywhere, and you can buy an olive wood sculpture of almost anything. They are for sale by every street vendor to this day. One commentator says the olive tree was the “most widely cultivated fruit tree in the Mediterranean area.” (Dunn)[1] This would be like writing to Indiana Christians and saying, it’s like a corn plant. Everyone is with you.

“…if the root is holy, so are the branches.” (Romans 11:16)

God Will Never Reject His People

“I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever” (Romans 11:1-10 ESV).

God Will Never Forsake His Promises

God made promises in the Old Testament to Israel. Is he fulfilling them through the gospel of Jesus the Messiah? Paul screams yes! Why? Because our God is a promise-keeping God even as Israel have been promise-breakers. This is the test of our integrity, isn’t it? It’s easy to keep our promises when everyone else is keeping theirs. Business is easier when your associates are truthful and honest. Marriage is easier when your spouse is promise-keeping. Friendship with a promise-keeper is great. But when people are promise-breakers, when people break with us and betray us, that is the real test of our character.

The Old Testament is not a pretty story. It’s basically the story of God promise-keeping and Israel promise-breaking. Just glance at the book of Judges as an example. Seven times Israel is unfaithful and cries out to God for help. Each time God is merciful and sends a judge to deliver them only to see Israel once again betray him.

But what about God? Never, ever one time does he fail to fulfil his promise. This brings us to the New Testament and Jesus and the gospel. Who gets the front row seat for the miraculous life of Jesus? Israel. Who are the first to hear that the kingdom of God has come? Israel. Who does the Holy Spirit fall upon at Pentecost? Israelites. What ethnicity are all the apostles? Jewish. Where does the era of the church begin? Jerusalem. No Israelite could ever accuse God of not fulfilling his promise.

If God was utterly faithful to unfaithful Israel, will he not be faithful to us chosen by grace? We are the people of God as much, if not more than, Israel ever was. We are more spiritually privileged than any Old Testament Jew, even Moses himself. Christian, you know Jesus—his humanity through incarnation, his deity through miracles and resurrection, his redemption through atonement on the cross, his person, his work, his character, his story—far more clearly than any Old Testament Jew. And you know the promises of God with greater clarity and fullness through the New Testament.

God’s faithfulness to his Old Testament promises should greatly encourage us that he will be true to us no matter what!

God Will Never Forsake His People

This is where the concept of remnant is so precious. God is a promise-keeping God who makes promises to real people. Real people like you and me. He doesn’t keep his promises in the theoretical or the abstract, but in the reality of our lives. We can know he will never reject us because his faithfulness and love and glory are forever bound to us. This is true even when it seems that evil is winning on all sides.

So many of the stories we love involve an apparent victory of evil. But wait, there’s a remnant, there’s a small band of faithful people who have not bowed to the evil king. What about those hobbits carrying the ring of power to Mt. Doom? What about those four children mysteriously arriving at the lamppost of Narnia? What about these few resistance fighters hiding from the First Order? What about Robin Hood and his few merry men? We love these stories partially because we see a little remnant surviving in the apparent victory of evil. A little band, a little group, surviving by the power of Aslan.

Christian, you are living that story now. You are a part of the resistance, the remnant, those who are God’s people living by God’s promise trusting God to be a promise-keeping God despite the evil all around and the uncertainties of life. Be encouraged! God always has a remnant through which he is exercising his sovereign grace and fulfilling his sovereign will.

“And though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.” (Martin Luther, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, 1529) There you have it. God will never forsake his promises and he will never forsake his people. Will God reject his people? Never! Never! Never!

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2019 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here