Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Homosexuality

It seems as if the media only presents two sides of the issue: the extreme, and the other extreme. One side hates and the other hates back. As with most everything in the Christian life, there is always a certain tension that arises out of the Biblical text in which we are supposed to walk faithfully. Instead of harmonizing biblical accounts, many Christians have taken the easy way out: the way of cheap love and grace at the expense of biblical truth. On the other end of the spectrum we get this view. Instead of hating homosexuals or justifying them, can we take a “peaceful” but firm stand about the issue? I think the answer is yes.

When I say a “peaceful” but firm stand, I do not mean that we should preach peace to those we know who have chosen a homosexual lifestyle, or have chosen to act on homosexual desires. That would be telling them “’peace, peace’, when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 8:11). As with anyone who does not have faith in Christ or is living a life contrary to what they profess, we are to call them to genuine faith and repentance.

That being said, there is no doubt that homosexuality is a sin:

1 Timothy 1:9-11
“…understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.”

1 Corinthians 6:9
“Or 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, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Romans 1:24-27
“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

Leviticus 20:13
“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

In Genesis 19: 23-25, God destroys the city of Sodom for their great iniquity. We catch a glimpse of their sins in verses 4-11 of that same chapter:

“But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.”

The fact that homosexuality is a sin is biblically uncontested. It is unnatural, and is the product of a debased mind. It is the product of men (or women) exchanging the truth of God for a lie. It is the result of man worshipping the creature rather than the creator. God does not change his views over sin, and he is terribly displeased with homosexuality to the point that he would require death.

Now, the problem for some Christians is that they stop there. As always, it is easier to condemn the “really bad sins” at the expense of the “minor” ones (the “respectable” sins, as Jerry Bridges calls them). Perhaps we do this because we don’t want to feel condemned about our sin. But 1 Corinthians 6:9 says that if you are a drunkard, a thief, sexually immoral, greedy, or an idolater you won’t inherit the kingdom of God!

The universality of sin is evident in Romans 1:29-32:
“They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

So are we disobedient to parents? Are we boastful? Are we deceitful? Do we gossip? If you answered no, then go read Matthew 19:16-30 and 1 John 1:10. If you answered yes, then you deserve to die. You deserve hell. We all deserve hell.

Let’s not forget what our Lord explained about the law at the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:20
“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:21-22
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

Matthew 5:27
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

This is what God requires: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48, emphasis mine). “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Make no mistake; God requires that we keep every iota, every dot (Matthew 5:18) of the law.

If we do not keep every little dot, then we are condemned. The only way that God will not punish us is if we keep the law perfectly. And no one does (1 John 1:10). As Heidelberg Answer 12 states, “God will have his justice satisfied (Exodus 23:7); therefore we must make full satisfaction to the same, either by ourselves, or by another.”

It asks in Question 13: “But can we ourselves make this satisfaction?” And the Answer: “By no means; on the contrary, we daily increase our debt (Psalm 130:3)”.

So anyone under the law is left without hope. All humanity deserves God’s just wrath and indignation. It is here that we should stop and contemplate how angry (and grieved) God is over the sin we commit. Can I say again that we all deserve to be tormented in hell for eternity because of our sin, because we’ve disobeyed God’s law?




But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:21-26).

“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:8-10).

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:4-9).




All sins are not equal. But under the law, the homosexual is not any worse off than the one who gossips! Both are going to hell, should they continue in their sin and unrepentance. We are called to love all sinners, proclaiming the truth about their sin (not just homosexuality, but the whole gamut), the truth about their condemnation, and then telling them about a righteousness that God gives apart from the law: The righteousness found in Jesus Christ through faith alone.

I think most Christians will watch the video I mentioned at the top, and cringe. Can we be against homosexuality and not have this attitude? Can we abhor sin, and yet love a sinner by sharing the gospel with them, by telling them the truth? That answer is obvious. After all, the gospel is the only thing that will bring them to repentance, the only thing that will give them victory over the flesh.

Someone with homosexual tendencies can be a Christian, as long as they have faith in Christ, and espouse a repentant heart. True repentance involves turning from sin (through the Spirit). It involves putting to death what is of the earthly nature (Colossians 3:5), including desires. There is a huge struggle in the Christian life between the old and new man, and we all have particular struggles with certain sins because we don’t walk by the Spirit as we should. We don’t fully believe that we have “…crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). We don’t always count ourselves as dead to sin and alive in Christ (Romans 6:11), though we really are. Christians with homosexual tendencies are no different.

A practicing homosexual, that is, one who finds nothing wrong with their lifestyle, continues to indulge, and is unrepentant, will not enter heaven! Someone who claims to be a Christian and continues to live in unrepentant sin (this includes not struggling against sin) is not a Christian. “How can we who died to sin still live in it” (Romans 6:2)? However, the unrepentant homosexual is in the same boat as the unrepentant thief, the unrepentant drunkard, the unrepentant gossip, or the unrepentant person who disobeys their parents. This is because all unrepentant people (those without true faith in Christ) have no covering from the wrath of God for breaking his law. The only way that any sinner can escape from God is by entering through the narrow gate, the very God-man, Jesus Christ. This is why Jesus means so much to us! Because as God he saves us from God! “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).

I don’t understand why some Christians highlight homosexuality as the most perverse form of evil, at the expense of not seeing other sins for what they truly are. Don’t get me wrong, homosexuality is a perverse evil. Perhaps it is more perverse than lying, but are we really keeping score? Lying is a perverse evil as well, and the point is still the same. Under the law, both the liar and the homosexual are going to hell. And that should grieve us terribly. It is the Christian’s duty to show love to all sinners, which means showing them their sin, showing them how they’ve broken God’s law, and then showing them Christ. To all sinners! Not just the ones we think sin really badly. God is against all sin and sinners unless they turn to Christ! Shall we only focus, then, on homosexuality?

I am willing to be hated for calling homosexuality what it is. I am willing to be hated for the truth. But I refuse to hold a view of homosexuals as “the really bad ones,” as opposed to everyone else,

“For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good, not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
  in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

"Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:9-20).

God knows that we are all sinners. We are all the “really bad ones.” Praise God for his glorious grace in Christ that, “The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus forgiveness receives.” Paul told Timothy that of all sinners, he was the worst (1 Timothy 1:15), because he understood the righteous requirement of the law, the holiness of God. He understood his sin and the justice owed to him. Shall we not also count ourselves as the worst of sinners? We are only worthy to stand before God because God’s righteousness sits at God’s right hand. That is, Jesus Christ died, was raised, and ascended. He took the wrath of God in our place. He conquered death so that we might have life everlasting. He sits at God’s throne mediating for his people. We no longer have to fear anything in this world! Shall we not then tell all sinners what Christ has done for us; we who are the chief of sinners?

3 comments:

  1. I think this is a post is very power Mark! We really should tremble at the thought of walking in such sins as gossip and idolatry of possessions, power, or relationships blindly without conviction or repentence. We are so blind to seeing unrepentant practice of those sins as just as damnable as homosexuality even though they are right there is the Bible next to homosexuality.

    When you got to the colossians, Gal, and Rom 6:11 part it got really powerful. I been strongly convicted recently that most people have a shallow understanding of what the gospel is power for. Many people treat the power of the gospel as the power to make people profess Christ and cling to him for righteousness (which it certainly is), but nothing more. It is not treated as power to free us from slavery to sin, as the power of the Spirit that causes us to walk in new life obedience when we depend upon transforming/sanctifying power of the Word and the Spirit. Yet Paul wrote to the Romans as a Apostle that was called by Christ to bring about the "obedience of faith" (rom. 1.5), or more literally, "the obedience that flows from faith." In Rom 1:16-17 he says it is the "Power of God for salvation to those who believe...righteousness revealed through faith for more obedience-producing faith." This is amazing! Paul was not writing primarily to make converts here, he was preaching to those were already righteous by faith in order to explain how the Gospel was the power of God for walking in obedience by faith! For Paul, perservering to the end by the power of the Gospel had to be a reality in order for a person to truly have been converted.

    "13] For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. [14] For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. [15] For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" (Rom 8:13-15 ESV)

    In Rom 5-8 is the heart of where Paul explains how a converted, but still sinning man is made new, exposing the difference between walking in obedience the flesh (which is sure to fail) or walking by the Spirit, in gospel power.

    Like I was saying, most people just see the gospel as power to save them, but not power to be freed from their slaveries to sin. Neither do they realize that perservering in this power must exist in their life or else they may not truly be believers, for believers keep believing and growing in sanctification because that's part of the gospel!

    But what I feel strongly is that our congregation cannot be blamed for not realizing this and living in defeat. Roman's 5-8 is hardly ever preached this way! So many Christ-professors, if you were to say to them, "Don't you see that the way you are living leads to death!" would say, "yes, but how can I change?! I feels so guilty and trapped I'm better of just living the rest of my days out with whatever pleasure I can get out of this life."

    Is this not the guilt we are freed from by clinging to Christ for righteousness? Is not the Spirit given to us the power that frees us from slavery to our fleshly passions? Indeed it is! We have to preach it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Galen, I very much appreciate your comment. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and was actually going to do a blog on it very soon! A lot of Christians constrain themselves to Romans 7 living: "The things I want to do I do not do and the things I don't want to do I end up doing." It's really sad that we think this way and comfort each other this way when our friends come to us and say, hey I've been struggling with sin, and we point them to Romans 7!? We should point them to Romans 8, you're exactly right. Romans 8 is the example of victorious gospel living through the Spirit, and that's what we should point struggling brothers and sisters to! Galatians 5:16-24 has a lot to say about this too. It's like the indicative imperative relationship you talked about in Ephesians. Paul is always telling Christians in his epistles to be what they are! We have died to sin, so we should count ourselves alive to God, and set our mind on the Spirit! The gospel has far reaching implications for our sanctification and Christian walk, you're exactly right. And I'm thinking in traditional Reformed Churches, after the reading of the law, we are given the assurance of pardon from Christ, but then it seems sometimes like we're told to go out into the world striving to do good works... and that's it. Not in the power of the Spirit who rose Jesus from the dead, but just on our own!? God doesn't just let us go after we're saved! Thank you for posting, really liked what you had to say!

      Delete
  2. Amen bro. Often we are unable to proclaim as Paul does to those struggling with homosexual desires that the gospel is the power of God to sanctify them because we haven't actually been understanding or believing it for ourselves with our own sins. Honestry I do think homosexual desire is probably one of the most enslaving because it sinks into the very core of a person's identity. So even if they can find a different identity as righteous in Christ it is so hard to feel the gospel helps anything now if it is not also power to grow into Christ-likeness and shed those fleshly desires.

    Remember that song by Manchester Orchastra? he says

    "I felt the Lord begin to peel of off all my skin,
    I felt the weight within reveal the bigger mess
    that you can't fix"

    I think he's feeling like, "Ok Lord i'm saved, but I have to live the rest of my life out in a mess you can't really start fixing now. I guess I'll have to wait till I die."

    It's an inslaving wieght! But the power to perserver IS ours! we have been freed from the dominion of Sin and given the Spirit to walk in. We don't have to wait till we die. We can start living now.

    ReplyDelete