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Posts tagged ‘homosexuality’

Why Homosexuality Is Not Like Other Sins

SOURCE: Jonathan Parnell/Desiring God

Homosexuality is not the only sin mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10.

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.

It’s not the only sin mentioned, but it is different from all the rest, at least right now. At this moment in history, contrary to the other sins listed here, homosexuality is celebrated by our larger society with pioneering excitement. It’s seen as a good thing, as the new hallmark of progress.

To be sure, the masses increasingly make no bones about sin in general. Innumerable people are idolaters, not to mention those who are sexually immoral, or who commit adultery, or who steal and are greedy and get wasted and revile neighbors and swindle others. It happens all the time. And each of these unrepentant sins are the same in the sense of God’s judgment. They all deserve his wrath. And we’re constantly reminded that “such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:11). You in the church.

Concerning Popular Opinion

But as far as I know, none of those sins is applauded so aggressively by whole groups of people who advocate for their normalcy. Sexual immorality is no longer the tip of the spear for the progressive push. Adultery is still frowned upon by many. Accusations of greed will still smear a candidate’s political campaign. Thievery is still not openly embraced, and there are no official initiatives saying it’s okay to go take things that don’t belong to you. There’s no such thing as a drunk agenda yet. Most aren’t proud to choose a beverage over stability, and there aren’t any petitions that the government should abolish the driving restrictions of inebriated individuals. Reviling others still isn’t seen as the best way to win friends and influence people. Swindling, especially on a corporate level, usually gets someone thrown into jail. In fact, the infrastructure of the American economy depends upon, in some measure, our shared disdain for conniving scammers.

Perhaps excepting fornication, these sins are still seen in a pretty negative light. But not homosexual practice, not by those who are now speaking loudest and holding positions of prominence. According to the emerging consensus, homosexuality is different.

What to Be Against

As Christians, we believe with deepest sincerity that the embrace of homosexual practice, along with other sins, keeps people out of the kingdom of God. And if our society celebrates it, we can’t both be caring and not say anything. Too much is at stake. This means it is an oversimplification to say that Christians — or conservative evangelicals — are simply against homosexuality. We are against any sin that restrains people from everlasting joy in God, and homosexual practice just gets all the press because, at this cultural moment, it’s the main sin that is so freshly endorsed in our context by the powers that be. Let’s hope that if there’s some new cultural agenda promoting thievery — one that says it’s now our right to take whatever we want from others by whatever means — that Christians will speak out against it. The issue is sin. That’s what we’re against. And that’s what should make our voice so unique when we speak into this debate.

Some would like to see this whole issue of homosexuality divided into two camps: those who celebrate it and those who hate it. Both of these groups exist in our society. There are the growing numbers, under great societal pressure, who praise homosexuality. We might call them the left. And there are people who hate homosexuality, with the most bigoted rationale and apart from any Christian concern. We might call them the right.

Those Glorious Words

The current debate is plagued by this binary lens. Those on the left try to lump everyone who disagrees with them into that right side. If you don’t support, you hate. Meanwhile, those on the right see compromise and spinelessness in anyone who doesn’t get red-faced and militant. If you don’t hate, you support.

But true followers of Christ will walk neither path. We have something to say that no one else is saying, or can say.

Distancing ourselves from both the left and the right, we don’t celebrate homosexual practice, we acknowledge God’s clear revealed word that it is sin; and we don’t hate those who embrace homosexuality, we love them enough to not just collapse under the societal pressure. We speak the truth in love into this confusion, saying, simultaneously, “That’s wrong” and “I love you.” We’re not the left; we say, this is wrong. And we’re not the right; we say, you’re loved. We speak good news, with those sweetest, deepest, most glorious words of the cross — the same words that God spoke us — “You’re wrong, and you’re loved.”

God tells us we’re wrong, that the wages of sin is death, that unrepentant rebellion means judgment, that our rescue required the cursed death of his Son (Romans 3:23; John 3:36; Galatians 3:13). And God tells us we’re loved, that even while we were sinners, Jesus died for us, that while we were unrighteous, Jesus suffered in our place, that though we were destined for wrath, Jesus welcomes us into glory (Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 2:1–7).

Where the Gospel Shines

You’re wrong and you’re loved — that’s the unique voice of the Christian. That’s what we say, speaking from our own experience, as Tim Keller so well puts it, “we’re far worse than we ever imagined, and far more loved than we could ever dream.”

That’s our message in this debate, when society’s elites despise us, when pop songs vilify us, when no one else has the resources to say anything outside of two extremes, we have this incomparable opportunity to let the gospel shine, to reach out in grace: you’re wrong and you’re loved. We get to say this.

That’s why homosexuality is not like other sins.

Explaining Your Convictions About Homosexuality

SOURCE:  Adam Barr and Ron Citlau/Family Life

In the next year you can bet at least one of these things will happen in your life:

  • A family member will come out of the closet and expect you to be okay with it. If you are not, family members may call you unloving and judgmental.
  • You’ll be invited to a cousin’s “wedding” . . . to someone of the same gender.
  • You’ll show up for one of your kid’s soccer games and discover that the woman who comes to every game with little Billy’s mom is not his aunt.
  • You will encounter someone who says the gospel cannot bring healing to our sexual identity or orientation.
  • You’ll have a conversation with your college-age child and learn she thinks your view on homosexuality is bigoted, a twenty-first-century version of 1960s racism.
  • You will read about a nationally recognized church leader endorsing the idea of same-sex marriage.

Are you ready to answer the tough questions your friends are asking you about your beliefs? Are you ready to reply to the wedding invitation from your gay cousin? Are you ready to deal with your daughter’s new friend and her two mommies, and the invitation for a sleepover? Are you ready to show someone that you can really, truly love people and still believe that sin is sin?

Are you ready, or are you panicking?

Chances are you would answer in the affirmative if someone asked you, “Is homosexual behavior a sin?” But consider three follow-up questions:

First, why do you believe this? Is it simply because “that’s how I was raised”? Is it because you find “those people” kind of “gross” and “weird”? Reality check: If our convictions are that shallow, then how can we respond with Christ-like compassion to people Jesus died to save? How will you be a real witness to the gospel? How will your faith survive when one of “those people” turns out to be someone you know and love? People gripped by the gospel are able to reach out toanyone in a way that balances truth and love.

Second, have you taken time to really explore what the Bible teaches about sexuality? You might (correctly) believe that Scripture says homosexual activity is a sin, but are you prepared to help someone else see that? Are you ready to defend your beliefs when someone persuasively argues that the Bible does not really condemn loving, committed same-sex relationships? Simply responding, “It’s what I’ve always believed” will not help you be a faithful witness. It will not help you when smart people ask hard questions.

Third, if your convictions on this issue are not well founded on rock-solid truth, do you really think they will stand the test of a hard storm? Jesus said that someone who hears His Word and obeys it is like a person who has built his house on a solid rock. The rain comes, the wind rages, but the house stands. If our stated convictions are not undergirded by solid foundations, they can be quickly swept aside. On this issue, Christians who faithfully speak the truth will increasingly stand in the minority. In the last decade alone, our culture has experienced a revolution of thought when it comes to homosexuality. The pressure to conform will be intense.

Are you ready?

Or are you panicking?

Here are a couple common questions we hear from Christians about talking with others about their convictions on this issue. Something important to remember as you read through these: Real-life people stand behind each of these questions. Relationships. Personal stories. Each of these questions and answers needs to be worked out in a Spirit-led context of relationship.

Question: How can I have a meaningful conversation about this issue without getting into an argument? How can I turn an argument into a meaningful conversation?

Paul was no stranger to difficult conversations. Sometimes, they ended with incredible conversions. Sometimes, they ended with his being stoned. His words to the Colossian church are relevant:

[P]ray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:2-6)

Here are five simple applications we can draw from this passage:

1. Have the right mindset: If you enter a conversation with a win-lose mentality, you’ve lost already. Our goal is not to win a debate, but to open a door. Creative questions are one of the best ways to do that. “What do you believe? What has led you to care so much about this issue?”

2. Speak your convictions clearly: We’re convinced God has revealed truth in His Word. In some ways, that removes the pressure—this isn’t just our private hobbyhorse. It is what the Bible, God’s Word, teaches.

3. Pay attention to the conversational context: Paul said we should “walk in wisdom.” Wisdom is applied righteousness—knowing the right steps in the real world.

  • Don’t “yell in the library”: Are you at work, in a Bible study, on the street? These factors will determine just how the conversation proceeds.
  • Discern whom you are speaking to: Is he gay? Does she have an ideological ax to grind? Has he just learned his daughter is lesbian?
  • Control the thermostat: What is their emotional temperature (1 = calm; 10 = screaming mad)? If it starts to get hot, acknowledge it and take a step back. What is your emotional temperature? Your conversation should be “gracious, seasoned with salt.”

4. Don’t expect agreement every time: In this passage, Paul basically asks God for the chance to say again, with clarity, what got him imprisoned in the first place! This isn’t a popularity contest.

5. Pray. Pray. Pray: Enough said. Just pray. A lot.

Question: My neighbors are a lesbian couple. We occasionally converse and have a cordial relationship. I’ve never out-and-out told them that I think their lifestyle is sinful. Am I just being a coward? Or is it okay not to mention this and just try to be a good neighbor to them?

1. Be a good neighbor! Build relationship. Be friendly, invite them to your home, go to their house, live some life with them. Don’t be overly concerned with being the moral police. Let your Christian witness shine through your actions. This isn’t being cowardly, it is just simple kindness. From my point of view, you can be more direct and honest the better friends you become.

2. But don’t be afraid of speaking the truth. Seek opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus. The best way to do this is by sharing what Jesus has done for you. Don’t make it academic; make it personal. This vulnerability is a nonthreatening way to share the good news of Jesus. And when the time is right, don’t be afraid to invite them to church.

3. If things get heated, remind them that friends can disagree. It is so silly that we have to walk on eggshells with those we don’t agree with. If it is a real friendship, then there will be several areas of disagreement. This is okay. What is needed are respect, a listening ear, and a bit of humility.

4. Become very aware of what God is doing in the life of this couple. A good prayer to pray is this: Lord, use me for what you want to do. Do you want me to serve them? Share biblical truth? And then, as you are with them, seek to discern why God has you in a relationship with them. And as God opens doors, walk through them!

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Adapted from Compassion Without Compromise, Copyright © 2014 by Adam T. Barr and Ron Citlau, Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group. 

No One Is Born Gay

SOURCE:  Charisma News/Dr. Michael Brown

If there were reputable scientific evidence that some people were born homosexual, I would have no problem accepting this. After all, my theology tells me that as human beings, we are all created in God’s image and yet we are a fallen race, and so all of us carry aspects of that fallen nature to the core of our being, and that could theoretically include homosexuality.

But the fact is that there is simply no reputable scientific evidence that anyone is born gay.

As stated by gay activist and history professor John D’Emilio, “‘Born gay’ is an idea with a large constituency, LGBT and otherwise. It’s an idea designed to allay the ingrained fears of a homophobic society and the internalized fears of gays, lesbians and bisexuals. What’s most amazing to me about the ‘born gay’ phenomenon is that the scientific evidence for it is thin as a reed, yet it doesn’t matter. It’s an idea with such social utility that one doesn’t need much evidence in order to make it attractive and credible.”

In other words, because the “born gay” idea has proved so useful, the fact that there’s virtually no scientific support for the theory hardly matters. It’s an idea that has worked wonders for gay activists and their allies.

As noted years ago by gay scientist Simon LeVay, “There [was] a survey in The New York Times that broke down people on the basis of whether they thought gays and lesbians were born that way or whether it was a lifestyle choice. Across the board, those who thought gays and lesbians were born that way were more liberal and gay friendly.”

And so, the argument goes, “If I’m born this way, how can my attractions be wrong? And if I’m born this way, how can you expect me to change?”

Of course, even if no one is born gay, that doesn’t mean that homosexual attractions are not deeply rooted. In most cases, those feelings are very deeply rooted to the point that many gay men and women truly believe they were born gay.

And even if no one is born gay, that doesn’t mean that homosexual attractions are easily changed. In most cases, they are not.

But why base a so-called civil-rights movement on lies? Why not tell the truth?

One of the most gay-friendly professional organizations in our country is the American Psychological Association, and yet even the APA states that, “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation.”

Similarly, in England, the pro-gay Royal College of Psychiatrists recently backtracked on an earlier statement that homosexuality was biologically determined, now saying that “sexual orientation is determined by a combination of biological and postnatal environmental factors.” And while they stated clearly their belief that homosexuality was not a mental disorder and that it should be accepted, they added, “It is not the case that sexual orientation is immutable or might not vary to some extent in a person’s life.”

That’s why psychiatrist Nathaniel S. Lehrman, former chairperson of the Task Force on Religion and Mental Health said in 2005, “Researchers now openly admit that after searching for more than 20 years, they are still unable to find the ‘gay gene'” (in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons).

Why then do we constantly hear about people being born gay? First, it has worked wonders for gay activism; second, many gays and lesbians believe it to be true, since as far back as they can remember, they felt that they were different.

But political expediency and personal feelings do not change the facts, and those facts remain the same: There is no clear scientific evidence that anyone is born gay

According to lesbian researcher Lisa Diamond, “The queer community has been obsessed with cultivating the idea that we all have fixed sexual identities. We’ve crafted terrific narratives and political platforms based on the notions that all gays are ‘born that way.’ But what if sexuality is more complex? What if biology actually intersects with environment, time, culture and context? Could we possibly be more fluid than we’ve supposed?”

Camille Paglia, a social critic, academic, feminist and lesbian, was even more blunt, famously stating in her book Vamps and Tramps, “Our sexual bodies were designed for reproduction. … No one is born gay. The idea is ridiculous … homosexuality is an adaptation, not an inborn trait.”

Paglia also asked, “Is the gay identity so fragile that it cannot bear the thought that some people may not wish to be gay? Sexuality is highly fluid, and reversals are theoretically possible.”

Remarkably, when a school chaplain in Tasmania, Australia, posted Paglia’s opinion on social media, there was an outcry against him, causing him to issue a public apology: “I’ve made a mistake and learnt from it. I’m deeply sorry for any offence I’ve caused. I was very careless in posting that image for discussion. I will work with my employers to ensure there is no repeat.”

Despite this apology, he was still fired—and the organization he worked for was Christian! That is how toxic today’s climate has become, and yet this chaplain simply posted the accurate reflections of a lesbian academic. How could this be considered hateful or bigoted?

Again, this does not mean that same-sex attractions and desires are not deeply rooted in some people’s lives, nor does it mean that they chose to be gay. (You can choose to act on your attractions but that doesn’t mean you chose to have the attractions.)

It simply means that one of the major gay-activist talking points, one that has even infiltrated parts of the church, is based on lies, not truth.

It’s time we speak the truth in love.  Lies never help anyone in the long run.

If Sexual Orientation Change Therapy Is “Harmful,” What About Drug Rehab?!?

SOURCE:  Peter Sprigg, Family Research Council

Robin Williams, Rehab, and Reorientation

 

Robin Williams, the brilliantly talented comedian and actor, was found dead in his California home on August 11, the victim of an apparent suicide.

News coverage of his death reviewed his eclectic career, from the 1970’s TV hit Mork and Mindy to his Oscar for Good Will Hunting.

However, the media also reviewed his long history of drug and alcohol abuse. That began during his early days of television stardom. Williams reportedly gave up cocaine and alcohol, though, after his friend John Belushi died of an overdose and Williams became a father.

Williams spoke candidly about his addictions in a 2010 interview with the British newspaper The Guardian while on a publicity tour for his film World’s Greatest Dad (in which, ironically, he played a writer who fakes a suicide note and journal and attributes them to his late son).

Apparently, Williams quit alcohol and drugs cold turkey in the early ’80’s, without any professional therapeutic intervention. He reported that he stayed sober for twenty years, but then began drinking again while working on location in a remote town in Alaska. After three years of drinking, a “family intervention” persuaded Williams to enter “rehab” (residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation) at the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center near Newberg, Oregon, where he stayed for two months. After that, Williams told The Guardian, he continued to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous every week.

Then just last month, news broke that Williams had again returned to rehab, this time at a Hazelden center in Minnesota. A spokesman for Williams said that he had not relapsed into substance abuse, but was “simply taking the opportunity to fine-tune and focus on his continued commitment [to sobriety], of which he remains extremely proud.” That was onJuly 1 – but six weeks later, he was dead.

In the wake of Williams’ suicide, many TV commentators and friends of the late star talked about the challenges of mental illness (Williams suffered from depression), addictions – and rehab. I saw comedian Andy Dick say, “I’ve been to rehab seventeen times.”

In light of this history, I have only one question for socially liberal political activists – why aren’t you trying to outlaw rehab?

I ask the question because such activists are trying to ban a form of mental health treatment – not drug and alcohol rehabilitation, but “sexual orientation change efforts” (“SOCE”), also known as “sexual reorientation therapy.” Such therapy involves assisting people with unwanted same-sex attractions to overcome them.

Why would someone want to change their sexual orientation? Some such individuals are simply disillusioned by their experiences in homosexual relationships. Some have legitimate concern about the well-documented health problems associated with homosexual conduct (especially among men), such as high rates of sexually transmitted diseases, of which HIV/AIDS is only one example. Others may seek help in conforming their behavior and lifestyle to the teaching of the religious faith to which they are committed. Some may aspire to a traditional family life, raising children in a home with both their mother and father present.

Whatever the motivation, there are those who have simply made a choice to walk away from the homosexual lifestyle, without clinical help – much like how Robin Williams simply stopped using drugs and alcohol in the 1980’s. Others have sought professional help, perhaps at the urging of family members, in the form of “sexual reorientation therapy” – much like when Williams entered a formal alcohol rehab program in 2006. Whether simply through personal development, religious counseling, or with the help of a licensed or unlicensed counselor, thousands (if not millions) of people have experienced significant changes in one or more of the elements of their sexual orientation (attractions, behavior, or self-identification).

Homosexual groups, however, have successfully pressured professional organizations such as the American Psychological Association to discourage such therapy. More recently, following an example set in California, legislators in several states have introduced bills to forbid licensed mental health counselors from engaging in SOCE with minors at all. Meanwhile in New Jersey (which already passed such a ban), the Southern Poverty Law Center has sued even unlicensed SOCE providers, charging them with “consumer fraud.”

Critics of reorientation therapy make two charges – that it is ineffective, and that it is harmful. But they support these charges only by holding such therapies to a standard of “effectiveness” and “safety” that is impossible forany mental health treatment to meet.

Some (but not all) clients of reorientation therapy testify to a complete transformation from homosexual to heterosexual, experiencing a change in their identity, behavior, and attractions. Others may change their identity, control their behavior, and begin to experience heterosexual attractions, but still experience occasional homosexual attractions as well. Still others may change identity and behavior, but continue to struggle with primarily homosexual attractions. Some clients change little with respect to their sexuality, but still find the therapy beneficial in exploring their feelings, family dynamics, etc. Some may seem to achieve significant changes for a period of time, but then suffer relapse. And finally, a few may simply experience little substantial change.

This range of outcomes is no different from any other form of mental health treatment – such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Yet critics of reorientation therapy claim that “it doesn’t work” because the proportion of clients who achieve complete transformation on a permanent basis is less than 100%. Can rehab live up to this standard?

There is actually no scientific evidence that reorientation therapy is more harmful than helpful. There are, however, anecdotal accounts of people who claim they found it harmful, or who had negative experiences after such therapy, such as depression or even suicide. However, mere chronological correlation is not scientific proof of causation – any more than Robin Williams’ suicide was “caused” by his recent return to rehab.

The real reason why homosexual activists object to reorientation therapy has nothing to do with science or mental health. Instead, it has everything to do with politics and ideology. If it is tolerable for some people to try to change from “gay” to straight – and for others to help them with the process – that might imply that it is tolerable to believe that there is something wrong with homosexuality itself. For ideological reasons, that is a belief that homosexual activists want stamped out at all costs.

If we were to apply the same standards to drug and alcohol rehabilitation that the homosexual activists want to apply to reorientation therapy, why not ban rehab? After all, since some people go to rehab and still suffer relapses afterwards, rehab is clearly “ineffective.” Robin Williams actually went to rehab, and shortly thereafter took his own life. Does that not clearly indicate that rehab is not only ineffective, but downright harmful? In addition, there are surely people who consume alcohol or use illicit drugs but are still able to function and make productive contributions to society – so there is obviously nothing inherently wrong with alcohol or drugs. Allowing people who struggle with their alcohol or drug use to seek professional help to discontinue them implies there is something wrong with them – thus reinforcing the unfair social stigma which attaches to people who use alcohol and drugs. And surely “family intervention” to force someone into rehab is a violation of their personal autonomy. In light of all these concerns, how can we allow the fraud of “rehab” to continue?

This kind of reasoning, of course, would be clearly absurd. There is no kind of mental health counseling that can guarantee it will substantially change the lives of 100% of its clients for the better. Those who do experience improvement may still struggle with temptation (hence the weekly AA meetings for support). Even among those who succeed in rehab, there can be no guarantee that none of them will, at some time in the future, relapse into the problems which caused them to enter treatment in the first place. Furthermore, the fact that a negative outcome (like suicide) follows a treatment like rehab chronologically does not mean that the treatment caused the negative outcome. It is far more likely that an underlying pathology (in Robin Williams’ case, depression) was the cause of both his substance abuse (which led him to rehab) and his suicide.

It would be absurd to ban rehab because it doesn’t work for everyone; doesn’t work 100% by eliminating all temptation; isn’t always permanent; is sometimes undertaken because of family pressure; or because bad things may happen afterwards. It would be equally absurd to ban rehab in order to protect the self-esteem of people who do not consider their alcohol or drug use to be a problem.

But the argument that we should ban sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) is equally absurd – because it relies on all the same fallacious arguments.

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(This is a reprint of an article written by Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council a Washington, DC based policy organization. Peter is a long time Alliance organization member and a great writer and researcher on family related policy matters.)

Orienting on Homosexual Orientation

SOURCE:  Nick Roen /Desiring God

I remember a particular conversation I had one evening with a good friend about my struggle with same-sex attraction (SSA). He asked me, “Attractions are messy, complicated realities. How do you deal with them toward other guys?”

The real issue underneath this question is how those who experience SSA should orient on their orientation. Should a homosexual orientation be embraced, but not acted upon? Is it neutral? Or is it of such a nature that it must be fought against in toto? The answer to these questions requires careful thought and nuance if the discussion is going to be helpful for those living within the complicated reality of a homosexual orientation.

What Is Orientation Anyway?

A good place to start would be to define sexual orientation. However, this proves to be a difficult task. Sexual orientation is fundamentally something that is experienced, and since no two people are the same, there may be as many experiences with sexual orientation as there are people.

Speaking from my own experience, I have found resonance with this particular statement from the American Psychological Association. According to the APA, sexual orientation is “an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes.” Notice the nuance that is involved here. For many, sexual orientation does not simply refer to sexual desires. Rather, it refers to which sex an individual is oriented toward emotionally and physically. In other words, sexual orientation isn’t so much about the verb “sex” as it is the noun “sex” or “gender.” Which sex is a person oriented toward?

Also, notice the word “attraction.” Attraction is an ambiguous word because it happens in a variety of ways. We might be attracted to someone’s personality or character. We could be attracted to a certain lifestyle or pattern of behavior. We might feel an attraction that includes the desire to be emotionally connected with an individual. Or we might be physically or sexually attracted to a certain someone.

Distinguishing Kind and Degree

Therefore, the question becomes, “Which type of attractions can rightly be said to be a part of a sexual orientation?” My answer is both sexual and non-sexual attractions. But why is that? After all, these non-sexual attractions are felt all the time within platonic friendships, right? That is true. The distinction that must be made is between “kind” and “degree.” For many, there is a specific kind of attraction that is experienced, and a certain degree of attraction that is experienced.

So when I say that I experience a homosexual orientation, I mean that there is a “kind” of attraction that is exclusive to my orientation; namely, I am exclusivelysexually attracted to the same sex. In addition, I also mean that I experience other non-sexual attractions to the same sex with a “degree” of intensity that I do not toward the opposite sex. Therefore, when I experience an “attraction” to a man as the term is commonly used, the kind of sexual attraction and the degreeof non-sexual attraction are both in play. In this way, the non-sexual attraction is linked to my sexuality in a way that is experientially impossible to separate.

A Complex Relationship

We intuitively know this to be true, though we rarely think about attraction in these terms. Let me illustrate through a common experience. When I was in college my best friend and I did everything together. We were emotionally invested in one another, and supported one another in our walks with Christ. Then, one fateful day, he met his future wife and our friendship took a serious hit. Now, not only was he physically attracted to her in ways (kind) that he never was toward me, but he was also attracted to her in other “whole person” ways with an intensity (degree) that he did not feel toward me or any other man. This led him to spend considerably less time with me, and more time with her. In all of these sexual and non-sexual attractions, he experienced his sexual orientation.

Let me summarize:

  1. For many, sexual orientation is the experience of a pattern of attractions toward one or both sexes.
  2. These attractions include sexual and non-sexual attractions.
  3. Sexual attractions are the “kind” of attractions that are experienced exclusively within a sexual orientation. Non-sexual attractions can also be experienced to an exclusive “degree” that also makes them a part of a sexual orientation.
  4. Therefore, both sexual and non-sexual attractions are often inseparably linked to sexual orientation.

Now, back to the original question of how someone with SSA should deal with his or her experience of orientation. In my opinion, the different aspects of attraction should be addressed separately.

The question should now become, “What type of desires are these different types of attractions causing to rise up inside a person’s heart?”

Kill Same-Sex Sexual Desires

It seems clear that a sexual attraction, if left unchecked, will lead to a sexual desire. With regard to this type of desire, the answer is simple: “Kill it!” Same-sex sexual desires are disordered and broken, owing to our sinful natures that we possess as fallen humans. The Bible refers to our sinful nature as “the flesh,” and we are told, “if you live according to the flesh, you will die” (Romans 8:13). Indeed, if these evil desires are not killed at the moment of conception, they will give birth to active sinning which leads to death (James 1:15).

Whenever my flesh asserts itself in this manner, my only option is to fight by turning from temptation toward the promises of superior satisfaction in Jesus. When it comes to same-sex sexual desires, the way forward is to make war!

What about Non-Sexual Desires?

But what of the exclusively intense non-sexual attractions that are often experienced within a homosexual orientation? What is someone to do with those?

Again, the question should be, “What type of desires is this non-sexual attraction producing in the heart?” Often, these attractions lead to desires to be a good friend, love someone with acts of service and hospitality, and point them to Christ. These desires are not inherently disordered, and therefore do not necessarily need to be rejected altogether.

However, it becomes tricky because the sexual and non-sexual attractions are often experienced simultaneously and therefore it becomes difficult to sort out the desires that accompany them. This leaves us with two options. The first is to flee all attractions altogether and to never pursue any sort of friendship with anyone toward whom an attraction is experienced. For an SSA man, this option would put all friendships with guys in a state of flux depending on whether or not a certain type of attraction has occurred or not. This does not seem preferable.

In Community, with Prayer, by the Spirit

The alternative would be to prayerfully sort through the types of attractions and accompanying desires, and to deal with them accordingly. Whenever a sexual desire is experienced, kill it as fast as possible. But when a non-sexual attraction leads to a good, God-glorifying desire toward intimate friendship and service, there is the potential to proceed in a wholesome way.

This is important because oftentimes when those of us who struggle with SSA hear people tell us to fight all of our attractions, it feels like a death sentence of loneliness, void of any real intimacy. However, if we began to talk about orientation in the above terms, this would not be the case.

Yes, it will require wisdom, prayer, and careful distinctions. But we can’t afford oversimplifications in this discussion. The stakes are simply too high.

We’re ALL Sexually Broken

SOURCE:  Bob Lepine/Family Life

[This is the second article in a three-part series on God’s design for sexuality. Click here to read part one, and click here to read part three.]

I was born in 1956, two days after Elvis recorded “Heartbreak Hotel” in Nashville.  By the time I became a teenager, America had experienced a huge cultural revolution.  That revolution affected fashion, hairstyles, and the music we listened to.  But maybe the most significant aspect of that cultural revolution was the impact it had on how we look at sex and morality.

Teenagers in the ’60s had a sure way to know if something was right or wrong: If their parents were for it, it was wrong. My generation saw life differently. We believed that we knew better than our parents about life.

Sexual sin was not new in the ’60s. People have been sinning with their bodies since the beginning of time.  What was new a generation ago was that we didn’t call it sin anymore. All of a sudden there were no taboos. Suddenly, the idea that sex before marriage or sex outside of marriage was wrong started to evaporate. Sex anytime was groovy; it was natural.  If you can’t be with the one you love, we were told, love the one you’re with.

Several decades have passed since the sexual revolution. We now live in a culture where sexual sin is celebrated. It’s normalized. It’s made to look attractive and glamorous. The temptation to sexual sin is more intense than it’s ever been. It is more constant. It’s more accessible than ever. All around you are people—even Christians—who are disregarding God’s design for sexual purity.

The culture tells us that we should be liberated and free about sexuality—that those who follow biblical standards are uptight and repressed.  You may think, “I don’t want to be repressed. Why should I obey God in this area?”

Here’s why:  Because God, who created you, has designed sex as a good gift and a blessing if you enjoy it as He intended.

When you pull sex out of its original design, you will do damage to your soul.  It will degrade you, it will cheapen you, it will wound you.  It will rob you of a sense of who you are.

Naked and unashamed

In the first article of this series, I looked at the creation account in Genesis and what it tells us about God’s purposes for marriage and sexuality.  Genesis 2 ends with a glorious declaration that the husband and wife come together and become one flesh.  Then it says, “The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”  The man and woman were transparent with each other and with God; they felt safe and protected.  Nothing was broken. Yet.

But look what happens in Genesis 3, as the man and the woman succumb to the serpent’s temptation and declare their independence from God: “Then the eyes of both were opened and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (verse 7).

What God had brought together—the pinnacle of His creative work—joining the man and the woman together in marriage and uniting them in one flesh—now began to unravel. Suddenly there was shame, and the shame was directly related to their sexuality in their marital union.

It’s important for us to recognize that our enemy’s first point of attack was the marriage of Adam and Eve.  He divided them, and the first thing they realized after their rebellion was that what God had made perfect had now become damaged.

Usually we call this story the “the fall.”  I think the term is too passive.  Adam and Eve did more than fall.  They rebelled.  They committed divine treason. They declared their independence and rejected their Creator.

And here is what we need to understand: This rebellion continues to have an impact on all of creation. It has left every human being broken. And that brokenness has affected every aspect of creation, including our sexuality.

Here’s the bottom line: Because of our rebellion against God, all of us have some type of disordered and ungodly sexual desire.

All in the same boat

Before sin came into the world, there was no lust. Adam never lusted. There was no adultery. There was no fornication. There was no pornography. There was no homosexuality.  But when sin came into the world, sex was broken.

Your disordered sexual desire may be different than mine, but we’re all in the same boat.  Sexual brokenness may manifest itself as sexual selfishness, where sex is used as a way to control or manipulate someone else. It may be sexual indifference in marriage—a lack of desire to be intimate with the spouse God has given you.  It can be the desire to watch movies or television shows that stir up lustful, sexual passion inside of you. These are all ways that broken people demonstrate their ongoing rebellion against God’s design for human sexuality.

Men and women who continually seek sexual conquest are manifesting their sexual brokenness and rebellion.  We see it in solo sex, in the widespread use of pornography, and in any variety of sexual addictions, or anonymous sex, or homosexuality, or other activities that reveal just how deeply broken and rebellious we are in this area.

Any time you engage in any kind of passion-stirring sexual behavior outside of marriage, you are declaring to God that you are going your own way.  God tells us, “Look, I’ve got a gift for you. But it is a good gift only within these boundaries.”  But we say, “No, I want to use it over here!”  What we’re really saying to God is, “I know better than You.”

If it’s broken, can we fix it?

There are three important points to understand here:

First, just because sexual brokenness is part of our fallen nature, this does not give us an excuse for engaging in sinful behavior.  You can’t say, “I’m broken in this area, so I’m not responsible.”  As with any other sinful behavior, we have a choice about our actions.

Second, we can’t “fix” our brokenness on our own.  Healing can only occur through the saving grace of Christ.  Forgiveness and salvation are possible only through Him.  Only He can cure our rebellious nature.

Finally, as we live daily with sexual brokenness, we must keep short accounts with God and repeatedly repent of sin and reaffirm our belief in the gospel.  First John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  This is not a one-time cleansing; because we sin regularly, we must repent regularly.

The longing of your soul

Our souls crave the intimacy and the rightness of the sexual experience God created us for, but we settle for cheap substitutes. And in the end those substitutes always disappoint, because they fall short of what God intended.

What’s most important is being in a right relationship with God, where He satisfies the longing of our souls, and provides the sanctifying grace that we need.  Only as we yield to Him and trust Him will we recognize the goodness of His gift of sex.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

This article is adapted from a message Bob Lepine delivered at Redeemer Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. 

Homosexuality: The REAL Issue is Holiness

SOURCE:  Desiring God

Same-Sex Attraction and the Wait for Change

Few concepts are more foreign to our culture than waiting. Now you can take a picture of a check with your phone and deposit it instantly into your bank account without even leaving your Lay-Z-Boy. “Instant,” it seems, has become the new “relatively quick.”

This has been highlighted in my own life as I have wrestled with the issue of change in regard to my same-sex attraction (SSA). When I began counseling several years ago, I thought that if I followed a set of prescribed steps, then my attractions would switch from males to females. However, after seven months of hard work, I began to become disillusioned and depressed because that didn’t happen. Why wasn’t change happening like I thought it would?

Then one day it hit me. I realized that heterosexuality is not my ultimate goal — holiness is. And my holiness is not ultimately contingent on the reversal of my attractions. Once this became clear, I began to view change differently.

Change Not Promised

The reversal of my orientation is a type of change that is not guaranteed in this life. God never promised me that he would remove my SSA. I am reminded of Paul praying three times to the Lord in 2 Corinthians 12 that the thorn in his flesh would be taken away. And what did God say? “My grace is enough” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God decides which thorns stay and which thorns he will remove, for his glory. Even though SSA is a particularly painful thorn to bear, I have no guarantee one way or the other.

In fact, promising orientation change can be quite harmful. In reality, there is no set of prescribed steps that will definitively lead to a reversal in attraction, and this type of thinking can make orientation change into an idol that must be achieved or all is lost. If my hope rested in becoming straight, then I would have no ground for hope at all.

This Change Guaranteed

However, make no mistake, change is guaranteed. What happens when I dethrone heterosexuality as my ultimate goal and replace it with holiness? What happens when I cling to Jesus, trust the promises in his word, and fight the fight of faith by his Spirit? I change! This (often painfully) slow process is called sanctification, and sanctification is a type of change that is inevitable for all true Christians.

And here’s the thing: my sanctification here on earth may or may not include a change in my attractions. In conforming me into the image of Christ, God may see fit to leave my orientation unchanged until the day I die, for the purpose of my ultimate holiness. My SSA might be one of the “thorns” that he leaves to increase my faith and display his power and grace in my life.

Groaning, Waiting, Hoping

This is where waiting comes in. I want to be “fixed” now, to stop warring against my flesh and become like Christ. The waiting is so hard! Thankfully, the Bible tells me how to deal with the waiting. As I experience the groanings in this body, I have great grounds for hope.

I hope in my full, final, ultimate adoption as a son of God, which will include the redemption of my body (Romans 8:23). And I need to hope because it isn’t here yet. After all, “hope that is seen [present right now, immediately, instantly) is no hope at all. For who hopes for what he sees?” (Romans 8:24).

Indeed, instead of “fix me now,” the Bible gives me this: “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:25). No matter how acutely I feel the brokenness of my body, and my already-but-not-yet adoption as a son of God through Christ, I must wait for my full redemption with patience — even when I can deposit a check from my La-Z-Boy.

In discussing the hollow promise of orientation change, Wesley Hill, who experiences SSA, says this: “Suffice it to say, I think the real spiritual and theological danger of this kind of ‘victorious Christian living’ talk is an avoidance of the ‘state of being on the way.’ It’s an expectation that the kingdom of God should be here fully now, without our having to endure its slow, mysterious, paradoxical unfolding until the return of Christ.”

So instead of snapping a picture of my check, I need to be content with being in the car “on the way” to the bank.

Worth the Wait

Believe me, it is really hard. But the reality is that “on the way” is where I experience God. For now, it’s in the pain and the groaning and the fighting for contentment that God reveals himself, and changes me, and strips away my idols, and gives me more of him, and prepares me for an eternity of enjoying him without the pain.

It’s on the ride in the car that I see the beautiful countryside, and the majestic mountains, and the stunning sunset that I wouldn’t have seen if I were magically transported to my final destination, breathtaking as that final destination will be. The waiting is where I am sanctified, conformed into the image of Jesus, and readied for delighting in him when I see him face to face (2 Corinthians 3:18).

My orientation may not change in this life, but complete sanctification is coming (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24). It isn’t here yet. But that, I think, I can wait for.

Homosexuality: What Do We Mean When We Talk About Change?

SOURCE:  Jeff Johnston/CitizenLink

[The Counseling Moment Editor’s Note:  This article was originally published on 13 June 2008.]

Freedom from Male Homosexuality

Over 30 years ago, Exodus International was formed as a coalition of Christian ministries proclaiming freedom for men and women struggling with homosexuality. Slowly Exodus grew and was joined by other groups that were formed to help people steward their sexuality and behavior according to God’s created intent, including Homosexuals Anonymous, Courage (Roman Catholic), NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality), JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality), Evergreen (Mormon) and others. As individuals in these groups shared their personal stories of change, churches, denominations and other ministries – such as Focus on the Family – came alongside, and the news of “change” for those with same-sex attractions was broadcast more widely.

Both inside and outside these organizations, there was – and continues to be – much discussion about what “change” means. Does it mean that someone who has experienced same-sex attractions never has these feelings or temptations again? Does change just mean that a person only changes his or her behavior? Does change mean that a person shifts from same-sex attractions to opposite-sex attractions? Or are those who claim to have changed simply suppressing these feelings and living in self-denial? And how does one measure change?

This article attempts to articulate some answers to these important questions – both for those who struggle with same-sex attractions and for those who want to know more about the very real changes that God can bring into a person’s life. It will focus on the issue of male homosexuality – realizing that men and women are very different and that lesbianism differs from male homosexuality in significant ways, including how the change process often transpires. The insights I offer come from the combination of my own personal experience with change in the arena of same-sex attractions and over fifteen years of ministry experience helping others who seek to steward their sexuality in accordance with their ethical and moral values.

Male homosexuality is like any other sexual sin or temptation that a person may struggle with. Given that God works with us as individuals, there is no “formula” for the change process, nor is there typically instant freedom. Not surprisingly, each person’s path to liberty will be different.

Moreover, same-sex attractions do not change by direct action against them. In other words, they don’t go away just because a person “tries really hard” not to have them or “prays really hard” that they’ll go away. This is because same-sex attractions are almost invariably rooted in deeper issues – developing over time as a person grows up and including profound aspects of the person’s body, mind, spirit and heart. Thus, given that humans are complex beings – and human sexuality is especially complex – dealing with same-sex attraction is usually not a simple or easy undertaking.

The good news is that homosexual attractions and temptations do change, dissipate and even disappear for many men – as they cooperate with God in the process of becoming more like Jesus. However, there are a number of aspects to the process of change, and it will look different for everybody, with no guarantee that one’s homosexual attractions will completely transform into exclusive heterosexual attractions. This reality should not be surprising to Christians given that Scripture teaches that all believers will continue to experience struggles and temptations throughout the course of their lives – the ongoing battle between the sin nature described as the “old man” and the “new man” that we are in Christ.

Having said this, here are some areas where change has happened for many:

Change in behavior

For many men, this is of paramount concern. Some homosexual strugglers have struggled with fantasy, looking at pornography, masturbation and/or sexual activity with people of the same sex for years. Each time a person behaves in these ways, thoughts, feelings and actions are rehearsed in the body and in the brain. And these thoughts, feelings, and actions become more ingrained, more habitual. An individual might have dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of these experiences. Changing behavior is never easy – and requires time, effort, motivation, support from friends and family, and the empowerment of God’s Holy Spirit. It also takes replacing old habits with new ones. Recall that the Apostle Paul repeatedly calls us to “put off” the old and “put on” the new. While some pro-gay activists scoff at behavior change, men seeking to follow Christ know that these efforts – though difficult – can be real and significant. (1)

Change in motivation

It takes strong motivation to change. Many men are initially motivated to seek change from homosexuality by fear, shame or guilt.  Others are motivated by the desire for marriage and family, the desire to follow what the Bible says about God’s design for us, or the desire to follow the Church’s teaching. Some are motivated by dissatisfaction with their gay relationships and experiences. Others are motivated by love for truth or love for God. While conviction about sin is good, self-loathing and immobilizing shame are not. Shifting to positive, productive motivations is a big change for many men. The stronger the motivation and the deeper the commitment, the more likely that change will take place. God is powerful enough to change our sinful and self-centered desires, to give us the motivation to change, and to empower our wills to stay committed to Him.  Over time, and especially as we learn to receive God’s grace, many men notice a significant change in their motivations – from initial fear and shame to a love for God and desire to follow Him.  (2)

Change in identity

Many people believe that they were born gay – that being gay is the essence of who they are. This is what is known as the “essentialist” view of the origins of same-sex attractions. In contrast to this worldly view on sexuality, the Bible says that we humans are made male and female in the image of God – reflecting a heterosexual intent in our design – and that homosexual temptations do not define anyone. Thus informed by Scripture, the man who wants to change will start thinking about himself differently – as part of fallen humanity, as a sinner in need of a Savior, as a redeemed child of God, as a man.  He will ask God to change his self-image, from the world’s view to a biblical view. Homosexual strugglers are not a separate class or essence of humanity, and the man who seeks change will stop thinking of himself as essentially different from other men. He must embrace healthy, God-given and God-ordained sexual identity and masculinity.

Homosexuals Anonymous (HA) is a Christ-centered fourteen-step program that illustrates this shift in identity that must take place. It is different from many other “step” programs in that the struggler does not identify himself by his sin. Here’s how HA articulates change in identity in steps five and six: “We came to perceive that we had accepted a lie about ourselves, an illusion that had trapped us in a false identity. We learned to claim our true reality that as humankind, we are part of God’s heterosexual creation and that God calls us to rediscover that identity in Him through Jesus Christ, as our faith perceives Him.” (3)  Many men who come out of homosexuality do not think of themselves as “gay” or even “ex-gay” any more.  They are sons, fathers, friends, husbands – men.

Change in attitude

Men who struggle with homosexual behavior often feel victimized and rejected. This may have been true. But the gospel calls us to forgive and to release others from our judgment. The struggler often needs to feel the pain and hurt of wounds from the past, and then learn to give that pain and wounding to Jesus, who bore our grief and wounds on the cross. We either let Christ carry our grief and wounding, or we continue to carry them ourselves. Here, God also empowers us to live with a positive attitude:  not complaining, but giving thanks; not bitter, but loving; not angry, but forgiving; not grumbling, but praising. Cultivating these attitudes takes time, confession, prayer, effort, help from God, and help from others – including pastoral or professional counseling.  While this healing process can be very challenging to walk through, the end result can be joy, growth, and new life. (4)

Change in relationships with men and women

Anyone who struggles with same-sex attractions will have to examine his relationships. This kind of thoughtful moral inventory will often involve confession and the willingness to grow, mature and cultivate new actions. Here are a few of the relational sins – often connected with the homosexual struggle – where God will empower change:

Lust – desiring to use another man for one’s own pleasure and fulfillment;
Envy – wanting to own another’s masculinity, wanting to possess another person’s attributes;
Contempt – looking down on “straight” men or women, despising men who are unattractive, old, or effeminate, or fearing and hating women;
Control – wanting to control another’s behavior, affections, time, or thoughts; and,
Lying – not telling the truth about what one thinks or feels in order to maintain a relationship, not being honest about thoughts, feelings, behaviors or attitudes.

A man wrestling with homosexuality must also begin to develop healthy, non-sexual relationships with other men in the Body of Christ – learning to be a man amongst men. Specifically, learning to navigate uncomfortable or challenging situations in relationships is significant. And developing healthy relationships and good relational skills will often help same-sex attractions dissipate or lessen their impact and control over a person. God uses relationships in the Church to bring transformation, growth and healing.

Change in relationship with God

God longs to be in a deep relationship with each of us. But many of us view God as distant, angry, uninvolved or uncaring. We often don’t know how to connect with Him or how to hear the leading of His voice. Part of the Christian journey involves learning how to strip away the barriers to connecting with God. False beliefs about God must be identified and confessed, and we must be open to experiencing His love and grace. Men struggling with same-sex attractions often have deep hurts and wounds. Coming to God as a loving Father allows Him to begin to bring healing to those hurts and wounds – in His time and in His way.

Change in homosexual attractions

For many, same-sex attractions do change dramatically, and attractions for women develop. In his book, Desires in Conflict, Joe Dallas describes the reasonable expectations that many have experienced:

o change in behavior;
o change in frequency of homosexual attractions;
o change in intensity of homosexual attractions; and,
o change in perspective – homosexuality is no longer a life-consuming or dominating issue.

He goes on to write that many men also move into healthy other-sex relating.  (5)  Although not everyone experiences this type of change, it doesn’t mean that it can not happen or hasn’t happened for many. There are myriad testimonies of men who have moved out of homosexual behavior and into healthy God-honoring heterosexual relationships.  (6)

Many men – myself included – have struggled with same-sex attractions and, through relationship with Jesus Christ, have found release and freedom from these attractions.  Paul writes to the Corinthians to remind them that some of them used to be caught in homosexual behavior, but that they have been washed – cleansed and forgiven of past sins; sanctified – cooperating with God in the transformation process; and justified – no longer under condemnation for sin (I Cor. 6:9-11). And just as the men of Corinth found freedom from homosexuality, so, too, are many men today finding freedom and lasting change in their lives.

Living in line with God’s standards is not necessarily easy. But it is immensely fulfilling and brings great rewards. Frederica Matthewes-Green, author and commentator, reminds the church to intercede on behalf of those struggling with same-sex attractions. She writes:

Those who struggle with such passions need our prayers. For some, persistence and prayer will lead to reorientation, while for others, there will be the difficult lifelong discipline of celibacy. As tough as this sounds, it’s not impossible, and it’s not unusual. Christianity has always required celibacy of unmarried heterosexual believers, which all of us were at some point and many of us may be again. This isn’t something we demand of homosexuals without being willing to shoulder the burden ourselves. On the path of celibacy homosexuals will find a crowd of heterosexuals going back two thousand years:  never-married Christians, those widowed or divorced, those caring for seriously ill spouses. We know it’s tough, and we know where to find help:  sixteen hundred years ago St. John Chrysostom wrote, “Even if lust makes imperious demands, if you occupy its territory with the fear of God, you have stayed its frenzy.” (7)

[Jeff Johnston is a research analyst for CitizenLink, an affiliate of Focus on the Family. ]

Endnotes:

(1) See, for example, Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart, NavPress, 2002, and Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, Baker Books, 1996.

(2) See Joe Dallas, Desires in Conflict, Harvest House, 2003.

(3) http://www.ha-fs.org/The_14_Steps

(4) See, for example, Leanne Payne, The Broken Image, Baker BookHouse, 1981, andRestoring the Christian Soul, Baker BookHouse, 1991.

(5) Ibid, chapter 2.

(6) See the Exodus web site, Real Stories – Men, http://exodus.to/content/blogcategory/20/149/ andhttp://www.stonewallrevisited.com/menus/pages.html for some encouraging examples.

(7) “Facing the Homosexual Void,” Touchstone, July/August, 1998,http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=11-04-029-f

How Should We Respond to Those Struggling With Homosexuality?

SOURCE:  RICHIE HUGHES/Charisma Magazine

When my brother—a fifth-generation preacher’s son—came out of the closet, I encountered one of the church’s biggest dilemmas of our time: How should we
respond to those who struggle with homosexuality?

The day was supposed to be the greatest of my life. I was 29, getting married and had arrived at a local eatery to meet my brother, Eddie, and ask him to be my best man. I couldn’t wait to see his reaction when I invited him to be the most important person in my wedding other than my incredible bride-to-be.

His reply changed my life forever. Thankfully he didn’t decline with a “No.” But neither was his answer a hearty, “Oh, yeah! Congratulations, bro!” Instead, my only brother’s reply was a tearful, “Richie … I’m gay.”

What? That definitely wasn’t the response I expected. My thoughts raced: That’s simply not possible! No way! How could a family like ours, so deeply rooted in church, have a member who isn’t following suit, who isn’t living the same lifestyle we’ve always lived?

You see, I’m a fifth-generation ordained minister. In my family, leading churches and doing ministry is a part of our heritage. But in a split second, one of the biggest issues of our time had hit home (literally) for my family and me. This person—my brother—became what many other Christians thought of as our dirty little secret.

Looking back to that moment 10 years ago, it’s easy to see that a lot has changed in the way society views homosexuality. States have legalized gay marriage. It seems that in every election this issue is on the ballot in California and other states, and probably will be until same-sex marriage is fully legalized.

But a decade ago, things were different. Through his series of poor choices, Eddie eventually contracted AIDS. When I learned about his condition, I was confident there would be a medical solution.

This is the 21st century, I thought. Unlike 20 or so years ago, there are medications that help control the virus now. My brother can live a productive life, and all should be great. Right?

It didn’t happen that way for my family.

A Dream Comes True

Fortunately, Eddie was welcomed into the L.A. Dream Center. Matthew Barnett, the center’s pastor, and his team ministered to him in a way he had never seen before. The Dream Center staff loved him, celebrated his creativity and didn’t judge him. My brother experienced the love of Jesus and, as a result, accepted His grace and forgiveness.

I’ll never forget his phone calls. He’d say: “Richie, God is so awesome. He doesn’t care what I’ve done. He loves me just the way I am.”

You see, it took a church—a group of Christians who loved Eddie just the way he was—to reach him for Jesus. The Dream Center team did not tell him: “Clean yourself up. Stop doing this and never say that or go there again, and we might let you come to our church.”

No, they said: “Come as you are. You are welcomed, loved and celebrated here.” My brother saw Christ in the people of that church. But I don’t think he would have seen Him at every church. (Would he have seen Him at yours?)

Church Attitudes 

Because my family had never discussed AIDS or thought it would touch us directly, and because I’d never been part of a small group at church where it was addressed, I was totally unequipped to deal with it.

How about you? Would you be ready for it? How about your church? Is homosexuality discussed openly? Most churches overlook it or ignore it. Worse, they are afraid to make an effort to understand how we should love others as God has commanded.

Wouldn’t God want us to pursue the gay community like we would any other people group? Wouldn’t He want us to go after them for Jesus with the same tenacity we pursue the family units we perceive are perfectly intact and capable of raising our churches’ monthly giving?

We should lead the way in welcoming gay attendees into the faith. We should assist them in their journey with God and in pursuing Him more deeply.

During my time as the executive pastor of Free Chapel in Orange Co., Calif., I vividly remember the debates and friction caused by Proposition 8 (the state’s same-sex marriage amendment). Tension in and out of the churches in California was at an all-time high.

Our strategy at Free Chapel for diffusing the tension was to invite and welcome homosexuals into our church body. Many ministries joined together and strategized on how to reach out to this community in love, while others regretfully chose the other path of exclusion.

This issue and so many others can be summed up like this: Until something attacks your family, it isn’t likely to be at the forefront of your concerns. But when it does, then it becomes real in your life, and your opinion about it changes.

How Did Our Story End?

My family lived through this HIV attack on my brother. We watched an incredibly talented and intelligent young man lose the physical battle. My brother passed away as a result of HIV at age 28.

My perspective toward the gay community was changed by my undying love for my brother. His life and struggles taught me to love in ways I never knew before.

Do I have any doubt about his eternity? No. One choice secured his eternity in Christ and removed past transgressions, just like it has for me—the guy who has just written a Christian inspirational book, who blogs and who stands in the pulpit of a great church on Sundays.

God doesn’t play favorites, and we can’t earn His favor with our good deeds. Since God is “no respecter of persons” (see Acts 10:34-35), my brother and I will one day reunite with my sister, who also passed away at much too early an age. My brother was gloriously saved, and through his life we’ve learned more about the Father’s love.

I have so much respect for the way Eddie lived his final months just waiting to meet his Savior face to face. He lived in almost total seclusion his last few months. It was his way of resisting the temptations that were on the other side of his apartment door. His flesh wasn’t strong enough to be out in public without wanting to participate in some of the things that took his life, so he stayed indoors and protected his eternity. How many of us could do the same to avoid our area of temptation?

What We Must Do

Chances are, you or someone close to you has a loved one who is living a homosexual life. God wants you to love them unconditionally. Here are three simple ways we all can do this.

1. Show them Jesus. Please love them, welcome them and minister to them. A church and its people “loved” my brother back into a relationship with Jesus that ultimately secured his destiny into heaven!

2. Get real about sin. Let’s realize that we all have a natural inclination to certain things that challenge our walk with God. On the sin scale, is homosexual fornication different than heterosexual fornication? No. Yet do we condone heterosexual fornication more readily than homosexual fornication? I would say most of us do. Sin is sin, wrong is wrong, and any sin breaks God’s heart.

3. Pour on the grace. Make no mistake; we are to follow the Bible in its entirety. The instruction manual is clear, and we are to resist all temptations. But we all fall from time to time (see 1 John 2:1-2). Even though Peter denied Christ three times (and yes, he walked on water with Jesus), he was not disqualified from a wonderful purpose. It was Peter who was used to preach on the day of Pentecost. God gave him a place to fit in.

My plea to the body of Christ is before you judge or form an opinion, before you shun or disqualify one of God’s own children, think about this: Where would this person fit in to Jesus’ group?

I’ve served as a church leader at many churches and heard every reason for why “We can’t let this or that happen, pastor!” But I know this as Eddie’s brother: If we had created a place for him to serve, to use his gifts and talents, and to be celebrated, he might still be with us today. Just maybe part of God’s plan for my brother was to open our eyes to his dilemma.

When looking at the gay and lesbian community, there are many factors that churches and organizations should research and understand. But when it’s all said and done, I hope our conclusion is one of love, compassion and an attempt to show Jesus to any and all who are outside the body of Christ, for any reason.

We must go after the Eddies of the world for Jesus. In doing so I believe we can make a difference to a community of people—and make them God’s people.


Richie Hughes is an agent/manager for authors and music artists, and an in-demand speaker for churches and businesses. He is the former executive pastor of Free Chapel church, pastored by Jentezen Franklin. His latest book, Start Here, Go Anywhere, released in August. For more information, visit richiehughes.org.

Focus on the Family: Homosexuality/Same-Sex Attraction Issues

SOURCE:   Focus on the Family Issue Analysts

Counseling for Unwanted Same-Sex Attractions

In recent years, there has been a marked debate in the mental health professions about both the desirability and feasibility of attempts to alter a person’s homosexual orientation. Historically, such “change” was widely considered both desirable and possible.

More recently, however, an increasing number of mental health practitioners now believe that a homosexual orientation is an intrinsic part of a person’s identity that can not – and should not – be changed. It is in this largely politically driven context – in contrast to a more objectively scientific or even scriptural context – that many clinicians further hold that any and all therapy practices that have as their goal sexual orientation change are harmful and should be declared professionally unethical.

Copyright © 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

 Cause for Concern (Same-Sex Counseling)

Many who experience homosexual temptations and impulses are responding to the Gospel message that unwanted same-sex attractions can be overcome.

Bowing to the forces of political correctness, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 1998 issued a position statement “rebuking” practices that are broadly referred to as “reparative therapy” for homosexuality. In 2000, the APA affirmed this opposition to psychiatric treatment of reparative or conversion therapy. 1Holding the view that homosexuality is a normal variant of human sexuality, their concern was with groups who were motivated by the view that homosexuality is morally wrong and harmful to society. While the 1998 statement said that there are risks to such therapies, no evidence was offered to support this claim.

What is evident, however, is that the American Psychiatric Association was simply agreeing with pro-homosexual activists and with the American Psychological Association, which had passed a similar, but broader, resolution in 1997. Here, the American Psychological Association claimed that treatment for unwanted homosexual behavior is harmful, unethical and unsuccessful. 2Of note, this resolution also supports the client’s right to self-determination and autonomy – calling for psychologists to “respect the rights of others to hold values, attitudes and opinions that differ from their own.” Clearly, this would include religious beliefs upholding the biblical view that God’s created intent for sexual expression is limited to a monogamous, covenantal marriage relationship between one man and one woman.

Significantly, both groups ignored the fact that many individuals who experience same-sex attractions are dissatisfied with the situation and seek professional help in aligning their thoughts and behaviors with their convictions and faith. In short, many who experience homosexual temptations and impulses are responding to the Gospel message that unwanted same-sex attractions can be overcome. And as they seek pastoral and professional psychological counseling, they find that change and transformation are, indeed, possible.

Copyright © 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.


1Therapies Focused on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation (Reparative or Conversion Therapies) POSITION STATEMENT, May 2000,http://www.psych.org/Departments/EDU/Library/APAOfficialDocumentsandRelated/PositionStatements/200001a.aspx, August 20, 2008.

2Resolution on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, APA online, 14 August 1997, http://www.apa.org/pi/sexual.html , August 20, 2008.

Our Position (Same-Sex Counseling)

Focus on the Family is dedicated to defending the honor, dignity and value of the two sexes as created in God’s image.
  • Focus on the Family is dedicated to defending the honor, dignity and value of the two sexes as created in God’s image – intentionally male and female – each bringing unique and complementary qualities to sexuality and relationships.
  • Sexuality is a glorious gift from God – meant to be offered back to Him either in marriage for procreation, union and mutual delight or in celibacy for undivided devotion to Christ. 1
  • Homosexual behavior violates God’s intentional design for gender and sexuality.
  • While we do not believe an individual typically “chooses” his or her same sex-attractions, we do believe that those who struggle with unwanted same-sex sexual temptation can choose to steward their impulses in a way that aligns with their faith convictions.
  • We affirm the Scriptural teaching that homosexuals can and do change their sexual identity (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
  • We support counseling and the availability of professional therapy options for unwanted homosexual attractions and behavior.
  • We do not endorse or promote any one particular religious, psychiatric or psychological approach as the “one and only” way to go about changing same-sex attractions and behaviors.
  • Just as there are many paths that may lead a person to experience same-sex attractions, there are likewise multiple ways out. Thus, individuals and their helping professionals are called to discern and pursue the most appropriate approach that best enables them to steward their sexuality in alignment with their chosen values.

Copyright © 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.


1Focus on the Family Mission and Vision, The Pillars,http://www.family.org/sharedassets/correspondence/pdfs/GeneralInformation/FOF_Mission_Statement_and_Pillars.pdf, August 20, 2008

 Talking Points (Same-Sex Counseling)

 Both the American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association call for practitioners to respect the religious and spiritual values of their clients and assert that clients have the right to autonomy and self determination. 1At the same time, however, both groups view the traditional biblical understanding on homosexuality with disdain and actively promote a sexual ethic opposing biblical orthodoxy. The American Psychiatric Association goes so far as to take sides in the theological debate by referencing pro-gay, biblically unorthodox, revisionist writers in its document. 2

  • The resolution by the American Psychological Association also calls into question parental rights to raise children according to their own standards – including those who encourage their children to follow a traditional biblical sexual ethic.
  • Research confirms that permanent change away from a homosexual orientation is, indeed, possible.
  • In 2007, Drs. Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse published a study confirming that long-term change away from homosexual orientation can occur through religious mediation. At the end of three years, 67 percent of men and women who had undergone group discussions, individual counseling, journaling, Scripture reading and prayer either reported a change towards heterosexual orientation or a rejection of gay identity with establishment of successful chastity, or were continuing work towards one of those two goals based on the progress they had already experienced.3
  • In 2003, pro-gay Dr. Robert Spitzer published his study of 200 men and women who had reported some change “from homosexual to heterosexual orientation that lasted at least five years.” He found that “almost all of the participants reported substantial changes in the core aspects (of) sexual orientation, not merely overt behavior.” 4
  • A major study, released in 1997, of almost 860 individuals and more than 200 psychologists and therapists who treated clients with same-sex attractions, reported that a large number had moved away from homosexual attractions, identity and behavior. 5
  • There is no valid or replicable research demonstrating the inevitability of homosexual behavior based on biological or genetic circumstances. 6
  • Not only does research confirm that permanent change is possible, but numerous testimonies declare the truth of God’s healing and redemptive power – both with and without the assistance of those in the psychiatric and psychological professions. The Apostle Paul noted the reality of change for some members of the early church in Corinth, and men and women continue to find freedom from homosexuality today. 7
  • While the process of changing one’s sexual identity is often a long and difficult journey, it is nevertheless possible for highly motivated individuals.
  • In contrast to the claims of both APAs, competent religiously mediated counseling for unwanted same-sex attraction was found not to be harmful on average, and hence the change attempt is not inherently harmful. 8
  • In America, individuals are blessed with the freedom to choose how they define themselves and to steward their sexuality as they see fit. If people want to change their sexual identity, it is their right to choose.
  • The American Psychiatric Association’s “rebuke” in 1998 of “reparative therapy” and the resolution adopted by the American Psychological Association are not – nor have they ever been – official ethical bans on therapeutic approaches to bring behavior, attractions, and identity in line with a person’s values. Individuals continue to have a right to choose counseling and therapy to help align their thoughts and behavior with their convictions and faith.

Copyright © 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.


1Religious/Spiritual Commitments and Psychiatric Practice, RESOURCE DOCUMENT, December 2006,http://www.psych.org/Departments/EDU/Library/APAOfficialDocumentsandRelated/ResourceDocuments/200604.aspx, August 20, 2008; Resolution on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, APA online, and http://www.apa.org/topics/sexuality/index.aspx, section heading ‘What about therapy intended to change sexual orientation from gay to straight?” Here, the APA says “Mental health professional organizations call on their members to respect a person’s (client’s) right to self-determination;…”

2Therapies Focused on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation (Reparative or Conversion Therapies)
POSITION STATEMENT.

3Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse, Ex Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation, InterVarsity Press, 2007.

4Robert L. Spitzer, “Can some gay men and lesbians change their sexual orientation? 200 participants reporting a change from homosexual to heterosexual orientation,” Archives of Sexual Behavior, Oct. 2003, vol. 32, no. 5, pp. 403-417. See alsohttp://www.narth.com/docs/evidencefound.html.

5New Study Confirms Homosexuality Can Be Overcome, Findings Indicate that Those Who Want to Change Sexual Orientation Can Be Successful, May 17, 1997,http://www.narth.com/docs/study.html , August 20, 2008.

6Caleb H. Price, “Are People Really “Born Gay”? See http://www.citizenlink.com/2010/06/are-people-really-born-gay/

7I Corinthians 6:9-11; Personal Pageshttp://www.stonewallrevisited.com/, August 20, 2008; Real Stories, http://exodusinternational.org/resources/real-stories/, August 20, 2008.

8Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse, Ex Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation, InterVarsity Press, 2007.

Homosexuality: Tammy’s Story (5)

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Lee/Tammy Webb-Witholt

“But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves. These are the God-begotten, not blood-begotten, not flesh-begotten, not sex-begotten.” John 1:12-13 MSG

Tammy learned that the very essence of who she is depends on whose she is: “One lesson I’ve learned is that the reality of Jesus in us and our life in him defines us and gives our life purpose. I eventually came to the place where I decided, ‘Perhaps I can trust the Lord with my wounded and bruised heart. Perhaps I don’t have to depend on my own limited understanding. Maybe I really can follow God’s path.’

“It wasn’t easy to release the parts of myself that had made me feel secure for so long. I’d invested much time and energy validating my ‘gay identity.’ Leaving the culture of friends who had affirmed me as a person with same-sex attractions was very difficult. Even after committing to follow Christ, I found it hard to grasp the truth of my new identity. But when I did, my life changed radically and I discovered the very essence of who I am is dependent on whose I am.

I am the workmanship of God. He is trustworthy and his unconditional love empowers me to become who he created me to be.”

“If you are struggling with homosexuality, I urge you to seek Jesus. He loves you and will meet you right where you are.”

Have you received Jesus as your savior? If you have, your new identity is child of God. You are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and you can do all things through him. God has a plan for your life—and it is a good plan. As you trust him, he will help you become all the wonderful things he has designed you to be.

If you’ve not yet received Jesus, you can do so right now. Do you believe that he is the Son of God and that he died on the cross for your sins? Are you ready to receive the gift of life he offers you? Do you want to commit to following him? Just share your heart with him. He loves you and will meet you right where you are.

Father, I’m ready. I know now that I need you. I need your love and your forgiveness. I believe that Jesus died for my sins. Please forgive me and help me live a life dedicated to you. I truly want to be your child. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Lessons Learned: Moving from Homosexuality to Holiness by Tammy Webb-Witholt. This group study offers biblical tools, along with an abundance of hope, to anyone struggling with homosexuality.

Homosexuality: Tammy’s Story (4)

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Lee/Tammy Webb-Witholt

“Jesus told the people who had faith in him, ‘If you keep on obeying what I have said, you truly are my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 CEV

Today Tammy tells about finding her true identity: “If you had asked me if I was born gay, I would have given you a resounding ‘yes.’ I considered this as unchangeable as the fact that my hair was blond and eyes blue or that I was raised in Africa by missionary parents and lived in a boarding school from the age of seven.

“But the journey I’ve taken with God has convinced me that I was not born gay. I began to realize that although I ‘felt’ as though I was defined by my homosexuality, that was not who God created me to be. The power of God’s Holy Word and his truth supersede any false sense of identity we may possess—which is why I love his Word so much. God was not just calling me from homosexuality to heterosexuality. He was calling me to discipleship, to holiness.

“If you are on a similar journey, I encourage you not to focus on what you are leaving behind, but to focus on Jesus Christ. He loves you unconditionally. He will give you the strength you need. He has a good plan for your life and will help you become all he has designed you to be.”

Are you hiding some truth about your life—from God, from others and even from yourself? Truth is the only way to total freedom. Ask God to help you desire the truth. And then as He reveals truth to you as you pray and study the Bible, embrace it. Stop running from it. Allow God to take away your fears—and rejoice in the freedom that only he can give.

Lord, please help me know the truth about myself. Help me stop hiding behind fear, anger, rebellion, embarrassment—anything that will keep me from being honest with you, with my loved ones and with myself. Help me focus on Jesus. Help me experience the freedom that only comes with knowing the truth. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Lessons Learned: Moving from Homosexuality to Holiness by Tammy Webb-Witholt. This group study offers biblical tools, along with an abundance of hope, to anyone struggling with homosexuality.

Homosexuality: Tammy’s Story (2)

SOURCE:   Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Lee/Tammy Webb-Witholt

“Jesus replied, ‘But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” Luke 11:28 NLT


Tammy continues her testimony: “When I first made a commitment to serve Jesus, I promised to read the Bible and attend church once a week. My intention was to read scripture with an analytical eye, but soon the words came to life and penetrated my heart. I was confronted with God’s love and his call to obedience. Though I tried, I could not make the Bible say what I wanted it to say. I prayed, ‘OK, God, I still feel like a homosexual. I don’t know how to follow you in obedience. But even with my questions and my confusion, I’ll leave it all.”

“When I first came to Christ, I was obstinate and resistant to God’s will. But his grace stood patiently, hands extended in mercy and arms open wide in love. Now, with his help, I was ready to take a very difficult step of obedience.”

“That evening I ended the relationship I was in. My partner responded to my declaration by saying, ‘You can’t get out of this; no one ever gets out.’ Her words seemed like the words of a drug dealer, not a friend.”

“‘Help me, God,’ I prayed. And he did.”

Tammy couldn’t experience the power of God’s Word until she moved beyond reading it to living it. Then God gave her the strength to make some very difficult choices to walk in obedience.

Are you struggling with a problem, doing some things you know you shouldn’t, but just aren’t strong enough to do what you know is right?

Ask God to make his Word real to you. And determine in your heart that you will obey him. Once you make that choice and run to him, you will experience his love, his grace and his power in an all new way.

PRAYER….

Father, please forgive me for disobeying you. I thank you for your love and grace. Help me to make right choices. Help me to not just read the Bible, but to obey it. In Jesus’ name …

——————————————————————–


These thoughts were drawn from …

Lessons Learned: Moving from Homosexuality to Holiness by Tammy Webb-Witholt. This group study offers biblical tools, along with an abundance of hope, to anyone struggling with homosexuality.

Homosexuality: Tammy’s Story (1)

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Lee/Tammy Webb-Witholt

 

“So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:20-24 NIV

Dr. Jimmy Lee interviewed Tammy Webb-Witholt on several of our radio programs. [These] devotions are taken largely from the thoughts expressed in those interviews.

Twenty years ago, Tammy moved out of a lesbian lifestyle into a walk with God. Today she is ministering to people struggling with homosexuality and to churches who want to minister to these individuals. 

“One of the first things I learned,” began Tammy, “was that the love of my life that I had searched for so diligently could only be found in a personal relationship with Jesus.

“During my eight years in the gay world, my quest for security and lasting love became an endless cycle of relationships that I hoped would bring healing and perfect love. I proudly displayed my gay relationships to the world, but not one relationship filled the void that remained in my heart.

“Early one morning after leaving a party, I realized I had been looking in all the wrong places for love and security. When I called out to God, it seemed as though a dam broke in my heart. I confessed my sins and told God that I needed him, but he should not get his hopes up because I could not change who I was. I promised to do two things: read the Bible and attend church once a week.

“Though this was a small step toward God, he—like the father in the story of the prodigal son—ran toward me with open arms. And so began my journey from homosexuality to holiness. Along that journey, I have learned beyond a doubt that there is only one place of complete love and security—Jesus.”

Are you looking in wrong places for love and security? Perhaps you too are struggling with homosexuality. Or maybe you are looking for love and security in an unhealthy heterosexual relationship, or in striving to be a people pleaser. Tammy discovered that Jesus is the only place to find total love and security. And as she came to him in total honesty and repentance, he ran toward her with open arms.

 His open arms of love are waiting for you as well.

Prayer
Jesus, I am beginning to realize that I have been looking in all the wrong places for love and security. Please forgive me for all I have done wrong. Thank you for opening your arms of love to me. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Lessons Learned: Moving from Homosexuality to Holiness by Tammy Webb-Witholt. This group study offers biblical tools, along with an abundance of hope, to anyone struggling with homosexuality.

How Do You Relate to a Gay Family Member?

SOURCE:  John Piper/Desiring God

Is there hope for a relationship with a family member who is not a believer and is in a same-sex relationship, and who knows your Christian position?

Yes. One story went like this.

An adult sister-in-law was in a lesbian relationship and would bring her partner to all the wider family functions when she was invited. She knew her brother-in-law’s position. Not only was she sinning to be involved sexually this way, but her very soul was in danger of eternal judgment if she did not repent. She knew that’s what he thought.

At first she was very angry and, no matter how kind or gracious or caring the Christian couple tried to be, this sister-in-law saw them as homophobic and bigoted. She assumed she was not loved and let that define the relationship.

Then one day the brother-in-law asked her: Are you able to love me in spite of my views that you think are so wrong? Yes, she said. Then, why, he asked, will you not give us the same courtesy and assume that we might be able to love you in spite of your wrong views?

Remarkably, this actually made a difference. She apologized for pushing them away, and for assuming they could not love while disapproving of her ways.

Perhaps this might help others open the hearts of relatives to their genuine care.

Homosexuality and the Church’s Holy Tension

SOURCE:  Tony Reinke/Desiring God

Robert A. J. Gagnon, on the final pages of his opus, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Abingdon Press, 2001), pens important words about the challenges ahead for the church.

The core proclamation of the gospel declares that God made amends for human sin while humans were still ungodly and hostile sinners, that God experienced the pain and agony of offering Christ up to death in order to rescue the maximum number of people from sin and transform them into Christ’s image. To denounce same-sex intercourse and then stop short of actively and sacrificially reaching out in love and concern to homosexuals is to have as truncated a gospel as those who mistake God’s love for “accepting people as they are” and who avoid talk of the gospels transformative power. It is to forget the costly and self-sacrificial work of God in our own lives, past and ongoing. . . .

This book has been aimed at showing that affirming same-sex intercourse is not an act of love, however well meaning the intent. That road leads to death: physically, morally, and spiritually. Promoting the homosexual “rights” agenda is an awful and harmful waste of the church’s energies and resources.

What does constitute an act of love is befriending the homosexual while withholding approval of homosexual behavior, working in the true interests of the homosexual despite one’s personal repugnance for same-sex intercourse, pursuing in love the homosexual while bearing the abuse that will inevitably come with opposing homosexual practice. It is the harder road to travel. It is too hard for many people to live within that holy tension. Yet it is the road that leads to life and true reconciliation; it is the calling of the church in the world.

The real difficulty for the church lies not in assessing whether the Bible’s stance toward same-sex intercourse is unremittingly negative, nor even (as is increasingly being suggested) in assessing whether the hermeneutical appropriation of the Bible’s stance for our contemporary context sustains that witness. No, the real difficulty for the church lies in the pastoral dimension: the “nuts-and-bolts,” day-to-day compassionate response to people whose sexual actions are recognized to be sinful and harmful to themselves, to the church, and to society at large. (492–493)

CAN HOMOSEXUALS BE CHRISTIANS?

SOURCE:  C. Michael Patton

I have been asked this quite a few times over the years and the issue was brought up again recently. Can homosexuals be Christians?

Or, better, is there such a thing as a “homosexual Christian”?

Many would believe that someone who engages in a homosexual life style is necessarily excluded from the Kingdom of God unless they repent. Repentance here would mean a change of thinking and, shortly following, a change of action – no longer participating in this lifestyle. In other words, while some would be willing to say that a homosexual can be saved, their salvation necessitates their change of lifestyle within a short period of time.

While I agree with those who say that homosexuality is a terrible sin (Lev. 18:22, 20:13 Rom. 1:27; 1 Cor. 6:6; 1 Tim. 1:10), I do not believe it is one that is outside the realm of a believer’s carnality. Neither do I believe that if one practices homosexuality their entire life, they are necessarily excluded from the Kingdom of God. I hope people do not misunderstand my purpose here. I in no way endorse homosexual behavior or seek to relativize its standing before the Lord as an abomination. But I do think that sometimes, we who are not tempted in such a way can fail to see the seriousness of the struggle experienced by people who are tempted towards homosexuality.

Sexual sin and temptation are part of everyone’s life. We are born with a drive toward fulfillment of this God-given part of our humanity. Some will deny this drive because of God’s calling in their lives (e.g., singleness). Yet sin has corrupted this drive and we are all born infected with sin. Because of upbringing, genetics, cultural influences, and other factors, people will experience this corruption to greater and lesser degrees. I personally have never felt any inclination toward expressing my sexual corruption in a way that was focused on the same sex. Why? Not necessarily because of good choices I have made, but because the genetics, upbringing, and influences were not there. I have just never had the sinful bent within me that compels me to lust after someone of the same sex. Don’t get me wrong. I have a sinful sexual bent, but it is of the more natural kind. This does not justify it or make me more innately righteous than the homosexual, it is just a fact that this is not a sin I have ever had to deal with.

I thank God that this is the case because I know that whatever sinful bent I have, it will get the better of me at some point. It is just the way it goes, living with corruption. I also know that I will not be alleviated of my bents until the restoration of my body at the resurrection. I just have to do whatever I can to master my sinful tendencies until then. As the U2 song goes, “some days are better than others.” I can identify with sinners because I am one. I can identify with those who have a bent, because I have one (many actually). Therefore, when I see someone giving in to the bent of homosexuality, I am saddened. My heart goes out to them because their problem is essentially the same as mine. We have a corrupted nature that causes us to give in to our bents.

Now, back to the question of the hour. Can homosexuals be Christians? This is really a theological question that evidences a lack of understanding about sin and redemption. It reveals a major misconception about the nature of sin, placing homosexuality in its own category because of its depraved nature. While I do believe that homosexuality is a worse sin than many others (that is right, not all sins are equal like some would have us believe), I don’t believe that those who have that bent should be seen differently than others.

We could ask the question this way: Can people who have sinful bents be Christians? Of course. Who else can be? Christ was the only one that did not have a sinful bent. Okay then, how about this: Can people who have really bad sinful bents be Christians? Again, the only biblical answer is yes. People who have really bad sinful bents can be Christians. Really, the question that is being asked is this: Can sinners be Christians? To that, I say, is there any other kind of Christian?

Some would respond and say that while they are willing to concede that homosexuals can be Christians, they must be in the process of overcoming this sinful behavior. In other words, they must have consistent and perpetual victory over this bent. Hold on there. While I agree that homosexuals can and many times do have victory over this bent to the point where they redeem themselves completely from this lifestyle, I don’t necessarily think that this is always going to happen. I would say that in my life there are some bents I have had victory over, and some that remain as a naggingly persistent web. This web is one of deception and destruction that can easily trip us up. Listen to the writer of the book of Hebrews:

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

The writer of Hebrews says that it is “easy” to get entangled in this web. The passage warns of the ten euperistaton hamartian – literally, “the easily ensnaring sin.” I believe the primary referent for “the easily ensnaring sin” is the sin of unbelief (the subject of the book), but this sin of unbelief expresses itself in the sin of the hour. In other words, the sin of unbelief leads to our practicing our particular bent. Most importantly, it is “easy” to fall into this.

Again, while I agree that homosexuals can and should be overcoming this sin, it could be the case that they have become entangled in it. This entanglement may be the very acts of homosexuality, or it may be the plight of struggling with it until redemption. It is no different for those of us who are not bent toward a homosexual lifestyle. Some of our most serious bents may plague us, literally, until Kingdom come.

Many refer to Paul admonishing the Corinthians to look back to their victory over sin, implying that they did not practice such things any longer or were completely delivered from them. One of these sins is homosexuality.

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

While this seems straightforward upon a cursory reading, I don’t believe that it supports the case that homosexuals can’t be Christians for two primary reasons. First, the people to whom Paul was writing were sinners and were in the process of being rebuked by Paul. Notice here just three chapters back:

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:1-3).

They were fleshly. The sins described in 6:9-10 are fleshly sins. This means that the Corinthians were not necessarily doing well. Yet Paul says they were washed and sanctified. Now either Paul has a slight case of amnesia, or we have to understand 6:9-11 differently, which brings me to the second reason I believe this passage cannot be used by the person who says homosexuals cannot be Christians. Paul identifies Christians with Christ, not with their sinful disposition. In Pauline thought, people who are clothed in Christ’s righteousness are no longer named according to their sinful bent, even if that bent may continue to entangle them. The Corinthians were entangled in their bents to be sure, but Paul sees them through the righteousness of Christ. This is why Paul could say “such were some of you.” This does not make their sinfulness any less severe, but it does say that Christ’s redemption, in Pauline theology, has redeemed the sinner, though he remain in a sinning state. Those without the covering of Christ’s righteousness are still identified by their sin in the eyes of God. Therefore, in this context, it is true that fornicators, thieves, coveters, homosexuals, and all unrighteous people (those not covered by Christ’s righteousness) will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But thankfully, we have been covered by His righteousness and set apart, though we are still sinners.

One more thing. I often hear this concession: While I believe that homosexuals can be saved, they cannot believe that homosexuality is approved by God or attempt to justify their sin. I understand and agree with this to some degree, yet I still say that this is not always the case. We all have ways of justifying our bents, whatever they may be. Sometimes we minimize their seriousness, while other times we outright deny them. It is also often the case that we just do not ever deal with them. For twelve years after the resurrection of Christ, Peter continued in his belief that Jews were better than Gentiles. He lived twelve years after becoming a Christian believing that he, by virtue of being a Jew, was so much better than Gentiles that he would not even set foot in their house. Speaking to the Gentile Cornelius and his family, he said, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean” (Acts 10:28). What if Peter had died in year eleven? He would have died living his entire Christian life as a prideful racist. Racism is spoken of in the New Testament as a mark of ungodliness even more frequently than homosexuality. Therefore, while I believe that the conviction of the Holy Spirit should be there and it should change our hearts, we have this uncanny tendency to justify our sinfulness to ourselves and to others or to just ignore it.

Having said all this, we all need to recognize the utter sinfulness of sexual perversion. Homosexuality is a sin, and a terribly destructive one at that. But we need to be careful and gracious with those who struggle with this sin, understanding that the struggle against sin is the plight of us all. The solution is not for us to compromise to the politically correct agenda of our culture, which seeks to turn this sin into a perfectly acceptable lifestyle choice. But at the same time, we need to be gracious, knowing that the only hope anyone has is to be covered in Christ’s righteousness, not our own.

Can a homosexual be Christian? Yes.

All sinners can be Christians. Indeed, all Christians are sinners. Let us all view this important issue in light of a deep understanding of the plight of sinfulness and may God help us to overcome the resulting bents.

“Sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7).

The Compassion of Truth: Homosexuality in Biblical Perspective

SOURCE:   Albert Mohler

Homosexuality is perhaps the most controversial issue of debate in American culture. Once described as “the love that dares not speak its name,” homosexuality is now discussed and debated throughout American society.

Behind this discussion is an agenda, pushed and promoted by activists, who seek legitimization and social sanction for homosexual acts, relationships, and lifestyles. The push is on for homosexual “marriage,” the removal of all structures and laws considered oppressive to homosexuals, and the recognition of homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, and others as “erotic minorities,” deserving of special legal protection.

The larger culture is now bombarded with messages and images designed to portray homosexuality as a normal lifestyle. Homoerotic images are so common in the mainstream media that many citizens have virtually lost the capacity to be shocked.

Those who oppose homosexuality are depicted as narrow-minded bigots and described as “homophobic.” Anyone who suggests that heterosexual marriage is the only acceptable and legitimate arena of sexual activity is lambasted as out-dated, oppressive, and outrageously out of step with modern culture.

The church has not been an outsider to these debates. As the issue of homosexual legitimization has gained public prominence and moved forward, some churches and denominations have joined the movement–even becoming advocates of homosexuality–while others stand steadfastly opposed to compromise on the issue. In the middle are churches and denominations unable or unwilling to declare a clear conviction on homosexuality. Issues of homosexual ordination and marriage are regularly discussed in the assemblies of several denominations–and many congregations.

This debate is itself nothing less than a revolutionary development. Any fair-minded observer of American culture and the American churches must note the incredible speed with which this issue has been driven into the cultural mainstream. The challenge for the believing church now comes down to this: Do we have a distinctive message in the midst of this moral confusion?

Our answer must be Yes. The Christian church must have a distinctive message to speak to the issue of homosexuality, because faithfulness to Holy Scripture demands that we do so.

The affirmation of biblical authority is thus central to the church’s consideration of this issue–or any issue. The Bible is the Word of God in written form, inerrant and infallible, inspired by the Holy Spirit and “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” [2 Timothy 3:16]. This is the critical watershed: Those churches which reject the authority of Scripture will eventually succumb to cultural pressure and accommodate their understanding of homosexuality to the spirit of the age. Those churches that affirm, confess, and acknowledge the full authority of the Bible have no choice in this matter–we must speak a word of compassionate truth. And that compassionate truth is this: Homosexual acts are expressly and unconditionally forbidden by God through His Word, and such acts are an abomination to the Lord by His own declaration.

Professor Elizabeth Achtemeier of Richmond’s Union Theological Seminary states the case clearly: “The clearest teaching of Scripture is that God intended sexual intercourse to be limited to the marriage relationship of one man and one woman.”(1) That this is so should be apparent to all who look to the Bible for guidance on this issue. This assessment of the biblical record would have been completely uncontroversial throughout the last nineteen centuries of the Christian church. Only in recent years have some biblical scholars come forward to claim that the Bible presents a mixed message–or a very different message–on homosexuality.

The homosexual agenda is pushed by activists who are totally committed to the cause of making homosexuality a sanctioned and recognized form of sexual activity–and the basis for legitimate family relationships. Every obstacle which stands in the way of progress toward this agenda must be removed, and Scripture stands as the most formidable obstacle to that agenda.

We should not be surprised therefore that apologists for the homosexual agenda have arisen even within the world of biblical scholarship. Biblical scholars are themselves a very mixed group, with some defending the authority of Scripture and others bent on deconstructing the biblical text. The battle lines on this issue are immediately apparent. Many who deny the truthfulness, inspiration, and authority of the Bible have come to argue that Scripture sanctions homosexuality–or at least to argue that the biblical passages forbidding homosexual acts are confused, misinterpreted, or irrelevant.

To accomplish this requires feats of exotic biblical interpretation worthy of the most agile circus contortionist. Several decades ago, the late J. Gresham Machen remarked that “The Bible, with a complete abandonment of all scientific historical method, and of all common sense, is made to say the exact opposite of what it means; no Gnostic, no medieval monk with his fourfold sense of Scripture, ever produced more absurd Biblical interpretation than can be heard every Sunday in the pulpits of New York.”(2) Dr. Machen was referring to the misuse and misapplication of Scripture which he saw as a mark of the infusion of a pagan spirit within the church. Even greater absurdity than that observed by Machen is now evident among those determined to make the Bible sanction homosexuality.

Different approaches are taken toward this end. For some, an outright rejection of biblical authority is explicit. With astounding candor, William M. Kent, a member of the committee assigned by United Methodists to study homosexuality declared that “the scriptural texts in the Old and New Testaments condemning homosexual practice are neither inspired by God nor otherwise of enduring Christian value. Considered in the light of the best biblical, theological, scientific, and social knowledge, the biblical condemnation of homosexual practice is better understood as representing time and place bound cultural prejudice.”(3) This approach is the most honest taken among the revisionists. These persons do not deny that the Bible expressly forbids homosexual practices–they acknowledge that the Bible does just that. Their answer is straightforward; we must abandon the Bible in light of modern “knowledge.”

The next step taken by those who follow this approach is to suggest that it is not sufficient for the authority of the Bible to be denied–the Bible must be opposed. Gary David Comstock, Protestant chaplain at Wesleyan University charges: “Not to recognize, critique, and condemn Paul’s equation of godlessness with homosexuality is dangerous. To remain within our respective Christian traditions and not challenge those passages that degrade and destroy us is to contribute to our own oppression.”(4) Further, Comstock argues that “These passages will be brought up and used against us again and again until Christians demand their removal from the biblical canon, or, at the very least, formally discredit their authority to prescribe behavior.”(5)

A second approach taken by the revisionists is to suggest that the human authors of Scripture were merely limited by the scientific immaturity of their age. If they knew what we now know, these revisionists claim, the human authors of Scripture would never have been so closed-minded. Victor Paul Furnish argues: “Not only the terms, but the concepts ‘homosexual’ and ‘homosexuality’ were unknown in Paul’s day. These terms like ‘heterosexual,’ ‘heterosexuality,’ ‘bisexual,’ and ‘bisexuali
ty’ presuppose an understanding of human sexuality that was possible only with the advent of modern psychology and sociological analysis. The ancient writers were operating without the vaguest idea of what we have learned to call ’sexual orientation’.”(6)

Indeed, Paul and the other apostles seem completely ignorant of modern secular understandings of sexual identity and orientation–and this truth is fundamentally irrelevant. Modern notions of sexual orientation must be brought to answer to Scripture. Scripture must not be subjected to defend itself in light of modern notions. Paul will not apologize to Sigmund Freud or the American Psychological Association, and the faithful church must call this approach what it is; a blatant effort to subvert the authority of Scripture and replace biblical authority with the false authority of modern secular ideologies.

A third approach taken by the revisionists is to deny that biblical passages actually refer to homosexuality at all, or to argue that the passages refer to specific and “oppressive” homosexual acts. For instance, some argue that Paul’s references to homosexuality are actually references to pederasty [the sexual abuse of young boys], to homosexual rape, or to “non-committed” homosexual relationships. The same is argued concerning passages such as Genesis 19 and Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Yet, in order to make this case, the revisionists must deny the obvious–and argue the ridiculous.

Likewise, some argue that the sin of Sodom was not homosexuality, but inhospitality. John J. McNeill makes this case, arguing that the church oppressively shifted the understanding of the sin of Sodom from inhospitality to homosexuality.(7) The text, however, cannot be made to play this game. The context indicates that the sin of Sodom is clearly homosexuality–and without this meaning, the passage makes no sense. The language and the structure of the text are clear. Beyond this, Jude, verse 7, self-evidently links the sin of Sodom with sexual perversion and immorality, stating that “Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example, in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.”

This verse is sufficient to indicate the severity of the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality. Leviticus 18:22 speaks of male homosexuality as an “abomination”–the strongest word used of God’s judgment against an act.

The most extensive argument against homosexuality is not found in the Old Testament, however, but in Romans 1:22-27, a passage which is found within Paul’s lengthy introduction to his Roman letter.

“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason, God gave them over to degrading passions; for the women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.”

As Romans 1 makes absolutely clear, homosexuality is fundamentally an act of unbelief. As Paul writes, the wrath of God is revealed against all those “who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”(8) God the Creator has implanted in all humanity a knowledge of Himself, and all are without excuse. This is the context of Paul’s explicit statements on homosexuality.

Homosexual acts and homosexual desire, states Paul, are a rebellion against God’s sovereign intention in creation and a gross perversion of God’s good and perfect plan for His created order. Paul makes clear that homosexuality–among both males and females–is a dramatic sign of rebellion against God and His intention in creation. Those about whom Paul writes have worshipped the creature rather than the Creator. Thus, men and women have forfeited the natural complementarity of God’s intention for heterosexual marriage and have turned to members of their own sex, burning with an illicit desire which is in itself both degrading and dishonorable.

This is a very strong and clear message. The logical progression in Romans 1 is undeniable. Paul shifts immediately from his description of rebellion against God as Creator to an identification of homosexuality–among both men and women–as the first and most evident sign of a society upon which God has turned His judgment. Essential to understanding this reality in theological perspective is a recognition of homosexuality as an assault upon the integrity of creation and God’s intention in creating human beings in two distinct and complementary genders.

Here the confessing and believing Church runs counter to the cultural tidal wave. Even to raise the issue of gender is to offend those who wish to eradicate any gender distinctions, arguing that these are merely “socially constructed realities” and vestiges of an ancient past.

Scripture will not allow this attempt to deny the structures of creation. Romans 1 must be read in light of Genesis 1 and 2. As Genesis 1:27 makes apparent, God intended from the beginning to create human beings in two genders or sexes–”male and female He created them.” Both man and woman were created in the image of God. They were and are distinct, and yet inseparably linked by God’s design. The genders are different, and the distinction goes far beyond mere physical differences, but the man recognized in the woman “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.”(9)

The bond between man and woman is marriage, which is not an historical accident or the result of socialization over time. To the contrary, marriage and the establishment of the heterosexual covenant union is central to God’s intention–before and after the Fall. Immediately following the creation of man and woman come the instructive words: “For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”(10)

Evangelicals have often failed to present this biblical truth straightforwardly, and thus many of our churches and members are unarmed for the ideological, political, and cultural conflicts which mark the modern landscape. The fundamental axiom upon which evangelical Christians must base any response to homosexuality it this: God alone is sovereign, and He has created the universe and all within by His own design and to His own good pleasure. Furthermore, He has revealed to us His creative intention through Holy Scripture–and that intention was clearly to create and establish two distinct but complementary genders or sexes. The Genesis narratives demonstrate that this distinction of genders is neither accidental nor inconsequential to the divine design. “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make for him a helper suitable for him,” determined God.(11) And God created woman.

God’s creative intention is further revealed in the cleaving of man to the woman (”his wife”) and their new identity as “one flesh.”(12) This biblical assertion, which no contorted interpretation can escape, clearly places marriage and sexual relations within God’s creative act and design.

The sexual union of a man and a woman united in covenant marriage
is thus not only allowed, but is commanded as God’s intention and decree. Sexual expression is limited to this heterosexual covenant, which in its clearest biblical expression is one man and one woman united for as long as they both shall live.

Therefore, any sexual expression outside of that heterosexual marriage relationship is illicit, immoral, and outlawed by God’s command and law. That fundamental truth runs counter, not only to the homosexual agenda, but to the rampant sexual immorality of the age. Indeed, the Bible has much more to say about illicit heterosexual activity than about homosexual acts. Adultery, rape, bestiality, pornography, and fornication are expressly forbidden.

As E. Michael Jones argues, most modern ideologies are, at base, efforts to rationalize sexual behavior. In fact, he identifies modernity itself as “rationalized lust.” We should expect the secular world, which is at war with God’s truth, to be eager in its efforts to rationalize lust, and to seek legitimacy and social sanction for its sexual sins. We should be shocked, however, that many within the Church now seek to accomplish the same purpose, and to join in common cause with those openly at war with God’s truth.

Paul’s classic statement in Romans 1 sets the issues squarely before us. Homosexuality is linked directly to idolatry, for it is on the basis of their idolatry that God gave them up to their own lusts [epithymia]. Their hearts were committed to impurity [akatharsia], and they were degrading [atimazo] their own bodies by their illicit lusts.

Their idolatry–exchanging the truth of God for a lie, and worshipping the creature rather than the Creator–led God to give them over to their degrading passions [pathos atimia]. From here, those given over to their degraded passions exchanged the natural use of sexual intercourse for that which God declared to be unnatural [para physin]. At this point Paul explicitly deals with female homosexuality or lesbianism. This is one of the very few references in all ancient literature to female homosexuality, and Paul’s message is clear.

But the women involved in lesbianism were not and are not alone. Men, too, have given up natural intercourse with women and have been consumed with passion [orexis] for other men. The acts they commit, they commit without shame [aschemosyne]. As a result, they have received within their own bodies the penalty of their error.

Beyond this, God has given them up to their own depraved minds, and they do those things which are not proper [kathekonta]. The message could not be more candid and clear, but there are those who seek to deny the obvious. Some have claimed that Paul is here dealing only with those heterosexual persons who commithomosexual acts. The imaginative folly of this approach is undone by Scripture, which allows no understanding that any human beings are born anything other than heterosexual. The modern–and highly political–notion of homosexual “orientation” cannot be squared with the Bible. The only orientation indicated by Scripture is the universal human orientation to sin.(13)

In other letters, Paul indicates that homosexuals–along with those who persist in other sins–will not inherit the Kingdom of God. The word Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:10 is arsenokoites, a word with a graphic etymology. Some modern revisionists have attempted to suggest that this refers only to homosexual rapists or child abusers. This argument will not stand even the slightest scholarly consideration. The word does not appear in any Greek literature of the period. As New Testament scholar David Wright has demonstrated, the word was taken by Paul directly from Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, and its meaning is homosexuality itself.(14)

The biblical witness is clear: Homosexuality is a grievous sin against God and is a direct rejection of God’s intention and command in creation. All sin is a matter of eternal consequence, and the only hope for any sinner is the redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ, who on the cross paid the price for our sin, serving as the substitute for the redeemed.

Our response to persons involved in homosexuality must be marked by genuine compassion. But a central task of genuine compassion is telling the truth, and the Bible reveals a true message we must convey. Those seeking to contort and subvert the Bible’s message are not responding to homosexuals with compassion. To lie is never compassionate–and their lie leads unto death.

Endnotes:

  1. Elizabeth Achtemeier, quoted in “Gays and the Bible,” by Mark O’Keefe, The Virginian Pilot, Norfolk, Virginia (February 14, 1993), p. C-1.
  2. J. Gresham Machen, “The Separateness of the Church,” in God Transcendent, edited by Ned Bernard Stonehouse (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1982 [1949]), p.113.
  3. From the statement by William M. Kent published in Report of the Committee to Study Homosexuality to the General Council on Ministries of the United Methodist Church, August 24, 1991.
  4. Gary David Comstock, Gay Theology Without Apology (Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim Press, 1993), p. 43.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Victor Paul Furnish, The Moral Teachings of Paul: Selected Issues (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1985), p. 85.
  7. John J. McNeill, The Church and the Homosexual, 3rd edition (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988).
  8. Romans 1:18. All biblical references are taken from the New American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
  9. Genesis 2:23.
  10. Genesis 2:24-25.
  11. Genesis 2:18.
  12. Genesis 2:24.
  13. Romans 3:9-20.
  14. D. F. Wright, “Homosexuals or Prostitutes? The Meaning of Arsenokoitai.”Vigiliae Christianae 38 (1984): 125-53.

How Do You Define MARRIAGE?

SOURCE:  Stand To Reason

The Competing Views of Marriage

Ryan Anderson, Robert George, and Sherif Girgis have written a post explaining why the central issue in the marriage debate—even more central than the question of whether the state should recognize same-sex marriages—is the question of what marriage itself is. As they say, “[T]his is not a dispute featuring ‘bigots’ on one side, any more than it has ‘perverts’ on the other. It is a debate of reasonable people of goodwill who disagree about the nature of the most basic unit of society.”

Here is their brief description of the competing views:

THE HISTORIC VIEW
Marriage as a comprehensive union: Joining spouses in body as well as mind, it is begun by commitment and sealed by sexual intercourse. So completed in the acts by which new life is made, it is specially apt for and deepened by procreation, and calls for that broad sharing of domestic life uniquely fit for family life. Uniting spouses in these all-encompassing ways, it also calls for all-encompassing commitment: permanent and exclusive. Comprehensive union is valuable in itself, but its link to children’s welfare makes marriage a public good that the state should recognize, support, and in certain ways regulate. Call this the conjugal view of marriage.

THE REVISIONIST VIEW
Marriage as the union of two people who commit to romantic partnership and domestic life: essentially an emotional union, merely enhanced by whatever sexual activity partners find agreeable. Such committed romantic unions are seen as valuable while emotion lasts. The state recognizes them because it has an interest in their stability, and in the needs of spouses and any children they choose to rear. Call this the revisionist view of marriage.

(You can see how if one begins with the first definition, same-sex marriage makes no sense—not because of bigotry, but because of the unique, natural aspects of a man-woman pairing. But if one holds the second definition, to deny marriage to same-sex couples makes no rational sense, and can only be explained by bigotry. This conclusion is unfair, but it persists because these competing definitions are not understood.)

As they point out, those who hold the revisionist view are not able to give coherent reasons under their defining principle of “people who love each other” for the state setting this kind of a relationship apart from others. Since the revisionist definition isn’t linked to the natural properties of the two people in relationship (as is man-woman marriage), all boundaries end up being arbitrary:

[T]he more candid, and consistent, revisionists have long accepted these points. Years ago, 300 prominent scholars and activists signed a statement arguing that we should recognize polyamorous and multiple-household sexual relationships. These activists agree that making sexual complementarity optional would make all its other norms arbitrary — and therefore unjust to leave intact. We only disagree on whether this top-to-bottom dismantling of the institution of marriage would be a good or a bad thing.

Their post is too brief to go into detail, but you can download their paper, “What Is Marriage,” originally published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, to review their arguments in more depth.

Engaging Our Gay Friends, Relatives and Colleagues

Source:  John Freeman/Harvest USA

It seems that homosexuality has embraced our culture and the culture has embraced homosexuality. It is a part of the fallen nature of things, that man has always been an expert at creating ingenuous ways to celebrate his brokenness. So, men and women in the gay life have no corner on this:. Apart from faith in Christ and submission to the authority of Scripture, we are all experts at rationalizing and justifying what we want to do. The more we live, in any way, outside of God’s design, the more we convince ourselves that what we are doing is OK. This happens on both an individual level and a corporate, cultural level. Homosexuality is not the only thing that was once considered unacceptable or immoral, but later is embraced by the culture (consider abortion and sex outside of marriage).

Scripture says we’re all a mess and that we all need forgiveness and cleansing. Biblically speaking, we’re all in the same boat. We all need the same medicine of the gospel to free us from whatever attachments or idols we cling to— from whatever we have decided “gives us life” apart from Christ. This realization about ourselves should bring to us a growing compassion for others. Believers in Christ should be the first ones to acknowledge that we still pursue our own personal idols, and it is only by the persistent work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that we become aware of our own sin and the need to repent of it.

Homosexuality is one of those topics that draws intense and passionate reactions. Complex issues of the heart usually do. Christians are in a sort of no-man’s-land here today.   Suggesting to those who have embraced the current cultural position that homosexuality is sinful and not part of God’s design for sexuality appears as uneducated, homophobic and ridiculous. On the other hand, though, suggesting to fellow evangelical believers that God loves and forgives sinners who struggle with homosexuality and that we should do the same may appear compromising and wishy-washy.

While we can oppose the advancement of a social movement that would encourage everyone to embrace this cultural shift by vocalizing our concerns and participating in the political process, for Christians a far deeper response to homosexuality and the gay community is needed. When believers proclaim the gospel of Christ both to gays and to the culture at large in a loving, redemptive manner, punctuated with “grace and truth,” this sets us apart and truly reflects the person of Christ. In such a heated and increasingly emotionalized debate, Christians have a responsibility to represent Christ to a fallen world in four ways.

Patiently Listen 

“Let every person be quick to hear” (James 1:9).  This doesn’t mean looking for loopholes in a debate or seeking a chance to criticize and find fault as you talk about this issue. We must listen in order to understand the “heart thrust” of what a person is saying. This is hard work, a relational skill to be learned. It’s not natural. It takes practice. Listen to what moves other people. Listen for their passions, what they value, what their experience has been (especially with other Christians) and what they fear.

The more you understand a person’s point of view, the more you can profit from it. Why do they think the way they do? What events have led up to their adopting their worldview? What’s been their experience of Christianity—of other Christians or the church in general? What wounds from their family of origin and from other people lie festering in the background? As adults, we’re a composite of all these things—upbringing, personal wounds, cultural norms and our own heart-generated responses to these powerful, shaping influences. Get to know the persons you are talking to so that you truly know who they are. Otherwise, we tend to conveniently lump them into a group, label them on the basis of what we read in the news, and think this is “knowing” them.

Personally Repent

“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans? . . . No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-5). Only a redeemed sinner, knowing he stands condemned apart from Christ’s death on the cross, can reach a sinner who doesn’t know he needs redeeming. What’s your motivation when you engage someone with the gospel? Is it to reach lost people with the enduring love that has found you out— a love that has exposed you as a cut-throat and depraved sinner and yet has embraced you with fatherly love? Is it your own awareness that, at heart, you’re a sham, a misfit, a counterfeit, a phony and that there is nothing good inside you to warrant God’s love, yet He still died in your place to make you whole? Do you really care about homosexuals, as men and women who need the love of Christ, or do you only want them to shut up and disappear? Remember that Jesus said, “He who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47). If you have no love for gays, then you have not understood the forgiving love of Jesus in your own life.

Patiently listening and personally repenting also means loving those who are different, who believe differently. Gays have long been “demonized” by Christians, held up as the examples of the worst kind of people. This is grossly unfair and unloving, not to mention grossly unbiblical. No single group of people corners the market on sinful behavior outside of God’s design. There is simply no place for believers to verbally demean or physically abuse gays. If your neighbor or colleague proclaimed to you that he didn’t believe in God, would you go around mocking him?

Gently Instruct

“The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone . . . correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Tim. 2:22-25). How do you talk to people who don’t believe what you do? An argumentative, win-at-all-costs approach does not conform to what Paul wrote to Timothy. You need to ask the Holy Spirit to instruct your own heart as you instruct others. Engaging someone “with gentleness” does not mean being weak or vacillating in your argument; it means treating everyone with respect and dignity even when they persistently disagree. An unloving and impatient heart is a hindrance to the gospel message. The Lord’s command to us through the words of Paul teaches us here: “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”

“Gently instruct” also means that your words must be grounded in the truth of Scripture, not your own opinion. The real issue regarding what Scripture says about homosexuality is not about whether the key passages are culturally relevant anymore, but whether Scripture in its entirety still has authority over all of life. It should always be the truths of Scripture, and not our demeanor or presentation of it, that people reject.

Do you really care about homosexuals — or do you only want them to shut up and disappear?

Talking to those who are blind to the reality of their hearts but who live in a world that applauds their sin is both a privilege and a challenge. They are victims of their own sin and the lies and sin of others. Therefore, they’re caught. But they’re also accountable before a holy God for their continued choice to live life on their own terms and not submit their lives to the Lordship of Christ. We must represent both aspects of the truth as we share Christ.

  Mercifully Pursue and then Engage the Heart

“Have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 22-23). God calls us to be neither reclusive nor rude, but to move boldly into confusing, high-stakes situations with the gospel of God’s mercy.

We bring the gospel where it is most needed: to the vocally anti-Christian pro-gay activistto the mild-mannered clergy who says the love of Jesus means affirming homosexuality as God’s gift; to the confused and scared teenager who fears he’s gay and there’s no other option. Showing mercy means practically caring for people. It means being patiently and persistently available to help those who live in a fallen world. It means lovingly holding our ground against those who say that our beliefs are hateful.  We must not wilt from the irrational heat of those who say that we are hateful bigots merely on the basis that we do not agree with their beliefs.

As we do this, we’re able to move into other people’s worlds. Engaging people by asking good questions, respectfully, is an important part of this.   I once approached a man who was marching in a gay rally. Subsequently, I had a two-hour conversation that ended with this man shaking my hand and thanking me for stopping him— in spite of the fact that I shared the gospel with him! I had listened to him, heard his concerns and engaged his heart with matters important to him. Didn’t Jesus do the same?

My approach appealed to his heart. Listening, asking questions, and engaging people with respect, even if we have fundamental differences, gets people into their story more quickly than anything else. When we take time to get people into their stories, they become more open to us and to the gospel.

Jesus, of course, was the master of all that I’ve just described. We should be, too. His methods are the most under-utilized and missed aspects of evangelism. They also make the deepest and most heart-felt impact, often leaving people wanting more!

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This article originally appeared in the May 2010 edition of Tabletalk magazine, but has been edited and expanded for this publication. We invite you to comment on this article on the Harvest USA blog, Sex, Lies and God’s Design at http://www.truthandmercy.wordpress.com

Where Is Our World Going? STOP Sexualizing Our Children

THE COUNSELING MOMENT EDITOR’S NOTE:  

The below article from the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) is alarming and also prophetic — a preview of more of the unthinkable to come.  At the last AACC World Conference I attended in 2011, this information was presented as the next emerging “watershed” issue we will face as Christians.  An aid to this down-hill societal slide was when God largely was removed from schools and increasingly from society.  Then, there was (is) the abortion issue.  From there we see ever-increasing lax moral views, the redefining of family, and legalization of same-sex marriages.  Now, this next issue (as brought out in the article) is to regard  “pedophilia as just another ‘sexual orientation.'” 

 Where will this downward slide finally and ultimately end?  

 “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. ComeLord Jesus. [Rev 22:20) 

In due course, when the Lord Jesus returns to bring completion to His redemptive work in creation, all things will be made right — according to God’s original creative intent.  However, until that time, we — as followers of Christ — must continue to seek His grace and ability to do what is right, loving, and pleasing to the Lord.  

Jesus makes it clear (Mt 5:44) that we are to love our enemies (i.e., those entirely opposed to and antagonistic toward us and God) and pray for those who would mercilessly persecute us for our beliefs about what is right as we understand and apply God’s Word.  At the same time, we are to seek the Lord’s help to obey His command for us to be holy as He is holy (1Peter 1:15-16) and have nothing to do with evil/darkness, but rather to expose it (Ps 101:4; Eph 5:11).  May the Lord give us His Divine wisdom, understanding, knowledge, discernment, heart, perspective, protection, strength, and resolve to be and to live as the men, women, and children of God to His Glory.

Stop Sexualizing Our Children

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors/Matt Barber [http://www.aacc.net/stop-sexualizing-our-children/]

In “Batman,” the Joker rhetorically asks a young Bruce Wayne: “Tell me, kid – you ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?” Well, I have. Not by the pale moonlight, but in a brightly lit Four Points Sheraton in Baltimore, Md.

On Wednesday, Aug. 17, I – along with the venerable child advocate Dr. Judith Reisman – attended a conference hosted by the pedophile group B4U-ACT. 

Around 50 individuals were in attendance, including a number of admitted pedophiles (or “minor-attracted persons” as they euphemistically prefer), a few self-described “gay activists” and several supportive mental-health professionals. World renowned “sexologist” Dr. Fred Berlin of Johns Hopkins University gave the keynote address, saying: “I want to completely support the goal of B4U-ACT.”

Here are some highlights from the conference:

• Pedophiles are “unfairly stigmatized and demonized” by society.
• There was concern about “vice-laden diagnostic criteria” and “cultural baggage of wrongfulness.”
• “We are not required to interfere with or inhibit our child’s sexuality.”
• “Children are not inherently unable to consent” to sex with an adult.
• “In Western culture sex is taken too seriously.”
• “Anglo-American standard on age of consent is new [and ‘Puritanical’]. In Europe it was always set at 10 or 12. Ages of consent beyond that are relatively new and very strange, especially for boys. They’ve always been able to have sex at any age.”
• An adult’s desire to have sex with children is “normative.”
• Our society should “maximize individual liberty. … We have a highly moralistic society that is not consistent with liberty.”
• “Assuming children are unable to consent lends itself to criminalization and stigmatization.”
• “These things are not black and white; there are various shades of gray.”
• A consensus belief by both speakers and pedophiles in attendance was that, because it vilifies MAPs, pedophilia should be removed as a mental disorder from the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), in the same manner homosexuality was removed in 1973.
• Dr. Fred Berlin acknowledged that it was political activism, similar to the incrementalist strategy witnessed at the conference, rather than a scientific calculus that successfully led to the declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder: The reason “homosexuality was taken out of DSM is that people didn’t want the government in the bedroom,” he said.
• The DSM ignores that pedophiles “have feelings of love and romance for children” in the same way adults love one another.
• “The majority of pedophiles are gentle and rational.”
• The DSM should “focus on the needs” of the pedophile, and should have “a minimal focus on social control,” rather than obsessing about the “need to protect children.”
• Self-described “gay activist” and speaker Jacob Breslow said that children can properly be “the object of our attraction.” He further objectified children, suggesting that pedophiles needn’t gain consent from a child to have sex with “it” any more than we need consent from a shoe to wear it. He then used graphic, slang language to favorably describe the act of climaxing (ejaculating) “on or with” a child. No one in attendance objected to this explicit depiction of child sexual assault. There was even laughter.
(In fairness, Dr. Berlin did later tell Mr. Breslow that his words might “anger” some people and that he [Berlin] is categorically opposed to adult-child sex with “pre-pubescent” children. When asked about the propriety of adult-child sex with pubescent children, Dr. Berlin did not provide a clear answer.)

So, am I just an intolerant, “pedophobic” bigot? Apparently so. In fact, Dr. Berlin says pedophilia is just another “sexual orientation.” Some of the “minor attracted” conference-goers insisted that they were “born that way.” Sound familiar?

This is sexual anarchy – fulfillment of the moral relativist dream.

In the 1940s, homosexual psychopath and secular-humanist messiah Alfred Kinsey’s stated goal was to destroy, in society, the Judeo-Christian sexual ethic. He has largely achieved that goal.

Indeed, during his sexology “research,” Kinsey facilitated the rape of thousands of children – some as young as 2 months old – placing stopwatches and ledgers in the hands of “minor-attracted persons” to document their “findings.” He then recorded everything in what is generally referred to as the “Kinsey Reports.”

Kinsey determined, among many things, that children are not harmed by sex with adults and that it can be a positive experience. Old Al even earned his very own Kinsey Institute, still in existence today at Indiana University.

As recently as 1998, the APA seemed to agree with Kinsey’s assessment, releasing a report that suggested harm caused by child rape was “overstated” and that “the vast majority of both men and women reported no negative sexual effects from their child sexual abuse experiences.”

Furthermore, the APA report suggested that the term “child sex abuse” be swapped with “adult-child sex,” indicating, as did Kinsey, that such “intergenerational intimacy” can be “positive.” Isn’t “tolerance” wonderful?

Oh, and the “progressive,” political-activist APA has also seen fit to join an amicus brief in favor of so-called “same-sex marriage.” What does this have to do with psychiatry? Your guess is as good as mine.

Make no mistake: Children are the target of what I call the “sexual anarchy movement.” Whether it’s the movement’s pedophile wing that seeks to literally rape children, or its radical pro-abortion, homosexualist and feminist wings, which seek to rape the minds of children, the larger sexual anarchy movement has a shared goal: Attack, corrupt and destroy God’s design for human sexuality. Children are just collateral damage.

Sexual anarchists know that to own the future, they must own the minds of our children. Hence, groups like B4U-ACT, GLSEN (The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network), Planned Parenthood and the like utilize academia from pre-school to post-graduate to brainwash and indoctrinate. Still, sexual anarchists are not restricted to the world of not-for-profit perversion advocacy. They also permeate the Obama administration.

Consider, for instance, that the official website for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently linked to “parenting tips” that referenced children as “sexual beings” and suggested that they should experiment with homosexuality and masturbation.

Small surprise when you consider that radical feminist and pro-abort Kathleen Sebelius was President Obama’s pick as HHS secretary.

You may also recall that Mr. Obama appointed Kevin Jennings, founder of the aforementioned GLSEN, to the post of “safe schools czar.” The position is now defunct, ostensibly due to national outrage over Jennings’ appointment.

In keeping with the thinly veiled goals of B4U-ACT, GLSEN seems to be “running interference” for pedophiles, having tacitly advocated adult-child sex through its “recommended reading list” for kids.

Again, not surprising when you consider that one of Jennings’s ideological mentors is “gay” activist pioneer Harry Hay. “One of the people that’s always inspired me is Harry Hay,” he has said glowingly.

What did Mr. Hay think? I’ll let him speak for himself. In 1983, while addressing the pedophile North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), Hay said the following:

“[I]t seems to me that in the gay community the people who should be running interference for NAMBLA are the parents and friends of gays. Because if the parents and friends of gays are truly friends of gays, they would know from their gay kids that the relationship with an older man is precisely what 13-, 14-, and 15-year-old kids need more than anything else in the world. And they would be welcoming this, and welcoming the opportunity for young gay kids to have the kind of experience that they would need.”

(Oddly, there’s another “gay” activist group, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG, that frequently partners with GLSEN. I wonder where they came up with the catchy title.)

Bolstered by support from the National Education Association, GLSEN has access to your children through sex education curricula it provides thousands of public schools across the country, and via adult sponsored “Gay Straight Alliances,” hosted in those same schools.

Alas, we live in a post-Kinsey America wherein our culture, along with our Judeo-Christian heritage, rots in the heat of the day. The stench of sexual anarchy is masked by the soaring, disingenuous rhetoric of “tolerance,” “diversity” and “comprehensive sex education.”

Sick to your stomach? I am. Why can’t these sexual anarchists leave our children alone and let kids be kids?

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[Matt Barber is an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. He serves as Vice President of Liberty Counsel Action. (This information is provided for identification purposes only.)]

A Christian Psychology of and Response to Homosexuality

The Counseling Moment Editor’s Note:  The below article taken from a lecture by Dr. Sam Williams is lengthy but well worth the time invested to read.  It presents an excellent, truthful, and graceful Christian perspective of this ongoing topic based on research under-girded by biblical thought.

Source:  Taken from a lecture — Biblical Counseling Coalition by © 2011 Sam R. Williams, Ph.D.

Homosexuality has not been a biblical abstraction in my life. That doesn’t mean I am coming out of the closet here. The skeletons in my closet don’t look quite like that; they are probably worse, and they are not the topic of this lecture, thank God.

What it means is Dale: my best friend in college coming over to announce that he was gay and therefore intended to kill himself on his 23rd birthday–and then me spending the next year talking him out of suicide.

What it means is Roger: my roommate while in grad school, who died of AIDS before medicine learned how to keep people with HIV alive. Our last conversation on the phone a few hours before he died was one-way because he could no longer speak. It was just me sharing the gospel with him, trying to point him to Jesus again, knowing that was the day he would meet the Maker.

Dale and Roger, both dear friends, responded to same-sex attraction (SSA) by “coming out of the closet” and adopting a gay identity, a much less popular step to take in the ’70s than in 2011.

But of course things have changed, to the point that such a step now may earn popularity points.

In a Gallup poll in 2010, for the first time a majority of Americans, 52%, called homosexuality morally acceptable, while only 43% said it is immoral.

For younger evangelicals, homosexuality is not a moral abstraction for them either. For them it brings familiar and friendly faces to mind immediately. For me now, as an elder in my church and a counseling professor in a Baptist seminary, I think of Terry and Karl and Dave (and I could go on) committed Christian men who came for counseling because no matter how much they tried, their sexual compass pointed more to men than women.

These men have had to grapple with the meaning of same-sexual desires.

• Does this mean I am Gay?

• Was I born this way?

• Did God make me this way?

• I surely wouldn’t set my own compass in this direction. If God’s design is for heterosexuality, what happened to me?

• I don’t think I chose this, so can I choose my way out of it? Can my sexual compass be reset, redirected through prayer or some array of spiritual practices or through counseling or therapy?

• If I didn’t choose to point my sexual compass in this direction, is it sinful?

• Do I repent of SSA…or is it merely a temptation and that I need to resist it as one would any temptation?

So that is the topic of this lecture – A Christian Psychology of and Biblical Response to Homosexuality.

How to think about the homosexuality of my friends was one of the first major cultural challenges I faced when I became a believer in my late twenties. The condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible didn’t make sense to me. As a psychologist and an aspiring empiricist, I could see that homosexuality was atypical and in a sense abnormal, but does it really have to be wrong? Maybe it’s just different, like left-handedness, or perhaps it’s some type of disorder some people are unwillingly afflicted with – but this is a form of neurosis that requires treatment, and not a moral or spiritual issue.

Eventually however, regardless of my own attitudes toward homosexuality, it seemed clear, and beyond any hermeneutically sensible doubt that Scripture forbids and condemns both homosexual practice and passions, and does so using hard-nosed terms such as “shameful, unnatural, and dishonorable” in Romans 1, “unrighteous” in 1 Corinthians 6.9 and 1 Timothy 1.9-10, and “detestable” or “an abomination” in Leviticus 18.22 and 20.13.

Surely, homosexuality is a watershed issue with respect to the interpretation, authority, and relevance of Scripture. But that is not the torch I am bearing here. My intent in this lecture is not to provide a biblical theology or ethical analysis of homosexuality. (See Robert Gagnon’s book The Bible and Homosexual Practice, 2001.)

I am going to presume the majority opinion, a conservative biblical hermeneutic and sexual ethic that views every aspect of homosexuality as a product of the fall and of sin–that it’s not the way it’s supposed to be. And, I shall avoid the political squabbles so ever-present in media world.

Even though political issues are not unimportant, I do believe that following Jesus at this point in God’s plan is more rescue mission than culture war.

Someday when He is ready, Jesus will win the culture war, overwhelmingly–after His rescue mission is complete. And that mission is our mission for the time at hand, and also it is the mission of this paper.

I want in particular to note my debt to Mark Yarhouse and Ed Welch, both Christian psychologists whose thinking and writing in this area have in my estimation been seminal.

How will the church understand persons who struggle with SSA, and what should the hope and help that we offer look like?

What should you say to your friend or your son or your daughter if they come to you and say, “I think I’m gay.”? How did their sexual compass get so offset?

Can they change, and if so, what type of change can be expected, even hoped for?

How will you counsel and minister to them?

Effective ministry, according to David Powlison, requires of us a triple exegesis: of Scripture, of people, and of this beautiful and crazy world in which we live.

The movement from Scripture to real lives in this world requires careful and clear-eyed understanding of all three. So, what I have tried to do is listen first to the Bible and then to the social sciences – at least those parts of them that from my perspective deserve a hearing. Let’s start with defining what we are talking about, with a few descriptions and definitions.

Mark Yarhouse helpfully differentiates same sex attraction, homosexual orientation, and a gay identity. (see 1st figure, p. 16)

(1) Same-sex attraction is an intentionally descriptive term describing the direction of a person’s sexual desire. SSA can vary in strength and also in durability or longevity. It can be weak or moderate or strong, and it can be temporary or enduring. The term “SSA” is merely descriptive and says nothing about how a person feels about his or her sexual attraction, or what they intend to do or actually do with their sexual desires, nor does it say anything about their identity – who they are or how they label themselves.

Approximately 6% of men and 4.5% of women report experiencing at least some degree of same sex attraction (Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, and Michaels, 1994).

(2) Same-Sex Orientation (SSO) is the term I prefer to use since the term homosexual often connotes an identity. What it means is that some people experience SSA in such a manner that it is predominant compared to opposite-sex attraction, and such that it is strong and durable and persistent. Like the term, SSA, SSO is a merely descriptive phrase.

Approximately 2% of men and 1% of women report a same-sex or homosexual orientation, wherein their primary and predominant sexual attraction is to the same sex. [1]

It is possible for a person to be sexually attracted to both sexes, to varying degrees, and that person might identify themselves as “bisexual.” It is also possible, although less frequent, for a person’s experience of same-sex attraction to be limited to a specific person, and for them to be otherwise heterosexual.

(3) Gay or lesbian identity: Some persons choose to adopt a homosexual identity, taking as a key feature of their identity their same-sex sexual orientation, and usually along with that accepting same-sex erotic behavior as a morally neutral or morally good sexual alternative.

The percentage of adults who identify as being gay or lesbian is estimated to be 1.7%, approximately 4 million persons. An additional 1.8% of our population was estimated to view themselves as bisexual (Gary Gates, Press release April 7, 2011, Williams Institute).

What is crucial to recognize here is that these three categories are not coterminous. They do not or at least should not be collapsed into one another. While it may be the case that a person experiences SSA or even is completely SSO, a gay or homosexual identity is not an experience and it is not inherent. Identity is a decision based upon one’s perspective on their sexual desires and their acceptability; in other words, the adoption of a gay identity is a value-based choice rather than a given fact of experience or of psychology or biology.

With respect to identities, they don’t happen to us, they come from us: “I” am the central organizer and active agent in forming my identity. Even though most of us are not aware of choosing our identities, they are our construction built out of the raw materials of who we are, our life experiences, especially key relationships, and all of this construed or interpreted in light of some prevailing narrative or worldview or philosophy of life.

So, our identity is a personal construction project composed of many conscious and subconscious choices which accumulate gradually over time. Of particular importance are the attributions that we make about ourselves and that others apply to us, which function like scripts for how we manage our lives. To a significant extent these identity scripts are provided by the various social authorities within our culture: parents, peers, religion, “science,” “psychology.”

Now, with respect to the development of sexual identity, some parts of that are biogenetically hard-wired and other parts are shaped by key relationships within particular cultures with particular values and views about the way things are supposed to be. And of course, at the center of all this is the active, responding, choosing person, made in the image and likeness of God but also fallen biologically and psychologically or spiritually, and embedded in a fallen world.

So, identity is personal and it is contextual; it is innate, but also it is formed in the context of a web of relationships, not unlike the way children develop language – with brains and tongues pre-designed to speak, but this innate capacity to communicate is formed by family, friends, and culture.

Most psychologists recognize that identity is as much a construction as it is an expression of one’s essence, and that personal values, beliefs, and religious commitments are “grist for the mill” producing the identity that one constructs. Among developmental psychologists, there are two camps which emphasize different elements in identity development, essentialists (nature) and social constructivists (nurture).

The modern language of sexual identity, “homosexual, bisexual, gay, lesbian,” is a good example of this mutual interaction between person and culture. Although homosexuality has been practiced for millennia, “gay” as an identity is an historical artifact, belonging only to contemporary western culture: it is a personal and social interpretation and not an incorrigible fact.

“Although homosexual behavior has been practiced in other cultures throughout history, we are the first culture in which people refer to themselves this way. There was never a language for it, and there has never been community support for this kind of identification or labeling. Until recently there was not even a way to say it” (Yarhouse, 2010).[2]

Sorting these matters out on a personal level is a process; a person who experiences SSA is confronted with a unique dilemma: what does this mean about me, that I am attracted to the same sex? People attracted to the same sex go through a process that could be summarized in two stages.

• Identity Crisis: this is a painful knot of emotion – shame, guilt, anxiety, depression – with lots of confusion and many questions. If you’ve never listened to a person in this phase, do so, or at least read about it. This will help you understand the challenge of finding hope when something so fundamental to your person and to your gender is upside down and you can’t just flip a switch and set it right. (see Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill or Andy Comiskey’s various books)

But people don’t stay in crisis mode forever; eventually they come to some type of resolution.

• Identity Attribution: a synthesis and consolidation of same-sex attractions. Eventually, people come to conclusions about themselves and their sexual experiences based on some sort of interpretive paradigm, or script that is available to them in their world, and with respect or disrespect for the moral script that God has placed within every human heart.

These identity attributions occur much earlier these days, around 15 years of age; versus at 20 years in 1970 (Savin-Williams & Cohen, 2004). Another interesting recent phenomenon is that some young persons are choosing to avoid the adoption of any label at all regarding their sexual identity.

In contemporary western culture, there are two prevailing narratives or scripts, ways to respond to and integrate SSO. The first is to adopt a gay or homosexual identity. This is based on a Gay Explanatory Framework (GEF) (Yarhouse & Tan, 2004): the self is defined by sexual desire; sexual attraction defines who I am, categorically, just like an “alcoholic” defines who he is by his desire for alcohol.

This identity formula is very much at home in a culture of expressive individualism, which prizes self-expression above all else (see R. Bellah’s Habits of the Heart, 1996). The GEF relies upon metaphors like “discovery” or “coming out” to describe identity attribution. The GEF reaches beyond personal experience into the academy, developing its own personality and developmental theories which include an ideal or “healthy” socialization process, and which has unfortunately been adopted in the public square and public schools in most of western culture.

Usually the Gay Explanatory Framework is characterized by simplistic explanations of cause, especially biological reductionism – i.e., “Since I am not aware of making a conscious decision to feel this way, I must have been born this way. This is obviously biological.” According to this script, personal fulfillment depends upon sexual self-actualization, the embracing and expression of one’s sexual desires, with some sort of “coming out” ritual whereby the person is initiated into a new lifestyle in which same-sex sexual and romantic relationships are deemed either neutral or good, and even sometimes superior.[3]

While most people struggling with SSA or SSO in our culture believe the Gay Explanatory Framework is the only plausible option, there is another option, one that does seem increasingly strange, even abnormal to modern and post-modern people. The second identity option is to understand SSA or SSO by means of a Christian Explanatory Framework, taking Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Final Restoration as the definitive narrative for explaining same-sexual desires. This framework is honest about the experience of SSA or SSO but views it as unnatural and disordered, inconsistent with God’s will for sexuality.

The key issue, for anybody, and particularly for Christians, is which of our desires and affections we choose to be defined by. A Christian with SSA will, like the rest of us, emphasize their identity in Christ and in the body of Christ, and view same-sexual desires as a product of the Fall, just one of many forms of sexual deviation and temptation that can be overcome by God’s grace. They will grieve over their SSA, and some will repent of it depending upon how they understand its origin and how they understand sin and guilt and repentance. A Christian Explanatory Framework comprehends the reconstruction of our identities upon adoption into the family of God: “Now, God is my Father, Christ is my brother, I am a son/daughter of the Lord. ‘I’ (in the deepest sense of that little word) belong to Him. He redefines and redirects every part of my being.”

With respect to the origin of SSA and SSO, What causes it? Where does it come from?

While the person is the active and responsible agent with respect to their sexual desires, there are both nature and nurture factors related to the development of sexual attraction. So, there are things that come at the person and things that come from within the person. While there does not seem to be any single universal cause, “if this occurs, then that develops” the biological and social sciences do point out a few common factors that are helpful in understanding SSA.

The current scientific research and theory can be divided into three areas: biological, temperamental, and relational (see 2nd and 3rd figures on pp. 16-17):

• Biology (genetics, intrauterine hormones, neurological): while researchers in the ‘80s and ‘90s believed that genes or brains would offer the strongest contribution to SSA/SSO, more recent research has not supported earlier theories that genes or brains play a primary role in homosexual development. The better twin studies with larger sample sizes do not support a big genetic contribution to homosexual orientation. The concordance rate among identical twins was 20% for men and 24% for women (Bailey, Dunne, & Martin, 2000), which indicates that genes may play a role, but not in themselves an overwhelming one. Studies examining brain contributions are even less impressive. Even though there are some studies implicating brain structures, these studies have not been replicated. Even when brain differences have been found, sorting out cause and effect is nearly impossible with correlational research.

Another possible biological contributor still under investigation is the prenatal hormonal environment. Fetal development of sexual characteristics is a product of interaction with hormones, especially testosterone, and this may play a role in sexual orientation in some instances, but the data are not clear at this point.

Nonetheless, that there may be some biological contributions in some persons would not be surprising and does seem consistent with the research. The recognition that biology may play a role need not be resisted by Christians since God has created us as embodied souls, psychosomatic beings, and all things, including our bodies and brains and genes, have been infected by sin. In addition, that something such as the body or the brain is influential, or even formative, does not mean it is morally or spiritually determinative. It seems reasonable to accept, and clearly consistent with Scripture, that bodies and brains and genes along with parents and peers and cultures all play influential or formative roles in our lives. But that doesn’t mean they are determinative.

• Effeminate temperament features or gender non-conformit: Both anecdotal and research evidence supports a positive correlation between gender non-conformity and homosexuality (Hamer, 1994; LeVay, 1996).[4] Many homosexual men report feeling different and less masculine than the other boys during childhood. They tended to be more sensitive, less naturally aggressive, and more aesthetically than athletically inclined. This is sometimes referred to as the “sissy” phenomenon. Dean Hamer, a gay geneticist, in his book The Science of Desire (1994) goes so far as to write, “Most sissies will grow up to be homosexuals, and most gay men were sissies as children. Despite the provocative and politically incorrect nature of that statement, it fits the evidence. In fact, it may be the most consistent, well-documented, and significant finding in the entire field of sexual-orientation research” (p. 166).

• Exotic Becomes Erotic theory by Daryl Bem (1996) contends that at puberty we will experience sexual arousal by the gender that we find exotic, or by that gender which seems so different from oneself. In other words, “opposites attract.” So, if as a child a boy feels like the other boys, but different from the girls, at puberty he will find girls no longer abhorrent but fascinating and then attractive and arousing. On the other hand, if a boy does not feel like he fits in with the boys and instead is more comfortable with the girls, at puberty he finds himself fascinated by the boys and then erotically attracted to them. The biogenetic variable in this theory is the child’s innate temperament, especially traits such as aggressiveness and activity levels.

• Parental relationships: Early theories, rooted in Freud’s psychoanalysis, viewed homosexuality as a kind of developmental disorder – an impairment in psychological development (which does often seem to be the case) with parents as the culprits (which does not necessarily seem to be the case). However, these psychoanalytic explanations were based more on clinical experience and less on empirical research. More rigorous recent research lends little support to the traditional view that SSO is a direct result of absent or critical fathers and smothering mothers. The research does not indicate a primary role for parents as a sufficient cause of homosexuality; most children with troubled parental relationships do not turn out with SSA. At the same time, of course, there can be no reasonable doubt that parents play an important formative role in most aspects of child development. And, there does seem to be a preponderance of difficulties in the father-son relationship for many SSO men, and on the other hand a preponderance of negative experiences with men in SSO women. Even though these factors are not sufficient or determinative, they do seem to be significant influences in some instances of SSO (Yarhouse, 2010, p. 230, n. 21-24; Yarhouse & Burkett, p.175, n. 2).

Faulty development of masculine traits may be related to the father-son relationship, especially the extent to which the son feels connected to and then identifies with his father as a male, so that he develops the sense that “I’m like him” or “I want to be and can be like him.” On the other hand, it may be that for some boys the sissy phenomena may be more innate (related to genetic predisposition or to the brain or to prenatal hormones), and then subsequently the boy and his father find it difficult to relate to one another because they are so temperamentally different, which of course would further diminish the boy’s sense of masculinity.

• Peer influences: Boys who are less aggressive and masculine understandably feel disenfranchised and different. Unfortunately, they are often avoided or are the subject of derision or bullying by their peers, which can be devastating to a boy’s gender identity and masculine confidence.

• Early sexual experiences (abuse; early debut): While neither physical abuse nor neglect are correlated with homosexuality, studies have found some correlation between early sexual abuse and homosexual behavior in men, but not in women.[5] It is not difficult to imagine how sexual abuse, especially of a boy by a man, could be extremely disruptive to the boy’s developing sexual identity.[6] At the same time, it is important to remember that most boys who are sexually abused by men do not become same-sex oriented. Early, consensual same-sex behavior is also found more frequently in the history of male homosexuals. But, cause and effect are difficult to sort out in these correlational studies.

• Personal choice? The personal experience of most, but not all, persons with SSA is that it is not chosen, but instead is found, and often with shock and shame. This is particularly true for men and for at least half of the women. While most men with SSA/SSO believe their homosexuality was not consciously and explicitly chosen, 30-50% of lesbian women report that it was a choice.

So, what “causes” homosexuality? According to the human sciences, there are two honest answers to that question: “We don’t know for sure” and “Probably several things.” The principle of equifinality is helpful here. Equifinality is the principle of multi-causality: that in open systems a given end state can be reached by many potential means. In the same way that there are several ways to get from here to San Francisco, there are several ways a person may develop SSA or SSO.

So there are a handful of common factors that seem significant, but there is no one-size-fits-all formula.[7]

Transitioning now from this overview of social science research and theory, we can now take up the question:

Can people change SSA or SSO, and if so, how do they change?

Change efforts come in a variety of contemporary secular formats: traditional psychoanalysis (C. Socarides, E. Moberly), reparative psychotherapies (J. Nicolosi), and gender-affirming encounter groups such as Journey into Manhood.

Do they work? It depends who you ask.

In 2009, The American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation “concluded that efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful. . . Given the limited amount of methodologically sound research, claims that recent SOCE [sexual orientation change effort] is effective are not supported” (pp. v and 2). [8]

Unfortunately, the composition of the task force was not methodologically sound either. Their objectivity was doubtful since each of the six authors, five psychologists and one psychiatrist, is on record as gay affirmative and several of them publicly identify as gay or lesbian.[9]

There are a couple of studies which indicate some degree of success in changing SSA by means of secular therapies, with 44 to 66% of persons reporting significant change of some sort, but the degree of change and what changes is quite variable (NARTH, 1997; Spitzer, 2000).

There are several different Christian counseling or ministry options:

Leanne Payne’s charismatic approach blends psychoanalytic theories of homosexuality with a focus on the inner healing of traumatic memories through “listening prayer.”

Christian recovery groups such as Courage, a 12 step program for Roman Catholics, and Homosexuals Anonymous (14 instead of 12 Steps).

Andy Comiskey’s Living Waters groups blend biblical teaching on gender, identity, and sanctification with some of the theories of the reparative therapies and inner healing, and emphasize the role of the Church as a healing community.

Mark Yarhouse and Warren Throckmorton’s Sexual Identity Therapy, which is less focused on changing same sex attractions and more focused on choosing one’s identity in Christ and the incorporation of behavioral and cognitive methods to facilitate the process of progressive sanctification.

Finally, there are other approaches that incorporate theories about the development of masculinity into the process of progressive sanctification. (Alan Medinger; Gerard van den Aardweg).

Do these work? Here also there are only a couple of good studies and they found that 23-29% of persons reported a complete change in orientation from homosexual to heterosexual, and 60-70% reported behavioral success. (Schaeffer, et al., 1999; Jones and Yarhouse, 2007, 2009)

Mark Yarhouse’s summary of this research is helpful:

Those who argue that there is “insufficient evidence” of sexual orientation change are often thinking of categorical and complete change, as though sexual orientation were a light switch that is in one of two positions: on or off. Homosexual or heterosexual. Gay or straight. On the other hand Christians can sometimes add to the problem by claiming this kind of complete change happens frequently. . . . Some people do report a change in attractions over time. For those who report a change, it tends to come in the form of a reduction in homosexual attractions, but these reductions are typically not complete. A smaller number of people also report an increase in heterosexual attraction. [In some instances this may be attraction to the opposite sex in general; in other cases it may reflect attraction to only one individual or the opposite sex, such as a person’s spouse]. . . . It may be helpful to everyone involved to recognize that 180-degree change or categorical change is less likely. That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t attempt change or feel discouraged about it, but it does help us identify the more likely outcomes. In some ways, understanding this will free a person up to focus on other important considerations, such as vocation, stewardship, and Christlikeness (2010, pp. 89-90).

Listening to the Bible

Regardless of the particular causes identified by science or the success of sexual orientation change efforts, God aims to interpret and govern and redeem every part of our us, including our sexual experiences, desires, identity, and even one day our bodies. The good news of God is that whatever is distorted and broken can and will in God’s good time be restored and healed. Christ assumed a full human nature to heal all of human nature. The incarnation and bodily resurrection of Christ is God’s pledge of full and final healing (Gregory of Nazianus).

But the reception of God’s grace begins with a humble acceptance of what is wrong with us, with a kind of biblical psychopathology.

It seems that a biblical macro-psychology of homosexuality begins with the Pauline version of the Fall in Romans 1: an account of the origin of sin, with homosexuality as a vivid example of its dynamics. In that passage Paul attributes the origin of same-sex passions and practices to a failure to “thank and honor God,” in other words to disordered worship. Humanity’s original rejection of God then incurs His judgment and His passive, and yet terrible, wrath, wherein the passage says, God “gave them up” (v. 24, 26, 28). He simply lets them alone, leaves them to their own devices, giving them over to impure lusts, dishonorable passions, and a debased mind. So, in this passage, disordered desires of all sorts result from disordered worship. St. Augustine’s biblical psychology is helpful here: The root of all evil is wrongly directed desire.

Both Richard Hayes and Ernst Kasemann note that in this passage homosexuality, along with a string of other disordered desires and practices, is the consequence of God’s wrath, not the cause of it. Homosexuality is probably singled out because it is such a clear rejection of something so obvious – God’s complementary design for the sexes and of sexual intercourse itself.

But it is important to note that Paul’s account here is archetypal or generic; he is giving the history of humanity and of sin in general, with homosexuality as a particularly graphic case in point. He is not giving us a history of any particular person’s development of homosexuality. The Bible’s account of this chapter in human history goes like this: As a result of the rejection of God’s rule, God steps aside, and the consequence is the reign of sin and satan, a Kingdom in which everybody is born defective (Rom. 6.17) with deformed desires, some of which are common to all men, such as selfishness and pride, and others that are unique to some men. And this is where personal psychopathologies begin.

The typical experience of same-sex attraction, that it is not consciously chosen, is in fact consistent with our innately sinful condition, which in itself is not chosen – we are born that way. Sin is a chronic condition and sometimes, but not always, a conscious choice. This is the human condition Paul describes in Romans 7, where he goes back and forth, but he ultimately cites “sin in me” as the source of his sinful behavior. So, the starting point for a biblical psychology of homosexuality is fundamentally no different than the origin of many of our sin-driven character flaws, whether it is selfishness and narcissism, or jealousy and envy, or a bad temper, or worry and anxiety, or mania or depression, or addictions or whatever. Everybody is born congenitally defective with some innate bio-psychological weakness, which finds its origin in the fall and subsequently in hearts and bodies riddled with the cancer of sin. (Eccl. 9.3; Jer. 17.9)

According to New Testament scholar Robert Gagnon:

For Paul, all sin was in a sense innate in that human beings do not ask to feel sexual desire, or anger, or fear, or selfishness – they just do, despite whether they want to experience such impulses or not. If Paul could be transported into our time and told that homosexual impulses were at least partly present at birth, he would probably say, ‘I could have told you that’ or at least ‘I can work that into my system of thought.’. . . Paul paints a picture of humanity subjugated and ruled by its own passions; a humanity not in control, but controlled (2001, p. 431, 430).

In the same vein but with more emphasis on human accountability, Richard Hayes writes,

As great-grandchildren of the enlightenment, we like to think of ourselves as free moral agents, choosing rationally among possible actions, but Scripture unmasks that cheerful illusion…the Bible’s sober anthropology rejects the apparently commonsense assumption that only freely chosen acts are morally culpable. . . . The very nature of sin is that it is not freely chosen. . . . We are in bondage to sin but still accountable to God’s righteous judgment of our actions. . . . In light of this theological anthropology, it cannot be maintained that a homosexual orientation is morally neutral because it is involuntary (1996, p. 390).[10]

Up to this point we have been talking about SSA, a particular dis-orientation of a person’s sexual compass, but we could be talking about the infinite variety of sinful orientations of any of our hearts which are less than consciously chosen, but for which we will be held accountable by God. I think this is Paul’s point in Romans 2 and 3, when he segues from God’s judgment of homosexuality to God’s judgment of everybody, in what Richard Hays calls a “homiletical sting operation”: “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself. . . . Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:1-3) Paul makes it clear: no one has a secure platform to stand upon to judge others. (R. Hayes, 1996, p. 389)

MINISTRY/ COUNSELING

The truth is that each and every one of our sex lives, every look, every touch, every fantasy, and every desire within our hearts will be judged by our holy, holy, holy God.

According to Jesus, in Matthew 5.29-30, when it comes to sex, what we do with the desires of our hearts is a matter of life or death. So, “If your eye or hand causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” That ought to give all of us pause. This is serious business, according to Jesus.

So, the church’s response to SSA must be just as serious. It must be as theologically bold and as morally clear as Jesus is, and at the same time as pastoral and gracious as Jesus is. And we must bring hope: like oxygen for the soul – to those who struggle with same sex attraction. And this is that hope:

The Gospel changes the most important things initially, and it changes everything eventually.

What I mean by Gospel and change is a type of faith in and obedience to Christ that flows out of a fundamentally re-oriented heart, resulting in a changed and changing life.

In closing, there are four ways we can promote change in our churches and families for those who struggle with same-sex attraction.

First, the essential starting point is BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF, OTHERS, AND GOD.

In view of the mercy of God, it makes no sense to avoid, deny, or minimize SSA. I would like to propose that there is a properly Christian form of “coming out of the closet.” Should we not all come out of the closet with anything we find inside that is broken and wrong? We do this so that we can repent more thoroughly and receive all the help and healing that comes through authentic Christian relationships.

That which we keep to ourselves tends to fester and swell, and what is left is that painful knot of shame and guilt. The alternative to authenticity is not a pretty thing: loneliness, duplicity, secret sins, anxiety, self-hatred, and sometimes suicide.

It is here that the response of parents, peers, and church is so important. It is the responsibility of Christian families and communities to cultivate openness to the acknowledgment and confession of same-sex attraction. What can we do to move in this direction?

Second, we can CULTIVATE A RENEWED RESPECT FOR DIFFERENCES.

We need relationships characterized by respect and acceptance in which various forms of masculinity are affirmed, of course, that are true to one’s God-given gender, but also cognizant of a variety of temperaments. We should not presume that cultural stereotypes are biblical norms or guidelines. There is more than one type of man, and not all of them like to camp or play sports. (Could somebody explain to me how Ultimate(ly Foolish) Fighting became a fad among young evangelical men!?) My colleague Robert D. Jones says that the greatest man he has ever known described himself as gentle and humble in heart! It was this Lord who said, “Blessed are the meek/gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” If the character of Jesus is not the main part of your view of manhood, then it is not biblical manhood.

Probably one of the most important changes would be to eliminate within our communities, especially among men, the unedifying words that denigrate men whose masculinity is not so evident, who may have some effeminate characteristics. Such words are unconscionable. What if that were your brother or your son that was being made fun of? How would Jesus speak to him? And how would Jesus speak to those who spoke to him that way???

I still remember my best friend Dale announcing his homosexuality to me. He had heard me use terms like “fag, queer, homo” and many other false bravados characteristic (I wish only) of teenage boys. He said he would have told me sooner, but he was afraid of my reaction, even that I might attack him physically. That changed how I talk.

Third, we can EXPRESS A TYPE OF EMPATHY FOR PERSONS WITH SSA THAT COMPREHENDS HOW LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD IS UNDER THE CROSS.

It is important to realize and openly acknowledge that at the deepest and most important level we are much more like the person who struggles with SSA than we are different. They have their particular sin tendencies and temptations, and you have yours. Every one of us has a weak link, a form of remnant sin for which we need Jesus and one another. Therefore same-sexual sin should not be singled out as a red-letter sin.

Fourth, PROVIDE BIBLICAL HOPE FOR CHANGE.

Real and substantive change can be expected for people with SSA or SSO, as it can and should be for all who have chosen to follow Christ. Tim Wilkins says when he turned away from homosexuality, “I decided that although I honestly did not know how to become heterosexual, I did know how to be obedient. . . . Same-sex attractions continued throughout college and seminary, but to a lesser degree. I remained steadfast in refusing to give in. . . . I told God ‘it does not matter if I am ever attracted to a woman as long as I get You!’ What mattered most to Tim was becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.”

Change for the Christian is a grace-fueled process that for good reason is called progressive sanctification: a long obedience of faith down a narrow and often difficult road, in the company of other Christian men and women within the local church. All this is rooted in the transformative power of the Gospel of God and the rich soil of the body of Christ. The cross of Christ signifies the beginning of the end of the old self, a progressive and radical reordering and re-orientation of every one of our distorted desires. But sin is stubborn, especially at the level of desires, and the old man dies slowly. Nonetheless, according to Paul, that old man is history: “Such were some of you. . . . But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified. . . .” (1 Corinthians 6.11) That sounds like past tense.

As it is with many root sins that are lodged deeply within us, change may or may not be associated with a complete elimination or reversal of SSA, for now. But make no mistake about it: under the cross and in Christ neither the past nor our desires determine our identity or our future. Paul’s instruction in Romans 6 is to be who you are, in Christ.

Romans 611 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. . . . 14For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

This Spirit-fueled, Christ-following progressive sanctification includes an understanding of who we are: identities that originate in God’s good creation–made by and like and for Him, and then born again in a miraculous New Creation. Change like this includes a type of humble authenticity that does not flinch in examining and repenting of the distorted but dwindling effects of sin on all things: “Where sin abounds, grace abounds even more.”

Someday this grace will culminate in our final sanctification, when the King returns and resets everything. On that day, True North will be irresistible. Such is our hope.

________________________________________

NOTES:

[1] These figures rise in urban centers; in other words, those with a homosexual orientation are more concentrated in cities.

[2] Coincidentally, this is often a part of the gay critique of the biblical passages on homosexuality; they are correct when they claim that these categories and terms did not exist in the ancient biblical languages. Instead, more descriptive terms that described what that person does, or terms like natural and unnatural were the verbal categories relied upon to discuss these matters (Hays, 1996).

[3] It is this incorporation of homosexuality into the center of that person’s identity that makes even the most sensitive and winsome conversation so difficult with a person who identifies themselves as “gay”. If “gay” is who you are, then even the kindest challenge or disagreement is perceived at least as a personal rejection, and at worst as hateful or “violent.” Since this is the accepted normative narrative in most of the First World, any other view seems to be just so much nonsense. David Wells captures this dislocation well in his definition of worldliness as “that system of values, in any given age, which has at its center our fallen human perspective, which displaces God and his truth from the world, and which makes sin look normal and righteousness seem strange. It thus gives great plausibility to what is morally wrong, and for that reason makes what is wrong seem normal” (Losing our Virtue, 1999, p.4).

[4] In its most extreme manifestation, Gender Identity Disorder, ¾ of boys with this disorder later report a homosexual or bisexual orientation (DSM-IV, 1994, p. 536).

[5] Wilson, H., & Widom, C., 2009. Does Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, or Neglect in Childhood Increase the Likelihood of Same-sex Sexual Relationships and Cohabitation? A Prospective 30-year Follow-up. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39 (1), 63-74).

[6] Dube, S. et al. (2005) found that 16% of adult men reported being sexually abused before age 16. They had been abused by men 70% of the time. Am J Prev Med;28(5), p. 433.

[7] The APA (American Psychological Association) states the following about etiology in their pamphlet, Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality: “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.”American Psychological Association (2008). “Answers to your questions: For a better understanding of sexual orientation and homosexuality”.

[8] A review of 83 studies published in peer reviewed journals from 1960 to 2007 discusses people who attempted to change their sexual orientation through counseling or therapy.

[9] Joseph Nicolosi, of the National Association for Research and Therapy for Homosexuality, commented, “The Task Force’s standard for successful treatment for unwanted homosexuality was far higher than that for any other psychological condition. What if they had studied treatment success for narcissism, borderline personality disorder, or alcohol/food/drug abuse? All of these conditions, like unwanted homosexuality, cannot be expected to resolve totally, and necessitate some degree of lifelong struggle” (The 2009 APA Task Force Report – Science or Politics?, posted Jan. 10, 2011, NARTH website).

[10] Perhaps a good example of this is our dreams at night. And, if yours are like mine, I bet some of them are not morally neutral. And yet even though they are involuntarily and subconsciously created … whose dream is it? Who created and produced that dream? And if it is your production, who should repent of it?

Works Cited

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 4th Edition. Washington, DC: Author. 1994.

American Psychiatric Association. Report of the Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. Washington, DC: Author. 2009.

Bellah, R., Madsen, R., Sullivan, W., Swidler, A., & Tipton, S. Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life. Berkely, University of California Press, 1996.

Bem, Daryl. “Exotic becomes erotic: A developmental theory of sexual orientation.” Psychological Review, 1996.

Dube, S. et al. “Long-Term Consequences of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Gender of Victim.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 28.5, 2005.

Gagnon, Robert. The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001.

Gates, Gary. “Press release April 7, 2011.” Williams Institute. Web. 15 Sept 2011.

Hays, Richard. The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation, A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics. San Francisco: Harper, 1996.

Hamer, Dean. The Science of Desire. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994.

Hill, Wesley. Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

Jones, S. & Yarhouse, M. Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation. Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 2007.

Kasemann, Ernst. Commentary on Romans. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980.

Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J.H., Michael, R.T., & Michaels, S. The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

LeVay, Simon. Queer Science. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996.

Savin-Williams, R. C. & Cohen, K.M. “Homoerotic Development During Childhood and Adolescence.” Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 2004.

Schaeffer, K. W. et al. “Religiously-motivated sexual orientation change: A follow-up study.” Journal of Psychology and Theology. 27 (4), 1999.

Spitzer, Robert. “Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation? 200 Participants Reporting a Change from Homosexual to Heterosexual Orientation” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2003.

Wells, David. Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover Its Moral Vision. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.

Wilson, H., & Widom, C. Does Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, or Neglect in Childhood Increase the Likelihood of Same-sex Sexual Relationships and Cohabitation? A Prospective 30-year Follow-up. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2009.

Yarhouse, Mark. Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2010.

Yarhouse, M. & Burkett, Lori. Sexual Identity: A Guide to Living in the Time Between the Times. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 2003.

Yarhouse, M. & Jones, S. Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church’s Moral Debate. Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 2000.

Yarhouse, M. & Tan, E. Sexual Identity Synthesis: Attributions, Meaning-Making, and the Search for Congruence. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 2004.


Homosexual Sexual Orientation Change: The Truthful Facts

NARTH Statement on Sexual Orientation Change

SOURCE:  Approved by the NARTH Board of Directors on January 25, 2012

Current discussions of homosexual sexual orientation change are unavoidably occurring within a sociopolitical climate that makes nonpartisan scientific inquiry of this subject very difficult.  In light of this reality, a few considerations are crucial for accurately understanding the sometimes contradictory opinions regarding the possibility of sexual orientation change.

First and foremost, it is important to recognize that how change is conceptualized has vast implications for our thinking about change.

Some of the more ardent proponents and opponents of homosexual sexual orientation change may view change in strictly categorical terms, where change is an all-or-nothing experience.  Proponents and opponents with this view differ only in the direction of their desired outcome.  Proponents of change understood in categorical terms may view a homosexual sexual orientation as a lifestyle choice that merely needs to be renounced. Opponents who take this viewpoint, on the other hand, may conceive of sexual orientation as essentially hard wired and simply not modifiable.  NARTH does not support either of these perspectives.

NARTH believes that much of the expressed pessimism regarding sexual orientation change is a consequence of individuals intentionally or inadvertently adopting a categorical conceptualization of change.

When change is viewed in absolute terms, then any future experience of same-sex attraction (or any other challenge), however fleeting or diminished, is considered a refutation of change. Such assertions likely reflect an underlying categorical view of change, probably grounded in an essentialist view of homosexual sexual orientation that assumes same-sex attractions are the natural and immutable essence of a person.  What needs to be remembered is that the de-legitimizing of change solely on the basis of a categorical view of change is virtually unparalleled for any challenge in the psychiatric literature.  For example, applying a categorical standard for change would mean that any subsequent reappearance of depressive mood following treatment for depression should be viewed as an invalidation of significant and genuine change, no matter how infrequently depressive symptoms reoccur or how diminished in intensity they are if subsequently re-experienced.  Similar arguments could be made for any number of conditions, including grief, alcoholism, or marital distress.  The point is not to equate these conditions with homosexuality, but rather to highlight the inconsistency of applying the categorical standard only to reported changes in unwanted same-sex attractions.

Rather than pigeonholing homosexual sexual orientation change into categorical terms, NARTH believes that it is far more helpful and accurate to conceptualize such change as occurring on a continuum.  This is in fact how sexual orientation is defined in most modern research, starting with the well known Kinsey scales, even as subsequent findings pertinent to change are often described in categorical terms. NARTH affirms that some individuals who seek care for unwanted same-sex attractions do report categorical change of sexual orientation.  Moreover, NARTH acknowledges that others have reported no change. However, the experience of NARTH clinicians suggests that the majority of individuals who report unwanted same-sex attractions and pursue psychological care will be best served by conceptualizing change as occurring on a continuum, with many being able to achieve sustained shifts in the direction and intensity of their sexual attractions, fantasy, and arousal that they consider to be satisfying and meaningful.

NARTH believes that a profound disservice is done to those with unwanted same-sex attractions by characterizing such shifts in sexual attractions as a denial of their authentic (and gay) personhood or a change in identity labeling alone.  Attempts to invalidate all reports of such shifts by presuming they are not grounded in actual experience insults the integrity of these individuals and posits wishful thinking on an untenably massive scale.

Finally, it also needs to be observed that reports on the potential for sexual orientation change may be unduly pessimistic based on the confounding factor of type of intervention.  Most of the recent research on homosexual sexual orientation change has focused on religiously mediated outcomes which may differ significantly from outcomes derived through professional psychological care.  It is not unreasonable to anticipate that the probability of change would be greater with informed psychotherapeutic care, although definitive answers to this question await further research.  NARTH remains highly interested in conducting such research, pursuant only to the acquisition of sufficient funding.

To summarize, then, those who are  highly pessimistic regarding change in sexual orientation appear to have assumed a categorical view of change, which is neither in keeping with how sexual orientation has been defined in the literature nor with how change is conceptualized for nearly all other psychological challenges.  NARTH believes that viewing change as occurring on a continuum is a preferable therapeutic approach and more likely to create realistic expectancies among consumers of change-oriented intervention.  With this in mind, NARTH remains committed to protecting the rights of clients with unwanted same-sex attractions to pursue change as well as the rights of clinicians to provide such psychological care.

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NARTH Mission Statement

We respect the right of all individuals to choose their own destiny. NARTH is a professional, scientific organization that offers hope to those who struggle with unwanted homosexuality. As an organization, we disseminate educational information, conduct and collect scientific research, promote effective therapeutic treatment, and provide referrals to those who seek our assistance.

NARTH upholds the rights of individuals with unwanted homosexual attraction to receive effective psychological care and the right of professionals to offer that care. We welcome the participation of all individuals who will join us in the pursuit of these goals.

Change in Sexual Orientation is Possible

The Counseling Moment EDITOR’S NOTE:  Given all that is taking place in society along with all the information available via the media, much confusion exists about whether one desiring to explore and/or seek change from unwanted same-sex/homosexual desires and behaviors can ever hope for change.  One position emphatically says, “No Way!”  Another position says change is possible.  A Christian position lays claim that nothing is impossible for God who wants those who have a faith-relationship with Him through Christ to progressively continue to be transformed by Him into the very likeness of Christ.  This transformation includes movement toward holiness in thought, emotional responses, behaviors, and relationships.  Furthermore, this transformation includes aspiring to a holy, blameless, righteous, and pure life that increasingly exhibits the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  God desperately wants what is best for us as He loves us each so much–so much that He sacrificed His own Son on our behalf.  Our becoming like Christ is the best that God can offer us.  There is nothing better or of greater value.

Even a casual reading of Scripture makes clear that as God enables us to move toward Christlikeness, He empowers us to move away from a host of things that He declares counter to His plan for us and destructive to us.

These things counter to His will for us, as called out in Scripture, include anything that would “gratify the desires of the flesh” such as:  any hint of sexual impurity, homosexuality, sexual immorality, adultery, extra-marital sex, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, bitterness, anger, brawling, slander, malice, greed, filthy language, unforgiveness, idleness, love of money, deceitfulness, pride, lack of self-control, loving pleasure over God, enslavement to passions, conceit.  

God loves us and chooses to be in a personal relationship with us knowing that we are challenged with these types of issues in our lives.  And, He loves us too much to allow us to continue to embrace these things.  Therefore, God wants us to depend on Him to help us move away from any and all of these types of hindrances to becoming more holy like Christ.  And, He promises that freedom from these things is possible in His way and His timing.

So, yes, change is possible whether it is change from homosexual orientation or change from any of the other issues of life that God highlights as detriments to our being made into the likeness of Christ.  God wants change to take place concerning ALL of these!  We are all involved in God’s change process concerning whatever things we find in us that are on His “list.”  He will work uniquely and lovingly within each one of us to accomplish change in His way, in His timing, to the extent He determines until He carries it on to completion (Phil. 1:6).

As a result, it should be no surprise that solid, credible, truthful research as summarized in the below article supports what God, the Author of all truth, says and desires about change.

Finally, as Christians, it is important that we do not respond to those dealing with homosexuality (or any other less than Godly life issue) with ignorance and fear.  Nor should we ignore or uphold any lifestyle or life issue which is counter to God’s desire and will.  Either extreme fails to convey the divine balance of grace and truth which is so pleasing to God.  Blessings……..

ARTICLE SOURCE: NARTH/Reviewed by Christopher H. Rosik, Ph.D.

(October, 2011)

Change in Sexual Orientation is Possible, Harm Unlikely, according to New Evidence of Long-Term Outcomes

The best-designed study of sexual-orientation change efforts (SOCE) to date, has just concluded in a follow-up report that some people can indeed move from homosexuality to heterosexuality, and that harm is unlikely to result from such efforts.

The original study was published in 2007 by Stanton Jones, Ph.D., of Wheaton College, and Mark Yarhouse, Ph.D., of Regent University, in their book, “Ex-Gays?”. The follow-up study has just appeared in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy.

In the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapythe authors conclude:

Evidence from the study suggested that change of homosexual orientation appears possible for some and that psychological distress did not increase on average as a result of the involvement in the change process” (Jones & Yarhouse, 2011, p. 404).

Study methods

The authors followed 98 individuals (72 men and 26 women) who undertook SOCE through the assistance of a variety of  Christian ministries over a period of 6-7 years. The authors’ motivation for conducting this study was, in part, that the American Psychological Association had gone on the record indicating that change in sexual orientation was not possible, and that risks to those who engage in such efforts could be significant.

The authors note that the APA has moderated its viewpoint somewhat since then, fluctuating between statements that sexual-orientation change is “uncommon,” to the view that science “cannot yet” make conclusive statements about such change from the available literature.

The rigor of their own research standards, Jones and Yarhouse indicate, in fact meets many of the requirements that the APA itself has asserted are necessary in order to make reasonably definitive conclusions about the actuality of such change.

Participants in the Jones-Yarhouse study were first assessed at the beginning of their involvement in SOCE (from 1-3 years); again at 3 years, and again at the 6-7 year mark. Findings from the first two assessments were published earlier in the book, Ex-Gays? (2007).

Standardized and widely accepted measures of sexual orientation and psychological distress were administered at each assessment period. At the final time of assessment, attrition had reduced the available sample to 64%, which is not unusual for longitudinal studies.

Study findings

The results after 6-7 years of SOCE involvement, presented below, indicate that change does indeed occur, although not for
everyone.

  • Success: Conversion:  23% (n = 14) of the sample reported substantial reductions in homosexual attraction and subsequent conversion to heterosexual attractions and functioning.
  • Success: Chastity: 30% (n = 18) reported that homosexual attraction was still present, but only incidentally or in a way that did not seem to bring distress, allowing them to live contentedly without overt sexual activity.
  • Continuing: 16% (n = 10) reported modest decreases in homosexual attraction, but were not satisfied with their degree of change and remained committed to the change process.
  • Nonresponse: 7% (n = 4) reported no significant sexual orientation change; they had not given up on the change process, but some were confused or conflicted about which direction to turn next.
  • Failure: Confused: 5% (n = 3) reported no significant sexual orientation change, and had given up on the change process, but without yet embracing a gay identity.
  • Failure: Gay identity: 20% (n = 12) had given up on the change process and embraced a gay identity.

Jones and Yarhouse observed that from the point-of-view of the ministries involved in their study, 53% of the sample therefore had self-categorized as achieving “some version of success,” and 25% had self-categorized as failure.

As regards harm, the study participants on average did not report experiencing harm due to SOCE during the course of their pursuit of change.  In fact, two of the indicators of psychological distress actually improved significantly over the time of the study.

Discussion

Jones and Yarhouse conclude that “the findings of this study appear to contradict the commonly expressed view that sexual orientation is not changeable” (p. 425).  and that attempts to change are not likely to be harmful.

While the authors believe their research clearly contradict the pessimism regarding SOCE that has been promulgated by the APA, they do acknowledge that their study has limitations.

First, the average change in sexual orientation was modest, although they noted that this is likely to be an artifact of average change scores including some participants who made dramatic shifts away from homosexual orientation and fewer participants who reported dramatic shifts to a gay identity.  In other words, the dramatic changes toward heterosexual response clearly made by some participants may have been offset by changes toward homosexual response in others, so that the overall average change in sexual orientation for the sample appeared to be modest.

Second, participants who had begun the change process prior to the start of the study appeared to have disproportionately positive outcomes compared to participants inducted into the study early in their pursuit of change.  This may indicate that some weeding-out of individuals who were not successful in changing sexual orientation occurred in the time between the onset of pursuit of change and the initial collection of data.  Although there is no way to know this for sure, Jones and Yarhouse imply that it is probably wise to view their study’s success rate for the change process undertaken in Christian ministries as a somewhat optimistic figure.

A third limitation is the relatively small sample size, which makes any generalization of these findings to the population of individuals pursuing SOCE tentative.  That said, the size of the sample is not uncommon in the longitudinal research that has been widely accepted as representative of samples in other subject domains.  Finally, the authors note that, given the study design, it was not possible to determine which components of the participants’ change process were responsible for the outcomes reported.

Comment

No doubt this study will be dismissed by skeptics who for ideological reasons remain dogmatically unwilling to acknowledge the reality of sexual orientation change in some people. However, Jones and Yarhouse’s study of SOCE should go a long way toward putting to rest two extreme positions:  i.e., that change always occurs and is simply a choice, or that change never occurs and is generally harmful.

It is also worth remembering that this study did not examine SOCE’s  that occur in the context of psychotherapy.  The subjects in this study received their counseling in Christian ministries. It is certainly within the realm of plausibility that the inclusion of professional psychological care, over and above participants’ involvement in Christian ministries, would increase positive outcomes.

The hallmark of a scientific organization that is not beholden to socio-political interests is a heightened curiosity at unexpected findings, and a subsequent dedication to understanding how such findings came to be.  In the case of change in sexual orientation, which had been purported to be impossible, this implies a dedication to study those individuals who report change in order to identify the active ingredients of change and thereby maximize its potential among SOCE consumers.

Unfortunately, however, the major mental-health associations appear to be moving further away from a purely scientific approach and toward one apparently directed by activists, whereby the purpose of their science does not seem to be understanding those who report change, but rather debunking, dismissing, and ignoring them.  Thus while Jones and Yarhouse will win no accolades or awards from the APA, they will have the satisfaction of knowing that their research exemplifies the best in scientific curiosity and courage.

Reference

Jones, S. L., & Yarhouse, M.A. (2007). Ex-gays? A longitudinal study of religiously mediated change in sexual orientation. Downers  Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Jones, S. L., & Yarhouse, M. A. (2011). A longitudinal study of attempted religiously mediated sexual orientation change.  Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 37, 404-427. DOI: 10.1080/009263X.2011.607052

“I’ve Got A Hole Inside Me”

Editors Note:  The following article is about the topic of  homosexuality.  In reality, what the author writes about could pertain to any life-controlling problem any of us is affected by.  Regardless of whether your life struggle is with homosexuality or not, read this article keeping your particular struggle in mind and know that your Heavenly Father  relates to you in the same way that this author experienced.

SOURCE:  Anonymous/Discipleship Journal

The reasons people develop a sexual attraction to persons of the same sex are varied and complex. One thing is certain: becoming a Christian does not automatically take away those wrong desires. Many, many homosexuals are able to change their orientation with the help of caring ministries and God’s power. But the battle is seldom easy.

A Christian man wrote the following testimony to read at his church’s support group. You may disagree with some of his perceptions. Nevertheless, we hope it will help you understand and develop compassion for those who struggle with homosexuality.

I’ve got a hole inside me. I’m not sure where it is, but I know it’s there. It’s deep, wide, and ugly, and if I don’t find ways to let God heal or fill it, it will continue to grow until I am all hole and no me.

My father helped dig the hole. He was a minister who loved his congregation and God more than his family. He wasn’t there for me. Because of his relationship with his father, he probably wouldn’t have known how to love me even if he had been there.

My mother helped dig the hole. She was alone while my father ministered, and I was cast in the role of her best friend, always there to keep her company.

Once when she travelled with my father, I was sexually abused by the oldest son of the family with whom I was staying. I tried to tell my parents, but I was five and I didn’t have the words. I dug the hole deeper. I was bad and dirty because I had allowed the older boy to touch me.

In early grade school, I knew I was different. I followed boys I admired home just to find out where they lived. In school I couldn’t look at them enough. If only, I thought. If only I could be like them in every way, maybe … maybe I would be whole instead of a hole.

I learned I could check out these boys in the school washrooms. Then in sixth grade, I discovered that in the downtown washrooms there were curious men like me. I thought I had come home.

I didn’t fit with the kids who went to church. I wasn’t concerned about whether it was wrong to go to movies. I wanted to know why God didn’t save me from my differentness and my desires. I tried to explain myself to our assistant pastor, and he said I had to resist sin or else. My hole got bigger.

As a teen, the hole was filled with pain. I knew I was a wretched sinner, and I had to keep up the appearance of being a nice person. I landscaped my deep hole—tall trees, low shrubs, even a weeping willow. Everyone loves weeping willows. I spent two semesters at a Christian college majoring in Bible, but I couldn’t keep up the pretense.

In desperation, I quit school, ended a long-term relationship with a male friend, and started attending a new church. There I heard about healing for homosexuals. I got busy in the local body of believers, but all my activity was like a shovel or two of dirt into my bottomless pit.

I started to date women—more shovels into my crater. Eventually I met a woman I thought I could commit to. I told her my homosexual behavior was in the past. On one level I thought I was being honest. Now, I know that, on a deeper level, I was aware of the deception.

I wanted to believe I could replace a bad habit with a good one. Perhaps marriage would be God’s ordained lid to fit over my chasm of pain. It was … for a while.

But my emptiness was too great. I started visiting forest preserves where I could meet others who were in pain. I would feel temporarily refreshed after these sexual encounters, but I knew they were wrong. When I tried to stop, the pain would become too much.

One day a forest ranger caught me and called the police. I was arrested for indecent exposure. I knew I had to deal with my problem: I had a compulsive habit.

I started attending Sexual Addicts Anonymous and Homosexuals Anonymous and Overcomers, all held in Bible-believing churches and attended by men like me who had grown up naming Jesus as Lord. I found a group of married Christian men whom I could talk with, pray with, and depend on, because we were all struggling.

I was surrounded by people who were incredibly gifted pray-ers. They made me accountable. They allowed me to call them night after night when I traveled for business.

All of their efforts helped to make my problem … worse!

I couldn’t stand it. Everyone else was getting it together with God, and I was actually going backwards. God was not supposed to work that way. I thought He had promised to make it all better.

What He really promised, of course, was that He would be with me. Big help that was! I wanted Him to fix me. The least He could do was fill up my horrible pit, right now! I had prayed, hadn’t I? He was the Mighty One, wasn’t He?

I felt hopeless, deserted, and alone. Something was wrong here. I hadn’t prayed right. I hadn’t done morning devotions correctly or long enough or early enough.

The only thing that comforted me was the psalms. David was a man in pain, and I was too. He cried as I did: “God, where are You?” There was no hope. I had tried everything I could think of. All the landscaping around the hole was uprooted and I stood staring down into the crater.

“God, where are You?” I cried. This time, instead of a hollow echo over my hole, I thought I heard Him answer, “Wait.” No! I couldn’t do that. I had to get healing. I had books to read on healing the homosexual. I had intense spiritual people to pray me out of this. But Jesus said, “Wait. I will be your good Shepherd, but you have to wait on Me. And I want you to learn to listen for My voice while you wait. Do you think you can handle this? It will not be easy.”

Wait! Learn to listen! I had exhausted all the alternatives. I had to do what God asked.

I’m gaining confidence in my Shepherd as I learn to wait. I’m learning to recognize His voice. At times, I feel His love wash over me. I’ve started to journal our conversations. I write what I think He is saying. Then I write my responses. I say, “Thank you, Lord.” He answers, “You’re welcome, special man.” Sometimes I think I will never stop crying, but He is crying with me.

Jesus never said He would just ZAP! and my hole would be filled, leaving the ground of my being unmarked. He said He would always be there for me. I am learning to wait on Him.

I’ve learned to see Him on the Cross. Sometimes when I ask for forgiveness, I see my sin go into Him as if it were lightning. Sometimes I see Him cutting the connections I’ve made in past unhealthy, sinful relationships. I see those bonds disappearing into the slash in His side.

My prayer: Thank You, Father, that You are using the pain in my life to teach me to stand before Your Cross and wait and listen. Thank You for my tears and Yours, which are just beginning to fill my crater. I’m vulnerable and scarred. You are the Master Landscaper who can take my internal disaster and create in me a garden for Your use, in Your time.

—Anonymous

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The author and his wife have been married for eleven years and are best friends. Although their relationship is platonic, they support and care for one another, openly discussing their feelings and struggles.

Christ & Sexual Sin

SOURCE:  John Freeman

Homosexuality has embraced our culture and our culture has embraced homosexuality. It’s part of the fallen nature of things, and fallen man has always been an expert at creating ingenuous ways to celebrate his brokenness.

Homosexuality is one of those topics that draws vibrant reactions. Complex issues of the heart usually do. Christians are in a sort of no-man’sland here. Suggesting that homosexuality is sinful can appear, to the world, as uneducated, rude, and stupid. On the other hand, suggesting that God loves and forgives sinners who struggle with homosexuality and that we should do the same may appear compromising and wishy-washy.

While we can oppose the advancement of this movement by vocalizing our concerns and participating in the political process, for the Christian a far deeper response to homosexuality and the gay community is needed. In such a heated debate, Christians have a responsibility to represent Christ to a fallen world in four ways.

Patiently Listen: “Let every person be quick to hear” (James 1:19). I don’t mean just to look for loopholes or a chance to criticize or find fault. We must listen so as to get to or gain the “heart thrust” of what a person is saying. This is hard work and an art — a skill to be learned. It’s not natural. It takes practice. Listen to what moves other people. Listen for where their passions lie, what they value, what their experience has been (especially with other Christians), and what they fear.

The more you understand a person’s point of view, the more you can profit from it. Why do they think that way? What events led up to their adopting that worldview? What’s been their experience of Christianity — of other Christians or the church? What wounds from their family of origin and from other people lie festering in the background? As adults, we’re usually a composite of all this.

Personally Repent: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans? … No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1–5). Only a redeemed sinner, knowing he stands condemned apart from Christ, can reach a sinner who doesn’t know he needs redeeming. What’s your motivation? Is it to reach lost people with the enduring love that has found you out — that has exposed you as a cut-throat and depraved sinner? Is it your own awareness that, at heart, you’re a sham, misfit, counterfeit, and phony? Or is it to make a nice, neat little package of this messy aspect of life? Are you concerned about making a complex world seem simple? Where are you walking in hypocrisy? Do you really care about homosexuals — or only want them to shut up and disappear? Luke 7:47 says that “he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Gently Instruct: “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone … correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Tim. 2:22–25). Is the Holy Spirit instructing us as we seek to instruct others? Do we pray for Christlikeness as we seek to correct others? Are our unloving and impatient hearts a hindrance to the gospel message? It should always be the truths of Scripture, not our demeanor or presentation of it, that people reject.

Talking to those who are blind to the reality of their hearts but who live in a world that applauds their sin is both a privilege and a challenge. They are victims of their own sin and the lies and sin of others; therefore, they’re caught. But they’re also accountable before a holy God. We must represent both aspects of the truth as we share Christ.

Mercifully Pursue and Then Engage the Heart: “Have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 22–23). God calls us to be neither reclusive nor rude, but to move boldly into confusing, high-stakes situations with the gospel of God’s mercy. We bring the gospel where it is most needed: to the vocally anti-Christian progay activist; to the mild-mannered clergy who says the love of Jesus means affirming homosexuality as God’s gift; to the quietly confused and scared teenager who fears he’s gay and there’s no other option. Showing mercy means practically caring for people. It means being patiently and persistently available to help those who live in a fallen world.

As we do this, we’re able to move into other people’s worlds. Engaging people by asking good questions, respectfully, is an important part of this. I once stopped a protester who was marching at a gay rally and subsequently had a two-hour conversation that ended with this man thanking me for stopping him to speak with him — in spite of the fact that I shared the gospel with him! I listened and engaged his heart, and that was infectious to him. Listening, asking questions, and engaging people with respect, even if we have fundamental differences, gets people into their story quicker than anything else.

Jesus was the master of all that I’ve just spoken about (though He was in no need of repentance). We should be too. His methods are the most under-utilized and missed aspects of evangelism.

Reparative Therapy, Homosexuality, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ

SOURCE:  Article by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr

Each U.S. presidential election cycle brings its own set of unexpected issues, and the 2012 race already offers one topic of controversy that truly sets it apart — a debate over forms of therapy that attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation.

Known as reparative therapy or sexual orientation conversion therapy, these approaches seek to assist individuals in changing their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. The cultural and political debate over reparative therapy emerged when a clinic run by Marcus Bachmann, husband of Republican candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, was accused of offering treatment and counseling intended to change sexual orientation.

Virtually all of the secular professions that deal with sexual orientation are stalwartly opposed to reparative therapy, or to any attempt to change one’s pattern of sexual attraction. Indeed, these groups hold to an inflexible ideology that insists that there is absolutely nothing wrong with homosexuality. These groups include, for example, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Association of Social Workers, among many others.

In 2008, a number of these groups released a statement on sexual orientation and youth that began with the stated premise that “both heterosexuality and homosexuality are normal expressions of human sexuality.” Thus, the groups argue that any attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation is likely to be harmful. The “Just the Facts Coalition” also included groups such as the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. A statement adopted in 2000 by the American Psychiatric Association declares that the APA “opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as reparative or conversion therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her sexual homosexual orientation.”
 

This controversy will inevitably demonstrate the basic worldview divide that separates the secular therapeutic community and evangelical Christians. The politicians, the mental health industry, and the media will have their own debate on the matter, but Christians now face the urgent challenge of thinking about these issues in a way that is fully biblical and theological — and thus faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

First, we face the fact that the Bible clearly, repeatedly, consistently, and comprehensively reveals the sinfulness of all homosexual behaviors. This truth is set within the larger context of the Bible’s revelation concerning the Creator’s plan and purpose for human sexuality — a context that is centered in the marital union of a man and a woman as the exclusive arena for human sexual activity. This flies in the face of the contemporary demand for the full normalization of homosexuality. As the joint statement of the “Just the Facts Coalition” declares, “both heterosexuality and homosexuality are normal expressions of human sexuality.”

The normalization of homosexuality simply cannot be accepted by anyone committed to biblical Christianity. The new secular orthodoxy demands that Christians abandon the clear teachings of Scripture, and Christians must understand that the sinfulness of all homosexual behaviors is not only a matter of biblical authority, but also of the Gospel. To deny that sin is sin is to deny our need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christians cannot accept any teaching that minimizes sin, for it is the knowledge of our sin that points us to our need for atonement, salvation, and the forgiveness of that sin through the cross of Jesus Christ.

Second, we must recognize that every human being is a sinner and that every sinner’s pattern of sexual attraction falls short of the glory of God. There is no sinner of physical maturity who will be able to say that he or she has never had a sinful thought related to sex or sexuality. Taking the Bible’s teachings about sin and sexuality with full force, we understand that every sinful human being is in need of redemption, and that includes the redemption of our sexual selves.

Actually, the Bible speaks rather directly to the sinfulness of the homosexual orientation — defined as a pattern of sexual attraction to a person of the same sex. In Romans 1:24-27, Paul writes of “the lusts of their hearts to impurity,” of “dishonorable passions,” of women who “exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature,” and of men who “gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another.” A close look at this passage reveals that Paul identifies the sinful sexual passion as a major concern — not just the behavior.

At this point, the chasm between the biblical and secular worldview looms ever larger. The modern secular consensus is that an individual’s pattern of sexual attraction, whether heterosexual or homosexual, is just a given and is to be considered normal. More than that, the secular view demands that this pattern of sexual orientation be accepted as integral to an individual’s identity. According to the secular consensus, any effort to change an individual’s sexual orientation is essentially wrong and harmful. The contemporary therapeutic worldview is virtually unanimous in this verdict, but nothing could be more directly at odds with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The New Testament reveals that a homosexual sexual orientation, whatever its shape or causation, is essentially wrong, contrary to the Creator’s purpose, and deeply sinful. Everyone, whatever his or her sexual orientation, is a sinner in need of redemption. Every sinner who comes by faith to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved knows the need for the redemption of our bodies — including our sexual selves. But those whose sexual orientation is homosexual face the fact that they also need a fundamental reordering of their sexual attractions. About this, the Bible is clear. At this point, once again, the essential contradiction between the Christian worldview and the modern secular worldview is clear.

Third, Christians understand that sinners are simultaneously completely responsible for their sin and completely unable to redeem themselves from their sin. Sinners may improve themselves morally, but they cannot mitigate to any degree their need for redemption. Indeed, moralism is a false gospel that suggests that we can please God by moral improvement. As Isaiah warns, the only righteousness of which we are capable amounts to “filthy rags.” [Isaiah 64:6] The law reveals what is good for us and what is sinful, but the law is powerless to save us. [Romans 8:3]

The law of God reveals our sin, and our sin reveals our need for a Savior. Paul’s own testimony about the law, his knowledge of his own sin, and the redemption that was his in Christ is clear when he writes to the Romans: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” [Romans 7:24-25] This is every Christian’s testimony.

Thus, we recognize that, without redemption, there is no eternal hope for the sinner. Even in terms of moral improvement in this earthly life, the non-Christian lacks union with Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the means of grace that alone can conform the believer to the image of Christ. Thus, for the non-Christian, the most that can be hoped for is a responsible determination to cease practicing an immoral behavior. The Bible holds no hope for the sinner’s ability to change his or her heart.

In other words, a biblical Christian will have no fundamental confidence in any secular therapy’s ability to change a sinner’s fundamental disposition and heart, and this includes every aspect of the sinner’s life, including sexuality.

This is where the Gospel-centeredness of the Christian worldview points us to the cross of Christ and to the sinner’s fundamental need for redemption, not mere moral improvement. The Bible offers no hope for any human ability to change our sinful desires. As the modern secular worldview generally acknowledges, the alcoholic who stops drinking remains an alcoholic. The secular world affirms that this is so. The Bible explains why it is so.

Fourth, the Christian cannot accept any argument that denies what the Bible reveals about the sanctification of believers — including the sanctification of our sexuality. The believer in the Lord Jesus Christ receives the forgiveness of sins, the gift of eternal life, and the righteousness of Christ imputed by faith. But the redeemed Christian is also united with Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and given means of grace through, for example, the preaching of the Word of God. The Bible reveals that God conforms believers to the image of Christ, doing that work within the human heart that the sinful human himself or herself cannot perform. The Bible reveals that believers are to grow into Christlikeness, knowing that this is a progressive process that will be completed only with our eventual glorification at the end of the age. In this life, we know a process of growing more holy, more sanctified, and more obedient to Christ. In the life to come, we will know perfection as Christ glorifies his Church.

This means that Christians cannot accept any argument that suggests that a fundamental reorientation of the believer’s desires in a way that increasingly pleases God and is increasingly obedient to Christ is impossible. To the contrary, we must argue that this process is exactly what the Christian life is to demonstrate. As Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” [2 Corinthians 5:17]

The Bible is also honest about the struggle to overcome sin and sinful desires. Paul writes about this in Romans 7, but the exhortations of the entire New Testament also make this clear. Christians with same-sex sexual desires must know that these desires are sinful. Thus, faithful Christians who struggle with these desires must know that God both desires and commands that they desire what He wills for them to desire. All Christians struggle with their own pattern of sinful desires, sexual and otherwise. Our responsibility as Christians is to be obedient to Christ, knowing that only He can save us from ourselves.

Christians cannot avoid the debate over reparative therapy, nor can we enter the debate on secular terms. We must bring to this conversation everything we know from God’s Word about our sin and God’s provision for sinners in Christ. We will hold no hope for any sinner’s ability to change his or her own heart, and we will hold little hope for any secular therapy to offer more than marginal improvement in a sinner’s life.

At the same time, we gladly point all sinners to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, knowing that all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. [Romans 10:13] We hold full confidence in the power of the Gospel and of the reign of Christ within the life of the believer. We know that something as deeply entrenched as a pattern of sexual attraction is not easily changed, but we know that with Christ all things are possible.

And, even as Christians know that believers among us struggle to bring their sexual desires into obedience to Christ, this is not something true only of those whose desires have been homosexual. It is true of all Christians. We will know that those believers who are struggling to overcome homosexual desires have a special struggle — one that requires the full conviction and support of the body of Christ. We will see the glory of God in the growing obedience of Christ’s redeemed people. And, along with the Apostle Paul and all the redeemed, we will await the glory that is yet to be revealed to us.

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Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.,serves as president of  The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Making All Things New: Restoring Pure Joy to the Sexually Broken (Part 2)

Editor’s Note:  This is a lengthy article, but it is so well worth the investment of time to read thoughtfully and prayerfully through these truths.

SOURCE:  David Powison/CCEF

3. It’s a WIDER war

Sexual sins grab everyone’s attention. They haunt the conscience and excite the gossip. They push other sins into the background. They go up on the marquee in red letters 10 feet high.i But consider the struggle with sin this way. Imagine a multiplex theater screening many movies simultaneously. Sexual sin is the “feature film” advertised on the marquee. But other significant films are playing in other screening rooms. The war with sin takes place in many places simultaneously. In ministry to people who struggle with sexual sins, you may get the breakthrough in another screening room, with a sin that you might not have noticed or might not have considered to be related. A breakthrough – with anger, or pride, or anxiety, or laziness – may have ripple effects that eventually help disarm the big bogie-man that has been hogging all the attention and earnest concern. It’s very important to widen the battlefront, and not to let the high profile sins blinker us from seeing the whole picture. I will give a case study of how sexual sin can and must be located within wider battles.

“My temper tantrum at God.” Tom is a single man, 35 years old. You might be able to fill in the rest of his story, because his pattern is so typical! He came to Christ, with a sincere profession of faith, when he was 15. At about the same time, his 20-year struggle with sexual lust began. It involves episodic use of pornography and episodic masturbation, about which Tom is deeply discouraged. Over the years he has experienced many ups of “victory,” and just as many downs of “defeat.”

Tom came for help from me as his elder and small group leader. He was currently discouraged by recent failures, by the latest downturn in a seemingly endless cycle. Over the years he has tried “all the right things,” the standard answers and techniques. He’s tried accountability – sincerely. It helped some, but not decisively. Accountability had a way of starting strong, but slipping to the side. At a certain point, to tell others you failed yet again, and to receive either sympathy or exhortation, stopped being helpful. Tom has memorized Scripture, and wrestled to apply truth in moments of battle. It’s often helped, but then in snow-blind moments, when he most needs help, he’ll forget everything he knows. Sex fills his mind and Scripture vanishes from sight. Other times he just overrides the truth in an act of “Who cares?” rebellion. Then he feels terrible – his conscience only goes snow-blind for half an hour at a time! He’s prayed, and continues to pray. He’s fasted. He’s sought to discipline himself. He’s planned constructive things to do with his time, and to do with and for others. He’s gotten involved in ministry to teens. He’s tried things that aren’t in the Bible: vigorous exercise, cold showers. dietary regimes. Briefly, he even tried the advice of a self-help book, trying to think of masturbation as “normal, everybody does it, so give yourself permission.” His conscience, wisely, could never get around Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:28. Tom has tried it all. Most things (except giving up the fight) helped a bit. But in the end, success was always spotty and fragile. Tom has gained no greater insight into his heart and into the inner workings of sin and grace. For twenty years it’s been: “Sin is bad. Don’t do it. Just do _____ to help you not sin.” His entire Christian life has been conceived and constructed around this struggle with episodic sexual sin.

His pattern is as follows. Seasons of relative purity might last for days, weeks, even for a few months. He measures his success by “How long since I last fell?” The longer he goes, the more his hopes rise, “Maybe now I’ve finally broken the back of my besetting sin.” Then he falls again. He stumbles through seasons of defeat, wandering back to the same old pigsty. “Am I even a Christian? Why bother? What’s the point? Nothing ever works.” He’s plagued with guilt, discouragement, despair, shame. Sometimes Tom will even turn to pornography to dull the misery of his guilt over using pornography. He’ll beg God’s forgiveness over and over and over, without any relief or any joy. Two weeks or a month of “victory” does far more to alleviate his guilt than anything arising from his relationship with Christ. Then, for unaccountable reasons the season will change for the better. He’ll get sick of sin or get inspired to fight again. That’s when he gave me a call. He really wanted deliverance once and for all.

What should I do in trying to help Tom? I was reticent to simply give Tom more of the same things he’d tried dozens of times, and found wanting. I didn’t want to just give him a pep talk and a Scripture, urge him to gird his loins to run the race, and offer accountability phone calls. What is he missing? What’s happening in the other theaters of his life? Are there motives and patterns neither of us yet sees? What’s going on in the days or hours before he stumbles? What about how he (mis)handles the days and weeks after a fall? Why does his whole approach to life seem like so much complicated machinery for managing moral failure? Why does his approach to the Christian life seem so dehumanized and depersonalized? His Christianity seems like a big production, a lot of earnest effort at self-improvement. Why does his collection of truths and techniques never seem to warm up and invigorate the quality of his relationships with God and people? Is the centerpiece of the Christian life really this endless cycle of “I sin. I don’t sin. I sin. I don’t sin. I sin.” What are we missing?

I asked Tom to do a simple thing, attempting to gain a better sense of the overall terrain of his life: “Would you keep a log of when you are tempted?” I wanted to know what’s going on when he struggles. When? Where? What just happened? What did you do? What were you feeling? What were you thinking? If you resisted, how did you do it? If you fell, how did you react afterwards? Does anything else correlate to sexual temptations?

Through all the ups and downs, Tom had maintained a great sense of humor. He laughed at me, and said, “I don’t need to keep a log. I already know the answer. I only fall on Friday or Saturday nights – usually Friday, since Saturday is right before Sunday.” If you have any pastoral counseling genes in you, you light up at an answer like that. Repeated patterns always prove extremely revealing on inspection. I asked, “Why does sexual sin surface on Friday night? What’s going on with that?” He said, “I go out and buy Playboy magazine as my temper tantrum at God.”

Amazing. Look what we’ve just found out: another movie is playing in a theater next door. Now we’re not only dealing with a couple of bad behaviors, buying pornography and masturbating. We’re dealing with anger at God that drives those behaviors. What’s that about? Tom went on to give a fuller picture. “I come home from work on Friday night, back to the apartment. I’m all alone. I imagine that all my single friends are out on dates, and my married friends are spending time with their wives. But I’m all alone in my apartment. I build up a good head of steam of self-pity. Then by nine or ten o’clock, I think, ‘You deserve a break today’ – I even hear the little MacDonald’s jingle in my head, and then sexual desires start to look really, really sweet. ‘God has cheated you. If only I had a girlfriend or a wife. I can’t stand how I feel. Why not feel good for awhile? What does it matter anyway?’ Then I hop in the car, head to 7-11, and fall into sin.”

Amazing, isn’t it? Pornography and masturbation grabbed all the attention, generated all the guilt, defined the moment and act of “falling.” Let’s call that Screening Room #1. But we’ve also heard about anger at God that precedes and legitimates sexual sin: Screening Room #2. We’ve heard about hours of low-grade self-pity, grumbling, and envious fantasies: a matinee performance in Screening Room #3. We’ve heard Tom name the original desire that leads to self-pity, to anger at God, and finally to sexual lust: “God owes me a wife. I need, want, demand a woman to love me.” That’s playing in Screening Room #4, an unobtrusive G-rated film, seemingly no problem at all. It’s a classic non-sexual lust of the flesh that Tom has never viewed as problematic. In fact, in his mind, it’s practically a promise from God: “Psalm 37:4. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. If I do my part, God should do His part and give me a wife.”

As Tom and I kept talking, I found out why God owes him a wife: “I’ve tried to do all the right things. I’ve served Him. I’ve tried accountability. I’ve memorized Scripture. I’ve tried to be a good Christian. I do ministry. I witness. I tithe.… but God hasn’t come through.” In other words, the “right answers” for fighting sin are also the levers to pry goodies out of God. Tom’s words sound eerily like the self-righteous whine of the older brother in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son: “I’m good, therefore God owes me the goodies I want.” Subsequent anger at God operates like any other sinful anger: “You aren’t giving me what I want, expect, need, and demand.” This fatally-flawed, proud ‘upside’ of the classic legalistic construct has been showing in Screening Room #5. And why does Tom mope in self-lacerating depression for days and weeks after falling, rather than finding God’s living mercies new every morning? That’s the self-punitive, despairing ‘downside’ of the legalistic construct: “I’m bad, therefore God won’t give me the goodies.” Screening Room #6 is where self-punishment, self-atonement, penance, and self-hatred play out.

It doesn’t take much theological insight to see how all these distortions of Tom’s relationship with God express different forms of basic unbelief. We suppress living knowledge of the true God. We create a universe for ourselves voided of the real God’s presence, truth, and purposes. Unbelief does not mean a vacuum; rather the universe fills up with seductive, persuasive fictions. Screening Room #7 is showing a blockbuster that Tom had never noticed as trouble. (When Dame Folly keeps her clothes on she sounds like common sense.) In fact, we even found out why Tom is so eager right now to get my counsel and advice. Why did he want to have victory over his lust problem, to try again, to defeat the dragon of lust once and for all? He’s recently had his eye on an eligible young lady who started to attend our church. That’s reawakened his motivation to fight. If only lust goes, then God owes, and maybe he’ll get the wife of his dreams. Even Tom’s agenda for counseling plays a bit part in the wider battle: Screening Room #8!

Look how far we’ve come in half an hour. Tom’s “fall” at 9:30 P.M. last Friday was not where he started to fall. It was not even his most devastating fall. For me to assist Tom’s discipleship to Jesus is not simply to offer tips and truths that might help him remain “morally pure” on subsequent Fridays. Counseling must be about rewiring Tom’s entire life. “Cure of souls” is what ministry does.

You can see why we must widen the battlefront in order to cure souls. Tom concentrates all his attention on one marquee sin that sporadically surfaces, defining and energizing all his guilty feelings. But that narrowing of attention serves to mask far more serious, pervasive sins. As a pastor, friend, or other counselor, you don’t want to concentrate all your energies in the same place Tom does. There are other, deeper opportunities for grace and truth to rewrite the script of this man’s life. Tom had turned his whole relationship with God into flimsy scaffolding. Self-righteousness (“victory at last”) would get him the goodies he really wanted out of life. Though Tom knew and professed sound theology, in daily practice he reduced God to the “errand boy of his wandering desires” (Bob Dylan).

Tom and I put the fire of truth and grace to the scaffolding. Wonderful changes started to run through his life. We didn’t ignore temptations to sexual sin, but many other things that he had never before noticed became urgently important. We spent far more time talking about self-pity and grumbling as “early warning” sins, about how the desire for a wife becomes a mastering lust, about how the self-righteousness construct falls before the dynamics of grace. Temptations to sexual sin greatly diminished. The topography of the battlefield radically changed. The significance of Jesus Christ’s love went off the charts. The lights of more accurate and comprehensive self-knowledge came on. A man going in circles, muddling in the middle, started to leap and bound in the right direction. We experienced the delights of a season of gazelle growth. Ministering to someone who has struggled for 20 years with the exact same thing is disheartening, and frequently a recipe for futility. Ministering to someone who is starting to battle a half-dozen foes that were previously invisible is extremely heartening! Widening the war served to deepen and heighten the significance of the Savior who met Tom on every battlefront.

4. It’s a DEEPER war

The Bible is always about behavior, but it is never only about behavior. God’s indictment of human nature always gets below the surface, into the “heart.” His gaze and Word expose the thoughts, intentions, desires, and fears that shape the entire way that we approach life. An immoral act or fantasy – behavior – is a sin in itself. But such behavior always arises from desires and beliefs that dethrone God. Whenever I do wrong, I am loving something besides God with all my heart, soul, mind, and might. I am listening attentively to some other voice. Typically (but not always!), immoral actions arise in connection with erotic desires that squirm out from under God’s lordship. But immorality results from many other motives, too, and usually arises from a combination of motives. We saw some of this in describing Tom. Erotic motives, the “feel good” of sex, played an important role. But other motives – “I want a wife”; “If I’m good, God owes me goodies”; “I’m angry because God has let me down” – interconnected with his eroticism. Many co-conspirators play a role when Tom starts rummaging in the gutter of “I want to look at a naked Playmate” and “I need sexual release now.” Many other lusts join hands to give a boost to sexual lust. It’s worth digging, both in order to understand yourself and in order to minister wisely to other people. As our understanding of sin’s inner cravings deepens, our ability to know and appreciate the God of grace grows deeper still. Consider a handful of typical examples to prime the pump.

a. Angry desires for revenge.

Sexual acting out can be a way to express anger. I once counseled a couple who had committed backlash adulteries. First they had a big fight, full of yelling, threats and bitter accusations. In anger the man went out and slept with a prostitute. Still burning with anger, he came home and gloated about it to his wife. In retaliatory anger, the woman went out and seduced her husband’s best friend. Did they get any erotic pleasure out of those acts? Probably. But was eros the driving force? No way. Though it’s not always so dramatic, anger often plays a role in immorality: a teenager finds sex a convenient way to rebel against and to hurt morally upright parents; a man cruises the internet after he and his wife exchange words; a woman masturbates to fantasies of former boyfriends after she and her husband argue. In all these situations, the redemption of dirtied sexuality can only happen alongside the redemption of dirtied anger.

b. Longings to feel loved, approved, affirmed, given romantic attention.

Consider the situation of an overweight, lonely, teenage girl with acne, whose enjoyment of sex as an act is minimal or even nil. Why then is she promiscuous, giving away sexual favors to any boy who pays her any attention? She barters her body in service not to erotic lust, but in order to feed her consuming lust for romantic attention. When boys say sweet things and pledge their faithful love, she might even know inside that they are lying. She knows that they are merely using her as a receptacle for their lust, but she temporarily blocks out the thought. She does sex anyway – because she’s hooked on “feeling loved.” Ministry to such a young woman does her a disservice if we only concentrate on the wrong of fornication, and do not help her to understand the subtler enslavement of living for human attention. Sex can be an instrument in the hands of non-sexual lust. Both evils must find the mercies and transforming power of Christ.

c. Thrilling desires for the power and excitement of the chase.

Some people enjoy the sense of power and control over another person’s sexual response. The flirt, the tease, the Don Juan, the seducer are not motivated solely by sexual desires. Often evil erotic pleasure is enhanced and complemented by deeper evil pleasures: the chase, the hunt, the thrill of conquest, the rush that comes with being able to manipulate the romantic-erotic arousal of another. There is a kind of sadistic pleasure driving through such sexual sins. They like to see people get aroused, “fall” for them, and squirm. They may become indifferent to a willing sexual partner once that particular chase has ended. Repentance and change for seducers will address lusts for perverse power and excitement, as well as lusts for sex.

d. Anxious desires for money to meet basic survival needs.

The obvious link of sex to money is the “sex industry”: sex makes lots money for lots of people. As in the previous cases, eros may be one factor. But in money-making sex, pleasure plays second fiddle to mammon. There are also more subtle situations. A single mother in our church was in very tight financial straits. She found herself strongly tempted by her sleazy landlord’s offer of free rent in exchange for sexual favors. If she had fallen, sexual desire might have been non-existent. In fact, she might have fornicated despite feeling active repugnance, shame, and guilt in the act. To God’s glory, she opened up her struggle to a wise woman. In a variety of appropriate ways the church was able to come to her aid with care and counsel. One aspect of care for her came from the deacons (who didn’t even know what almost happened): “Know that you will not end up on the street. We are your family. If you get stuck, if you wonder where the money will come from for rent, or groceries, or a doctor’s bill, don’t think twice about asking for help.” Interesting, isn’t it? Mercy ministry to financial needs played a significant role in reducing a woman’s vulnerability to one particular sort of sexual temptation. She needed counsel, too, in order to run further in her race of repentance. But anxiety, finances, and the character of God were more salient than her sexual temptation.

e. Distorted messianic desire to help another.

Certainly there are pastors and priests who are sexual predators, but that’s not the only dynamic of sexual sin in the ministry. I’ve dealt with a number of situations that involved the very impulses that make for ministry – run far off the rails. For example, a pastor feels deep concern for a lonely young widow or divorcée. He so much (too much) wants to help her and comfort her. She so appreciates his wise, Scriptural counsel. He’s such a role model of kindness, gentleness, communication, attentive concern. But life is still very hard and lonely for her. He starts to console her with hugs. They end up in bed. The motives? Sexual, yes. But more significant in the early going was a warped desire to be helpful, to be admired, to make a real difference, to be important, to “save” her. When anyone who is not the Messiah starts to act messianic, it gets very ugly very fast. When you minister to a minister who has committed sexual sin, you might find that sex was only the poisoned dessert. The poisonous entrée might be a very different set of deceitful desires, desires arising more in the mind than from the body (Eph. 4:22; 2:3).

f. Desires for relief and rest amid the pressures of life.

Sexual sin often serves as a kind of “escape valve” from other problems. When steam pressure gets too high in a pressure cooker, it blows off steam. That’s a metaphor for what’s often true with people, too. Consider a man who faces, and mishandles, extreme pressures in his work place. He’s part of a team facing a drop-dead deadline for a major project. They’ve been running behind. He’s had a month of 80-hour work weeks. He’s harried, driven, preoccupied, worried, worn out. Every day his boss applies more pressure, more panic, more threats. There’s been vicious infighting on the project team: who’s responsible for what task, who’s to blame for what glitch, who gets credit for what achievement. All along, he is not casting real cares on the God who cares for him; he is not “anxious for nothing,” but anxious about lots of things. After two straight all-nighters, just under the wire, they finish the project. They made it. He made it. Success. Finally he has a free night, with no deadlines, no jungle of intramural combat, no tomorrow to worry about. But after a month of living ‘stressed-out’, he feels no relief. He finds no satisfaction in achievement. So he surfs the internet, revels in pornography, forgets his troubles. What’s going on with him?

Erotic sin is part of his picture, but there’s lots more. Every deviant motive – all lusts of the flesh, lies, false loves – is a hijacker. It mimics some aspect of God. It usurps some promise of God. Consider that about 2/3s of the Psalms present God as “our refuge” in the midst of the troubles of life. Amid threat, hurt, disappointment, and attack, God protects, cares, and looks out for us. Our friend has faced troubles: people out to get him, threats to his job, intolerable demands, relentless weeks. But he’s been finding no true refuge during this frenzied month. Now, in a spasm of immorality, he takes “false refuge” in eroticism. His erotic behavior serves as a counterfeit rest from his troubles. Psalm 23 breathes true refuge: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” This man pants after false refuge: “After I’ve walked through that godforsaken valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because the photograph of a surgically-enhanced female wearing no clothes is with me.” A false refuge looks pretty silly when it’s exposed for what it really is.

Sexual sin is one expression of a deeper war for the heart’s loyalty and primary love. Learning to see more clearly is a crucial part of your sanctification journey. Teaching others to have eyes open to the deeper battles is a crucial part of wise pastoral ministry. Jesus Christ looks better and better the more we see what He is about. He is not simply in the business of cleaning up a few embarrassing moral blots. Deepening the battle deepens the significance of the Savior. He alone sees your heart accurately. He alone loves you well enough to make you love Him.

5. It’s a SUBTLER war

A newcomer to war imagines that the first battles are the hardest battles. When you’re first coming out of the morass of an adulterous relationship, of being betrayed by a spouse’s adultery, of promiscuous fornications, of having experienced rape or molestation, of a homosexual lifestyle, of an obsession with internet porn, it can seem like your troubles will be over if you can only get past the particular bad behavior (yours or another’s) that insulted God and sucked the life out of you.

Those battles are hard. But will your troubles be over? That’s not how life works. That’s not how sanctification works in the clean-up from sexual dirt. In fact, in some ways it’s the opposite. The more obviously destructive sins can be “easier” to deal with. The subtler sins can be more stubborn, pervasive, sneaky, and elusive.

Consider a metaphor for this. Many computer and video games send you out on a quest, a sort of pilgrim’s progress. You proceed through level after level, facing test after test, until, say, at Level 50 you’ve run the race and won. Level 1 starts you out with easier challenges. The tasks are clear cut. The enemies are slower, more limited in their abilities, more obvious in their approach, not so smart. With some practice, you learn to accomplish your task and blow away your attackers. Level 2 gets a little harder. Each successive level gets harder still. The tasks get trickier. The enemies are wilier, stronger, quicker, more numerous. The skills you need are subtler and more varied. If you ever arrive at, say, Level 40, it’s because you’ve died often, but you learned something each time, and you kept coming back. You’ve come a distance in the right direction.

The struggle with sexual sin (as with any other sin) has a certain similarity to those video games. There is typically a front-and-center issue, and the “front lines” of the current battle move from the more overt sins to subtler sins.ii Let’s work out the metaphor.

a. High-effort, high-cost sins.

Think of consenting sex (adultery, fornication, homosexuality, prostitution) and criminal sex (rape, child abuse) as the Level 1 sins. These are the obvious evils. I don’t mean that such sins are easy to break or easy to change. But they are relatively easy to see. Easier to recognize as wrong. Easier to know when you’re doing wrong, once your conscience starts to see straight. And such sins are usually harder to do and harder to get away with. Think about that. You have to put in a lot of effort scheming in order to arrange a liaison. You have to hide things from people who love you, who would be unhappy if they found out what you’ve been doing. You have to tell consistent and increasingly complex lies in order to get away with it. You have to lie to your own conscience to persuade yourself that everything’s OK. Because these actions involve actual copulation with other people, those partners may blow your cover, or blackmail you, or slip up, or report you. These sins can catch up with you very quickly, taking you down in an instant. They can destroy your reputation. Destroy family relationships. Destroy finances. Destroy health by a sexually-transmitted disease. Even send you to jail. In other words, these sins take a lot of work and can bite back hard. If you’re willing to seek mercy and change, it’s easier to set up meaningful barriers against the high-effort, high-cost sins.

Jesus Christ often begins His work of mercy and renewal by dealing with such high-handed sins. Often the dramatic first steps of sanctification shake off overt evils. Oily-rag people make leaps and bounds into the garden of light. There are adulterers who repent and never have sexual relations with anyone who is not their own wife or husband. It is entirely possible to have lived an immoral life for many years, with a string of lovers, and then to make such a complete break with that sin that you will never be immoral again – in the Level 1 sense. That does not always happen. And it’s never a snap of the fingers. And you may still face ongoing consequences. And believers do fall back into such sins. But grace and change can be as easy to see and as powerful as the sin once was. Accountability relationships can really help. The Scriptures openly and frequently speak into the obvious sins to bring transformation. (By doing this, God also familiarizes us with how the subtler versions of sin and love work, teaching us how to see more of life for what it is and can become.)

b. Lower-effort, lower-cost sins.

Let’s say you’ve done some growing. You’ve put away overt evils. No immoral liaisons. By grace you’ve worked and fought your way to a Level 8 battle. Pornography was around before, but now it’s the biggie. In some ways, pornography is a tougher problem than adultery. In one sense, it’s “not as bad,” because it doesn’t involve an accomplice or victim. But it’s harder to get rid of. Harder to set up protective barriers. Why is this? Pornography is easier to do and easier to get away with. The necessary deceit is not as complicated. It doesn’t take much work for you to do the sin. Adultery usually takes a lot of effort, both to arrange and to cover your tracks. But pornography? The gap between temptation and sin can be a matter of seconds. Three clicks of the mouse, and you’re there. A few dollars at an airport magazine shop. Standard fare in films. A remote control in your hand to check out what’s on cable TV. And who’s to know? No one. Pornography use is harder to discover. Unless you fail to erase it off your computer. Or you spend so many hours on-line late at night that friends and family get suspicious. Or someone walks in on you. Or you get depressed and grouchy because you feel guilty. Or your relationships slowly fray and alienate because of your preoccupation, defensiveness, and hiding. The consequences are shameful – but usually not as disastrous as with the interpersonal sins.

So pornography is both “not as bad” as adultery, and yet harder to defeat because it’s easier to do and not as devastating. Christ is merciful here, too. Lots of people have broken with pornography and never gone back. You learn the joys of righteousness, the deeper pleasures of a clear conscience and honest relationships. You learn to say No to yourself. You get more interested in good things. You care about people, and sin just doesn’t have as much room to insinuate itself into your heart. Some practical tools can help, too. A friend who will look you in the eye, ask a direct question, and expect an honest answer can help you. You can set up Covenant Eyes software (www.covenanteyes.com) to monitor your internet use and e-mail a report to a friend.

c. No-effort sins.

Let’s say you’ve put pornography and immoral copulation aside. The acted-out sins no longer draw you. Are there no more enemies to fight? Now we’re up to Level 16: mental tapes. This is an even subtler problem. You don’t even have to do anything. No effort, no expense. You aren’t copulating outside of marriage. You aren’t cruising the internet. But you have a theater and library in your own mind. It’s all stored there: memories, images, stories. At your mind’s fingertips are things you did, experiences you had, people you watched or read about. You don’t have to tell any lies or arrange anything. You just open a door in your mind. You can’t get caught – except by the Searcher of hearts, before whose eyes all things are open and laid bare, Him with whom we have to do. Because He sees us on the inside, and because He’s merciful both inside and out, grace is available here, too.

Sometimes the battle with mental tapes stalls because you actively cherish and nurture old memories. But when you actually start to fight, you wish you could push ERASE, and obliterate the collection of old videos. But the erase button on memories doesn’t work on request. It’s a subtler battle, learning to say No inside your mind, and Yes to your Father who is right at hand. The point is clear. The enemies get subtler. They aren’t as “bad” outwardly. But they’re “worse” when it comes to getting rid of them, because sins are so easy to arrange and not so immediately self-destructive.

I’ve chosen examples from the active sins. But there is an analogy for those who experienced the dark splash of evil as the victim of another’s sin. In some ways, it can be “easier” to deal with an abusive relationship (Level 1). Hard as it is to get away, it can be done. The problem is clear cut and definable. Like adultery, the wrongdoer can be caught in the act. Violence can be intercepted. The action steps are more obvious. Friends will help you. The law can help protect you: police intervention, a restraining order, criminal charges against the offender. You can flee. When you aren’t in the same room, the person can’t hurt you anymore. There are places to live where you are safe. But how do you deal with the memories (Level 16)? Memories aren’t as “bad” as being abused, but they can be “worse” when it comes to getting rid of them. They inhabit the room of your mind. Or, how do you deal with the fact that your pump is primed to interpret anyone’s irritation at you as a threat of imminent violence (Level 24)? How do you deal with the subtle fears that you now bring to all relationships, apprehensions so automatic that you don’t even know you’re doing it (Level 40)? Those motions of your soul are almost invisible, pervasive, hard to intercept, and highly corrosive to developing future trust and love. Safe refuge, peace, and watchful care run deep in the psalms. God is trustworthy at every level. Psalm 23 means one very good thing at Level 1, something still richer at Level 16, and wonders beyond wonders at Level 40. The significance of the Lord’s kindness is not exhausted at the more obvious levels. The psalms go deep, deeper, and deepest, the more you bring complex, honest experience onto the table.

d. Sins that come looking for you.

Let’s say you’ve left adultery and pornography behind, and simply don’t go there. You’re closing and locking the door on mental tapes. But how about those situations where you aren’t looking for sin, but sin is out looking for you? Let’s call that Level 24. In this battle the insurgents are trickier. An invitation to lust can sneak up and attack you in ways that no actual human being with adulterous copulation on the mind could find you. Our culture has many “acceptable” predators. Have you ever been blindsided by a lewd image or suggestion that you were not looking for, but it was looking for you? The fashion industry, entertainment industry, advertising industry, and sex industry know their business well. They are looking to find you, to snag your heart, to shape your identity, your goals, your worries, your spending. Some of my examples arise because we live in a culture of visual media, where such ambushes are increasingly common.

    • You’re doing a book search on the internet, looking for an out-of-print theology book. A slightly mistyped web address pipes hardcore porn onto your screen. Or, you open an e-mail that looks like it’s for real, but it turns out to be well-disguised spam spewing gutter words in bold, colorful print. Or, you recognize that an e-mail is spam and delete it, but you can’t avoid reading the filth on the subject line. You feel splashed with sewer water. You weren’t looking for sin; you didn’t linger; you’re dirtied anyway.
    • In the grocery store, a handsome, charming young man starts to flirt suggestively with you, a mature, married woman with well over 100,000 miles on your odometer! Is there an answering flutter inside you?
    • You hear that a certain movie is worth watching, but get blindsided. A lewd scene was gratuitously inserted into an otherwise good movie for the sake of avoiding a G rating. Or, the cinematography is beautiful, but deep emotional empathy is created for a man and woman whose respective spouses are portrayed unfavorably. The couple is portrayed as committing wondrously life-affirming adultery. Are you neutral and detached? Disgusted? Somehow hooked?
    • You’re driving down the highway, and voilà, a 20’x60’ billboard advertises Coors beer by featuring a lady wearing practically no clothes. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were nothing inside answering back to her call, if that ad created the same neutral indifference as the neighboring billboard, on which Citizen’s Bank advertises its thrilling 5.25% mortgage rate?! Suddenly, you’re in a fight that you didn’t start. You didn’t do anything to put yourself in harm’s way. Nobody (except God and your conscience) will ever know if you sin by responding to the Coors woman’s initiative in a way that commits adultery in your heart. No one ever came under church discipline or was sued for divorce by driving on the interstate and looking twice at the billboard of a mostly naked lady sprawling behind a beer bottle. But that’s where an ambush occurs.
    • You’ve learned to deeply trust and love your God and a circle of dear friends, after torturous experiences many years ago. You’ve learned not to shrink from new people. Your new boss generally treats you reasonably, but his appearance, voice, and mannerisms bear an uncanny resemblance to the person who once betrayed you. Where that person was cruel, your boss is only irritable and sarcastic on occasion. His sins are 1% of what you once experienced; but that’s where today’s battle erupts.

You can have a lot of light growing in your life, good latticework in place, gardens of healthy sexuality. But wherever there’s still a broken lattice, an oily stain, then an inner spark or inner flinch can answer to what comes at you. Redemption proceeds exactly in such places. You face things that whisper the very things that once shouted in your life. And Christ speaks loud and clear, so at this level, too, you learn to choose well.

e. Sins so atmospheric they seem like who you are.

Sometimes lust is so subtle it doesn’t even seem like lust – until you think about it, unmask it, pull it towards the light: Level 40. For example, have you ever tried to battle the instinct to employ sexual-attraction criteria in sizing up what a person look like? It can be a largely unconscious operation. Subliminal radar attends, explores, notices, registers on the wavelength of mildly sexualized desire. It’s a quiet current trending in the direction of lust. You’re subtly aware of a body’s shape, of the cues communicated by posture and gesture, of the messages expressed through clothing, hairstyle, makeup, scent, tone of voice. This subtle attentiveness correlates to the heart’s erotic attraction: “Is this person desirable to my eyes, worth further exploratory interest?” Perhaps this thought process rarely surfaces into conscious awareness. Perhaps you almost as instinctively say No, resisting the impulse to convert its intentions into a conscious lewd look. (Garden of light within the lattice! Unchosen, unplanned, freely given fruit of the Holy Spirit!) But the very existence of such atmospheric erotic intentionality subtly stains you. It is yet another aspect of our battle with darkness.

When you see sin’s subtlety, you realize how much our lives hang upon sheer mercy from God. He is utterly aware of thoughts and intentions of which we may be barely aware or wholly unaware. Mercy extends here, too. “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.… May the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Ps. 19:12, 14). The stains that corrupt our hearts are not simply the planned, willful, chosen, enacted sins that emerge at the more obvious levels of our battle.

Is it possible to alter the subtle tendencies that pattern how you look at people? Yes. The Holy Spirit is about this business. It takes awhile: a lot of walking on the paths of light, a lot of needing God and loving God, a lot of receiving His mercies, a lot of learning to genuinely love people. But you can grow wiser even at this subtlest of levels. You can increasingly view each human being as a sister or brother, a mother or father, a daughter or son, not as a sexual object. Your gaze and intentions can become more and more about the business of caring and protecting.

f. Truly changed, truly changing, and still at war.

All this – from Level 1 to Level 40 – is the arena of sanctification. Heart, soul, mind, and might we are being conformed and transformed into radiant purity. A heightened view of our war brings with it a heightened view of the significance of our Jesus Christ. One of the deep truths of sanctification is that you get “better” and “worse” at the same time!

You truly shine more brightly as you move towards the light. You hold onto God more steadily. You’re more loving and joyful. You’re more trustworthy. More teachable. You give to people rather than use them. But brighter light also exposes more dark corners, pockets of unconscionable and once unimaginable iniquity. As we have seen, sin is not only the worst things I ever did. It’s also an atmospheric narcissism: “Is that person pleasing to the sexual beck and call that animates my desires?” John Calvin captured well the historical wisdom of the church regarding these things:

The children of God [are] freed through regeneration from bondage to sin. Yet… there still remains in them a continuing occasion for struggle whereby they may be exercised; and not only be exercised, but also better learn their own weakness. In this matter all writers of sounder judgment agree that there remains in a regenerate man a smoldering cinder of evil, from which desires continually leap forth to allure and spur him to commit sin.iii

A smoldering cinder of evil. A restless inner motion of sin. Jesus’ first beatitude is first for a reason. Awareness of impoverished need for mercies from outside is the opening motion of living faith. Jesus’ blessing on the inwardly poor is not “first” in the sense that having once experienced it, we move on and leave our need for grace behind. The first beatitude is foundational. It sets the shape and infrastructure of the entire building. The better I know my Christ, the better I know my need for what He alone is and does.

When you understand your subtle sinfulness, you will never say of any human being, “How could he do that?” or “She’s so unbelievable!” We are fundamentally more alike than different. You may never have been an adulterer, fornicator, homosexual, or consumer of pornography. But you know with all your heart that no temptation overtakes anyone that is not common to everyone (1 Cor. 10:13). And you know how significant it is that God is faithful. Grasping the subtlety of the battle helps you to grasp the true subtlety and scope of the work of our Savior. Remember me, O LORD, according to Your loving-kindness.

6. Remember the goal

We’ve looked at many varieties of sexual darkness. The war is longer, wider, deeper, more subtle than we might imagine. It is no accident that the height, depth, length, and breadth of the love and work of Jesus is more wonderful than we understand at first. What is God after in remaking our lives? Is His purpose that we would just stop sinning? Is His purpose to get us diligently involved in religious activities?: have a quiet time, participate in corporate worship services, find fellowship. Yes, stop sinning. Yes, use the means of grace. But neither is an end in itself. The point is to become like Jesus in real life. The ends of grace are the active opposites of sin: love.

Jesus loves God. He lives out a head-on, honest relationship with His Father. The psalms open up his inner workings. He’s talking, not just living in his head. Whether in pain or joy, whether needy or exultant, whether looking at the weather or looking at the people out to hurt Him, whether considering God’s love or considering God’s wrath, Jesus talks it all out. He needs God, thanks God, trusts God, serves God. The psalms aren’t “devotions.” When Jesus talks and acts, He brings life to God and brings God to life. That’s what God intends the means of grace to accomplish. As you stop sinning, that’s how you live instead.

The way Jesus works as a person is the diametric opposite from how the oily rag works. When you’re living in sexual sin (or swamped in unredeemed sexual sufferings), you live in your own head. Sin pulls us into an incurving, self-absorbing inertia. We shut God out. The universe becomes all about me. Suffering tends to have the same effect, because we return evils (40 levels, from obvious revenge to subtle apprehensions) for evils. But Jesus suffers in the exact opposite way, opening out to God in need. As Jesus starts to rearrange how your personhood operates, you are becoming a qualitatively different kind of person. You operate differently. He teaches a life lived in God’s direction. He teaches you how to talk out everything that matters with the One whose opinion most matters, the only One who can do something about it all.

In the same way, Jesus loves people. He notices others. He stops. He helps people where they most need help. He answers real questions. He inverts hostile questions. He relentlessly leads people to think about the two decisive life-or-death questions: “Who are you living for? How are you living?” He’s dedicated to the true welfare of others. He protects and promotes the sexual purity of others (even when interacting with notoriously immoral women). He attacks oppressors, and tenderly bends towards the helpless. He dies willingly, the innocent for the guilty. Jesus works with people in the very terms we’ve been talking about throughout this article. He takes in hand the gamut of real problems. He initiates a war that is much longer, wider, deeper, and subtler than people realize. He gives graces, mercies, and truths that are much longer, wider, deeper, and subtler than we realize.

The way Jesus loves is the diametric opposite from how sexual sin works. Whether flagrant or atmospheric, whether copulatory or imaginary, sexual sin is hate. It misuses people. Jesus’ love treasures and serves our sexual purity. We misuse a gift when we do not treasure and serve the sexual purity of others. We degrade ourselves and degrade others. As Jesus starts to rearrange how you treat people, you are becoming a qualitatively different kind of person. A James Ward spiritual puts it this way: “I won’t treat you like I used to, since I laid my burden down.” Let me give two simple examples.

First, you learn to see and treat all people in wise, constructive ways. In principle, every person of the opposite sex fits into one of three categories: either family member, or spouse, or threat. (Every person of the same sex fits into one of two categories: either family member or threat.) Family member is the controlling category. In general we are to view and treat people like beloved sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, grandmothers and grandfathers. The lines are clear: anything that sexualizes familial relationships is wrong. True affection and fierce protection go hand in hand. The notion of incestuous sexuality is abhorrent before the face of God. In marriage, one sister, Nan, becomes my wife, and I become her husband. All our sexuality belongs rightly and freely to each other. The notion of treacherous sexuality – infidelity – is abhorrent before the face of God. A third group of people fall into the category of threat. Males and females who prove unfamilial in their intentions are threats. Again, the lines are clear: nothing sexualized, so flee seduction, whether in person or in imagination. The notion of an invitation to immoral sexuality is abhorrent before the face of God. Love is radically free to be fiercely faithful.

Second, good sexual love is simply “normal.” Sometimes the idealized view of good sex can sound overheated, even when we prize and protect marital sexuality. Sometimes we can give the idea that good sex (in both senses) is a gymnastic, ecstatic, romantic, athletic, electric, semi-psychotic, erotic, high-wire, bug-eyed, luxuriating, ravishing bliss of marital passion! Sorry to disillusion you. But much of good sex is just… well, normal, everyday. Think about it. Most people in the history of the world have lived in one-room huts, where the kids sleep in the same room with their parents! Countless families have lived in flats, with only curtains for room dividers, your mother-in-law in the far corner, your wife’s younger brother sleeping on the couch. Or they’ve lived in tents, as nomads. Not much sound-proofing or major privacy operative in that housing arrangement! Not much in the way of gymnastics or sound effects is possible unless you have no children. That’s not to say that a married couple with children shouldn’t get away for a weekend, or close the door, or do things to make sex special. Nothing wrong with some high-wire encounters that bring a little extra spice.

But think of the analogy with food, another of life’s very redeemable pleasures. Occasionally you pull out the stops for a memorable feast with all the fixings: Thanksgiving dinner. But in normal life, you eat a lot of healthy breakfasts. In the redemption of sex, lots of normal things flourish. How about courtesy? Basic kindness and patience? How about humor – pet names, teasing, irony, private jokes? Good sex is not that serious! How about mercy? How about a shower, shave, and being relaxed? How about a fundamental willingness to be available to another, simply to give. How about conversation? How about quiet, slow, leisurely time together? Basic love goes a long way towards making good sex good. It’s great when the Richter Scale tops out at an earth-shattering 8.1. But in normalized good sex, you’ll also enjoy 3.1 temblors that hardly rattle the teacups.

Get your goals straight. It heightens the significance of your Savior. He alone restores you to practical love for God and to the practical love appropriate for each of your various kinds of neighbors. He alone makes daily life shine with visible glory.

7. Get down to today’s skirmish in the Great War

We’ve talked about the war, the direction of the journey, the destination. The final word in restoring  joy is to get down to business. And your business has three parts.

First, where is today’s skirmish? Your battle always gets fought at the next step, not all at once. “Today’s trouble” is where you find God’s aid. A clear view of what you face defines the fork-in-the-road, your choice points. Where are you tempted, now? For example, Tom had to figure out how to refight his Friday nights so he wouldn’t keep coming out a loser. How about you? You are somewhere between Levels 1 and 40. Where is today’s choice point? The current struggle is the place the Vinedresser is pruning. It’s where you need life support from the Vine. Making all things new is always about something going on today. Restoring pure joys is not theory. It’s what’s happening here and now. It’s not about instant perfection (I hope that’s clear by now). And it’s not about yesterday. If you’re still brooding and obsessing over yesterday’s failures, then today’s choice point is, “How do you handle failure?” How will you quit curving in on yourself after you fall, and start dealing with your sins the way Psalm 25 does? (See section 1-c above). You’ll always need your Father, Savior, and Comforter to help you, forgive you, and teach you. Today’s trouble identifies where.

Second, what one thing about God in Christ speaks directly into today’s trouble? I gave an example earlier from Psalm 25. Just as we don’t change all at once, so we don’t swallow all of truth in one gulp. We are simple people. You can’t remember ten things at once. Invariably, if you could remember just ONE true thing in the moment of trial, you’d be different. Bible “verses” aren’t magic. But God’s words are revelations of God from God for our redemption. When you actually remember God, you do not sin. The only way we ever sin is by suppressing God, by forgetting, by tuning out His voice, switching channels, and listening to other voices. When you actually remember, you actually change. In fact, remembering is the first change.

Here’s a simple example. God says, “I am with you.” Those are his exact words. How does taking that to heart utterly change the script of your sexual darkness? What if you are facing a temptation to some immorality? For starters, nothing is private, no secrets are possible: “I am with you.” “I… am… with… you.” Say it ten different ways. Slow it down. Speed it up. Say it out loud. Say it out loud back to him: “You are with me, Lord.” You’ll probably find that you immediately need to say more, like “Help me. Have mercy on me. I need you. Make me understand that you are with me.” You will find that the competing voices, sly and argumentative, will become more obvious. To the degree that you remember that your Lord is with you, then what those other voices have to say will sound devious, tawdry, hostile to your welfare. How did they ever sound so appealing?! The contrast, the battle of wills, the battle between good and evil, will be more evident. Your immediate choice – which voice will I listen to? – will become stark. Remembering what’s true does not chalk up automatic victory. It’s not magic. It’s life. It’s not easy. Your battle will heat up. But we only do secretive things when we’re kidding ourselves. Every time you remember that you are out in public, then you live an out-in-public life. “I AM WITH YOU” means you’re always out in public. In order to sin, you’ll have to drown out the voice of reality, put your fingers in your ears, and switch channels to the fantasy channel, the lie channel, the death channel. And even if you switch channels and sin by high-handed choice, you will still be in broad daylight before God’s searching eyes. You can shut your eyes and plug your ears, He’s still right here. You’ll never get away. And you only have to open your eyes, listen, and turn around in order to find help. After all, He who loves you says, “I am with you,” mainly to encourage you. You have some degree of shame and secrecy attached to your sexual sin, unless you are a brazen, sleazy advocate for your fornications (not yet even fighting enemies at Level 1, but still committed to adore your enemies). Sin can’t stand to be out in public where everybody knows and everybody’s watching. “I am with you” means that the person who can help you right now knows and is watching. In fact, He is watching over you to protect you. He will help you escape darkness, because he has transferred you into the kingdom of the Son whom He loves.

What if you face a different struggle today? What if you feel overwhelmed with aloneness and fear, buried under your hurt, abandoned and betrayed by people? “I am with you.” “I am with you.” Again, when you really hear that, and take it to heart, you know you are not alone. You are safe. Manipulative or violent lust betrayed you; steadfast love never betrays you. Or what if you’re overwhelmed by the grime of past failures? “I am with you.” God is not shocked by the ugliness of your real-time evils. He came to die for “the worst of sinners” (as Paul twice refers to himself – 1 Timothy 1:15f). Whatever your struggle, “I am with you” changes the terrain of battle. You now see a fork in the road. A good road runs uphill towards the light, where previously you only knew to hurl yourself down a bobsled run into the abyss.

Third, put trouble and God together. Start talking, and start walking. We already began to do this in the previous paragraphs. It was impossible simply to identify choice points and then to offer promises and revelations of God without starting to capture the honest human responses: faith’s need for God, and constructive love for others. The Psalms put trouble and God together and talk it out. “Remembering” is not some la-de-da recitation of Bible verses. You fiercely pursue God. He must be to you what He says He is, and do for you what He says He does. In remembering, you change what’s on your mind. You change direction. You seek help. No face-plant in the muck today? That matters – even though tomorrow, or next month, the battle will mutate into some new form. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, step by step in real life. The Proverbs put you on the street before God’s eyes, and walk out how to live as a wise, loving person. The voice you listen to determines the choice you make. (Interestingly, Proverbs 1-9 drives this truth home by using sexual immorality as a vivid case in point.) How will you treat people today? Will love contain and express your sexuality well? Or will evil squander and warp your sexuality, treating others as sex objects?

Walking in the light is not magic. When you see the fork in the road more clearly (today’s skirmish)…, and when you see and hear your Lord more clearly (something He says)…, then you start talking, start needing, start trusting, and then you start making the hard, significant, joyous choice to love people rather than use them.

Go into action in today’s battle. That’s our final word. It gets us down to where our Savior is going into action. It’s where our Father is making us more fruitful. It’s exactly where the Spirit of life is changing us into His image of light and delight.

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This characterization partly arises from tendencies within American Christian culture. Other Christian cultures may do their calculus of the conscience a bit differently. In Uganda, for example, anger is particularly shameful, the bogie-man sin that automatically disqualifies from ministry. But Ugandans view sexual immorality the way that Americans view anger outbursts or gluttony. Such behaviors are sinful, but aren’t uniquely shocking and damning. Dante’s Divine Comedy portrays ‘normal’ sexual sins – sensuality, fornication – as meriting a shallower circle in hell. Like gluttony or sloth, these are distortions of normal desires. But sins of treachery, sexual and otherwise, involve betrayal of trust, and they sit in the deepest pit of hell.

ii The video game metaphor captures a progression of different kinds of battles we face . It does not capture how in real life we also “regress,” and may have to fight an old battle over again. It also does not capture that in real life the subtler sins are actually present all the way through. But they don’t tend to come front-and-center when some other struggle is more overt and decisive for that moment.

iii Calvin, Ibid., III:iii:10.

Making All Things New: Restoring Pure Joy to the Sexually Broken (Part 1)

Editor’s Note:  This is a lengthy article, but it is so well worth the investment of time to read thoughtfully and prayerfully through these truths.

SOURCE:  David Powilson/CCEF

For many years, a quilt has adorned one wall of our living room. The artist took swatches of fabric and cut hundreds of tiny squares and triangles. She created a lattice pattern through which you gaze into a luminous, iridescent garden. I view her quilt as an invitation to pause and catch a glimpse into paradise. The latticework encloses, protects, provides structure, revealing wonders. The garden within creates an impression of color and light, flower and air, life and pleasure.

It gives a small picture of our God’s great work, the brightness of all creation, the brightness of our salvation.

As such, it gives us a picture of sexuality – and of every other luminous thing that becomes darkened and can be redeemed. Sex is one good strand of God’s good work in creation. Sex is one good strand of his good work in salvation. Imagine your sexuality transformed into a garden of delight protected within the lattice. God began to do good work in you, and He is working to complete this. You will flourish in a garden of safety and joy. Wrongs are made right, “and all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well” (Julian of Norwich). The highest pleasure, the joy that remakes all lesser pleasures innocent, is our pleasure in Christ, the inexpressible gift. He is light. He is lifegiver. In his light, your sexuality transforms into one blossom among all that is good.

I needed a contrasting object lesson, so I stopped in to talk with my auto mechanic. He fished a greasy rag from the trash bin at the back of his garage, and handed it to me. Unnamable filth had soaked through that scrap of fabric. Ground-in, oily dirt. If your hands are clean, you don’t really feel like touching such a sordid rag. If you must handle such an object, you pick it up by one corner between thumb and forefinger, holding it out away from you at arm’s length. The filthy rag gives us a second, all-too-familiar picture of sexuality. Sex soaks up dark, dirty stains. We must deal with such ground-in evils if we are to fix what’s wrong with us and with others. We understand why Jude evokes an unpleasant sense of wariness even amid his call to generous-hearted love: “On some show mercy mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (Jude 23).

You can hardly bear to put a name on what some people do, or on what happens to some people. Is your sexuality misshapen and misdirected? Sexual evils are among the dark things that pour forth from within our hearts. Jesus bluntly indicts a roster of sexual wrongs (Mark 7:21-23) – and offers costly mercy to the repentant. Has your sexuality been harmed by others? Some people experience terrible sufferings at the hands of predators, users, misusers, and abusers. Jesus fiercely curses those who trip up others (Matthew 18:6-7) – and offers safe refuge to sufferers.

On the one hand, sex becomes a complex darkness. On the other hand, sex becomes a garden of simple, pure delights. Which picture represents you?

It’s not really a fair question! You probably can’t answer either-or, because most likely you’re somewhere in the middle, aren’t you? That’s important. This article is about making new, about the long restoring of joys to the broken and dirtied. In other words, it’s about the process of change. It’s about moving along a trajectory away from the dark and towards the light. It’s about knowing where you’re heading while you’re still somewhere in the middle.

Are you tilted more towards darkness? Of course, some human beings aren’t in the middle, but live utterly mired within sexual darkness. They even call “good” what God calls “evil.” But they’re not likely to have kept reading this far, because they want to feel justified in wrong, not to be remade right. They want more of what they already have. But if you have read this far, that very persevering has been because light, however far away it seems, is drawing you. There is no darkness so deep that it is immune to light. Perhaps you’ve been wronged sexually, and have lived a nightmare of fear and hurt. But you long for light. Such longing is a blossom of light pulling you in the direction of more light. Or, perhaps you’ve been wrong sexually, and have lived in a fantasyland of lewd, nude, and crude. But you feel sick and tired, dirty and ashamed. Such honest guilt is a blossom of honesty. It pushes you somewhere towards the middle. Your sins delight you less and less; they afflict you more and more. Kyrie, eleison; Lord, have mercy, You whose mercies are new every morning. When you know you need help, then you’re already moving in the middle, not stuck in filth.

Are you tilted more towards light? One man did live utterly as that garden of light shining through the lattice. Jesus did no sin. Yet He chose to enter our deepest darkness. He bore your stains, and did so without becoming stained. He is able to sympathize with your particular weakness and struggles, because He has entered your plight, facing the temptations of sin and suffering. He is able to help you in your failure and your vulnerability to future failure, because He remains unstained. He does not hold you at arm’s length. Jesus is willing to deal gently and truthfully, however ignorant and wayward we are. He is bringing us back to the paradise of light. Perhaps you have come far along this good path already. You have been given much light sexually. Much of the garden of faithful pleasures already flourishes in you. Much latticework of loving restraints is set in place. O hopeful joy, so much has already been purified! Gloria in excelsis Deo; glory to God in the highest. But I know, and you know, that oily stains and cracked slats remain in the fabric of every person’s life. We must still run the race of renewal.

A contemporary hymn contains this line, “In all I do, I honor You.” When I sing that hymn, I always think, “Well, Iwant to honor You in all I do, but I don’t.” The line is truest as a statement of honest intention, but often false as a statement of achievement. We want the garden, but grime still clings to us and oozes from us. Augustine put his struggle starkly: “As I prayed to you for the gift of chastity I had even pleaded, ‘Grant me chastity and self-control, but please not yet.’ I was afraid that you might hear me immediately and heal me forthwith of the morbid lust which I was more anxious to satisfy than to snuff out.”i We want the latticework to protect us, but dark creatures slip into or out of our hearts. When talking about something as important and troublesome as sex, it is important to affirm that the desire for light is the beginning of the emergence of light in our lives.

One theme runs through this article: “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). What does that lifelong process look like? How do you get from here to there? How does dirt transform into beauty? What’s the battle like? You’re somewhere in the middle, but Christ has begun a good work in you. He has washed away true guilt. He has broken your willing bondage. Jesus knows his business well. He is looking out for you. He is working to clear away sin’s rot. Jesus is remaking you into a person who actually loves people, and who begins to consider their best interests. Your opinions and impulses no longer reign. What He has begun, He will complete. On the final day, He will entirely remove the instincts and energies of sin from you. How does the war work out? We will look at seven aspects.

1. Bring light to ALL that darkens sex

You fight on many fronts. There are many kinds of evil, more than you might imagine. Some are obvious, some not so obvious. So what are you up against?

a. Unholy pleasure

The most obvious forms of sexual darkness involve the sins of overt immorality. There are countless ways that sexuality veers into extramarital eroticism. Sex can become like living in a Carnival of intoxicating fires, a dreamworld of erotic arousal, predatory instinct, manipulative intention, and the pursuit of carnal knowledge. In a nutshell, in each of the many forms of wrong, a person copulates with the wrong object of desire. Sexual love flourishes as a loving intimacy between one husband and wife. But desire is easily distorted and action misdirected. Such miscopulation can occur either in reality or in fantasy. These are the typical, red-letter, on-the-marquee sins. So what do the weeds of adultery, fornication, homosexuality, pornography, rape, bestiality, voyeurism, incest, pedophilia, fetishism, sado-masochism, transvestitism, prostitution, and bigamy-polygamy have in common? You copulate, in person or in your imagination, with the wrong object of desire.ii Others become objects of unholy desire. These fantasies and interpersonal transactions are the obvious ways in which human sexuality is misdirected into overt sins.

Historically, the behaviors mentioned have usually been evaluated and stigmatized as socially shameful. They have often been named as criminal acts in legal codes. To the degree that cultural values and laws mirror the call of love for others, rather than endorsing lust, they express the way that God sizes up human sexuality. Of course, when mores and laws change for the worse, such behaviors may even be reinterpreted as good, right, and sweet, rather than evil, wrong, and bitter (Isaiah 5:20f). But God teaches us to see things for what they are.

The bold-print sins point in the direction of the fine-print versions of the same sins. Many varieties of flirtation, self-display, foreplay, and entertainment don’t necessarily “go all the way” to orgasm: dressing to attract and tease the lust of others, looking voyeuristically, suggestive remarks, crude humor, erotic kissing, petting, and the like. All these intend in the direction of immoral copulation, whether they consummate their intention or not. Such behaviors (whether occurring in daily life or portrayed on film or page) cross the line of love. Whether or not our cultural context views such things as acceptable, or even as entertaining, they are evils. Love considers the true welfare of others in the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

Jesus Christ comes to those who have pursued unholy pleasures. He who hates the gamut of perversities listed in previous paragraphs, is not ashamed to love sinners. He does not weary in the task of rewiring sexuality into a servant of love. He is not only willing to forgive those who turn; he takes the initiative to forgive, and to turn us, and to give us countless reasons to turn. He says, “You need mercy and help in your time of need. Come to me. Turn from evils, and turn to mercies that are new every morning. Flee what is wrong. Seek help. Everyone who seeks finds. Fight with yourself. Don’t justify things that God names as evil. Don’t despair when you find evils within yourself. The only unforgivable sin is the impenitence that justifies sin and opposes the purifying mercies of God in Christ. Come to me, and I will begin to teach you how to love.”

Our culture thinks that any consenting object of desire is fair game for copulation. Individual will is the supreme value. But Christ thinks differently, and He gets last say. He backs up His point of view with a promise of clear-eyed, unavoidable reckoning: “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient” (Eph. 5:6). He backs up His point of view with a promise of hard-won mercies and with power to patiently change you so that you learn to love Him supremely. Each of the perversities makes sex too important (and makes the maker, evaluator, and redeemer of sex irrelevant). Sex becomes your identity, your right, your fulfillment, your need. That is nonsense. Each ends up degrading sex, as a mere urge that must find an outlet. That, too, is nonsense. Whether exalted or degraded, sex ends up disappointing, self-destructive, and mutually-destructive.

Jesus brings sanity and good sense. He starts by making sex of secondary importance. Sex is a real, but secondary, good. God neither overvalues nor degrades the good things He has made. By realigning who youmost love (away from yourself and distorted pleasures), He makes all secondary loves, including sexuality, flourish in their proper place. That might mean containing sexual expression during a long season, even a lifetime, of purposeful celibacy as a single adult. Jesus himself lived this way. It might mean a season of frequent sexual expression within loving marriage. That’s the most common calling. It might mean short or long seasons of again containing sexual expression because of the different kinds of celibacy that arise in the course of marital life: e.g., advanced pregnancy and post-partum; forced separation for business or military reasons; a chosen fast from sexual expression because of more pressing needs; the diminution of sexual arousal with advancing age; consequences of prostate surgery or other illnesses; the loss of your spouse if you are widowed. Whether by containment or by expression, our sexuality can be remade into love.

When we think about the forms of “sexual brokenness” that need to be made new, it is natural that we think first of the obvious sins. But other evils also begrime us as sexual beings. These also lie within the scope of redeeming love.

b. Unholy pain

Many people experience pain and fear attached to sexual victimization. Have you ever been attacked or betrayed sexually? Sex becomes like life in Auschwitz, like a burn survivor, a waking nightmare of hurt, fear, and helplessness from the hands of tormentors. Jesus’ kindness redeems both sinners and sufferers. He rights all wrongs. Jesus is merciful to people who do wrong (forgiving and changing you). He is merciful to people who are done wrong (comforting and changing you). When you are used, misused, and abused, sex grows dark. If you are or were a victim of sexual aggression, if you were violated, betrayed, or threatened by the sins of others, then sex often becomes ambivalent or fearful.

The erotic is meant to be a bright expression of mutual loving kindness. Sex thrives in a context of commitment, safety, trust, affection, giving, closeness, intimacy, generosity. The erotic flourishes as one normal, everyday expression of genuine love within marriage. A man and woman are “naked and unashamed” with each other and under God. They give mutual pleasure. Sex with your spouse can be simple self-giving, freely given and freely received. Your sexual interactions can express honesty, laughter, play, prayer, and ecstasy. Sex can be open before the eyes of God, approved in your own conscience, and approved in the eyes of family and friends who care for you.

But sex can become very distasteful. Pawing, seduction, bullying, predation, attack, betrayal, and abandonment are among the many ways that sex becomes stained by sufferings at the hands of others. When you’ve been treated like an object, the mere thought of the act can become filled with tense torment. Sexual darkness is not always lust; sometimes it is fear, pain, haunting memories. If immoral fantasies bring one poison into sex, then nightmarish memories infiltrate a different poison. The arena for trusting friendship can become a prison of mistrust. The experience of violation can leave the victim self-labeled as “damaged goods.” Sex becomes intrinsically dirty, shameful, dangerous. Even in marriage, it can become an unpleasant duty, a necessary evil, not the delightful convergence of duty and desire.

If such things happened to you, you might well feel hatred, terror, and disgust. You might feel guilt, shame, and self-reproach over what someone else did to you. Your thoughts of sex might be filled with loathing and despair, the furthest thing from lustful desire. This, too, is a rag soaked in the grease of nameless dirt. To those for whom sexual experience has resulted in unholy pain, Christ says, “I understand well your experience. Psalm 10 captures the outcry of a victim of predators. I hear the cry of the needy, afflicted, and broken. Come to Me. I am your refuge. I am safe. I will remake what is broken. I will give you reason to trust, and then to love. I will remake your joy.” With reason, two-thirds of the Psalms engage the experience of those who suffer violence, violation, and threat. These sufferings found their point of reference in the God who hears you now, who is your refuge, your hope, who is willing to hear your anguish and loneliness, who overflows with comforts. The reference point makes all the difference. God cares, and will patiently repair what has been torn.

In different ways, both violator and violated are stained with the filth of a fallen world. In different ways, Jesus Christ washes both. And there’s still other dirt on the shop floor, and other fresh mercies.

c. Guilt

The activity of doing sin is different from the repercussion of feeling guilt. Temptation arises as internal desire and external allure culminate into action. Then, if the conscience is not seared, comes the typical aftermath: guilt, shame, regret, remorse, resolves to change, penance, self-reproach, despair, making up, concealment, and so forth. The “carrot” draws us into one sort of darkness; the “stick” pounds us into a different darkness. Obsession with erotic pleasure yields to obsession with moral failure. Grace addresses both in different ways, because both are part of the dynamic of sexual evils.

Are you haunted by your sins, in the eyes of God, in the eyes of your conscience, and in the eyes of others who might find out? The sin may have just occurred a few minutes ago; it may be a distant but potent memory. Perhaps you don’t actively participate in that sin anymore. You’ve come far, and no longer feel any allure to a lifestyle you once avidly pursued. Or perhaps you just did it again. But the memory – whether fresh-minted or ancient history – fills you with dismay. Perhaps immediate and long-term consequences of your sin run far beyond the repercussions within your conscience: an abortion, STD, inability to bear children, ongoing vulnerability to certain kinds of temptations, a bad reputation, ruined relationships, wasted time, failed responsibilities. Nobody did this to you; you did it to yourself and to others. The same sense of dirty distaste haunts your sexuality as haunts those who were victimized. You victimized yourself (and others you betrayed). You, too, feel like damaged goods. Sex is not bright, iridescent, cheerful, generous, matter-of-fact. It is not a flat-out good to be enjoyed with your spouse or saved should you ever marry. You might live with such guilty feelings in your singleness. You might have brought them into your marriage. Perhaps you are afraid of relationships, because you know from bitter experience that you can’t be trusted. Perhaps it’s hard to shake off the train of bleak associations that attach to sexual feelings and acts.

We often underestimate just how radically biblical faith relies on grace. Grace means that what makes things right comes to you from the outside. It’s the sheer gift that someone else gives to you. You don’t get it by jumping through certain religious hoops. You are forgiven, accepted, saved from death outside of yourself andbecause of Another. Listen to how a man of faith dealt forthrightly with his former sins. The italics highlight how much your hope amid real guilt lies outside of you:

Remember, O LORD, Your compassion and Your lovingkindnesses,

for they have been from of old.

Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions.

According to Your lovingkindness remember me,

for Your goodness’ sake, O LORD.…

For Your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my iniquity for it is great.

– Psalm 25:6f, 11

David’s sexual sin was high-handed. It tore his conscience (Ps. 51; cf. Pss. 32, 38). It brought immediate and long-lasting consequences (2 Sam. 12:10-12, 14). Yet David was truly forgiven (2 Sam 12:13). He experienced the joy of repentance, and the wisdom, clarity, and purposeful energy that real repentance brings (those same psalms, and the rest of 2 Sam. 12). Notice: David radically appeals to the quality of “Your mercy, O LORD.” David’s own conscience remembers only too well, but he appeals to what someone else will choose to remember: “When God looks at me, will He remember my sin, or His own mercies?”

Sin itself turns you in on yourself, blinding you to God. Guilt also tends to turn you in on yourself. Self-laceration exalts your opinion of yourself as supremely important; shame exalts the opinion of other people. But living repentance and living faith turn outward to the one whose opinion most matters. What God chooses to “remember” about you will prove decisive. Your conscience, if well-tuned, is secondary and dependent on the stance He takes. If the Lord is merciful, then mercy has final say. It is beyond our comprehension that God acts mercifully for His sake, because of what He is like. Wrap your heart around this, and the typical aftermath of sin will never be the same. You will stand in joy and gratitude, not grovel in shame. You’ll be able to get back about the business of life with fresh resolve, not just with good intentions and some flimsy New Year’s resolutions to do better next time. This is our hope. This is our deepest need. This is our Lord’s essential, foundational gift. You know people who need to know this. They typically mishandle the aftermath of sin with further forms of the God-lessness that also manufactured sin. You, too, need to know how faith in Christ’s mercy decenters you off of yourself and recenters you onto the living God’s promise and character. The one with whom we have to do freely offers mercy and grace to help us by the lovingkindness of the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:13-16).

d. Don’t view sexual sin as just a male problem

When the church talks about “struggles with sexual lust,” the implicit assumptions are often far too narrow. As we have seen, our teaching, love, illustrations, and applications must not only mention the obvious behavioral sins. We also must touch the ways people brood over sexual suffering and over sexual guilt. In the same way, teaching too often only assumes and targets the struggles of men. Seductive women (“out there”) may be viewed as sources of temptation to men (provocative clothing; participation in making pornography; the temptress at work; the prostitute working in the sex industry). But women often slip under the radar of “struggles with lust.” Unvarnished erotic lust is seen as a typically male problem: e.g., the familiar line, “95% of men struggle with lust…, and the other 5% are lying.” But what about 100% of women in here? There are core similarities between men and women, along with some typical differences.

For starters, the Bible is candid that “there is no temptation that is not common to all” (1 Cor. 10:13). This doesn’t mean temptations always take exactly the same form, but there are underlying similarities. By God’s creation, men and women are primarily the same (human). By His creation and providence, we are secondarily different (male-female differences tied to biology, masculine-feminine differences tied to culture). Add it up, and we struggle with the same kind of thing, but may struggle in different kinds of ways. That does not mean that a female is not perfectly capable of the same unvarnished, immoral eroticism that characterizes some males. It takes two to tango in any act of adultery or fornication. The woman may well be the initiator/aggressor in sending out sexual signals or in arranging a liaison. Women have roving eyes and get hooked on erotic pleasures. Women masturbate. Women adopt a homosexual lifestyle. A woman can pattern her identity around fulfilling sexual self-interest and having a magnetic effect on male sexual interest. When she finds mercy in Christ and starts her journey towards the garden of light, her struggle may directly parallel the struggle of a man who has similarly patterned his lifestyle around immoralities. Both must learn how to love, rather than how to fulfill and arouse lust.

Second, it’s noticeable that female sexuality in America has taken on cruder forms in recent years (or, at least, is far more willing to be brazen). Open lewdness and frank immorality have replaced coy, suggestive hints of availability. Male or female, if you want it, go for it. For example, female athletes increasingly do the openly obscene behaviors that were once the prerogative of male athletes: gutter humor, mooning, streaking, sexualized hazing and initiation rites, predatory sexual acts, an atmospheric grossness. Using obscene language, attending a strip show, and surfing pornographic websites are not exclusively male sins. Women’s magazines (e.g., Cosmopolitan, and the like) have increasingly become sex manuals for how to have wildly ecstatic sex with your “partner” of choice. Marital status is an optional, irrelevant category. But Jesus Christ is “no respecter of persons”: a coarse female is as ugly as a coarse male. Jesus loathes the degradation of sex (Ephesians 5:3-8a). His self-sacrificing mercy works to transform sex into an expression of love, light, and fruitfulness (Eph. 5:1f, 8b-10) for females and males alike.

Third, there are some typical and noteworthy differences between men and women. Both strugglers and those who minister to them should be aware of variations on the common themes. At the level of motive, for example, male sexual sin and female sexual sin often operate in somewhat different ways. An old joke plays off the difference between simple and complex eroticisms:

Question: What is the difference between men and women?

Answer: A woman wants one man to meet her every need, while a man wants every woman to meet his one need.

Men are often more wired to visual cues, to anonymous “body parts” eroticism. Women are often more wired to feelings of personal intimacy and emotional closeness as cues for sexual arousal. These aren’t absolute differences (notice the ‘oftens’). They are bell curves that slide one way or the other. But being aware of the tendencies can be helpful. The motives driving adultery, fornication, and promiscuity may follow somewhat different patterns.

Homosexuality provides a particularly obvious example. Lesbianism typically presents a different picture from male homosexuality. Many lesbians were once actively, unambivalently heterosexual, whether promiscuous or faithfully married. They might have conceived, borne and raised children without much questioning of their sexual identity. But over time the men in their life proved disappointing, violent, drunken, uncomprehending, or unfaithful. Perhaps during the unhappiness of a slow marital disintegration, or while picking up the wreckage after a divorce, other women proved to be far more understanding and sympathetic friends. Emotional intimacy and communication opened a new door. Sexual repatterning as a lesbian came later, often the result of a slow process of experimentation that followed emotional closeness. The life-reshaping “lusts of the flesh” were not initially sexual. Instead, cravings to be treated tenderly and sympathetically – to be known, understood, loved, and accepted – played first violin, and sex per se played viola. Often the core dynamic in lesbianism is intimacy lust running out of control. In male homosexuality, the core dynamic is often sexual lust running out of control. (Again, notice the ‘often’. I’ve known male homosexuals where desires for acceptance or for power played first violin). What the Bible terms ‘lusts of the flesh’ include many different kinds of desires that run amok, hijacking the human heart.

It’s no surprise, then, that lesbians tend to form more stable relationships, and tend to be less promiscuous than male homosexuals. It’s no surprise that homosexualist ideology rarely attempts to make the argument that female homosexuality is genetic, though it often attempts that argument for men. Raw, obsessive sexuality seems to invite biological rationalizations in a way that a more multi-factored relationship doesn’t. Many homosexuals, both male and female, make comments along the following lines: “Why bother with the whole male-female thing? It’s easier to be gay! If men just want sex, let them score with each other. If women want to be known, understood, and loved, let them build relationships with each other. You can avoid the whole hassle of trying to bridge the male-female divide in relationships. It’s easier to get what you want with the same sex. And you can have simpler friendships with the opposite sex, too, when you take the sex thing off the table.”

Fourth, the culture of romance novels, soap operas, and women’s magazines does not draw nearly as much attention as male-oriented pornography. Men do graphic pornography. That’s an obvious problem. Women do romance. It’s the same kind of problem, though the participants keep their clothes on a while longer, and there’s more of a story to tell before they tumble into bed. Romance novels are female pornography. The sin comes wired through intimacy lust first, and builds towards erotic lust. The formulaic fantasies offer narrative emotion-candy, not visual eye-candy. Romance tells a story about someone with a name, someone you fall in love with. It builds slowly. It’s more than a moment of instant gratification with anonymous, naked, willing bodies. But like male pornography, there is a progression from soft-core (e.g., Harlequin series), to more openly erotic (e.g., Silhouette series), to frankly pornographic writings that target women. The male model Fabio made his career posing for the formulaic book cover art. A big, strong guy, stripped to the waist, tenderly cradles a beautiful woman. He’s the knight in shining armor, protective, gentle, understanding – and the handsome hunk of beefcake. The romantic novel genre has even made a crossover to evangelical Christian publishing houses. The sex is cleaned up; the knight in shining armor is also a deep spiritual leader who marries you before sleeping with you. But the fantasy appeal to intimacy and romance lusts remains as the inner engine that allures readers.

Female versions of sexual-romantic sin are shop-floor rags as much as male versions. Jesus Christ calls all of us out of fantasy, delusion, and lust, whether the fantasyland is filled with naked bodies or with romantic knights. Jesus Christ is about the reality business. Francis of Assisi got things straight: “Grant that I would not so much seek to be loved as to love.” Jesus teaches us how to be committed, patient, kind, protective, able to make peace, keeping no record of wrongs, merciful, forgiving, generous, and all the other hard, wonderful characteristics of grace. He teaches us to consider the true interests of others. He teaches us a positive, loving purity that protects the purity of others. Instead of our instinctual ways – narcissism, fascination with our own desires and opinions, self-indulgence – Jesus Christ takes us by the hand to lead us in ways that make vive la difference shine brightly.

e. Sexual struggles within marriage

We mislead ourselves and others if we say or imply that just getting married solves all the problems of sexual sin, sexual pain, sexual confusion. All sorts of remnant sins can carry on in marriage. All sorts of remnant heartaches and fears can still play out. “Making all things new” continues to remake sex within marriage. Here are some examples.

  • One person may need to learn that sex is good, not dirty. You can relax rather than tense up. You can give yourself freely, rather than worry about what will happen to you. Pleasure will not betray you. Your spouse is faithful and can be trusted. (Only larger, deeper, fundamental trust in God can free us to grant simple trust and generous love to another human being, who will in fact let us down and do us wrong in some ways.)
  • Another person may need to learn that sexual bliss is not the summum bonum of human life. You still need to say No to lust. There are seasons and reasons for self-denial and temporary celibacy. Your spouse may struggle, in sex as in other areas, and you will need to learn that “love is patient” comes first for a reason.
  • Some people may need to learn whole new patterns of sexual arousal. Willing nymphomania, copulatory gymnastics, and oral sex may have turned on your fantasies and fornications. But your spouse, God’s gift to you, may enjoy quiet, tender moments being held in your arms. The Richter Scale of raw ecstasies may have spiked higher in your past immoralities than in your marriage. But you need to learn that the scale of solid joys and lasting treasures proves incomparably deeper and more satisfying.
  • Still other marriages may need to give up evil relational patterns: game-playing, manipulation, give to get, avoidance, bartering sex for other goodies, sulking. Even high-stakes criminal sins – sadistic sexual aggression, violence, and rape – can occur in marriage.
  • Still other people must sever the link that equated sex with “success or failure,” with “performance” and “identity.” As Christ redefines and recenters your identity, he changes what sex means. Sex can become a simple and meaningful way to give. It can become a simple pleasure, as normal as eating breakfast. It can become a safe place where failures and struggles can be talked about and prayed through.
  • Some marriages may deal with impotence and frigidity (‘erectile dysfunction’ and ‘arousal disorder’ in the medicalizing jargon of our times). On the male side, Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra present a purely chemical solution for symptoms. The problem sometimes has a significant biological component unrelated to normal aging. But most often there are significant links to spiritual issues: performance anxiety, an unwillingness to face the diminishments of aging, the separation of sex from love, guilt over premarital sex, or unreal expectations of potency that have been learned from the media, pornography, or fornication.
  • Still others may face temptations to make comparisons with previous partners, or with fantasy partners, or with some idealized fantasy of what marital bliss should be like. Wise sex loves your husband or wife.
  • Still others will continue to struggle with familiar patterns of lust. They may be tempted to flirt, or to cheat, or to view pornography, or to masturbate in the shower, or to fantasize about past experiences.
  • Finally, every person will struggle with garden variety anger, anxiety, grumbling, selfishness, unbelief, and the weight of life’s difficulties. The everyday non-sexual sins and troubles don’t disappear! Other sins and hardships can clutter the bedroom with non-sexual troubles that greatly affect sexual intimacy. Christ’s ongoing mercies will remake your sexuality in part by remaking worry and irritability (and the rest) that arise in response to life’s pressures.

You get the picture! He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. His redemption will touch every form of grease. We can’t do justice to “sexual brokenness” or bring mercy unless we get the whole problem on the table. Jesus works with us. And it is our joy that He works with far more than just the Technicolor sexual immoralities.

2. It’s a LONGER war

One key to fighting well is to lengthen your view of the battles. If you think that one week of “shock and awe” combat will win this war, you’re bound for disappointment. If you’re looking for some quick fix, an easy answer, a one-and-done solution, then you’ll never really understand the nature of the honest fight. And if you promise easy, once-for-all victories to others, then you’ll never be much help to other strugglers.

The day of “completion” will not arrive until the Day that Jesus Christ arrives (Phil. 1:6). When we see Him, then we will be like Him perfectly (1 Jo. 3:2). The wiping away of all tears, the taking away of every reason for sorrow, crying, and pain, will not come until God lives visibly in our midst (Rev. 21:3-4). Someday, not today, all things will be made new (Rev. 21:5). Much of the failure to fight well, pastor well, counsel well, arises because we don’t really understand and work well with this long truth. Consider two specific implications. First, sanctification is a direction you are heading. Second, repentance is a lifestyle you are living.

a. Sanctification is a direction

Too often our practical view of sanctification, discipleship, and counseling takes the short view. If you memorize and call to mind one special Bible verse, will it clean up all the mess? Will prayer drive all the darkness away? Will remembering that you are a child of God, justified by faith, shield your heart against every evil? Will careful self-discipline and a plan to live constructively eliminate all failure? Is it enough to sit under good preaching and have daily devotions? Is honest accountability to others the decisive key to walking in purity? These are all very good things. But none of them guarantees that three weeks from now, or three years, or thirty years, you will not struggle to learn how to love rather than lust. We must have a vision for a long process (life-long), with a glorious end (the Day), that is actually going somewhere (today). Put those three together in the right way, and you have a practical theology that’s good to go and good for the going.

Look at church history. Look at denominations. Look at local churches. Look at people groups. Look at families. Look at individuals. Look at all the people in the Bible. They all have a history and keep making history. Things are never finished. No one ever says, “I’ve made it. No more forks in the road. No more places I might stumble and fall flat. No more hard, daily choices to make.” Look at yourself. Life never operates on cruise control. The living God seems content to work in His church and in people groups on a scale of generations and centuries. The living God seems content to work in individuals (you, me, the person you are trying to help) on a scale of decades, throughout a whole lifetime. At every step, there’s some crucial watershed issue. What will you choose? Who will you love and serve? There’s always something that the Vinedresser is pruning, some difficult lesson that the Father is teaching the children He loves (John 15; Heb. 12). It’s no accident that “God is love” and “love is patient” fit together seamlessly. God takes His time with us.

In your sanctification journey and in your ministry to others, you must operate on a scale that can envision a lifetime, even while communicating the urgency of today’s significant choice. ‘Disciple’ is the most common New Testament term describing God’s people. A disciple is simply a life-long learner of wisdom, living in relationship to a wise master. The second most common term, ‘son/child/daughter’, contains the same purpose: by living in life-long relationship to a loving Father, we learn how to love. When you think in terms of the moral absolutes, it’s EITHER oily rag OR garden of delights. But when you think in terms of the change process, it’s FROM oily rag TO garden of delights. We are each and all on a trajectory from what we are to what we will be. The moral absolutes rightly orient us on the road map. But the process heads out on the actual long, long journey in the right direction. The key to getting a long view of sanctification is to understand direction. What matters most is not the distance you’ve covered. It’s not the speed you’re going. It’s not how long you’ve been a Christian. It’s the direction you’re heading.

Do you remember any high school math? “A man drives the 300 miles from Boston to Philadelphia. He goes 60 mph for 2 hours, 40 mph for 3 hours, and then sits in traffic for 1 hour not moving. If traffic lightens up, and he can drive the rest of the way at 30 mph, how many hours will the whole trip take?” If you know the formula, “distance equals rate times time,” you can figure it out (8 hours!). Is sanctification like that, a calculation of how far and how fast for how long? Not really. The key question in sanctification is whether you’re even heading in the direction of Philadelphia. If you’re heading north towards Montreal, you can go 75 mph for as long as you want; you’ll never, ever get to Philadelphia. And if you’re simply sitting outside Boston, and have no idea which direction you’re supposed to go, you’ll never get anywhere. But if you’re heading in the right direction, you can go 10 mph or 60 mph; you can get stuck in traffic and sit awhile; you can get out and walk; you can crawl on your hands and knees; you can even get temporarily turned around. But at some point you’ll get where you need to go.

The rate of sanctification is completely variable. We cannot predict how it will go. Some people, during some seasons of life, leap and bound like gazelles. Let’s say you’ve been living in flagrant sexual sins. You turn from sin to Christ; the open sins disappear. No more fornication: sleeping with your girlfriend or boyfriend. No more exhibitionism: flashing in your trenchcoat or wearing that particularly revealing blouse. No more pornography: buying Penthouse or the latest salacious romance novel. Ever. It sometimes happens like that. For other people (and the same people, at another season of life) sanctification is a steady, measured walk. You learn truth. You learn to serve others constructively. You build new disciplines. You learn basic life wisdom. You learn who God is, who you are, how life works. You learn to worship, to pray, to give time, money, and caring. And you grow steadily – wonder of wonders! Other people (and same people, another season) trudge. It’s hard going. You limp. You don’t seem to get very far very fast. But if you’re trudging in the right direction – high praises to the Lord of glory! One day, you will see Him face to face, and you will be like Him. Some people crawl on their hands and knees. Progress is painful. Praise God for the glory of His grace, you are inching in the right direction. And then there are times you aren’t even moving, stuck in gridlock, broken down – but you’re still facing in the right direction. That’s Psalm 88, the “basement” of the Psalms. This man feels dark despair – but it’s despair in the Lord’s direction. In other words, it’s still faith, even when faith feels so discouraged you can only say, “You are my only hope. Help. Where are You?” That counts – it made it into the Bible. There are times you might fall asleep in the blizzard and lie down comatose and forgetful – but grace wakes you up, reminds you, and gets you moving again. There are times you slowly wander off in the wrong direction, beguiled by some false promise, or disappointed by a true promise that you falsely understood. But He who began a good work in you awakens you from your sleepwalk, sooner or later, and puts you back on the path. And then there are times you revolt, and do a face-plant in the muck, a swan dive into the abyss – but grace picks you up and washes you off again, and turns you back. Slowly you get the point. Perhaps then you leap and bound, or walk steadily, or trudge, or crawl, or face with greater hope in the right direction.

We love gazelles. Graceful leaps make for a great testimony to God’s wonderworking power. And we like steady and predictable. It seems to vindicate our efforts at making the Christian life work in a businesslike manner. But, in fact, there’s no formula, no secret, no technique, no program, and no truth that guarantees the speed, distance, or time frame. On the day you die, you’ll still be somewhere in the middle, but further along. When we lengthen the battle, we realize that our business is the direction. God manages to work His wonderworking glory in and through all of the above scenarios! God’s people need to know that, so someone else’s story doesn’t set the bar in a place that is not how your story of Christ’s grace is working out in real life.

b. Repentance is a lifestyle

What was the first trumpet call of the Reformation?

It was not the authority of Scripture, foundational as that is. Scripture is the very voice, face, and revelation of God. A Person presses through the pages. You learn how He thinks. How He acts. Who He is. What He’s up to. But Scripture alone did not stand first in line.

It was not justification by faith, crucial as that is. We are oily-rag people. Christ is the garden of light. We are saved by His doing, His dying, His goodness. We are saved from ourselves outside of ourselves. No religious hocus-pocus. No climbing up a ladder of good works, or religious knowledge, or mystical experience. He came down, full of grace and truth, Word made flesh, Lamb of God. We receive. That’s crucial. But faith alone wasn’t actually where it all started.

It was not the priesthood of all believers, revolutionary as that is. Imagine, there aren’t two classes of people, the religious people who do holy things by a special call from God, and the masses of laity toiling in the slums of secular reality. The “man of God” is not doing God’s show before an audience of bystanders. We all assemble as God’s people, doing the work and worship together, with differing gifts. The one Lord, our common King and attentive audience, powerfully enables faith and love. Yes and amen, but this radical revision of church didn’t come first.

The trumpet call, Thesis Number One of Luther’s 95 Theses, was this: “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said ‘Repent,’ He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” That dismantled all the machinery of religiosity, and called us back to human reality. Luther glimpsed and aimed to recover the essential inner dynamic of the Christian life. It is an ongoing change process. It involves a continual turning motion, turning towards God, and turning away from the riot of other voices, other desires, other loves. We tend to use the word ‘repentance’ in its more narrow sense, for decisive moments of realization, conviction, confession, turning. But Luther uses the word in its wider, more inclusive sense. We live FROM-TO, when we live in Christ. John Calvin put it in a similar way: “This restoration does not take place in one moment or one day or one year…. In order that believers may reach this goal [the shining image of God], God assigns to them a race of repentance, which they are to run throughout their lives.”iii The entire Christian life (including the more specific moments of repentance) follows a pattern of turning from other things and turning to the Lord.

Luther went on to write a beautiful statement describing the transformation dynamic that occurs as we live FROM-TO.

This life, therefore,

is not righteousness but growth in righteousness,

not health but healing,

not being but becoming,

not rest but exercise.

We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it.

The process is not yet finished, but it is going on.

This is not the end but it is the road.

All does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified.iv

Lifelong progressive sanctification was the trumpet call back to biblical faith. It was a call back to this life – including sex – in which the living God is on scene throughout your life. He planned a good work. He began a good work. He continues a good work. He will finish a good work. He has staked His glory on the completion of that work. Lengthening the battle heightens the significance of our Savior for every step along the way. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it.

————————————————————————————————-


i Augustine, The Confessions, trans. Maria Boulding, Hyde Park, New York: New City Press, 1997, Book VIII, Chapter 17, p. 198.

ii Marriage per se is neither magic nor magically loving. A few of these perversions of sexual goodness can be performed between married parties: e.g., joint use of pornography, sado-masochism, ‘homosexual marriage’, rape, bigamy. But such practices violate the call to loving intimacy before the eyes of God, who created sex good and defines good sex. The sexual identity and desires of one or both parties can be warped, whatever the marital status. The last part of this section will discuss sexual sins that more typically occur within marriage.

iii John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III:iii:9.

iv Martin Luther, “Defense and Explanation of all the Articles,” Second Article.

*****

David Powlison is a faculty member at CCEF and has been counseling for over thirty years.

This article appeared as a chapter in the book Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor, and published in 2005 by Crossway Books.

Homosexuality 101

SOURCE:  Narth/Julie Harren, Ph.D., LMFT

What Every Therapist, Parent, And Homosexual Should Know

Homosexuality is an issue that has often been mishandled by therapists due to misinformation on the topic. Although not supported by the research, many therapists believe that homosexuality is solely biological in nature, and therefore unchangeable. Yet despite ongoing efforts, researchers have not discovered a biological basis for same-sex attractions. In fact, many researchers hypothesize that a homosexual orientation stems from a combination of biological and environmental factors. For example, when asked if homosexuality was rooted solely in biology, gay gene researcher, Dean Hamer, replied, “Absolutely not. From twin studies, we already know that half or more of the variability in sexual orientation is not inherited. Our studies try to pinpoint the genetic factors…not negate the psychosocial factors” (Anastasia, 1995, p. 43). In addition, brain researcher Simon LeVay has acknowledged that multiple factors may contribute to a homosexual orientation (LeVay, 1996).

What, then, are the causes of homosexual attractions? These feelings typically stem from a combination of temperamental factors and environmental factors that occur in a child’s life. According to Whitehead and Whitehead (1999), “Human behavior is determined by both nature and nurture. Without genes, you can’t act in the environment at all. But without the environment your genes have nothing on which to act” (p. 10). One way of understanding this combination might be expressed in the following equation:

Genes + Brain Wiring + Prenatal Hormonal Environment = Temperament
Parents + Peers + Experiences = Environment
Temperament + Environment = Homosexual Orientation

While environmental factors may include experiences of sexual abuse or other traumatic events, a common contributor to same-sex attractions is a disruption in the development of gender identity. Gender identity refers to a person’s view of his or her own gender; that is, his or her sense of masculinity or femininity. Gender identity is formed through the relationships that a child has with the same-sex parent and same-sex peers.

The process of gender identification begins approximately between age two and a half and four. For boys, it is during this phase that they begin to move from their primary attachment with the mother to seeking out a deeper attachment with the father. For males, the relationship between a boy and his father is the initial source of developing a secure gender identity. It is through the father-son relationship that a boy discovers what he needs to know about being male, including who he is as a boy, how boys walk, how they talk, how they act, and so forth. As the father spends time with the son, shows interest in the son, and gives the son affirmation and affection, the father imparts to the son a sense of masculinity. The boy begins to develop a sense of his own gender by understanding himself in relation to his father.

When the child reaches the age of five, he begins to face another task, that is, to begin to attach to same-sex peers. At this age, he starts school and begins to look to the other boys to answer the same questions that his dad has been answering. He looks to the other boys to discover how they walk, how they talk, how they play, and how he measures up in relation to them. He seeks to be included, accepted, and acknowledged. Through the relationships he forms with other boys, he continues to gain a sense of masculinity, discovering more about others boys and therefore more about himself as a boy.

During the early years of elementary school, children are not usually very interested in playing with members of the opposite sex. They desire to spend time with members of the same sex. This is a very necessary stage of development, because a person cannot be interested in the opposite sex or in others, until he or she first understands himself or herself.

Eventually, after many years of bonding with members of the same sex, the boy enters puberty. At this time he begins to turn his attention to the opposite sex. He becomes curious about the gender which is different from his own, the female gender. With the simultaneous emergence of puberty, this curiosity becomes a sexual interest and a desire for romantic connection with the opposite sex.

Conversely, for the child who will develop a homosexual orientation, this process does not happen. So, what happens in the development of gender identity that would lead a child to have same-sex attractions? Typically, for this child, there is something that prevents him from attaching to the father. Either he doesn’t have a father or a father figure, or he doesn’t have a father who he perceives as safe and/or welcoming. Of course, there are many children who grow up without fathers and yet do not develop a homosexual orientation. In addition, there are many children who have loving fathers, yet still become homosexually oriented. This is due to the fact that there are various factors that contribute to a homosexual orientation. Human development is very complex and includes events, as well as perceptions about the events.

Perceptions are very important. Perceptions are more powerful than what actually happens, because perceptions become that person’s reality. Perceptions are influenced by temperament. For example, a child with a more sensitive temperament might perceive rejection even when rejection is not intended. Temperament is the biological contributor; however, temperament alone is not enough to create a homosexual orientation. The temperament type must be met with the right environmental factors in order to produce same-sex attractions. Typically the child who will later develop same-sex attractions is naturally sensitive, observant, intelligent, and is sometimes more artistic than athletic. This child often tends to personalize and internalize experiences and observations.

So, if a child perceives that his father does not want a relationship with him, that child might try a few times to connect with his father, but will eventually retract in self-protection. This is called defensive detachment. Upon sensing rejection, the boy chooses to reject the father in return. He detaches from the father and even what the father represents, which is masculinity (Nicolosi & Nicolosi, 2001). Typically at this point, he will stay connected to the mother and will instead soak in femininity. Usually he is also surrounded by other female figures, such as, a sister, an aunt, or a grandmother. So at a time when he is craving masculine input and seeking to understand himself in terms of his male identity, he instead receives feminine input and begins to develop a sense of the feminine.

By the time this child enters school, he often has a difficult time relating with other boys. Either he is just more comfortable with the girls, who are more familiar to him, or he is intimidated by the boys. Often this child sees himself as different from the other boys. So he may hold back from bonding with them. If he has developed any feminine mannerisms, he might also be rejected by the other boys and quite possibly even ridiculed. He is craving acceptance from the other boys and continues to need this acceptance, though the need goes unmet. The boy watches the other boys from afar, he longs to be noticed by them, and included by them, yet he remains with the girls, further gaining a sense of the feminine while deeply craving the masculine.

This child typically spends his elementary school years learning about femininity while craving to understand masculinity. Specifically, he desires to understand himself in terms of his own masculine identity. Yet, he does not assimilate with the same-sex parent or same-sex peers, so he does not acquire a masculine identity. He associates with the feminine, which is his primary source of input. He does not develop a secure gender identity. So by the time this child reaches puberty, the craving for male input has grown and intensified. At this time in his life he is not curious about or interested in the opposite sex. He already knows all about the opposite sex– they are quite familiar to him. What he is craving to know about is his own gender. He still deeply longs to know about boys. He longs to experience connections with males. This emotional need, the need for same-sex love, which has gone unmet, now begins to take on a sexual form. His unsatisfied cravings for male love become romantic cravings with the emergence of puberty. (Satinover, 1996).

To this child, it feels very natural that he longs for male love. In fact, he typically thinks that he was born that way, having craved male love for as long as he can remember. Indeed, he has craved this love most of his life. However, initially it was not a sexual craving. Instead, it was an emotional craving, a legitimate need for non-sexual love, an emotional need that has become sexualized.

The female development of homosexuality is a bit more complex. As with the male development, there are a number of factors that can contribute. For some women who end up with same-sex attractions, the development is similar to the male development previously described. For others, negative perceptions regarding femininity may lead to an internal detachment from their own femininity. For example, if a girl watches her father abuse her mother, the girl might conclude that to be feminine is to be weak. At an early age she might make an unconscious decision to detach from her female identity. She might detach from her own gender in an effort to protect herself from the perceived harmful effects of being female.

Sexual abuse is another factor that can contribute to a homosexual orientation. In these cases men are seen as unsafe, and lesbianism becomes a way of protecting against further hurt from a male. For some there might be a disconnection from the mother, and lesbianism becomes a search for motherly love. For others, same-sex attractions may not initially be present, but may later develop as a result of entering into a non-sexual friendship which becomes emotionally dependant. An emotionally dependent relationship is one in which two people seek to have their needs met by one another. It is a relationship in which healthy boundaries are not in place. The absence of appropriate emotional boundaries can then lead to a violation of physical boundaries.

For any of these reasons listed above, and in combination with other factors, same-sex attractions may develop. To the one who has these feelings, they are very real and very strong. There are many people who find themselves attracted to members of the same sex and yet do not want those attractions. For those who are dissatisfied with their sexual orientation, it should be noted that change is indeed possible. Research studies have revealed that change of sexual orientation does take place (see Spitzer, 2003; Byrd & Nicolosi, 2002). It is not a quick or easy process, but as with any other therapeutic issue, varying degrees of change are achievable through therapy and other means.

The inaccurate concept that homosexuality is solely biological is extremely misleading. Many therapists tell their clients that homosexuality is biological and therefore unchangeable. These therapists encourage their clients to embrace a gay identity, even when such clients are seeking change for their orientation. In doing so, therapists negate clients’ rights to self-determination. Clients have the right to choose their own goals for therapy and should be allowed to pursue the path they desire. Clients should not be discouraged from pursuing change when change is what they seek. In order for clients to have the options made available to them, it is vital that therapists as well as clients become better educated on this issue.

References

Anastasia, T. (1995). New evidence of a gay gene. Time 146, 43.

Byrd, A. D., & Nicolosi, J (2002). A meta-analytic review of the treatment of homosexuality. Psychological Reports, 90, 1139-1152.

LeVay, S. (1996). Queer Science, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Nicolosi, J. & Nicolosi, L. A. (2001). Preventing homosexuality in today’s youth. InterVarsity Press.

Satinover, J. (1996). The gay gene? The Journal of Human Sexuality.

Spitzer, R. L. (2003). Can some gay men and lesbians change their sexual orientation? 200 participants reporting a change from homosexual to heterosexual orientation. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32:5, 403-417.

Whitehead, N. & Whitehead, B. (1999). My genes made me do it: A scientific look at sexual orientation. Lafayette, LA: Huntington House Publishers.

Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 32, No. 5, October 2003, pp. 403-417

Demystifying Homosexuality

SOURCE:  Cross Ministry/Tim Wilkins

Recently I visited my family doctor for a routine checkup. While waiting to be seen, I could not help but notice a lady in her thirties, weighing – I suspect- no more than eighty-five pounds. She wore a blouse, shorts, and tennis shoes. Her legs were dangerously thin, her arms a bit larger than a broom handle and I could see her shoulder blades through her blouse. She reminded me of those who died in concentration camps under the control of Adolph Hitler. I struck-up a brief conversation with her, hoping to get a better idea of her condition. We made small talk for a few minutes and then she rose from her chair. She walked to a set of scales in the waiting room. She adjusted the scales for a moment and when I thought she was about to step-up she did something incredible. She reached down, unlaced her tennis shoes, removed them, and then stepped on the scales.

I am no doctor but I believe she was suffering from anorexia nervosa, “a psycho-physiological disorder usually occurring in teenage women characterized by an abnormal fear of becoming obese, a distorted self-image, a persistent aversion to food, and sever weight loss. It is often accompanied by self-induced vomiting, and other physiological changes.” An anorexic looks into a mirror and, although emaciated from self-starvation, sees herself as fat. Why? Because the anorexic has a severely distorted self-image.

Someone has said an illustration is like a window…it lets the light shine in. For that reason, I want to explain the complexity of homosexuality through the illustration of anorexia nervosa, a condition affecting women more often than men. At least three reasons make this condition an appropriate illustration. First, anorexia, unlike homosexuality, is a neutral issue; it has not been politicized. This illustration provides more light than heat, something conspicuously missing in most discussions on homosexuality. Secondly, society in general and Christians in particular are more understanding and sympathetic of this condition. And thirdly, anorexia and homosexuality share a few significant similarities.

A person does not choose to be anorexic, although they do consciously choose not to eat or eat and vomit; she likes food and is often obsessed with food and recipes. The anorexic’s primary problem is a severely distorted self-image, an identity issue. Because the anorexic’s primary problem is not her dislike for food, it is ineffective to tell her “all you need to do is eat.” The anorexic’s conscious choice, a stubborn refusal to eat, even to the point of death, is her feeble, illegitimate, and inappropriate attempt to correct the primary problem…a distorted self-image.

In most cases, a man or woman does not choose to be homosexual, although they do consciously choose to engage in homosexual behavior. The homosexuals’ primary problem is not an issue of sexuality. The homosexuals’ primary problem is a severely distorted self-image, an identity issue. Because the homosexuals’ primary problem is not “how to become attracted to the opposite sex”, it is ineffective to tell him “all you need to date more women.” The homosexuals’ conscious choice, to engage in such behavior, even to the point of death, is his feeble, illegitimate, and inappropriate attempt to correct the primary problem…a distorted self-image. Homosexuality is an illegitimate response to a legitimate need.

I know of occasions where well-meaning family and friends (some Christian) have suggested a gay man find a woman who can “make you a man,” ditto the lesbian. I would make three responses to that ill-advised suggestion. First, exchanging one form of immorality for another is not how God provides healing. Second, since sexuality is not the homosexuals’ primary problem, this advice is off-target. One might as well set an exquisite meal in front of an anorexic. Thirdly and most importantly, the homosexuals’ difficulty is not in relating to the opposite sex, but in relating to the same sex. Because the male homosexual has a severely distorted self-image (a lack of masculinity or maleness), his acting-out is his feeble attempt to import more masculinity into himself.

At this point a legitimate rebuttal would be, “This theory of a distorted self-image sounds good from a clinical, psychological perspective, but can you back it up with Scripture?”

CREATION

 Gen 1:26-27 “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…so God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Is it not striking that God uses the Hebrew words tselem, translated “image” three times, and demuwth translated “likeness” once in three verses?Here man’s moral and spiritual image is created; man’s physical image is footnoted in Gen. 2:7 “the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

Sexual distinction is also created; contrast “in the image of God he created him” with “male and female he created them.” (v. 27) Genesis 2:25 states “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” Note that while no shame concerning their nakedness occurs before the Fall, fear, shame, alienation from God, and embarrassment occur after the Fall.

DISTORTION

 Genesis 3:7-10 says “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made covering for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’” Dr. Guy Greenfield writes, “Sin has produced a hesitancy and reservation about sex among the biblical characters and writers as compared with the lack of shame in the Garden of Eden.” (Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 1251)

Note that before the Fall, or as Vance Havner used to say, “before Adam and Eve ate us out of house and home” only the male/female relationship existed; after the Fall came myriads of immoral relationship (adultery, polygamy, incest, prostitution, and homosexuality, to name a few).

Notice a shift in whose image we are created! Genesis 5:1-3 says “This is the written account of Adam’s line. When God created man, he made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them ‘man.’ When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.” Verse one reiterated that man was created in God’s “image.” Yet two verses later the writer records that Adam had a son named Seth who was in Adam’s, not God’s “likeness” and “image.” (Note that the same words for “image” and “likeness” are used here as in Genesis 1:26-27.) What I believe the writer is doing is contrasting the family of God with the family of Adam or put another way, he contrasts God’s family with the Adam’s family?

The question is often asked why freedom for the homosexual takes so long. I believe Scripture can answer that question; more specifically, the arrangement of Scripture answers that question. What God created in Genesis 1 & 2, man quickly distorted in Genesis 3. Although the distortion of God’s creation occurred quickly, the restoration/transformation of God’s creation takes time. We must look from Genesis 3 all the way to Romans 8 before we get a fuller understanding of transformation.  But, struggler be encouraged.  By knowing the real issues associated within same sex attraction, freedom can be accelerated.

RESTORATION

 Romans 8:29 reads “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” During the summer of one of my college years, I served as a music evangelist through a denomination agency. My team of three students conducted ten revivals over ten weeks. At the close of a great revival in a rural church, a saintly, elderly lady stood to share a brief testimony. She began, “My goal is not heaven.” I was struck with bewilderment; why would she say such a thing? But she continued, “My goal is not heaven. God’s promised me that. My goal is to be more like Jesus.” She was right; our goal is to become more like Christ. As I struggled with my own homosexual feelings, I realized that my ultimate goal was not to develop opposite sex attractions. My goal was and remains Jesus Christ, who is not a means to an end. He is the “Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Rev. 22:13)

First Corinthians 15:49 says, “And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man (Adam), so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven (Christ).” Second Corinthians 3:18 reads “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory…” Colossians 3:9-10 states “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

Satan is a liar, he is a liar, he is a liar, he is a liar. In fact the only time you can believe Satan is when he says, “I am a liar.” Jesus said of Satan, “for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) If Satan can distort or destroy our perception of who we are, he has accomplished much. Even Christ was tempted to doubt His Deity, both at the Inauguration and Culmination of His Earthly Ministry.

The Inauguration of His Ministry

Matthew 4:3 reads, “The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’” Again the tempter says, “If you are the Son of God…throw yourself down.” (Matt 4:6)

 The Culmination of His Ministry

When Christ was dying on the cross, four people-groups tempted Him to doubt His Deity. (The people-groups are in bold print while the verbal temptation is italicized.) Matthew 27:39-40 says, “Those who passed by hurled insults at him…saying, ‘Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!’” Luke 23:35 reads, “and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.’” Luke 23:36-37 states, “The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’” Luke 23:39 records, “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’”

One could rightly say that all sin originates from a distorted self-image, but just as there are degrees of darkness, so are there degrees of deception. Homosexuality is dark deception and the person deceived by it rarely responds to a glib, “all you need to do is repent.”

What I am is not based on my feelings or experience.  What I am is based on God’s Word.  God’s Word says I was corrupted by sin, that Christ died in my place on the cross and if I accept Christ, my sins are forgiven.

I am redeemed!


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