“Such Were Some of You”: Christ Ministers Hope to Homosexuals (1 Corinthians Sermon 21)
March 10, 2019 | Andrew Davis
Redemption, The Dark Exchange, Sexual Immorality, Grace
I. Contending for the Faith in the War Over Truth
Turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. This morning, I'm going to be addressing how Christ through the church, can minister to homosexuals, and minister grace to homosexuals. And as I do, I've had a lot of thoughts in my mind. I remember the first time I ever preached in this church was my candidating sermon, back in August of 1998, and I preached on Matthew 16 one of the great images and one of the great statements of Jesus. Their in Caesarea Philippi, He said, "On this rock, I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." This is a powerful image. And it's somewhat complex. It's both static and dynamic.There's a sense of the church as a rising structure, a bulwark, like a walled fortress. And then there's the sense of the corresponding evil fortress of Satan, of death, and hell. And so Jesus is going to build this structure that will last for all eternity and send it against the gates of Hades, and they will... The gates of Hades will lose, the church will win.
And so again and again, we have this same kind of complex image of the church as a fortress to be defended, and as warriors to be unleashed. Both of them are true. You get the same thing in the little Book of Jude. In Jude 3, there with Jude, the brother of James, he identifies himself, he said, "I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints." So we're supposed to contend for doctrine, the faith is doctrine, especially the doctrine of the Gospel. We're supposed to fight for it and contend for it, that it not be perverted, that key elements not be lost.
But then at the end of that little book, Jude 23, he gives us another image where he urges us to snatch people from the flames, snatch people from the fire and save them, Jude 23. So that's the dynamic issue where we're sent out and trying to rescue individuals. So both of those are in my mind as we address this very challenging issue of homosexuality in our day. So you got that defensive image of a walled fortress that we have to fight for, we have to defend. Our souls individually and the church collectively is besieged by Satan, by demonic forces. And Satan's very clever, he searches out weak spots in the fortress and gives special attention to those breaches in the wall. And from the very beginning, once Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit, their eyes were opened, they realized they were naked, human sexuality has been twisted or perverted, it's a weak spot in the wall. We all feel it. And there are various versions of twisted sexuality, but it's a weak spot.
So you've got that defensive image, and you can imagine if you are a warrior on the walls and you are called on to defend it against a besieging force, if you notice, all of the besieging, attacking army suddenly run to one particular place, and give focus and attention there, you would, if you were the commander, give special attention there because clearly there's a weak spot there. So also for us individually, if you see yourself feeling again and again in a certain area, you can be certain that's a weak spot, a chink in the armor, a breach in the wall.
Now, we also have that offensive image where we're called on to snatch people from the fire. Like in the Book of Zechariah, "is this not a brand plucked from the fire?" And you can think ultimately that the fire is the fire of condemnation of eternity and hell, and to be plucked from that. And we're called on to rescue people from that who don't want to be rescued. As our text talks about, hey have been deceived.
And so another image is in my mind, I was reading recently about a disease that affects the body's central nervous system and the brain resulting in "hyperactive and excitable, erratic behavior, including insomnia, anxiety, confusion, agitation, hallucinations, excessive salivation, and an irrational fear of water." The website said once those symptoms have appeared in a human being, the disease is almost always fatal. Alright, imagine, though, you had a serum that was 100% effective for curing that disease, but it had to be administered by hypodermic injection and you had to do it. And the person's raving. They're dangerous to you, they don't want your help. How in the world are you going to administer, physically administer, that life-saving serum into their bloodstream. How can you do it?
Love would call on you to make every effort that you could, even at great risk to yourself, as they have no appreciation for what you're doing at that time, but you hope later, when their mind clears, they will understand what you did, what you risked. But that's not even why you do it; it's so that they will be saved.
Now, I could well imagine how offensive such an analogy would be to a person him or her self identify themselves in the LGBTQ community, does not want their orientation, their practices, to be seen as a disease, but as actually many of them something to be delighted in and celebrated as a positive, good thing. But we Christians, we know that all sin, all of the sins listed here, in 1 Corinthians 6, and all of the sins listed in Romans 1 and all the sin lists, whatever sin there may be, from the heavenly perspective, is sheer insanity. All of it. Fornication: Sheer insanity. Adultery: Sheer insanity. Swindling: Insanity, from a heavenly point of view.
And not only that, all of us, apart from Christ, we're raving, too. We were all irrational in our sin. As Paul says in Titus 3:3-7, he says, "At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures, we lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His own mercy…" and grace in Christ, by the power of the Spirit. Listen again to those words. At one time, we, too, were foolish. We were disobedient. We were deceived. We were out of our minds. And we were enslaved by all kinds of passions.
All of us were like that before we were converted. Even the man who wrote these words in 1 Corinthian 6 was like that, the Apostle Paul, Saul of Tarsus, you remember his career, and how on the very morning of his conversion, he was seething with rage against Christ and against Christians, hated Christ, saw Him as a deceiver, hated Christians, one of them arrested and killed. Hours before he became a Christian. Praise God for sovereign Grace. Praise God that's happening all over the world. People's chains are falling off, and they are being delivered from their spiritual insanity and crossing over into life, eternal life in Christ. Praise God. That's my great hope as I preach to you today. The Apostle Paul was deceived and enslaved, he was raving, and God converted him.
: So we have that defensive image of a walled fortress, that we have to contend for, we have to fight, and the offensive image of a rescue that we're called on to do a great personal cost. The two of them go together because the truth we are using to deliver enslaved souls is that which we have to fight for. We have to defend it.
Human Sexuality is a Major Breach in the Wall
Now let's return to the walled image, walled fortress image, for a minute. As I've said, human sexuality is a major breach in the wall. And in this section of 1 Corinthians, we can see that. Can't you see it? Just trace out, connect the dots. 1 Corinthians 5, the last chapter, the chapter on church discipline, was triggered by a man with a perverse sexual act. "A man has his father's wife. And you are proud!" Paul says. You should have expelled the wicked man from among you, 1 Corinthians 5. then in 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11. We have this list of sins: Fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals. Those four all have to do with sexuality.
The next section we're going to in 1 Corinthians, Paul's going to make a direct and convicting appeal to some Corinthian members of the Corinthian church to stop frequenting temple prostitutes, saying, "You can't take the members of Christ and join them to a prostitute." And then in the next chapter, in 1 Corinthians 7, he's going to go through healthy sexuality in marriage, husbands and wives coming together. He's also going to address the gift of singleness, he's going to talk about divorce and other topics in 1 Corinthian 7. So we're in a section steeped with this, showing how weakness area really is, how much special attention we need to give to it. And so we come for the third time to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
The first time I preached on this I did it in conjunction with the lawsuits passage because that's how it fits into the flow, and I think the last sin that he mentions, "swindlers" do not inherit the kingdom of God. That was kind of the point of him giving the list.
But then we focused last week on the list as a whole and said people of that pattern do not inherit the kingdom of God, and the effeminate and homosexual was listed, but it seemed reasonable for me to zero in on the issue this morning. The end of this deception will be eternal condemnation for some precious souls. The church must tell the truth about the sin of homosexuality. We must be honest and not be intimidated. It's going to require more courage than on any other topic that we are likely to face in our day and age. We have, in the Gospel of Christ, the healing serum. It's 100% effective. Everyone who calls in the name of the Lord will be saved. We have to tell the truth. In the name of Christ, we have to tell the truth. In the name of Christ, and for the value of the souls we're trying to deliver, even though they hate us, initially we have to tell the truth.
Homosexuality at the Epicenter of the “Culture War”
Now, homosexuality, this particular topic, is at the epicenter of what many call the culture war. Over the last half century, major clashes have centered around this issue. I could list example after example of how this issue has been a central current event. I don't have to delineate that, I don't think. If you've been living in the West at all, you know how much of an issue this is. So, recent current events you are, I'm sure aware, of the Methodist church meeting together, the denomination, meeting together in St. Louis last week to iron out some key issues on this very topic concerning, number one, would they perform and recognize gay marriages, and even more importantly, would they ordain LGBTQ people to the ministry. And they met in St. Louis, and in a shocking development, conservative bishops, Methodist bishops from Africa, said, "We are not going along with the liberal church in the West in America, and turning our back on 2,000 years of biblical teaching. You have not made sufficient arguments. We are not yielding this. Not at all," and they won the vote and all that. But I was going to Parker and Otis just about a mile from here this week, drove by the Methodist Church, there on West Chapel Hill Street, just a mile from here, decked out in rainbow ribbons everywhere. An angry statement of solidarity with the LGBTQ themes. So, this is not a surprise to us, we're not shocked to see it.
I was a little bit shocked to see the rainbow flags up in almost every congregational church up in New England, where I'm from, including Jonathan Edwards' church in Northampton. So, churches can decay on doctrinal issues. This is... Major indoctrination is going on for our young people's minds and hearts all over the place. The Durham County Library has all kinds of programs for LGBTQ teens just going on... It’s just part of their calendar. At Duke University, if you go into the Brian center, the student center there, if you go in one particular entrance, right at the right, there's a major rainbow banner there, and then the name of the office is the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity. Gender diversity. And so it's a major strategy. They have incoming freshman read books that indoctrinate people in the mindset, the faculty and staff that's doing hiring, they have to go through sensitivity training so that they can look in the mirror of their own biases, so that they can make hiring appropriate to where the institution's going. It's going on all the time. As a matter of fact, a year ago, the dean of the Duke Divinity School (this was in February 2018), was trying to give the state of the school address, you can look this up on YouTube, and the address was interrupted by LGBTQ demonstrators with bullhorns. Bullhorns. It was a relatively small room. But they did not want free speech on this; they just wanted to present their views.
The Civil Rights Angle
Now part of the intimidation that we Christians feel in this current climate is that LGBTQ activists have been strategic in linking opposition to gay rights to the opposition by racist of civil rights for African-Americans during the '60s and right up to the present day. They've linked the two, so it's becoming civil rights issue. What that means is if you oppose their views on this, you're seen to be the same as racist or a bigot. I think the fundamental concept that enables them to do that is they believe that this is a genetic thing, that homosexuality is genetic, similar to race. It's not a choice that you make. So as I said last week, I cannot be an ex-Caucasian, it's my race, it's an amoral descriptor of me, it doesn't mean anything, just how God wanted me to be. The same thing could be said of an African-American by an African-American person or an Oriental person, et cetera, any... The racial, amoral, racial designators.
They say, "This is who I am, this is how God made me to be," but that's exactly what a homosexual would say. So that's how they make it a civil rights issue. So then therefore, they believe that they are taking the moral high ground and we're down in the gutter of being hate mongers and bigots. Mainstream media has bought into this perspective sports. If you were to say something, even in the heat of battle, in the middle of a game, you were to say something, and it got heard, you're going to be... If you're on a sports team, you're going to be making an apology before a press conference within the next 36 hours, probably, if you want to keep playing.
And so because of this linking with civil rights, they say it's actually immoral, immoral, to oppose homosexuality. I think that may be the clearest example in our culture of what Isaiah warned about in Isaiah 5:20, he says, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." The switching of morality is what's going on before our very eyes. Along with this is the not-so-subtle accusation that Christians are mentally ill. That actually we have a form of psychosis known as homophobia. Just like any other phobia, like irrational fear of spiders, irrational fear of high places, or crowded rooms, or small spaces. We are called "homophobes" because there's a deep-seated, irrational fear of homosexuality or of homosexuals. And if you proclaim the doctrine I'm about to proclaim from the Word of God, that homosexuality is a sin, and that if you are not transformed out of it, you will not inherit the Kingdom of God but that the Gospel of Christ is the power to transform sinners and to give you hope of eternal life, if you were to say any of that, that's hate speech, really, flowing from a deep-seated insecurity and fear of psychosis that the speaker has.
Now Christians, you know that history of this have been pounded in our culture for doing precisely that, standing up to billable convictions. You remember the baker in Colorado Jack Phillips who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission then said, "If you will not bake cakes for same sex weddings, you can't bake cakes for weddings at all." And that's 40% of his business, he had to let go a lot of his people. He took the case all the way to Supreme Court and won a very narrowly-defined victory, just because of how this Colorado Civil Rights Commission treated him. They left unanswered the future question of whether Christian bakers would be forced to violate their conscience and make cakes, et cetera.
This goes on and on, there are so many examples. Louie Giglio was chosen by Barack Obama to do the commencement prayer at his second inaugural and then was dropped when a sermon like the one I'm giving right now was found in his record as a homophobic sermon, it was called. So he has dropped. I know this from personal conversations, Christians working at secular universities like Appalachian State University, for example, if you try to be a Christian and hold your Christian convictions, you're going to be required to go to sensitivity training and to read certain books and be trained how to deal properly with members of that community.
So this is the climate we're in. I could say many other things, but you get the idea, and you probably didn't need any of this. This is the climate in which we have to stand firm and tell the truth, and why? As with everything else, for the glory of God, and the salvation of elect people who are not yet converted. That's why. That's why. That's what God's calling on us to do and to be. So we have to go back to the truth.
II. Biblical Truth on Homosexuality
What does the Bible say about this? This morning, as we're driving in, I was listening to a Christian song, The Great I Am, and there was something that just really spoke to me. Maybe I needed to hear it this morning, but the line of the song says, "We fear our enemies," speaking to God, "we fear our enemies, they are Your footstool." God is not intimidated at all at bullhorns, or by raging nations, or by anything. The nations are a drop in the bucket to God. He never changes, He always tells the truth, He knows what the truth is, He knows who the Savior is, He knows what the gospel is, He knows what sin is, He's never going to change. And we get strength as we draw near to that throne of grace. As we drink in the truth, we get the kind of confidence and courage we will need to tell the truth.
So what does the Bible say about homosexuality? Well, the simple truth is homosexuality is a soul-killing sin. It's spiritual poison, just like all the other sins in that list and the other lists. It says in Leviticus 18:22, "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." Many other verses teach this and I'll cite some of them in a moment. Now, homosexuality is exactly like any other sin in two very important ways and it's different than other sins in two very important ways.
How Homosexuality is Like Any Other Sin
Alright, how is homosexuality like any other sin? In what two ways? First, as I said, it's a soul-killing sin, and if you're not transformed out of it, you will not inherit the Kingdom of God, which means you would spend eternity in condemnation and hell, in the lake of fire, and eternity because of sins just like that one. Paul lists homosexuality along with the other sins. Look again at our text, 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11: "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."
Now for our purpose this morning are the two key terms "effeminate" and "homosexuals." I mentioned in the last time, a few of you are confused because you held in your hand the ESV. I find it strange the ESV melts the five sins listed separated by the Greek word οὔτε into four. I don't think there was an intentional doctrinal decision here, but it was not helpful. The word for Greek for effeminate, μαλακοὶ,"means soft ones as Robert Gagnon, has shown, those that take on an external manner in dress and affect to play the feminine role in a homosexual relationship. That's what μαλακοὶ means. Homosexuals translated, ἀρσενοκοῖται, is males who lie with males. That's what that means. And so that's why we're zeroing in on this morning. Now just like any other sin, the other sins in the list, such as fornication, idolatry, adultery, drunkenness, stealing, like the other sins in this list, it has the power to condemn souls to hell.
But secondly, just like any other sin in this list, it is absolutely addressed and atoned for and transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no sin pattern that Christ cannot save us out of and transform our minds. So look again at these beautiful words: "You were washed" Oh, Corinthians, your guilty conscience was cleansed by the blood of Christ, and you don't feel guilty anymore, you were washed. And your mind is washed from filthy thoughts and from wicked lust, washed. And "sanctified," set apart unto God, as His prized, holy possession, set apart. And sanctified, gradually, little by little, transformed until you're more and more conformed to Christ. Sanctification. And then last in the list but first in our experience is justification. That's the beginning of the Christian life. You are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit so that you have faith and you are declared not guilty of all your sins. All of those acts of wickedness that that list generated: Fornication, idolatry, stealing, drunkenness, all those times, all that that sin cost you and people around you, it's all been forgiven.
Forgiven. Your 10,000-talent debt was paid in full. "Justified." And how? "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ," the one who died on the cross to pay the penalty for all those wicked acts. And in the spirit of our God, we owe our salvation as much to the transforming work of the Spirit as we do to Jesus who shed His blood. They work together to save souls. And so, like any of those sins, "such were some of you," means you can be a former homosexual, formerly effeminate, you could be a former fornicator, you can be a former adulterer, a former thief, a former swindler, a former blaspheme. "Such were some of you." Jesus Christ can set you free from sins.
So I needed to just stop right here and proclaim the gospel clearly. If you are included in that group I prayed for and you came in here an unbeliever of any type, but for the topic this morning, you're struggling with this sin of homosexuality, Jesus Christ and Christ alone can set you free. Christ alone can give you forgiveness. Christ alone can save your soul. Christ alone can give you the inheritance that Paul says would be deprived of you if you're not transformed: The kingdom of God. So come to Christ. Just trust in Him to save you.
How Homosexuality is Not Like Other Sins
So, as I said, in these two key ways, homosexuality is the same as any other sin, but in two ways, it's different. First, we've already seen, as I've listed. It's receiving different treatment than the other sins in this list from Satan and from the powers that be, from the world. We are being brainwashed. You talk about the boiling of the frog. This has been going on for half a century. American culture, Western culture, has been... The frog's been boiled on this little by little by little by little, hotter and hotter and hotter until we're just kind of accepting things that were shocking when the whole process began. It's receiving special treatment. No other sin listed here has Pride days and parades connected to it. You don't see fornicators' Pride Day at Disney World, or drunkard Pride Day at Disney World or in cities all across our land. You don't see thief Pride Day. But you do see this. So it's different in that regard. And so we're going to have to show a certain kind of courage on this topic that you don't have to in the others.
Secondly, it's different and where it's mentioned and how it's mentioned by the Apostle Paul, in Romans chapter 1. So listen to what Paul says in Romans 1. Romans 1 is the clearest, most organized, systematic unfolding of the Gospel in the Bible. It's a book unlike any other book: It shines more brightly with the glory of God and the truth of the Gospel than any of the book in the Bible. In Romans chapter 1, Paul is unfolding the Gospel, he says "The power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, for in the Gospel, the righteousness from God is revealed from faith to faith, the righteous will live by faith." And then he says why we need it: Because the wrath of God is being revealed. And then He zeroes in on two sins in particular.
There are special sins that receive special treatment from Paul. And the first is idolatry, and the second is homosexuality. They are... There's a special focus. And in that section, Paul gives us what's known as natural theology, theology based on nature. So we can see from nature, from creation, that there is a wise, powerful, loving God who made it all. And you have to suppress the truth and unrighteousness to deny that, to worship and serve created things. That's idolatry. But then he zeros in on homosexuality, these are his words, in Romans 1: 26-27. He says, "For this reason, God gave them over to degrading passions, for their women exchange," listen to this, "the natural function for that which is unnatural." Women exchanged natural function for that which is not natural. And in the same way is that "the men abandoned natural function with women and burned in their desire toward one another with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error."
Paul is arguing from nature here. It is... It should be obvious to us from nature that God did not intend homosexuality, that's the way he's arguing. And so God gave sex within the context of marriage, as we'll talk more about in 1 Corinthians 7, for many purposes, but one of them is procreation and biology tells us it's a male and a female coming together to fill the Earth, be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth. So it takes a special kind of hardness and strength of character against the clear purposes of God to be a homosexual. So in that way, homosexuality is just like any other sin in two key ways, and it's different in two key ways.
III. Ministering the Gospel of Grace to LGBTQ People
So how then can we minister the gospel of grace to LGBTQ people? So, we have to begin by addressing I think here the topic of same-sex attraction, SSA, so called, it's a relatively new concept, it's something that we have to deal with. And then it comes from testimonies, experiential testimonies of people, even people who are converted. They would say, "such were some of you" applies to me, but they say, "I struggle with these desires long before I admitted them to myself, or when I was first becoming a sexually-aware being. This was something it was part of my make-up from the start." Now, this is somewhat controversial, obviously, because you can say, "How could you say 'such were some of you,' if there's lasting same-sex attraction?" So we'll circle back to that in a minute. Behind that, of course, is the genetic basis: Is there such a thing as a gay gene?
Lots of debate on this. I personally, I'm not a biologist or a biological researcher or a genetic researcher, but I know enough about the scientific methodology to say how very difficult it would be to extract this behavior pattern from nurture and from experiences and from things that happen to individuals and zero down on a physiological aspect. I don't know how you do that. They're studying brains, they're studying genes, et cetera. How do you do that, and what kind of people are going to be the focus of your study? What questions will you ask to filter them? It's just... I don't know how it could be done, but I know why it's done. And so let me say this directly: Even if there were a physiological basis, that does not excuse sin.
We may have a physiological basis toward heterosexual sin, it doesn't excuse us. I may have a physiological basis toward drunkenness, doesn't excuse the sin. You may have a physiological basis toward fits of rage that lead to all kinds of bad outcomes. Doesn't excuse us. And so, we just have to punt on that one and say, "Look, I don't think we can ever prove it," but I'm telling you this, the statement, "such were some of you" settles it for me, doctrinally. You can, and not only can, but must, become an ex-homosexual in order to inherit the Kingdom of God. That's the clear teaching of this text. And if you can, then that says a lot to me about essential nature.
The Complexity of the Human Heart
So now let's talk about the complexity of the human heart. And here, I want to lean on a book that I want to come in to you not completely, but there's some helpful things in it, by authors named Barr and Citlau, entitled Compassion Without Compromise. And they zero in on four aspects of the human heart and the human life: Desire, orientation, identity, and behavior. So, starting with desire, that's what your heart loves and hates, what you're attracted to or repulsed from. Secondly, orientation, a dominant tendency or drive, consistent attractions and repulsions, that tend to dominate the mind. Thirdly, sexual identity, a subjective sense of identity by which an individual answers the question, "Who am I?" And more specifically, "who am I sexually?", identity. And then fourth, behavior, those are actual actions taken based on the first three.
Now, I believe, as a minister of the Gospel, no one can change his or her heart. We don't have that kind of power. We don't have the ability to perform spiritual heart surgery on ourselves. But God does. Praise God He does. And so He says in Ezekiel 11:19, "I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them, and I will remove from them their heart of stone and I will give them a heart of flesh." God does that to everyone He converts. And He can do that to homosexuals, too. He can give them a new spirit and move them to obey God's laws, a new heart to love God's laws. He has the power to do that. And that's the clear link with "such were some of you."
In other words, you Corinthians who would say, "Yes, that's true of me," it wasn't all of them, "such were some of you," but you Corinthians who characterize, you're now in Christ, you can testify to the transforming power of Christ in your life. You're no longer effeminate. You're no longer lying with other men. The life has changed, praise God.
Transformed Hearts Lead to Transformed Lives
Now, all of this comes by the ministry of the Word. Transformed hearts lead to transformed lives. As Paul says in Romans 12:2, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." This is my ongoing commitment of ministry here to Christians, is the ministry of the Word of God for the purpose of the transformation of all of our hearts, leading to new patterns of behavior. That's what sanctification is all about. So, conversion and salvation, let's take those same categories and work from the outside back in.
First, behavior. If you come to Christ, that requires an immediate change of sexual behavior. If you don't change that behavior, you have not become a Christian. That's what "Do not be deceived" means, if that just continues on. Do not deceive yourself, you're not a Christian yet, and you're still under the wrath of God. Now, along with the outer behaviors, there are lesser clearer things that perhaps an effeminate person or some other person put on, they have to unlearn and it might take a while. They're not moral issues you have to address or mannerisms or things like that, and they little by little are transformed in those areas. But it may take time.
Secondly, sexual identity, answering the question, "Who am I?" Secular psychologists counseling these individuals say, "You will do psychological harm to yourself if you lie to yourself and don't tell yourself the truth about your sexual identity." "I am a homosexual." We Christians say, "That's a lie, a satanic lie." Imagine a patient on an IV drip, and some member of the medical community comes in and put some fluid in the drip, and the person's dead five minutes later. I would say that person's probably a murderer. I want to know what happened, especially if they were stable and doing fine. That's what bad advice can do to people's souls. We want to say that when you come to Christ, you have a new answer to that question." You asked me who I am. I am a Christian. I am a sinner saved by grace. I am guaranteed of going to Heaven, I am a slave to God and the righteousness and to His laws, not to sin. And so it says in Romans 6:11, "In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus," you have a whole new way of thinking about yourself.
Thirdly, orientation. This just has to do with mental habitual patterns and directions in your life. This is the very thing that must be transformed by the renewing of the mind. Mind control is very much the issue of sanctification for all of us Christians. Brothers and sisters, you have to control your minds. You have to control your thought lives. And Paul makes this very clear in Romans 8. He says, "The mindset of the flesh is death, but the mindset of the Spirit is life and peace." Those controlled by the flesh are hostile to God. "The mindset of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God's law, for it is unable to do so." Now Paul doesn't mention homosexuality there but he would include it. That's evidence of the mind of the flesh. So the newly transformed former homosexual has to control his or her thought life, just like all of us do. All of us.
And then finally, desires. This attraction, this desire, is what some would call, if they're illicit, lusts. I want to commend to you the same strategy we all have to face for illicit lusts. All of us have them. I was talking to the elders not just about SSA, same-sex attraction, but NSA, non-spouse attraction. It's a sin, too, friends, and Jesus said, you're guilty of adultery even if you do it in your heart. And so we have to fight our lust, all of us do. So how do you do it? Well, I'm going to commend to you the strategy of death by starvation. Starve it to death. The lust you feed gets stronger, the lust you deny get weaker. And so, scriptural back up for that is Romans 6:6. "We know that our old self, [our old identity] was crucified with Christ, dead so that the body of sin, [that is your actual brain and physical body, body of sin as it's trained habitually toward sin] might be done away with," or be progressively rendered weaker, or brought to nothing. The idea is that the body of sin is progressively rendered weaker so that we should no longer be slaves to sin. That is a key verse on mortification, on putting sin to death, negative sanctification. All of us have to do it, not just ex-homosexuals.
So, therefore, warfare against sin is essential for all of us Christians, including former homosexuals. Paul says in Romans 8:13-14, "For if you live according to the flesh, you will die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God [and I would add in my mind, these and these only] are the sons of God." Only those that are putting sin to death by the Spirit are children of God. Everyone else is deceived. So we have to be warring against our lust and against the sexual sins that assault us. John Owen on the topic of mortification of the flesh said this: "The vigor, power, and comfort of our spiritual life depend on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh." You must mortify. You must make it your daily work, you must be constantly at it while you live. Cease not a day from this work, be killing sin or sin will be killing you.
Refuting Some Recent Emphases
Now I want to address some recent emphases by I think generally good evangelical ministries concerning this topic of homosexuality. There have been books, there are speakers, there are others that I think are generally preaching the Gospel, but there are some concerns I have. And it centers on a seeming message that you can continue to be same-sex attracted, whatever that means, as long as you're celibate. So four things.
Number one, God cares about the heart as well as the actions and the lifestyle. It is possible to stop sinning with the body but to continue sinning with the mind and with the heart, and it's sin. And as I just said you have to put those mental sins to death.
Secondly, It is not required that an ex-homosexual have strong heterosexual feelings. That's not required. They don't have to become an ardent heterosexual. I actually think that this is the essence of the gift of singleness. There's people who have never been tempted sexually very much at all. For them, it really isn't a weakness, and they are able to not burn, we'll talk about that in 1 Corinthians 7, not burn but just live daily life without being overly concerned in this area, they're set free from it, it's a gift. And some former homosexuals end up with that gift rather than a spouse. And that's totally fine.
Thirdly, however, there are others that God gives them entirely new desires, and they're so radically transformed in this area that they end up marrying heterosexually and have godly spouses and have a wonderful marriage and children, and they are completely healed marvelously.
And fourth, on the issue of ongoing struggles, it makes sense that where you have sinned before in an area, especially habitually, you'll have to watch that area carefully the rest of your life in ways that other people don't. So if you used to be a drunkard, you have to be really careful at places where alcohol is served, where I don't, I've never struggled with that sin. But they do. Same thing with heterosexual sins. Fornication, other things. If that's what you've done, you're going to have to put special guards on that wall of the fortress to be careful the rest of your life. I wouldn't call you at that point same-sex attracted, but you just have habits and eternal vigilance is the price of freedom for you.
IV. Practical Examples of Grace-Filled Ministry
Alright, finally, how can we minister grace practically. Barr and Citlau in Compassion Without Compromise give us some practical things. I'm not going to walk through all these things, but if you get in a conversation with somebody, there's nothing wrong with making an argument. I've been making arguments for the last half hour plus. Make an argument, but don't have an argument. Don't have an argument. It says in Colossians 4:6, "Let your conversation be filled with grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." So, be gracious, but put the truth out there. Put a rock in their shoe. Give them some things from scripture, some things to think about. Have the right mindset. Don't try to win the chess battle. Ask questions. Say, "Why do you care so much about this topic? Why is this meaningful for you? You seem to have a strong passion about this. Tell me about that." Defuse it by asking questions, get in a conversation. Speak your convictions clearly. Say what you really believe and why. Make certain that you quote the scripture. Don't just give your own opinion. Scripture has converting power. Pay attention to the context. Where are you? If you're on an elevator and you're going six floors, don't get into this topic. Alright? You don't have time.
Barr and Citlau in their book Compassion Without Compromise, it says like we know not to yell in a library. They're not talking about having this conversation in the library, be sure you whisper; they're saying know the context. Where are you? Are you at work? Do you have time for a long conversation with the context of your relationship? Where is that person coming from? Who are you talking to? What is their perspective on this? Are they a homosexual activist? Do they have a friend who is or a brother a sister who is? Maybe it's a father of a lesbian daughter and he's maybe defending her practice because that's where he's at. Who is he? Control the thermostat of the conversation. Don't let it get too heated. And don't expect them to agree with you every time.
Paul was in prison when he wrote most of his epistles, he knew people don't always agree. And pray, you can't change the heart. I planted a seed and Paul is water, but God made it grow. You can't change someone's heart on this. What about certain scenarios that you might have? Like let's say you work for a bank that's celebrating diversity week, and your supervisor is lesbian, you've been witnessing to her, et cetera, and she comes and she wants everyone in the department to put on a celebrate diversity magnet, rainbow magnet, on the door. What should you do? Well, the book suggests, and I think this is good advice, don't put up the rainbow magnet. Whatever positive connections you make, you'll be absolutely sending the wrong signal and you may never undo the damage.
What they say in the book is that flag represents a flag of rebellion against the Kingdom of God. How can you fly it? What if they say "Why?", don't explain why. Again, the context, you're not going to win that debate. Say, "I just don't align with that particular cause." This is on work hours now, keep that in mind. If someone forces you for further explanation, say, "look, I value our friendship. I respect your right to maintain your opinions. I ask that you extend the same right to me." But at the same time, you're looking and praying for opportunities to talk to individuals at different times about this very topic.
What if you get invited to a homosexual wedding? What should you do? We're going to face this again and again and again, it's going to happen more and more. And what the book recommends is it's a decision you have to make. Don't judge other people by what they do, But when it comes to weddings, specifically weddings, they are there to celebrate the union. How can you be there to celebrate it? So you're going to, at some point, have to cross this close relationship and you have to maintain the close relationship in other ways. Show love in other ways. They've got like 20 examples of practical ministry that we can and should do, and I would recommend the book Compassion Without Compromise to walk through it.
As I finish today, I just want to say this: In Heaven, the phrase and the theology behind it, "such were some of you" is going to be consummated. We are going to celebrate God's grace in transforming all of us. We're going to be surrounded by people who have been transformed by God's grace from false religions and cults and atheism and addictions and homosexuality and sexual sin, like fornication, heterosexual sexual sin, and we're going to be surrounded and that'll include us. And we're going to be there and the only reason we'll have any consciousness or awareness of our past lives is so that we can knowledgeably give grace and glory to God for the grace He showed to us. And when we meet sinners in Heaven, we're not going to meet the Apostle Paul saying, "Oh, Paul, you're the blasphemer, persecutor, violent man, right?" And he says, "You know, I actually planted some churches, too, along the way." We're not going to be wearing the scarlet letter of what we were, but we're going to be wearing white robes washed in the blood of Christ. Close with me in prayer.
Father, thank You for the time we've had to study today this challenging the topic. Father, I pray that You would give us grace and courage and wisdom and especially love to people who are enslaved and wrapped up with chains they cannot see. Set them free through the Gospel, Lord. And God, it would be so sweet for members of our church to be there when that freedom happens. And so I pray there would be actually people who are set free by members of our church and brought to genuine faith in Christ who will be baptized here and will give clear testimony. "I lived like this, and I met so-and-so from your church and now I'm here to testify to the saving work of Jesus Christ." In Your name, I pray this, amen.