Last week we began looking at issues of homosexuality and gender issues, and I want to continue that this week. And as I noted last week, one of my desires is that Cornerstone would become a place where those who have pursued sexual sin and have found themselves empty-handed and broken would find hope. I’d love to see individuals who have been broken through the pursuit of sin come, hear the gospel, find forgiveness, find transformation, find a family, and begin to walk in a way that honors Christ. I’d also love for us to be a community of believers who walk well with our brothers and sisters who find themselves in a battle against sinful desires, aiding them in their pursuit of holiness. And I hope that we took a step toward becoming a community like that in the lesson that we began last week and will continue today.
In order to get our bearings as to where we’ve been and where we are this morning, I want to do a quick review of what we discussed last week. I mentioned that I wanted to divide the points I wanted to make into three categories: the ideal, sin, and redemption and hope. That is, I didn’t want to start on a note of talking about labeling the pursuit of homosexual practice and transgenderism as sin without first covering what is God’s ideal. And the reason I didn’t want to ignore this is because of my conviction that if we get into a habit of assuming things that “we all know to be true” then we’re only a generation or two away from losing these truths altogether. Therefore, let’s begin this morning by review briefly what we noted last week. Last week we noted that:
God made humanity as male and female and pronounced it to be very good.
Here we simply affirmed that gender and gender being directed associated with our biological makeup is a good thing, given by God in the beginning.
God created the reproductive activity of sexual intimacy to take place between one man and one woman within the relationship of marriage.
Thus, not only is gender good but it is a necessity if humanity was going to be able to obey the command to be fruitful and multiply, as God designed man and woman to come together in marriage.
God’s original design for children is to be raised by their father and mother.
I noted this because, though an obvious implication of the last point, this truth is being denied in great measure within our society.
After Genesis 3 humanity is made up of people with naturally sinful desires.
We all know this to be true and experience desires for sin within ourselves.
Our desires are not trustworthy guides for determining what is good and right for us.
This follows from the last point and more need not be said here probably.
Two sinful desires we see this side of Genesis 3 are 1) a desire to pursue homosexual activity and 2) to identify differently or to pursue a different gender than God made you to be.
That is, desires to pursue what God forbids are rightly identified as sinful desires and should not be acted upon.
When gender dysphoria and homosexual desires are allowed to rule
and are acted upon, an individual is sinning.
And this is where we ended, noting that the Bible condemns the practice of identifying or pursuing the identity of the opposite gender than what God made you and the practice of homosexual activity. But the Bible doesn’t simply leave us there, and so I want to pick up from this point and note a few other truths this morning. We’ll begin with this one that we all no doubt experientially know to be true, namely:
Sin not only brings divine condemnation but never brings lasting satisfaction.
I want to make this very clear because the world is screaming that the only way to be happy is to give in to our desires, right? If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times that the only way to be happy is to “be true to yourself,” “be who you are,” or live out your desires. But brothers and sisters, when those desires are sinful that simply isn’t true, and we all know it.
In Jeremiah 2:13 the Lord tells us that every time we sin we’re actually committing two sins. First, we’re turning away from what God commands that is good for us, and, second, we’re turning to what is bad for us. In Jeremiah the Lord compares it to turning away from a fountain of living waters and turning to a broken cistern that can’t hold any water. That’s what sin is, and that’s what it brings. When Moses chose to identify with the Jews though he was called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, the Scripture puts it in terms of Moses choosing to turn away from “the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:25), and that’s indeed what sin brings—fleeting pleasures.
This is why people who attempt to alter their gender or live as another gender and people who pursue homosexuality are never going to know true and lasting satisfaction, though the culture is promising this to them if only they’ll follow their sinful desires. Imagine for a second that anorexic girl again, who has gotten down to an unhealthy weight and says, “I feel like I’m fat and want to lose weight. I think I’m going to have liposuction surgery.” What kind of monster would it take to encourage her to pursue that? What lack of love would it take to tell her to be true to what she feels and to follow and pursue her desires? We all know that would be evil. Well, that’s what we’re doing any time we encourage anyone to follow their sinful desires and pursue that which is contrary to God’s Word.
But now I want to make a transition in this lesson, and I want to talk about hope and walking in obedience in the midst of feeling within us sinful desires. And that begins by understanding that:
Individuals who are practicing homosexuality and have attempted to become another gender can be redeemed through repentance and faith in the crucified and risen Lord.
Remember what we heard earlier from 1 Corinthians 6:9-10? Paul writes, “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 . . . will inherit the kingdom of God.” But listen to what he writes in the very next verse: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
So, when we as a church say that practicing homosexuality is a sin or attempting to change or live differently than one’s gender is sin, we’re saying that not because we want people who are practicing these sins to be condemned. We’re saying it because until we understand that we’re sinners then we will not repent, and if we do not repent then we cannot be saved.
We might compare it to looking at a house that is burning down, and there’s a child still in her bedroom. But the good news is that the child is standing right by an open window, and he can get out. But he’s scared. And people outside his window but close to the house are saying to the child, “It’s okay to be scared. Just do want you want. If you feel like you can’t move, that’s okay. You don’t have to move.” And you scream instead, “Kid, get out of the house. Don’t give in to your fear. Run and jump out the window or you’re going to die.” That’s what we’re saying when we identify sin as sin and called people to repent and believe. We’re attempting to bring them to salvation. And I want to say one more thing about this specifically:
No one who repents and believes is a second-class citizen in the kingdom of God.
You know the story of Rahab. She was a prostitute. Now, in the Ancient Near East the Hebrew term translated “prostitute” in our Bibles didn’t mean something like “nanny.” No, it meant prostitute. Her job was practicing sexual immorality. And not only, through repentance and faith, did she become part of the people of God, but she became part of the line of our Savior, Jesus Christ. She was his great, great, great . . . grandmother. No one is a second-class citizen in God’s kingdom. He does not hold our past sins against us when we’re converted.
This means that someone who has pursued homosexuality or transgenderism and has found salvation through repentance and faith isn’t kept from participating in the life of the church. Leading the music on Sunday morning isn’t for people whose past sins have been deemed acceptable. It’s for those whose sins have been forgiven through the redeeming work of Christ. But I also want to be realistic, and note a few things.
The second we’re justified God all of our sinful desires do not go away and we will not be free from all of them until the resurrection.
I had a friend who was addicted to drugs to the point that he’d nearly overdosed—twice. And the second he placed his faith in Christ any desire for drugs instantly disappeared. Now, I want to tell you that story in order to say that this is typically not how things happen in the life of a believer.
In talking to the Galatian believers Paul says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Now, yes, Paul speaks of walking in obedience, and I want to get to that and stress that. But right now I want to note that Paul assumes that the sinful desires of the flesh still exist after one believes. If he didn’t, he’d have no need to exhort us to not gratify them. But he knows they’re there, at conflict with what the Spirit longs for within us.
These will all be gone at the resurrection. When we are glorified, we’ll never have a hint of desire for sin for all of eternity, but until then, Paul says of himself in 1 Cor. 9:27, “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified,” by which he means that he makes war against sinful desires so that he does not run after sin and find himself condemned at the judgment. Now, tying this to our topic,
This means that same-sex attraction and desires and gender dysphoria may not go away when one is saved and may linger until the resurrection.
I don’t want us to be deceived. Repenting of your homosexual practice and coming to Christ may not mean that you never feel those homosexual sinful desires again. Being saved doesn’t mean you’ll never have that feeling of gender dysphoria. I became a believer when I was quite young, and the last thirty years of my life I’ve known desires of selfishness, envy, covetousness, unjust anger, lust, pride, and on and on. And especially in my youth I prayed that the Lord would take them all away completely. It seemed like a wise prayer. “Lord, if I never ever desired sin or felt any pull toward sin, it seems that this would be good for both of us.” And it hasn’t happened. I’ve grown in areas, taken practices that have greatly aided me in not giving in to desires, found some desires weaken as I’ve denied them, and so on. But I don’t want to suggest that our desires for sin will not be present in our Christian life. Rather, we must continually remember that though flesh and its sinful desires cry out to be gratified, we must not gratify them but walk according to the Spirit, which brings me to my next point.
No matter how strong our sinful desires the demand for all Christians is that we die to ourselves and obey Christ, without exception.
Christ demands obedience. And he understands that obedience will sometimes be very difficult. So, here’s his sales pitch from Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” That is, following Christ means being will to crucify and die to all your sinful desires. We can’t be followers of Christ and pursue homosexual practice and transgenderism any more than we can be followers of Christ and pursue thievery and murder. Christ demands obedience, and he understands it’s hard. But he demands obedience. Yet there is good news.
Part of the good news I’ve already mentioned. It’s that we’ll finally be completely free of all sinful desires if we hold fast to the end. In Andrew Walker’s book, God and the Transgender Debate, I thought he had an excellent paragraph, picturing Jesus speaking to one who has held fast in faithful obedience and is now in eternity. Walker writes, “How brilliant it is to think of God one day saying to the person with gender dysphoria who waited faithfully, Well done. I know it’s been hard. It’s over now. I love you so much that I have brought you to a place where who you feel you are, and who you truly are, are completely enmeshed. There will be no more pain or crying for you anymore. What you longed for—to feel like, look like, and be the same person—is reality. I know it’s been painful. It won’t be now. Well done, faithful follower.”
The other part of the good news is that,
Christ has given us one another, the church, to aid us as we follow Christ.
Guys, this is glorious news. It’s one reason I love the church so much. The Lord has given us the church to remind us of the forgiveness that is ours in Christ and the grace for obedience that is ours in Christ. The Lord has given us the church to walk with us, exhort us, rebuke us, encourage us, uphold us, and so much more as we make our way home.
And the church is a place for sexually broken people, who have listened to the culture’s and the enemy’s lies and have pursued all kinds of sexual sin, trying to be “true to themselves” and following their sinful desires, and have found it to be empty. And to them, the church cannot be a place that says, “I told you so” but a place that echoes the words of our Master, who said, “Come . . . all who labor and are heavy laden” and find rest in submitting to Christ and his will for your life.
The church is the community where people can unveil their struggles, including the sinful desires that bring great shame, and find brothers and sisters who’ll not respond in arrogance (i.e., God thank you I’m not like this tax-collector) but grace (i.e. God be merciful to me a sinner) and say, “I will help you and walk alongside you in your pursuit of holiness.”
But I don’t want to paint this as an easy task for individuals or for the church community. What it means is that we will find ourselves saying to the individual who walked out of homosexuality but has no healthy attraction for the opposite sex that obedience to Christ for him most likely means a life of celibacy unless the Lord gives him attraction for the opposite sex.
And I know that’s hard. Perhaps it even feels callous for me to say it as someone who gets to live out the blessing of having an amazing wife and being blessed with children. So let me let Ed Shaw, a faithful Christian brother who struggles with same-sex attraction and argues that for him and others like him obedience means celibacy, speak to this because he lays out a glorious vision for how the church is the key to obedience here. Here’s what he writes:
“It can be an incredibly lonely. Unless, that is, we take Jesus’ definition of family and really live it. Unless we notice Paul’s experience of family and work together to copy it. Unless we wake up to the radical New Testament idea that church really is family—and that Mom, Dad, and 2.4 children as the only family, is just an unhealthy, late-twentieth-century construct. . . . God has very kindly put me in a family of people of all ages, backgrounds and circumstances, and we are slowly learning to be family to one another—as Jesus says we should be, as Jesus has made us to be. He was, as ever, telling us the truth when he said, ‘Truly I tell you . . . no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.’ (Mark 10:29-30) And, crucially, this new family benefits us all—there is give and take from all of us, all of the time. It strengthens single people, but it also strengthens marriages. . . . It’s not perfect—there are constant ups and downs. All human relationships get messy at times, but they are a mess worth making. Because when it works, it sit he most wonderful of experiences for all of us. . . . And the plausibility of the life that I have chosen is closely tied to this experience.”
I think that’s a glorious picture, but it’s a difficult one. We need to be a people who are willing to be the hundred-fold blessing the Lord speaks of, which means that we’ll need to not only be a gospel-sharing community but a community that is willing to share our lives with one another. We’ll need to be a people who are not scared of others’ struggles, but willing to call others to holiness as well. And we’ll need to be a people who know that by the power of the gospel and the Spirit at work within us, we can all walk in persevering faith and faithful obedience as we pursue the celestial city and all experience that day when every desire we have will be pleasing to the Lord. May that day come quickly. Amen.