June 2, 2019
Flip Wilson was an African-American comedian with a variety show in the late 60s and early 70s. Time Magazine featured him on their cover and called him “TV’s first black superstar.” One of his alter-egos regularly on the show was known as Geraldine Jones, when Wilson would dress in drag to play the character. Sayings from Geraldine became nationally known, such as, “what you see is what you get,” and “the devil made me do it.” He won a Grammy in 1970 for an album called,The Devil Made Me Buy This Dress.
I bring that up because this idea, the devil made me do it, actually infiltrated our national conscience, even in the church. What do I mean? I would suggest we give way too much credit to the devil in our own sinful choices – it wasn’t me, the devil made me do it. As if our own fallenness, our own sinful flesh, is not actually responsible for our actions – there is an evil, external power – the devil – who is responsible. He made me do it. Now to be clear, there is a devil, but the truth is, in our fallen, pre-redeemed state, we are perfectly capable all on our own of perpetrating much evil.
But, to paraphrase Rosaria Butterfield, there has been an insidious switch in our culture. We often no longer blame the devil for our sinful choices, but rather, we blame God. How? God made me this way. And so, as I shared a couple weeks ago, in order to be authentic – in order to be true to myself – to who I am – I must live this way. God wants me to. He made me this way, and He wants me to be happy. And I suggested we have traded authenticity – defined as, being real, raw, true to me – we have traded holiness for authenticity. No longer do we seek God and His Word to be holy – we seek our own feelings and desires – as the ultimate authority in our lives, laying it all at God’s feet. As if He is responsible for our feelings and desires.
There is a significant biblical challenge to such thinking. It ignores how God did create us and the results of our collective rebellion in the Fall. We ignore, that as a result of the Fall, we are fallen people, everyone of us, born in sin – and our feelings and desires are likewise fallen, depraved and totally untrustworthy. Which means, to follow our natural, sinful inclinations is not to be true to ourselves – it is to be true to our fallenness. To quote Christopher Yuan, it is not being true to whowe are, but howwe are. Who we are is created in God’s image; how we are is sinfully fallen. And therein lies the struggle.
This is the storyline of the Bible: creation, fall, redemption, and consummation – so that ultimately, in the consummation, we can be both who we are, and how we are supposed to be.
So, who are we? Let me say it clearly – we are not who we think we are. We are not who we feel we are. We are not defined by our sexuality. We are who God created us to be – His image-bearers – and we should live how God originally created us to be. And again, therein lies the challenge. Who will be in control, Him or me? What is best for me – His plan, or my own? You understand, who God created us to be…and how we live, surrendering to our feelings and desires as somehow authentic are diametrically opposed. And yet in our culture, feelings and desires have trumped spiritual, eternal reality.
We are in the third of a four-week series entitled, The Elephant in the Room, Topics Too Big to Ignore. The first two weeks were not haphazardly chosen:
- First was, Have We Traded Holiness for Authenticity?
- And secondly, Evangelism Includes Proselytism
This third week, I want to cover the Inevitable End of the Sexual Revolution. If you have been paying attention, you would know our country and culture is in a sexual, confused mess. When we threw off sexual morality in ever increasing measure over the past 70 years or so, we get what we got. There is no sexual morality as a foundation in our country, and such immorality has sadly invaded the church. The fact is, culture often invades the church, changing our thinking, sometimes our convictions.
To be clear, I did not select this series to land on this topic. I did not choose to address cultural issues to solely address the issue of sexual immorality. But, it is a topic of great need. You see, I’ve read most of eight books on the topic – mostly this week – in preparation for today. One was Al Mohler’s We Cannot Be Silent. Another was Ed Shaw’s Same-Sex Attraction and the Church. And they both point out – because of the landslide of propaganda in our culture – the church has done one of three things. Some have sided with the culture. Others have become unkind and ungodly in their responses to sexual immorality, specifically homosexuality. Still others, not knowing how to respond because of the weight of the culture’s attacks – through media, politics and even the liberal church – the church has unfortunately become silent on the topics – again, not knowing how to respond.
As a result, people in the pews are unprepared to answer the objections to traditional, biblical views on marriage, on sexuality, specifically hetero and homo sexuality. You have to understand there has been a massive paradigm shift in our culture as it relates to these topics – in rather short order. Sociologists suggest such a moral paradigm shift should have taken centuries, but has happened in decades – unprecedented – in our lifetimes, because of things like social media, the entertainment industry, politics, and the liberal church.
So where does that leave us? Frankly, out of the mainstream of culture – and we don’t like it. As I suggested last week – we don’t like being called intolerant, ignorant, racists, bigots. And so, we’ve either caved, or become silent. And, many are fleeing the church, or organized religion, because of the unenviable position in which we find ourselves. But I would also suggest, such departures often separate true believers from professing believers. See our series on Hebrews.
Now, when I use the phrase, sexual immorality, I’m not just talking about homosexuality, although, I do believe that is one of the inevitable ends of throwing off morality, denying God, or remaking God in our own fallen image. Consider Romans 1, which speaks clearly to the issue:
18For the wrath of God [that is, God’s righteous anger against our sinful rebellion] is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, [In our sinful fallenness, we suppress truth so that we can passionately pursue sin.]
19because that which is known about God is evident within them [we were created in His image, knowing right from wrong, knowing there is a God]; for God made it evident to them.
20For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. [God has painted a billboard in the sky, such that we are without excuse.]
21For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22Professing to be wise, they became fools,
23and 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. [In other words, we’ve created false, more palatable religions, or abandoned religion altogether.]
24Therefore God gave them over [three times we read that phrase – God gave them over. Now typically, when we think of the wrath of God, we think of the cataclysmic end-time events described in Revelation when God pours out unparalleled judgment on the human race. But, God’s wrath is currently being poured out as well. How?
God has allowed people to pursue their hell-bent rebellion – He has not restrained sin and allowed us to endure the consequences of our sinful choices. He withdraws His restraining and protective hand, allowing the consequences of sin to take us to their inevitable, destructive end. Three times, we read He hands us over:
- 1:24 – “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity…”
- 1:26 – “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions…”
- 1:28 – “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind…”
That should break our hearts. Please notice, God is not passive. He has actively handed us over to our sin as an act of judgment. It’s the same idea as when God handed over the Israelites to their enemies for punishment, or a judge hands a prisoner over to punishment for his crime, so too God actively hands us over to the punishment and judgment our sin deserves – to the terrible cycle of ever-increasing sin.
He gives us what we want, and we get what we got. He gave them over, first, in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so their bodies would be dishonored among them. This is a general giving over to impurity – speaking generally of all sexual immorality. When we continued to throw off morality, He gave us over to all kinds of sexual immorality – to do that which is not honorable. Pornography, sex before marriage called fornication, sex outside of marriage, called adultery. Sex with multiple partners, etc. On and on the list goes. Please understand, this sermon today is suggesting that in our collective rebellion – as humanity in general, and as a nation specifically, God in judgment has given us over to our sinful feelings and desires. And now we say, I need to be true to the way God made me.
25For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, [We’ve traded holiness, being like God, for authenticity, being like I want to be. And we’ve believed the lie and created our own gods – ones who will approve of our sinful choices. Further, we’ve believed the lie that any religion will work. And further, we’ve] and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26For this reason God gave them over [the second giving over] to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,
27and 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 [that is, homosexual acts] and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
28And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over [a third ominous giving over] to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper,
29being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, [do not think this judgment of God in giving us over to our sinful passions is confined to sexual immorality; it is not.]
30slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
31without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful;
32and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
Do you see? Not only have we as culture passionately pursued sinful activities – like sexual immorality and homosexuality, but we give hearty approval to those who practice them. We are accepting, further, we are affirming. And we get what we got. And so, not only does our culture at large accept and affirm such practices, so also does the so-called church. So, what are we to do? Do we cave? Do we give in? Do we become angry? Do we remain silent against the onslaught?
Again, those approving of such sinful activity have grown to be a vast majority in the last few decades. I can remember when divorce was wrong, when premarital sex was wrong, when pornography was wrong, when homosexuality was wrong – outside the mainstream – against natural, God-given function. But the tide has changed dramatically, and now the vast majority of people support such lifestyles – and call us homophobic bigots.
Now, it is clear from the Word of God that He opposes same-sex activity. From the very beginning, we read in Genesis 1 and 2, He created us in His image – male and female He created us. That’s who we are. In that creation, there was meant to be completion, complementarity, fullness, companionship, procreation. Look at those verses:
Genesis 1:26-27 – Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Both, male and female, equally created in the image of God. Equal dignity, equal worth – to complement each other. Then, in Genesis 2, we have more detail given about that creation of humankind:
20The man [that is Adam] gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.
21So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.
22The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
23The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.”
24For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. [speaking primarily of the sexual union]
I don’t have the time this morning to go over all that – suffice it to say, God’s original design was one man, for one woman, for life. Jesus quotes this, as does Paul, in the New Testament. And Jesus adds, what God has brought together let no one separate. Further, there are verses that clearly speak against homosexual activity as outside of God’s intended creation and order:
Leviticus 18:22 – You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. Leviticus 20 says the same thing.
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 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.
1 Timothy 1:9-10 – realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching,
Jude 7 – just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (ESV)
That’s most of the verses which clearly speak against homosexual practice – but don’t miss, the lists include heterosexual immorality as well. Now, objections to what the Bible says about homosexuality abound, and I won’t take the time to review all of them. Some suggest, there are only a few verses about the practice, so it must not be that bad. And yet, it is clearly condemned. Further, I agree with many who point out the Bible is a heterosexual book. The affirmations of godly heterosexual relationships within God-sanctioned marriage throughout the Bible affirm God’s original design and plan.
Others say Jesus never condemned the practice. But that’s not exactly true. Jesus condemned sexual immorality generally, in Mark 7 for example, which would have included all kinds of heterosexual and homosexual sin. Everyone would have understood that.
Still others want to try to reinterpret those passages to say something different – that the Bible only speaks against perverted homosexuality – I’m not going to list those in this audience – but, they say, the Bible would affirm monogamous, committed homosexuality – one man faithfully committed to one man, for example. The problem is, clear exegesis of the passages does not allow for that. Even so-called gay Bible scholars understand that. For example, the Dutch scholar Pim Pronk, after admitting that many Christians are eager to see homosexuality supported in the Bible, says plainly, “In this case that support is lacking…. wherever homosexual[ality] is mentioned in Scripture, it is condemned.”
There are others wanting to support the practice, but who acknowledge the same thing – that the Bible speaks against any and all forms of homosexual practice. How then do they get around the prohibitions? Very simply, they deny the authority, inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. The Bible, they say, is cultural book, bound by its culture at the time – and it is wrong on this issue. We have progressed – the writers of Scripture didn’t understand the complexities of same-sex attraction, etc. As you wonder how those in the liberal church can support the practice, consider what Timothy Johnson, a well-respected NT scholar who supports homosexuality, writes:
“I think it important to state that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be good and holy. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us.”
Do you see? The Bible is wrong, and we should authentically pursue our feelings and experiences – after all, this is the way God made us – it is His design for us. And so our culture says, it’s time we understand we are behind the times, outdated, trusting in an imperfect book in an imperfect religion. So what do we do with all this? What should be our response?
Before I give some concluding thoughts on the matter, allow me briefly to address the T in the LGBTQ movement – that is, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer. To be clear, this is way above my pay grade. Generally speaking, let me say, for the first time in history, gender is being determined by feelings and desires – which remember, are fallen. For the first time in history, gender is not determined by science – by biology and X and Y chromosomes. Biology is who you are – who God made you – male and female. Gender is how you feel – altogether untrustworthy. Such gender confusion used to be considered gender dysphoria – a mental challenge. But now, throwing off all sexual morality – this becomes yet another inevitable end. Going back to the creation account of Genesis 1 and 2 – it is clear there are two genders, not many, and we are born with an assigned gender consistent with our biology. But confusion reigns in our culture.
So, I wanted to speak clearly on the topic today. I will not dismiss the clear teaching of Scripture, nor will I be silent – nor will I be unkind and ungodly. So what do we do with this clearly biblical truth, while many are reinterpreting or dismissing it?
I have a couple thoughts. The first I’ve already broached. How should we treat those caught in the sin of homosexuality? With the same love, dignity and respect as we treat other sinners. You see, they too are created in the image of God. That’s who they are. That’s how we can and should love them – as fellow image-bearers.
How they are is the same way we all were – caught in sin. So our approach should be to lovingly confront them with the truth of the gospel. It is Christ who can change them. Again, we must remember who they are, fellow image bearers, and love them. We must remember how they are – caught in depravity – dead in trespasses and sin. And it is the gospel that redeems, transforms, and propels us to the consummation. Remember the storyline of the Bible? Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation. Ours is to see broken sinners redeemed.
Which leads to the second and final thought. At the very end of his book, What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality, author and pastor Kevin DeYoung writes what he calls ten commitments. Ten commitments we should all make regarding this issue:
- We will encourage our leaders to preach through the Bible verse by verse and chapter by chapter that they might teach the whole counsel of God (even the unpopular parts) and avoid riding hobby horses (even popular ones).
- We will tell the truth about all sins, including homosexuality, but especially the sins most prevalent in our communities.
- We will guard the truth of God’s Word, protect God’s people from error, and confront the world when it tries to press us into its mold.
- We will call all people to faith in Christ as the only way to the Father and the only way to have eternal life.
- We will speak to all people about the good news that Jesus died in our place and rose again so that we might be set free from the curse of the Law, saved from the wrath of God, and welcomed into the holy city at the restoration of all things.
- We will treat all Christians as new creations in Christ, reminding each other that our true identity is not based on sexuality or self-expression but on our union with Christ.
- We will extend God’s forgiveness to all those who come in brokenhearted repentance, everyone from homosexual sinners to heterosexual sinners, from the proud to the greedy, from the people pleaser to the self-righteous.
- We will ask forgiveness when we are rude or thoughtless or joke about those who experience same-sex attraction.
- We will strive to be a community that welcomes all those who hate their sin and struggle against it, even when that struggle involves failures and setbacks.
- We will seek to love all in our midst, regardless of their particular vices or virtues, by preaching the Bible, recognizing evidences of God’s grace, pointing out behaviors that dishonor the Lord, taking church membership seriously, exercising church discipline, announcing the free offer of the gospel, striving for holiness together, practicing the “one anothers” of Christian discipleship, and exulting in Christ above all things.