|Hot Buttons | Homosexuality|
|January 30, 2010|
Part 2 of 3 | January 31, 2010
Welcome to week #2 of our series called Hot Buttons. I told you last week that this is one of the toughest, one of the hardest, and yet one of the most necessary, series that we’re going to do all year. We are tackling some serious hot button issues head on in this series.
Last week, we kicked off the series with some teaching about abortion. It may have been the most difficult message I’ve ever preached in my life. I don’t say that flippantly. I’m dead serious. It’s so hard to walk onto this stage, knowing full well that I’m going to spend a half hour absolutely devastating someone.
And that’s exactly what happened. Since last Sunday, I’ve ministered to several people whose lives have been devastated by abortion. It’s been gut-wrenching. But it’s also awesome to see the grace of God do its work. I’ve had a front row seat to watch healing begin in people’s lives.
That’s because Jesus is all about grace and truth. We read this last week, and we’re going to read it every week in this series. John 1, starting in verse 14: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' "
From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:14-17, NIV)
Jesus was 100% grace and 100% truth. And as His people, we have to deal with hot button issues like Jesus would…with grace and truth.
That’s how we’re going to tackle the hot button that we’re going to talk about today: homosexuality. That is one of the most charged words that I can think of. It is politically charged. It is spiritually charged. The mention of the word divides people into camps, the guns come out, and they start firing away.
But we’re going to handle this like Jesus. And to do that, we’ve got to beg Jesus to lead us.
We believe that the Bible is the Word of God. It is perfect, without error. It is the source of absolute truth. And so, when a hot button issue comes up, we have to go to the Bible for direction and guidance.
So what does the Bible say about homosexuality? We’re going to explore some the most relevant passages, Old and New Testament.
We’ll start in then Old Testament. Leviticus 18 is a very long, detailed description of the sexual purity God expected from Old Testament Israel.
“No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the LORD.
Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.
Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.” (Leviticus 18:6, 22-23, NIV)
In the context of this chapter, God prohibited incest, homosexuality, and bestiality. He tells us that these acts are sinful. They do not match the sexually pure lifestyle that He wants from His people.
The interesting thing is that He discusses them all in the same context…as if they’re all equal.
Verse 22 says, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” (Leviticus 18:22, NIV) This verse very clearly prohibits homosexual sex. And it is smack in the middle of God’s prohibitions of other sexual activity, such as incest and bestiality.
Many people who argue that homosexuality is not sinful would very quickly admit that incest is wrong. They would probably be disgusted by the thought of having sex with an animal. And yet God discusses all these issues together in the same context. From His viewpoint, they are all perversions. They are all sinful.
But wait a minute…that’s the OLD Testament. We’re New Testament people. What does the New Testament say about homosexuality?
Check it out. 1 Corinthians 6 says, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes
nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, NIV)
Again, look at the context in which God discusses homosexuality. It is lumped in with many other variations of sexual sin. It is included contextually with idolatry, adultery, prostitution, etc.
And the last line in verse 10 is very scary. The Apostle Paul very clearly and very bluntly says that they will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Why are we talking about this issue? Because eternity hangs in the balance. We’re not doing it to be political. We’re not doing it to needlessly hammer on someone who is homosexual. We’re doing it because the truth of God says we have to. This has eternal consequences, and so regardless of the political landscape, we have to preach and teach the truth.
The most detailed, extensive treatment of homosexuality in the New Testament is in Romans 1.
Starting in verse 24, the Bible says, “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.
In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.
Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” (Romans 1:24-27, NIV)
Go back and look at the words that God uses to describe homosexuality in Romans 1.
Impurity. Shameful. Unnatural. Indecent. Perversion.
I think that’s pretty clear. Or at least it should be. It’s not hard to believe that our world views homosexuality as a perfectly acceptable alternative lifestyle. There’s nothing shocking about that. What should surprise us is that the church is accepting the legitimacy of homosexuality at a very fast clip.
All it takes is a couple of clicks on Google to find out that this is the reality. There are an incredible number of websites espousing that Christianity and homosexuality are not at odds with each other. They teach that a person can be a fully committed disciple of Christ and at the same time live a homosexual lifestyle.
Here’s what I found on one particular website this week. Listen to these words from the front page of this website. “This site shows that a person can be both a true Christian and a loving, sexually-active gay man or lesbian.
The site accepts that the Bible (our guide) prohibits all penetrative sex between men. But it also shows that the prohibition does not apply today when the sexual activity causes no harm.
Also, the prohibition does not apply today because it applied only to the ancient Israelite and Greco-Roman cultures. The Bible criticizes, but does not prohibit, sex between women.
So man-man sex and woman-woman sex is okay if no one is harmed.”
Um…no. The people who created this website, and the hundreds others just like it, claim to believe the Bible. This site even called the Bible “our guide.”
You’ve got to do some serious exegetical gymnastics to arrive at these points. Can you seriously read the Scriptures that we’ve read today and come to this conclusion? Not unless you have a personal agenda fueling your study.
That is a danger that we all need to be aware of. 2 Corinthians 4 says, “We don't maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don't twist God's Word to suit ourselves.” (2 Corinthians 4:2a, The Message)
It’s very easy, and very dangerous, to read the Bible through the lens of your preconceived ideas. If you’ve already made up your mind on an issue before you open the Bible, then you are going to make the Bible twist and bend until it says what you want it to say.
That is obviously what’s happening among those in the homosexual community who want to believe that being a Christian and being gay is not a contradiction.
But they’re not the only ones who can do this. Anyone who reads the Bible with preconceived ideas instead of a wide-open mind and heart is going to misinterpret the Word of God. Instead of God giving you truth the you need to hear, you are seeking to twist His words into the truth you want to hear. That’s deadly.
What issues, what belief systems, what traditions are causing you to twist and distort the Bible. What are you trying to make the Bible say? What preconceived idea are you trying to make God support? Where you are twisting and distorting Scripture to support what you believe? That’s a deadly game, church. A deadly game.
On this issue…the plain, hard, unvarnished truth is that homosexuality, in all its forms and functions, is sinful. It is a direct contradiction to the will and the Word of God.
When you speak this truth, you will immediately be labeled as a homophobic bigot. There are some “Christians” who have probably earned that label. We’ll talk about that in a minute. But even those of us who compassionately and lovingly stand for the truth of God will be labeled as having homophobia. The implication is that we have a mental disease. We have an irrational, unfounded fear and hatred for homosexuals. In most cases, it’s a ridiculous label. But regardless of these labels, we simply have no choice. Regardless of which way the political wind is blowing, we have to stand for the truth of God in the grace of God.
Remember, like we’ve been saying all along in this series, it’s grace AND truth. Not grace OR truth.
Some people, in an attempt to be compassionate and loving, choose grace over truth. They have tried to soften the Biblical truth on the matter. If we change the truth of God, we are lying. That isn’t loving to God, because we’re twisting His Word. And it isn’t loving to people because we’re lying to them. We’re leading them to believe that everything is ok when it isn’t.
The truth is that homosexuality is sinful. But there are far too many Christians who choose this truth by not grace. They enjoy railing against the evils of homosexuality. It’s fun for them. Some fringe groups even go so far as to hold picket signs claiming that “God hates fags.” These are the same people who picket at military funerals and hold up signs that say, “Thank God for dead soldiers.” Their latest kick is holding picket signs saying that “God hates Haiti.”
We’re not talking about people of this ilk. These wingnuts don’t warrant one ounce of our attention or energy. But the people we’re talking about Bible-believing, Jesus-loving disciples who still see homosexuality as something to joke about and to joyfully condemn. There are people in this room who fall into this category.
Can I ask you a question? What other sin do we do this with? We don’t joke about adultery. We don’t joke about abortion. If you were here last week…did you hear any laughing? We don’t joke about sin. But somehow, some Christians make an exception for homosexuality.
Sin is sin. It makes God angry and it breaks God’s heart. And as God’s people, who are we to joke about something that leaves our Heavenly Father angry and brokenhearted?
The rude jokes, the gay bashing, all that stuff has no place in the life of a Christ-follower. Homosexuals are people who were created in the image of God. Are they in sin? Yes. Should we call them to repentance? Absolutely. But when did teasing and harassing and making fun win anybody to Jesus?
Remember the formula that Jesus used. Grace and truth. Some choose all grace and no truth, and so they claim that there is nothing in the Bible that prohibits homosexuality. But others choose truth and no grace, and they make homosexuals the target of jokes and harassment and joyful condemnation.
Someone who is homosexual deserves to be treated honorably because they are created in the image of God. Even if they don’t honor God, we still treat them honorably because we are the people of God. It doesn’t mean we softball their sin. We absolutely tell them the truth. We call them to repentance.
Romans 2 says, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?” (Romans 2:4, NIV)
What leads us to repentance? God’s kindness. The kindness of God leads us to repentance. If that’s how God operates, then that’s how His people should operate.
Here is another critically important truth that we have to understand. Homosexuality is a sin, but it is far from the only sexual sin.
One reason that our world rejects the truth about homosexuality is because we have given them no reason to listen to us. The church has a miserable track record in the realm of sexuality.
I can’t even begin to count the number of times that I’ve heard about pastors who got caught in deep sexual sin. I flipped on the news this week and what did I see? A pastor in northern Kentucky who is in jail on charges of incest. I don’t presume to know all the details of this case. The guy is innocent until proven guilty.
But here’s the deal…this is happening all the time. And it’s not just big names like Ted Haggard. Remember him? He was a very prominent pastor who took a very spectacular fall a few years ago when his sexual sin came to light. But it’s not just the Ted Haggards of the world. This crisis is not just national…it’s local. It’s happening in local churches coast-to-coast.
I personally know pastors who have had adulterous affairs, been sexually involved with minors, and solicited prostitutes. And these are pastors! If that’s happening in the pulpit, what do you think is happening in the pew?
Our world scoffs at the truth regarding issues like homosexuality, and to be blunt, we’ve given them good reason to. We have given them plenty of ammunition. In many ways, we haven’t given them one reason to listen to us on any sexual issue. Until the church gets back to godly sexuality, we have nothing to say to our world about its sexual sin.
Listen to what God says to His church in 1 Peter 2. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
[Peter is saying, “You used to live in darkness. You lived without Christ. But now, you have received God’s unbelievable mercy. You’ve been forgiven and you are now the people of God. And because you are the forgiven people of God, here’s how you need to live. Check out what he says.]
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.
[Because we have been forgiven of our sin, we declare all out war on sin. We abstain from any sinful desires this world has to offer because we’re aliens and strangers here. We don’t belong in this world.]
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:9-12, NIV)
This is why the world is not listening to us on sexual matters. Because far too often, people in the church have been the antithesis of this verse. Instead of living such good lives among people who don’t know God…instead of making the truth of God attractive through our godly lifestyles…we have often done the exact opposite. People reject the truth based on our hypocrisy. And that absolutely, unequivocally has to stop, church. It has to stop.
Listen, I’m not down on sex because God is not down on sex. Starting on Valentine’s Day, we’re kicking off a brand new series here at ACC called “Love Story.” We’re going to cover everything, from dating to a long-lasting message. And yes, sex is a big part of that and we’re going to be talking about how to have a hot and holy sex life.
But the only way that can happen is within the parameters God has given us. Any sexual expression that is outside of one man and one woman in a marriage relationship is sinful. That includes homosexuality, but it also includes lust, pre-marital sex, friends with benefits, adultery, etc.
Earlier in the message when we were talking about incest and bestiality, you were probably thinking, “That’s disgusting. I can’t even imagine that. It’s just disgusting.”
That is exactly how God views the sexual sin in your life. If the thought of having sex with an animal disgusts you, good. That’s exactly how God feels about your sexual sin.
The point that Peter makes is that we are called to be different. Not just different in what we preach, but different in what we practice. Our world needs to understand godly sexuality, not just from our sermons but also from our daily lives.
There are people in this room who need to repent. And I love you enough to call you out. I love you too much to let you stay in your sin. I love you too much to tell you that everything is ok when it isn’t.
If you are involved in homosexual sin, you need to repent. If you are involved in heterosexual sin, you need to repent.
All sins require repentance. All can be forgiven. All sinners can be changed.
We read this passage earlier, but we stopped one verse short. Now let’s read the whole thing.
1 Corinthians 6 says, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes
nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
And that is what some of you were. 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.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, NIV)
Paul reminds us that we have been washed, which is a reference to water baptism. The moment when we cross that line of faith and accept the forgiveness that comes through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
He also says that we are justified, which is a legal term. It means that we are declared not guilty. If you are in Christ, when you stand before God, He will declare you not guilty. There is no condemnation. It’s like you never sinned at all.
But in the middle of those two words, Paul also reminds us that we have been sanctified. This means that we have been changed. It’s a lifelong process where we are changed to look more and more like Jesus. It is nothing less than a move of God.
That’s why Paul rattled off this long list of sins and then says, “And that is what you WERE.” Past tense. That’s what you used to be, but the sanctifying work of God is happening in your life. It’s a slow process. It’s a lifelong process. But you are changing into a more Christlike person everyday.
Jesus changes lives. He doesn’t just forgive sin. He changes lives.
And there is no such thing as an irreparable life. Regardless of what sin struggle you are facing, the power of the Lord Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit can change your life.
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