(by Chris Long)
(Follow-up to this article available here)
Note: This article deals largely with the subject of homosexuality.
We've all done it. Since the beginning of the world, people have been doing it. From the very first humans that ever lived, Adam and Eve, it's been the pattern.
God told Adam and Eve they could eat anything they wanted in the world except the fruit from 1 tree. Well, you probably know the story. Eve ate and gave some to Adam. When God questioned Adam about his sin, he went straight into rationalization mode, basically saying "the woman made me do it!" Of course, God looked right past Adam's rationalization and held Adam accountable for his sin as an individual. (see Genesis 1:17).
Some things just aren't new. This is one of them. However, in the last several years I have noted that the number of people trying to rationalize sin has been increasing exponentially. Many are even doing it under the banner of 'Christianity'.
We are to simply believe God for what He says. It is that simple. And yet, simple belief - and the obedience that follows - is the hardest thing for humanity to do.
Because we are full of pride and want to do things our way. We want to be "in control" - in control of our bodies; in control of what we do or do not do. We don't like someone telling us that we can't do something. It offends us. We want to be the "master's of our fate"; the determiners of right and wrong. We take offense when someone suggests that we really aren't in control - that there is a standard of right and wrong that is NOT determined by us, but rather by the One that made us. This offends people! It may even be offending you right now!
Besides men and women wanting to do things their own way, we want to come to God on our terms. We want to believe what we want to believe and then try to force God to accept what we believe as right. We want to do things the way we want and then try to force God to accept it.
Rather than believing in God and what He says, we love to come up with excuses such as:
"I can't believe in a God who would send people to hell."
and on and on this goes.
It sometimes amazes me just how vehemently someone will defend their unbelief because they want to come to God on their terms. They want God to be who THEY want Him to be, rather than what He clearly has revealed Himself to be.
"Much of our difficulty...stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him and to bring Him nearer to our own image." - A.W. Tozer
The reality is that a person can think they are being "open minded" and "tolerant" all day long - convincing themselves that they are "enlightened" and that all who believe what God says are "haters", "bigoted", "closed-minded", "intolerant", and the like. A person can do this if they want - and many do. A person can reject God and His truth in unbelief.
But if He is the standard of truth and you reject that standard because you want to make your own standard of truth and what is right or wrong, you can foolishly do so. He loves you so much that He gives you the choice to choose Him and His truth or not. And if you don't want Him, He, in sadness, will honor that choice when you breathe your last here on this planet.
John 3:16 is a popular verse of the Bible:
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
But many people don't know the important verses that follow it where Jesus continues speaking:
"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (John 3:17-21)
It is so ironic that it is SO EASY for humanity to be saved for all eternity and be in a right standing with God, and yet, it seems to be the hardest thing for men and women to do: to just believe what God has said and stop trying to justify themselves and their behavior before God!
Jesus's own words as shown above in John clearly states that there are "evil" deeds and that those who do evil hate the light and don't want to come into the light. Sidenote: Jesus Himself IS THE LIGHT (see John 1). Throughout the Bible, it is stated what many of these "evil" deeds are.
Currently in our society there are two major "flashpoint issues" that say a lot about whether a person is taking God at face-value or trying instead to rationalize sin. Those two issues are abortion and homosexuality. Both are major flashpoint cultural issues that really show whether one believes in God's truth or not.
Today, for the purposes of example, we'll discuss homosexuality.
I have found that those who practice, OR approve of those who practice, homosexuality, can be very vehement in their rhetoric about how Jesus loves everyone and we have no right to judge. They neglect, or try to explain away, other parts of Scripture that specifically talk about homosexuality (and often, many other sins!), in order to fit their belief system.
Homosexuality is one of the biggest issues where people try to make God and His standards of right and wrong BECOME what THEY want it to be. They want to believe that homosexuality isn't a choice but that God makes people that way and thus accepts them that way and that it is not sin. They want to make THEIR idea of truth be God's truth, rather than believing God and accepting HIS truth!
I like to talk about God's love as much as the next person. But the Bible also talks about God's wrath. Yes, wrath.
Romans 1:18-32 says:
"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
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.
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them."
And now, the bonus text just 1 verse later in Romans 2:2:
"Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth."
Here we are explicitly told that God judges based on HIS standard of truth. This text as shown above clearly shows that God actually allows people to be given over to wickedness in their unbelief. God honors the choice of men and women that reject Him and His truth and He allows them to do the evil they desire. And He will judge them for their choice. "The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions." - A.W. Tozer
Listen, I know what those on the "other side" that try to merge Christianity with homosexuality say - I've read their writings. I don't recommend you read their skewed thinking, but if you do, you know what you'll find? They somehow manage to "explain away" the several clear references to homosexuality in the Bible, including this one above from the New Testament, where homosexuality is clearly called "unnatural". They claim that God didn't really mean that homosexuality was an "abomination" when He declared it in the Levitical law, even though it is referenced right between infanticide and beastiality! Or they claim that it doesn't matter any more because that was the time of law, even though the Bible also tells us that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever - see Hebrews 13:8. If God thought something was an abomination to Him then, I don't think He's changed His mind. It's not like He thinks "Oh well homosexuality is an abomination to me now for the people of Israel, but 2000 years from now I won't care if people commit homosexuality." To counter this, people try to say it was translated incorrectly, etc. To rationalize (read "explain away" so they can believe what they want to believe), they explain that homosexuality wasn't a major sin of Sodom and Gomorrah - even though it is quite clear from reading the text at face value - that it is. They instead claim that the sin was only rape and not being loving or caring for their fellow man, etc.
Look, we all want to believe that sin isn't sin. We can all explain stuff away to fit what we want to believe. You can try to explain away most of the Bible if you want (and many people do) using arguments such as "it wasn't translated right", "God didn't really mean THAT", etc. We can all try to explain away things we don't like!
How foolish for the creation to try to tell the Creator what is right or wrong. We have no place. It is utterly ludicrous. We can think whatever we want. We can have any opinions we want. God gave us the ability to have choice and decide what we want to believe. We can have any opinions that we want. But all that REALLY matters is what God's opinions are. The smartest thing that we can do is align our thinking with what God has revealed about what He thinks. And if people want to label us as backwards-thinking, intolerant, bigoted people, because in simple belief we accept what God says, then so be it. In the end, God will be proven true.
We come to God on His terms, or we don't come at all. We don't get to negotiate terms upon which we come to Him. He made the terms. We either believe and accept those terms or we don't. We either believe in sin or we don't. We either believe that we are sinners or we don't. We either believe that He loved us so much that He paid the penalty for our sin, or we don't. We either believe that the way He provided is the only way for us to be right with Him, or we don't. We either believe that those who choose Him go to Heaven and those who don't choose Him go to hell by their own choice, or we don't. It all comes down to simple belief...simple faith in what God says is so.
The "pro-homosexual" crowd love to talk about Jesus being loving and non-judgemental. Quite honestly, these people don't know the Jesus of which they speak. Any reading of the Gospels will make quite clear that Jesus made all sorts of judgements BECAUSE of His love. He even got a whip and ran everyone out and overturned the tables of those who were selling merchandise in the temple court. (see Matthew 21:12-13). He frequently 'judged' the religious leaders that were misleading the people - calling them among other things, "snakes", "hypocrites", and "blind guides." He talked often of the need for repentance, faith, watching out for false teachers, the "narrow" gate to Heaven, etc.
God most definitely is Love (see 1 John 4:8-9). His heart is one of absolute love for all. He is merciful and He is compassionate. He wants all to come to Him. 2 Peter 3:9 says "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
But He is also righteous. He is just. He is holy. He has standards on what is right and what is not. In order to come to Him, we must acknowledge that we are sinners who have fallen short of His righteous standards. We must acknowledge who we are and what we've done, and then who He is and what He's done for us! He loves us so much that He suffered for us by coming to earth as a man and dying for us as a sinless sacrifice, so we could be with Him forever! He loves you and me that much.
God does love you. He loves you and me more than any person EVER could. And for those that come to Him and accept Him as He is (and not as they want Him to be!), He will not only save them for all eternity, but will also give them a new nature now by which they, with His help, are able to live rightly. There are many testimonies of people who originally bought the lie that people are born homosexuals and can't change and need to just embrace it, only to have their eyes opened - realize that it was indeed sin - come to Christ - and find that Christ has the power to help them overcome any homosexual feelings!
Listen, it is clearly true that some people are more prone to 'homosexual feelings' then others. I myself can tell you that as a young teen I had some of these feelings myself! Whether you want to point to your genetic makeup, societal effects (your family environment/those around you), or however you want to explain the "why" for why a person has these feelings - at the end of the day they are just feelings! Whether a person acts on those feelings or not is the issue! The lie that is so commonplace right now is that a person needs to embrace these feelings to "embrace themselves" because that is how God made them and thus God approves of those feelings. They need to embrace themselves as a "homosexual" - to find their identity in being a "homosexual". Indeed, the extension is then made that OTHERS must approve of their homosexuality as well - because if they don't then they are being "haters".
This is the crux of the homosexual issue we see in society right now. The homosexual community finds their identity as human beings in their sexuality rather than God! (read that again!!) Their whole identity is based around that they are a "homosexual". Thus when someone such as myself dares to talk about what God has clearly said about homosexuality, they see it as an attack on them PERSONALLY! They've bought the lie - they've embraced "sin" - rationalized it however they needed to - and made it their identity. That, my friends, is why they get so up in arms over issues such as "gay marriage". They believe that it is their fundamental right because they are "homosexuals" and thus they should have the same marriage rights as everyone else who is not a homosexual. Their identity as a person is intertwined with their sin.
This is WHY they see things like gay marriage as a "civil right." It is because they truly do believe that they are homosexuals just like African-American people are black, etc. They fool themselves in their belief that they were "born gay" and thus should be a protected group just like an ethnic group is! See, if they can convince everyone that they were "born gay" then they can claim they are gay just like an African-American is black and can shirk responsibility for their behavior, because after all, they were "born gay" and so they're just embracing who they are.
Thus, because they reject God's word (or rationalize/explain it away) and thus reject God as He has revealed Himself to be, they are obsessed with their "sin identity" of rebellion to God. They want everyone else to affirm them that it is okay that they do this and agree with them that they were born that way. And indeed they are so proud of their sin (which of course they don't call sin!) that they get very up-in-arms, "militant-like" actually, against anyone who would dare point out that they are in sin. Those that do so are labeled "haters." Our society is only a drop away from a society where people like me will be put in prison for even writing things like this article. People that speak up for what God says in His word will be convicted of "hate crimes". Mark my words. If a course reversal doesn't happen soon and mass repentence occur, this will be coming (it's already starting!).
The truth of course is that it is my LOVE for people that is prompting me to write this article today. I don't just spend hours on a Saturday afternoon writing about sin and homosexuality because I'm out to hate someone. I am doing it because, as the Scriptures mentioned earlier, God is love and He loves all people and wants all to come to repentance.
Lest anyone reading this start thinking that the guy that is writing all this is setting himself all up as "high and mighty" trying to condemn others, I feel I must share a few things. I certainly am not without sin. Those that know me (I've even spelled it out in past writings!) know that I myself struggled much in the area of sexual purity for many years, and there still is a battle in my mind. Just today I found myself lusting when I shouldn't have - and I had to repent! Given the mercy and grace shown to me, I most certainly am not out to condemn others.
But you see, it is one thing to struggle with sin as a believer, recognize that it is sin, and desire to stop that sin in your life with God's help. As Christians, there is a real war between the new nature (spirit) and the old nature (flesh). This happens with all believers (myself included!). It is another thing entirely though to claim to be a believer and yet be steeped in sin that you won't even recognize as sin, and worse, even become "proud" of and convince yourself that God approves of. I always take the claims of anyone that says they are a believer seriously, because I don't know the heart and only God REALLY knows and so I need to be careful not to pass the judgement that only God can pass. But it is also true that the fruit of a person's life always eventually shows itself. If someone is claiming to be a follower of Jesus and yet they practice homosexuality or other sin where they won't acknowledge it as sin, are proud of their sin, and defend their sin, then how much of Jesus is really showing in their life? What's the fruit? A life of disobedience to God's Word?
When someone is flaunting sin that God specifically says is wrong, well, it is fair to question just what their relationship really is with Him. Because more likely than not, what has happened is someone is really just using Christianity as a veil so they can still claim they are right with God while doing their sin. Many people that claim to be Christians in actuality have a "smorgasboard religion" of a little of this, a little of that - where they have chosen to embrace things they want to hear but discard things that actually set boundaries for their lives or tell them things they should not do.
We know instinctively that certain things are wrong and certain things are right. For instance, we know instinctively that marriage is not to be between a man and a man, a woman and a woman, etc. We know this. This is not rocket science. We know that a woman is not physically made to reproduce with another woman and nor a man with a man. Let's just get blatantly honest here: We know instinctively that the place where a man poops is not made to have another man's sexual organ put up inside of it. We know that all cultures throughout history have been based on marriage between a man and a woman. We know that God himself ordained marriage between a man and a woman. And we know that God Himself has spoken out regarding the sinfulness of homosexuality. We know it is not His plan. We know He did not make us that way. We've just chosen to reject this knowledge so we can claim we are "loving" and "non-judgemental" because, after all, wasn't Jesus loving and non-judgemental? Who wants to deny two people who love each other the RIGHT to be married to each other? You see how easy it is for people who name the name of Jesus to be taken in by such incorrect thinking? But we can't do that any more.
It starts with acknowledging that what God says, is true. God loves you very very much. But He also hates sin very very much. He hates what it brings about in people's lives - which is death (spiritual, physical, eternal). In fact, it is partly BECAUSE He loves you that he hates so much that which would destroy you. Sidenote: All sin brings forth death in its various forms - and although I won't belabor the point, all one has to do is look at studies of the lifespan of long-term homosexuals compared to non-homosexuals, and you'll see this principle in action in the physical realm in a very serious and sobering way. Sin = death, regardless of the sin.
Because God does love you and me so much, He provided a way whereby we can all be restored to Him and where as we live in obedience to Him, LIFE will conquer death in all its forms. God is really big on LIFE. He wants you to have life - and life to its fullest (by the way, this is one of the many reasons why abortion doesn't line up with God's Word, either).
The main purpose of life here is for each person to choose Life for all eternity. Everything else is secondary to that. Our identity as a person is meant to be found in Him! (not in our sexuality!)
Originally the earth was created and humans were made to live in perfect fellowship with God. Due to the choices of the first two humans, who rejected God's way and chose satan's lies instead, sin was brought into the world. Thus the fellowship was broken and death entered the world, because a gap now existed between a holy, righteous God and sinful humans who rejected God and His ways. God could have just ignored it or just started over, but then our choices would be of no importance and thus we could not have any choice in whether we loved God and wanted to be with Him. God could also have just punished us forever with no hope. And yet, God's heart was to restore the broken fellowship. He wanted us to be with him forever. And so His plan went into motion.
Since we could never pay the penalty for our sin and right the wrong because we were the sinners, the only way the wrong could be righted was if He Himself paid for the wrong. God spent a long time from the time of those first humans until the time of Jesus, showing us that we as humans would never be good enough and could never do enough to cover our sins. We couldn't even keep 10 simple commandments from Him. Because God who is holy and pure also is a just and fair God, there had to be an act to satisfy God's justice. And yet, we could not satisfy it. So, in His love, He Himself satisfied His justice by sacrificing Himself on our behalf. Jesus, who is referred to as "God's son", but is also one of the 3 parts that makes up who God is (yes, there is a mystery in this), caused Himself to enter our world to fulfill His divinely orchestrated plan.
Jesus, who lived a perfect, sinless life on this earth, was put to death by sinful humans, which of course is not at all how we think it should have been. It should have been us on the cross. And yet, even if I had been put to death on the cross, and even if my death could satisfy God's justice, at best it could only satisfy His justice in regards to me because as a sinful human, I certainly could not atone for everyone else's sin. Only God Himself, perfect in every way, could atone for all mankind. When you get down to it, Jesus dying on the cross was the most unjust thing ever! It shows us the depths of His love for you and for me. There is no greater love. (see Romans 5:6-11).
Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin and yours, so that we all can stand righteous before God by acknowledging our sinfulness and believing in and accepting His work to pay the penalty for our sin. See, Jesus died and satisfied the righteous requirements of God to atone for our sin. But there still is the element of choice in all of us. We must now choose to either accept His sacrifice on our behalf or not. It was a global human act and yet, it is very personal in application. If we do not WANT Jesus to pay for our sin, God will not force it. If we choose to try to come to Him in some other way, He will allow us to try. We can try, but we will fail.
Jesus alone is the bridge that closes the gap between sinful man in rebellion to God and a holy, just, righteous God who loves everyone and wants ALL to come to full repentance. Jesus Himself stated, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6). The choice to believe that, or not believe that, is ours. We can choose to believe in and accept the sacrifice of God on our behalf or reject it in our pride. You can stand in belief or in unbelief in regards to what the Bible teaches. One way leads to life (now and forever) and the other death (now and forever).
It is our choice. God is inclusive. He is inclusive in that He wants ALL to come to Him. But He also claims to be exclusive in that believing in Jesus Christ as the means of salvation is the only way in which we can come to Him and be with Him for all eternity. You can read Jesus' words as plainly as I can. We either believe or we don't.
The best part of the Gospel story is that it doesn't end with Jesus bloody and naked, hanging dead on a cross. Jesus did die for our sins. But He also rose from the dead. Jesus Himself, speaking of His life, said "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again." (John 10:18). Jesus proved He was God by rising from the dead, because only the One who made the universe and had total authority over life and death itself could do it! He showed Himself to many after He was raised and many of those people eventually ended up being put to death themselves for their unwavering assertion of what had transpired.
The Bible tells us that He now is again outside of our world in the Heavenly realm. He is forever interceding on the behalf of all those whose faith is in Him. And yet, the Bible does also teach that there will be a time when He will come back into this world. When He comes back, it will not be as a baby in a manger, but as the King of Kings coming to Himself pronounce judgement on an unbelieving world that would not believe in Him.
Rather than trying to explain away sin, we need to acknowledge sin as sin, and then turn to the One who paid the penalty for that sin.
May we never rationalize sin and try to explain away what God says to try to fit our own agenda. May we never "exchange the truth of God for a lie" (from Romans 1:25). And, most certainly, may this verse of Romans 1:32 never describe us:
"Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them."
May we instead acknowledge sin as sin both in our own lives and in all humanity. And may we turn to the One who loved us so much that He paid the penalty for those sins on our behalf. This is the Good News - and it is called the Good News because it IS good news.
Perhaps after reading this today, your eyes and heart have been opened to the fact that you are a sinner and you have been rejecting Jesus. Perhaps you realize that you have been foolishly fighting God, using excuses to try to rationalize your sin. And you now realize that it is indeed sin and that without acknowledging it and and turning to Jesus, you will never be right with God. You now see that Jesus came to pay the penalty for your sin and you want to believe in Him so that you can be in a right standing with God. All you need to do is BELIEVE in your heart these truths that have been proclaimed. Open your heart fully to Him right now. Your faith will save you and Jesus will meet you right now where you are at. He will listen to you.
Right now, either silently or out loud, but from your heart, ask Jesus to forgive you of your sin - that you believe and accept what He did for you to forgive you of your sin. Ask Him to come into your life and make you a follower of His and to save you for all eternity. If you have sincerely done this, He will meet your faith and you will truly become a Child of God. Jesus will come into your life and help you to grow in your faith and turn from sin. You literally will become a "new creation" - 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"
The next step is to seek out a local church in your area that teaches the Bible and believes that all of it is the true Word of God. Tell them that you have just given your heart and life to Jesus and you would like their help to go forward. They will be glad to assist you. If you need help searching for a church in your area, you might want to try visiting http://www.calvarychapel.com Also, please contact me and let me know of your decision as well so that I might pray for you! You can find me on the web at: http://www.laughandlift.com/contact.html
Finally, for those that have done this or are already believers in Jesus Christ, we are called to first love God and secondly to love others. Many people like to use their idea that Christians are "so judgemental" and "unloving" and also that God is unloving as a means of rejecting the Christian's message and Christ himself. This is all fuel that they use to further the hardness of their heart and to remain far from God and His truth. They incorrectly, but understandably, use the love or non-love of Christians to judge Jesus. As we love on them and show them Christ's love as we are called to do in Scripture by Jesus Himself, we lessen their ability to have this as a perceived valid argument in their mind. Or at least it makes it harder for them to hold on to such excuses.
May we love on people but at the same time remember that love does not mean a watered-down or compromised truth. Sin is still sin and the truth is still the truth. And the truth still needs to be unashamedly proclaimed. But it is important that truth is proclaimed in love (see Ephesians 4:14-15). I can honestly say that I don't believe I hate anyone. I want to love all and want all to be in a right standing with God. May that be the desire of all who name the name of Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Don't mistake my focus on the homosexual issue and think that I've got some special vendetta against homosexuals. I don't. I have recently been focussing on it in this and other articles because it is currently a big flash-point issue that showcases people trying to rationalize sin. The truth though is that any sin can easily be rationalized. You can substitute your sin of choice and the principles apply. Maybe you don't struggle with this whole homosexual issue - maybe you even fully agreed with everything above. But maybe you have been rationalizing some other sin! It is easy to do. Perhaps you've been flirting with adultery or pre-marital sex or pornography. Perhaps you've been doing "just a little cheating" on your taxes and trying to rationalize it! And of course, there's the other big-gun societal issue: abortion - Maybe you've rationalized that it's okay if the baby is under such an age (3 months, etc.) or in a case of rape or incest (boy I'm asking for it now!! - the topic of abortion will be a separate article some day). Sin is sin no matter what name it carries. And any sin can be easily rationalized.
It is my fervent hope and prayer that this article today causes us all to look at our lives and see if there are any areas where we have been in deliberate sin, all the while thinking that God doesn't care or is okay with it. May we all deal in reality with God according to His word and repent before Him.
I love each of you in and through Jesus Christ and pray that the Lord will minister to you and pour out an abundance of His mercy and grace to you this day. He loves you! :)
There is an important follow-up to this article available here.
This is version 1.5 of this document (February 26, 2011).