Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Redemption and the Gay Issue

The candidates for redemption are sinners. All sinners of every stripe and kind and depth are those for whom Christ died. As it pertains to redemption there are no levels of sin which require a deeper expression of God’s grace. All sinners are saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and no amount of good works can aid in that redemption. There is only path to redemption and only faith can traverse such a path.

The price has been paid in full through the death and resurrection of the Son of God. And every baby born bears the stain of Adam’s sin, and every child manifests that sin and accumulates his own portfolio of transgressions against a holy God. The fallen nature inherits sin and willingly exhibits that it is a fallen nature. The goat cannot be anything but a goat without Christ.

The question then becomes “How much sin does a sinner have to forsake before he can be saved?” The answer is none. That is correct, a sinner does not have to reduce his inventory of sin before he can redeemed, and in fact, it is his sin which authenticates candidacy for redemption. Christ came to redeem sinners. The word "repent" (metanoia) means changing one’s mind and believe on Christ. And after one is redeemed, how much sin does one have to abandon before he can be seen as redeemed? The answer is none.

Of course when a sinner is redeemed his life is changed and he willingly and through the power of the Spirit allows inward and outward changes to be made in his life. But let us be clear, all of us still sin willingly and also in ways about which we are deceived. This issue is extremely important as it pertains to how we present Christ and His gospel, and how we minister to those who have made professions but still sin in different ways. It is also significant as to how we understand and appreciate our own redemption.

If a sinner cannot be saved if he still sins then no one is saved. Perfectionism, the theology that suggests that a saved person can and should come to the place where he does not sin, is absurd in both doctrine and practice. I publicly testify of the power of Christ in my life that has freed me from many sin bondages and has transformed my life. But I also confess that I sin every day, and that I am sure I do things that are sinful in God’s eyes but about which I am blind.

But let us also be clear about the nature of redemption. No one, absolutely no one, can be saved and inherit eternal life with Christ without personal faith in Jesus Christ. The entire chapter of Romans 10 deals with this in inescapable clarity. No one can be redeemed without hearing the gospel and believing it. Of course this truth is under significant attack in today’s new evangelical genre which suggests that sinners can be saved in other religions if they are God fearing and faithful to their “religious tradition” That teaching is a damnable heresy that maligns the sufferings of Christ, gives false hope to sinners, and dilutes the already tepid passion for missions. It emanates from the fallen intellect of man which believes it knows better than God and can rewrite ecclesiastical history by an amazing series of Scriptural contortions that appeal to the flesh and provide head nodding comfort to deceived listeners.

Every sinner who trusts in Jesus Christ with childlike faith, even if ignorant of some of the basic doctrines we believe are necessary for maturity, are saved and secure in Jesus Christ. And every sinner who dies in his sins is lost forever and separated from the same Christ without remedy. I refrain from a description of the conscious state of the eternally lost, but suffice to say it is horrific without equal. I take no joy in that.

But in today’s evangelical landscape there has arisen a phenomenon that challenges our theology and demands that we practice what we preach. There is a growing number of professing believers who believe that Christ is redemptively exclusive and that only through faith in Him can anyone be saved. These people’s lives have been changed, and many have been delivered from drugs, theft, drunkenness, and a host of other sins. They read the Scriptures and pray, and many witness and are involved in world wide mission efforts.

But the group to which I refer is deceived in one major area. They do not believe that homosexuality is a sin, and they practice that behavior. I do realize that there are churches that are gay oriented which do not believe that Christ is exclusive as well. I am not dealing with them. But the question arises, “Can a person be saved and still practice a sin without realizing it is a sin?” My observation is that if a person cannot be saved and practice a sin then no one is saved. Let us pull back the curtains on our own expressions of the Christian faith and see if we can meet the standard to which we hold others.

Let us examine those of us who would emphatically believe that homosexual activity is a sin. Have you ever read the hatred and self righteousness spewed forth on many discernment blogs? When orthodox men like John McArthur (for example, and many others) lead a “Christian cruise” in which believers spend thousands of dollars on themselves, engage in gluttony, and in general enjoy a hedonistic journey to nowhere, and yet call it “Christian” , are they saved? Wesley, Calvin, Moody, Luther, and all the oft quoted dead theologians would soundly call that practice a sinful mirror of the hedonistic culture, and yet no one questions the salvation of those cruise goers.

And the pastors and singers that speak and sing on these cruises go for free as well as sell their Cds and books, and the pastors still receive their handsome salaries from home while they cruise. If that isn’t hedonistic I don’t know what is. But I do not question their salvation just because they fail to recognize what should be Scripturally obvious to any impartial student of the New Testament, to say nothing of the biographies of Wesley and Edwards and Paul himself. And in a classic irony, many of these pastors will rail against the prosperity message during such a luxurious cruise. Do we suggest they are not saved because they openly suggest such things are Scriptural and even profit personally from them?

Of course the culture has so blinded us that many of you will not see what I am saying. Since we all practice hedonism to some extent we are blind to its sinfulness or its scope, but since most of us are heterosexual it is easy and convenient for us to climb Mt. Orthodoxy and throw heterosexual stones at those who are deceived. In fact, we throw stones shoulder to shoulder with our second and third spouses! God’s forgiveness and restoration seems to operate exclusively within the heterosexual boundaries.

Do I need to suggest that millions upon millions of faithful evangelicals never read God’s Word and never pray? Do I need to suggest that millions upon millions of evangelical believers look at pornography and covet their neighbor’s wife and practice self gratification? Do I need to suggest that millions upon millions of evangelical believers knowingly and regularly drive well over the speed limit? Do I need to suggest that millions upon millions of evangelical believers entertain their spirits by attending movies that use blasphemous language and show graphic sex and nudity? Do I need to suggest that millions upon millions of evangelical believers never witness at all? Do I need to suggest that thousands of evangelical pastors spend more time on the golf course than in the prayer closet? And do I need to suggest that millions of evangelicals are remarried to women and/or men with whom they began a relationship before they were divorced, and yet they serve in many different capacities in local churches?

And do I need to suggest that millions upon millions of professing believers who fit the above descriptions rail against homosexuals who profess Christ, and these same evangelicals strongly contend that no one can practice homosexuality and be saved? At this juncture, there must be a stronger word for “hypocrisy”. Again, we must reexamine the power of redemption, and we must admit that we have consistently inflated our own spiritual walks and in so doing deflated the power of Christ’s forgiveness and grace. I am not saying that every gay person who professes Christ is saved, but I am saying that it is possible that a saved sinner can be deceived about that very situation.

For too long the church has used homosexuality as a convenient whipping boy and through many choruses of “Amen!” we have stroked our doctrinal egos and affirmed our lukewarm expressions of Christ’s redemption. Should a saved person leave the gay lifestyle? Absolutely! But there are many things about our own lifestyles that we should leave but have been incorporated in to the accepted fabric of ecclesiastical practice, or at least treated as imperfections that are misdemeanors when compared with other sins that do not plague our own inward temptations. The question of accepting gay couples into the local church is an entirely different subject than suggesting that some may be saved. I cannot advocate accepting sinful behavior into the open fellowship and being an example to our children, however we still accept many sinful practices that are dangerous examples to the children but are safe within the heterosexual community of faith. The church is in desperate need of a revival.

Let us not be so quick to sit in the seat of the scornful. Let us not alter God’s Word about sin, but let us also not have microscopes for others and telescopes for ourselves. Some people are born with same sex attractions and they are very difficult to overcome. There are many gay people who have come to Christ and walk in victory, but many will confess to being born with such sexual patterns. I watched a documentary of a man who was born with the inward compulsion that his left leg below the knee was not supposed to be a part of his body. He became a computer analyst and was married with four wonderful children, but he lived every day with the torture of this feeling.

Eventually he killed his lower left leg with dry ice, and the doctors were forced to amputate it. The man experienced great freedom and joy! There are many mental and emotional anomalies with which people are born, and so how can we say that there is no one born with same sex attractions? They are all part and parcel of the curse, but Christ’s redemption is outstretched to all of us. We must all be broken before our Lord, and with contrition and humility we must share the good news. The gospel is for sinners, all sinners, those who reject it and those who believe it.

Never be deceived about your own spiritual state. You need as much of God’s grace through Christ today as you did at the moment you were saved. Let as reject the self righteous hierarchy of sins, and let us lift up the Lord Jesus to saint and sinner alike. Let us put down the hobby horses that have too long blinded us to the reality of our own situation, and the brilliance of the glory of God found in the face of Jesus Christ!


Anonymous said...

Romans 8:13-14 ...for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

Protoprotestant said...

I understand what you're saying. People can't seem to grasp that homosexuality is a grave sin...but they're lost people just like we were. They're going to struggle with sin just like we do.

I think the Constantinian mindset drives a lot of the hatred. Their Babel is crumbling and they look for scapegoats. Today Muslims, Mexicans, and certainly homosexuals take the place of Jews and Gypsies.

That's a harsh condemnation of American Christianity, but I mean every bit of it.

I think people like Falwell and Robertson have done tremendous harm to the witness of the Gospel in this culture. Christians are hated not for the gospel, but because they're hateful, violent, and hypocritical people.

I really can't blame a lot of people for hating Evangelicals. Understand the sense in which I mean it...but I kind of feel the same way. I realize that's not right, but I hope you understand why I would say that.

This is really strange phenomena...these folks who seem quite keen no the Bible, but for this one issue. I'm fairly up on things, current events, history, and theology...and yet I am overwhelmed by the multitude of arguments and positions. I can only imagine the average person sitting in Church is literally unable to process it all.

I think you're doing the right thing. Keep patiently emphasizing the truth with wisdom...Don't deviate. We can't give an inch to the Christian Right and their way of thinking, nor do we bend and become too inclusive. They're both wrong.


Rick Frueh said...

Thank you and blessings.

Anonymous said...

1 Corinthians 10
:6...we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.
:7 And do not become idolaters...
:8 Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell;
:9 Nor let us tempt Christ as some of them also tempted and were destroyed by serpents;
:10 Nor complain...

We are exhorted not to do certain things as Christians...but how can we condemn the unsaved for what they do? The unsaved ultimately end up in hell whether they were kindly, old ladies or street-walkers in drag.
Christians, on the other hand, are to stop living unholy lives - the lives we lived before we were saved.
Thank you, Rick, for reminding us of God's grace and mercy - for us all.

Rick Frueh said...

" The unsaved ultimately end up in hell whether they were kindly, old ladies or street-walkers in drag."

Thank you for your perspective. So often we who are saved by grace project law to the unsaved. The lost need Jesus, not a moral overhaul.