Redefining sin, Christianity, and God
The recent “coming out” of one of the most popular Christian music stars in the last two decades is troubling. I do not believe the church should respond in anger, nor do I believe it is right to smear his name and reputation all over the internet. In an article with Christianity Today he states, “I’d denied it ever since I was a kid. I became a Christian, I thought that was the way to deal with this and I prayed hard and tried for 30-something years and then at the end, I was just going, ‘I’m still gay. I know I am.’ And I just got to the place where I couldn’t take it anymore . . . when I was going through all this darkness, I thought, ‘Just end this.’” He goes on to say, “This is what it really comes down to, if this is the way God made me, then this is the way I’m going to live. It’s not like God made me this way and He’ll send me to hell if I am who He created me to be. … I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself.”
This is indicative of our postmodern culture. The influences of our culture drill into our minds that one’s personal feelings are the sole barometer for measuring spirituality, morality, and truth. Self-esteem is more valued than holiness. Comfort and the path of least resistance are sought over self-denial and personal sacrifice. We call this mishmash of feelings, opinions, self-esteem, and personal comfort Christianity. We surround ourselves with “Christian teachers” who make us feel better about living in sin. Instead of calling us to repentance and self-denial, these preachers and teachers refuse to call sin what God calls sin. Speaking of these false prophets God says, “And they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one has turned back from his wickedness … . They keep saying to those who despise Me, the Lord has said, ‘You will have peace’ and as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart, they say, ‘Calamity will not come upon you’” (Jer 23:14, 17). A preacher or teacher who falsely asserts that God will not judge those who are living in, habitually practicing, disobedience, whether it is homosexuality, adultery, fornication, idolatry, anger, or even lust, is a false prophet who should not be listened to.
Simply giving in to temptation, and then claiming that your moral deficiency is the fault of God, who made you like this, is the same stunt Adam tried to pull in the Garden. When God asked Adam if he had eaten from the tree, of which He specifically forbid him to eat from, Adam said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate” (Gen 3:12). Saying, “God made me gay; and therefore, He won’t punish me for being gay is simply not true. It does not fit with reality. God does not make anyone gay. The Scripture is very clear that homosexuality is a perversion of God’s plan for human sexuality, just as adultery is. “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and 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 and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error” (Rom. 1:26-27). Homosexuality is not natural. It is abandoning the natural function of a man and woman for what is unnatural. The chief purpose of sex is reproduction, not pleasure. Homosexuality, therefore, is unnatural and destructive to the future of humanity.
Not only that, but how can we honestly say that this particular sin is culturally conditioned while the other sins, in the same text, are still relevant? Is the Bible some kind of buffet in which the reader can pick and choose what he or she wants to obey or believe? Can we honestly say that if someone struggles with the sin of greed, that we should then simply pronounce that God created this individual to crave material possessions, so it is therefore okay for him to indulge in that greed? What about obedience to parents? Is that simply a culturally conditioned and archaic demand upon modern children? Where does it stop? Simply because you struggle with a particular sin does not give you the right to simply declare it not to be a sin. It is easier to give in to our desires than to resist them. Everyone, everyone, who is a believer, struggles with sin.
We all struggle and fight against different sins, perhaps not feelings of homosexuality, but a temptation that is very real and appealing to us. This is why Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). Following Jesus is not easy, nor is it the path of least resistance and comfort. “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it” (Matt. 7:13-14). The person who simply chooses the path that is easiest and most comfortable is choosing the path to hell. Jesus has called us to the narrow and difficult path of life. It is difficult because it requires saying no to what we want, no matter how bad, or how long we want it.
Giving in to sin does not make you closer to God, contrary to what this Christian artist says. If he is at peace with his god, he is not in relationship with the God of Scripture revealed in Jesus Christ. He may call his god Jesus, but the real Jesus makes demands on our lives. Remember what God has said in Psalm 15, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps 15:3-4a). Remember that God has commanded us to pursue holiness until it is incorporated into our lives, because without it no one will see God (Heb 12:14). Jesus died to separate us from sin and bring us holy into the presence of God. Those who live in habitual sin, that is indulging their desires regardless of what God has said, ignore the seriousness of sin and the terrible price God Himself paid to separate us from that sin and bring us to Himself.
Dear soul, please do not follow the example of this popular artist. Homosexuality is a sin, and those who habitually live in that sin and refuse to repent will not enter the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor. 6:9-10). I am not saying that this is the only sin, or even the worst sin. Among that same list are fornicators (those who habitually engage in sexual activity outside the boundaries of biblical marriage), idolaters (those who prefer any activity, possession, money, or person to God), adulterers, thieves, covetous (those who greedily desire to have what someone else has), drunkards, revilers, or swindlers. The point is that those who live habitually in sin, whatever sin that may be, prove that the Holy Spirit of God does not dwell in their lives. “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:9-10).
If you are struggling in sin, repent of it and flee to the Lord. Turn to the Scripture and meditate on it day and night. Believe it is true, trust every passage, and obey every instruction. Pray for God to defeat the sin in your life and fight it viciously. Do not give in. Get help through an accountability group. Do not blame God for your sin; do not pretend your sin is not sin simply because that is the easy way out. Remember that following Jesus means denying yourself. It is worth the fight though, for the reward of heaven awaits us. (Phil Bray is pastor of First Baptist Church of Puxico.)