by Jonathan Daugherty
If I'm honest, I don't really want to write this article. Not because I don't believe the title has merit, but because the issue of sexuality is such a hot button between the two communities mentioned. Orthodox Christians are often viewed by those in the LGBTQ community as archaic and anti-love, whereas those who identify as LGBTQ+ are often viewed by those in the Christian community as "sinners in the hands of an angry God." What can be done to resolve this "battle" of sexual ideologies?
For the sake of full disclosure I must state that I am a Bible-believing evangelical Christian. So, automatically there will be assumptions made about my worldview. I believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, and I affirm such confessions of Christian beliefs as The Apostle's Creed and the Westminster Confession of Faith. I am, as some might say, a conservative Christian.
But I don't hate anyone in the LGBTQ community. And I invite my Christian brothers and sisters to do the same. However, we must do so without abandoning the foundation of our faith. We must love as Christ loved -- in grace and truth.
There are three key things that I think Christians can (and should) learn from the LGBTQ community. And by learning these we might establish a bridge for conversation and relationship. We might even discover that at our core we are more alike than we are different.
1. We all want a place to belong.
I have listened to many stories of those who identify as LGBTQ+ and there is often a common refrain when it comes to a person finally "tipping the scales" to fully embracing their sexual orientation: "I was welcomed with open arms by the (fill in the blank with LGBTQ+) community." The longing to belong is strong in us as human beings. When we find a place that accepts us, we tend to move in that direction.
So, Christian friends, what can we learn from this? Might it be that we don't hold out open arms to those who are different from us? Maybe we need to learn a lesson here about the kinds of environments we are creating in our churches. Are we inviting people just as they are to come explore Jesus and our Christian faith, or are we creating a moral obstacle course for people to pass before they can gain access?
Hear me clearly on this point: It is not our job as Christians to change people's behavior (or their heart); we are called by God to introduce people to Jesus, and walk with them as they grow in Him. And how can we do that if we construct so many obstacles before they hit the front door?
Jesus sought out the most broken people to show He loved them. Religious people didn’t like that, including the Pharisees who murmured about Jesus letting the woman anoint his feet, “If He knew what kind of woman she was He would not let her touch Him.” (Luke 7:39)
Broken people responded so well to Jesus because He essentially showed them, “You belong here with Me.” Their behavior changed after being with Jesus, not before. Christians need to understand the power of our belonging together with Christ, and should extend that fellowship to others as Jesus did.
2. We all want an identity that is unique and celebrated.
One of the hardest questions to answer is "Who are you?" This is a question of identity. And it's easy to construct our answers based on external factors, such as job, family, hobbies, and reputation. One element that is central to being human is sexuality. So, it makes sense that this would be an area in which we want to "stand out" as unique in our identity. But at what cost?
I remember the "old days" when there were only two distinctions between sexual orientations and gender identities: heterosexual and homosexual; male and female. But today, by some reports, there are dozens of distinctions of sexual orientation and gender identity! Why so many variations?
Everybody wants to be somebody. In other words, we all want a sense that we are unique in the world. And the truth is, we are. Fingerprints, DNA, and even body odor are distinct to every human being on planet earth. You and I are born unique. But sometimes we want to plant a flag (no pun intended) that declares this to the world. Sexual/Gender identity can be an easy (and obvious) way to do this.
Christian friends, the LGBTQ community does an excellent job of defining and celebrating a person's uniqueness based on their sexual/gender identity. Could the same claim be made of you and me based on our identity in Christ? Do you know who you are in Him and how you are uniquely gifted for His purpose? And do you celebrate this gift of God's grace in a way that is attractive and life-giving to those who are far from God?
When Christ is at the center of our identity there is nothing that can destroy or diminish our value and significance.
3. We all want our lives to matter and our voices to be heard.
I have a Google Alert set for LGBTQ. This means that every day I get a report from Google on all the news and articles related to anything with LGBTQ connections. Every day lots of news comes up! One thing I notice over and over again is the relative consistency and persistency of the messaging for LGBTQ rights and the predictible attacks against those who oppose such rights. But what's the real message here?
A group of people (LGBTQ) with a shared worldview and common goal are crying out to be heard and to make a difference in the society.
What can Christians learn here? What is our primary message? It is that "God so loved the world" that He sent Jesus Christ to die for sinners like you and me. (John 3:16) But when our message simply becomes a reaction to the latest shock news we find ourselves being grinded into dust by the political and media machines, rather than offering hope and life and freedom to "those who have ears to hear."
Let's also remember that all of us come to God with our own baggage and sin. A lot of our baggage and sin we don’t realize is harmful or even that it exists until we have spent time with God. Often, in His wisdom, He waits (sometimes years!) until the time is right to point it out to us and invite us to unpack it. We must offer the same grace to the LGBTQ community by focusing on welcoming them and introducing them to God, then allowing God to work with them as He sees fit in His timing.
My Christian friends, what then should the church's response and role be to the LGBTQ community? Might we stand together and declare:
Love is actually the common language Christians share with the LGBTQ community, even though our worldviews for how to present and practice love are very different. But might we have the courage to demonstrate the same love that Jesus Christ demonstrated to us, that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Would you die for the sake of a LGBTQ person?
This morning I read these verses from Ephesians 4:14-16,
...so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
As I survey the world around me I notice a common trend occurring in our western cultures: childhood is remaining long after childhood. This is universal, affecting every demographic -- even God's church. Many followers of Jesus are succumbing to the false idea that God's love means He doesn't mind childishness. After all, we are saved by grace, right? But doesn't love require reproof?
Our ministry is focused on helping sexually broken individuals and families find healing and hope through the power of Jesus Christ. We provide resources and training tools to also help Christian leaders be better equipped when helping people break free from sexual struggles or strongholds. To minister effectively it is imperative that we hold in balance grace and truth. When imbalance occurs between these two perspectives, the essence of love is lost.
I have 3 teenagers, two girls and a boy. I love them dearly. And my love is expressed to them in varying measures of grace and truth. Would I be loving my children if I never corrected them? Would I be loving my children if I gave them everything they wanted? Certainly there are ways to discipline and correct that are kind and gentle, but discipline and correction are not optional if I am to love my children well.
God deals with us in the same way. He loves us dearly. And His love is expressed in varying measures of grace and truth -- perfectly revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ, who was "full of grace and truth." (John 1:14) Would God be loving if He never corrected us? Would God be loving if He gave us everything we wanted? God certainly disciplines and corrects us in kind and gentle ways, but His discipline and correction are not optional if He is to truly love us well.
Today there are many who want to deceive us into believing that love doesn't require correction and accountability -- which is why so many remain stuck in childhood! We live in a world that reasons with its eyes and thinks with its emotions. If it looks good, pursue it. If it feels good, do it. After all, if it looks good and feels good it must be good, right? The Author of Good, the Creator of everything, would disagree. We are to live as He designed us -- to be holy and set apart, those who truly love in word and deed. In short, those who grow up.
It is time for courageous love to step forward in God's church. Time to "speak the truth in love" and not cower to the false teachers in society who present a "love" that may look good on the outside and feel good for a moment, but in the end leads to bitter division and a trail of broken hearts and immature character. True love is rooted in truth and expressed through grace for the purpose of growing us up into the likeness of Christ.
This year resolve to be a courageous lover, one who mirrors your heavenly Father to the broken world around you. Doing so will make you a beacon on a hill and provide hope and direction for those who need more than a mere facade of love. Let's show the world what "grown up" love is all about.
You are a soul contained in a body. The “essence” of being human is not merely physical. You know this if you have ever attended an open-casket funeral. The person in the casket certainly resembles the person you knew, but something is undeniably different. Something is missing. It’s their soul.
In this 5-part Pathway to Purity series we have examined the following key markers that indicate growth toward greater integrity:
Now we come to this next marker of feeding the soul, that part of you that “animates” your existence. It is important to take care of this critical part of your being. Without a healthy soul you are certain to miss out on the best that God has for your life. So, let’s dive in and look at a few critical needs of the soul and how you can feed it well.
Your Soul Needs God
This may seem like a Duh statement, especially coming from someone who is unapologetically Christian, but it is still necessary to state. Your soul not only needs God, it was made by Him and for Him. A soul disconnected from God is missing out on true life. It is like having the greatest sportscar on the planet, but without an ignition system. It may look like a car (and a fast one!), but it has no power to do what it was made for. In the same way, your soul needs the presence and power of God in order for you to “operate” as He designed you to operate.
There are two aspects to your soul needing God: 1) Your soul needs God to be truly alive, and 2) Your soul needs God to live well. In Christian terms, we call this justification and sanctification. I don’t have space to go into detail here on these doctrinal ideas, but you can learn more in Simply by Grace by Charles Bing.
In laymen’s terms using the car illustration, your soul needs God to “ignite” your engine (make it come to life), and to provide navigation (show you the way).
Feeding your soul starts with connecting daily with God, inviting Him to pour into you His presence and power. Remember, your soul was made by Him and for Him. Apart from God you cannot fully experience peace and joy and power on this Pathway to Purity.
Practical Tip: Take some time to confess to God your need for Him; that your soul is thirsty for the living water only He can give you. (John 4:14) Write in a journal a note to God expressing this desire.
Your Soul Needs Rest
When we think of rest in our modern industrialized Western culture we often think of it in terms of not working or sleep, or some combination of both. But rest for your soul is not physical. It is spiritual. And spiritual rest comes from the assurance of the identity you have in Christ by God’s grace.
Let’s admit that our souls get distracted and dismayed by the circumstances of living in a broken, sinful world. The chaos around us (and often in us) causes our souls to become frantic with worry, and worry is the antithesis of rest. Therefore, we must be reminded regularly of God’s grace toward us and how it brings rest (peace) to the soul.
God’s grace reminds us of three fundamental truths: 1) He loves us, 2) He wants us with Him, and 3) He keeps His promises to us.
“...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
Meditate on the grace God has given you through Jesus Christ. Let this daily reminder of God’s love and His desire to bring you home to Him fill your soul with restfulness. In Him we have peace for our souls.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1
Practical Tip: Get out your calendar and block off time for “soul rest” in the next 4 weeks (a full day is ideal, but at least 3-4 hours is a good start). Commit to using that time for restful meditation on the grace of God toward you. Take a journal and write some thoughts about this experience. And make this a regular part of your life to periodically “unplug” from your normal routine to find rest for your soul in the presence of Jesus. (Matt. 11:19)
Your Soul Needs Freedom
“True freedom comes when you embrace God’s overall design for the world and your place in it. This is why in the Bible you see this strong connection between God’s law and soul freedom.”
--John Ortberg in Soul Keeping
The way your soul will experience freedom is not the way the world defines freedom. The world says “do whatever you want, however you want” and you will be free. God says exactly the opposite. Since God is the Creator, He gets to define what true freedom looks like for His creation, and He says it looks like obeying Him.
Your soul was made by God for freedom; for abundant, joyful, adventurous freedom. Such freedom is not found in directing your own path, but rather by surrendering to the direction of God and His path. The more you live in obedience to God, the more your soul will thrive; you will be free indeed! (John 8:36)
“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” 1 Peter 2:16
Practical Tip: In prayer, write down the areas of your life that are not fully surrendered to God. Where are you living in disobedience to His Word? After making your list, offer it to God as a sacrifice. Repent of your disobedience and declare your love for God through a renewed commitment to obeying Him from a pure heart. (John 14:15)
Your Soul Needs Joy
If you look around at many Christians today you might conclude Jesus Christ is a very terrible Savior. Not because His followers are legalistic or hypocritical (which can certainly be the case), but because they lack joy. True followers of Jesus must be joyful! It is a key fruit of the Spirit, and the only reasonable response to the forgiveness of sins. (Gal. 5:22-23; Ps. 95:1-2) God made your soul to need joy.
Joy is defined as “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.” What could be more satisfying than knowing and loving the Creator of your soul? Your soul needs this satisfaction that only comes through the grace and love of God.
Your flesh will try to fulfill this soul need for joy through many material means. Money, sex, power, and all other sorts of external ventures that never fully release your soul into the deep waters of true joy. This is why the cravings of the flesh are never satisfied. But the joy of the Lord is a wellspring that cannot run dry because it flows from God -- the infinite source of Joy!
One other comment about joy: it is meant to be shared. The joy that God made your soul for is not something to hoard. It is meant to satisfy you, but overflow onto others. As your soul is filled with the joy of the Lord, let it spill out. Smile. Laugh. Share your delight with friends and family. Invite them into your joy, not in a “lord it over them” kind of way, but in a “I want to share the wealth” kind of way. With God as the Source of your joy, you could never give away more than He could supply. Shower others with the joy in your soul!
Practical Tip: Plan a fun activity with your friends or family in the next month. No “agenda” or ulterior motive. Spend time enjoying each other’s company and expressing delight in the goodness of God.
“To seek God is the business of the Christian. The quest begins at conversion; it doesn’t end there. Once we have “found” him, the real search begins. We say ‘I found it’ because he found us and now invites us to seek him until we pass through the veil into heaven.”
May you press on in your pursuit of greater integrity on this Pathway to Purity. The quest is not complete until we are at home in heaven with our Creator. Then, our soul will enjoy eternal rest.
My next post will explore the last key marker on this journey. If you want more help along the way, please visit PureCommunity.org.
by John Ortberg
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Thoughts are at the root of every decision you make. (Think about that.) When you decide anything, thought was the starting point. What you think about shapes everything about your life; decisions, language, attitude, intelligence, and more. This is certainly true when it comes to sexuality and the strongholds that can overcome those whose thoughts are consumed by lust. Therefore, it matters what you think about, right?
In this series we have been exploring the Pathway to Purity and the key markers along this journey that indicate growth toward a life of greater integrity. The first marker was Share Your Story. The second marker was Make Some Friends. In this post we will unpack this crucial marker of transforming your mind; thinking about what you think about and focusing your mind on truth that transforms.
Transform Your Mind
God’s Word tells us in Romans 12:2,
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
God says that this world is not what we are to look like. To be “conformed” means to fashion one’s self to another’s pattern. God didn’t make you or me to “bear the image” of the world. Quite the contrary! You and I were made to bear God’s image; to look like Him. (Gen. 1:26-27)
The primary way we resist this conforming to the world is through our thinking. God wants to transform us, which means to change into another form, or to transfigure. Transformation isn’t just about mirroring or matching a pattern, it is about becoming something totally different. And if you want to become a man or woman of sexual integrity, you must be transformed by the renewal of your mind.
What does renewal of your mind look like?
Time in God’s Word
When Jesus prayed for those who would follow him He made this request of God the Father: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17) There it is. Truth is God’s Word. And God’s Word is given to us primarily in two forms: the Bible and the Holy Spirit. While these will never contradict each other, it is important to understand some distinctions in how the Bible and the Holy Spirit work in the renewal of our minds.
The Bible is God’s written Word to us. It contains His law that reveals His character. It also shows us His redemptive plan for our salvation through Jesus Christ. We need the clarity that the written word gives us so that we have an anchor to truth. We must spend time in the Bible to learn who God is and how our relationship to Him is meant to be.
Jesus told his disciples that when he was going to ascend to heaven that he would send the Holy Spirit to them. Why?
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13)
The Holy Spirit is our guide into all the truth. The written word is contained within the pages of the Bible, while the Living Word is written on our hearts through the Holy Spirit. In combination, the written words of Scripture come to life in our mind, heart, and actions through the personal power of the Holy Spirit.
You must spend time communing with both the written Word and God’s Holy Spirit in order to be transformed. God’s Word must be the anchor to the thoughts we think. Only then can we discern God’s good and perfect will. Only then will we be transformed.
Trust in God’s Promises
Renewal of the mind starts with simply knowing where to go for truth: God’s Word. But we must then take the next step: trusting God’s promises. It’s one thing to learn about God’s truth. It’s another thing entirely to trust God’s Word for our lives today. But God has made some wonderful promises for us on this journey toward greater integrity:
Meditate on God’s promises. Feed on them like food. Recall them when the world is seeking to “fashion you according to its pattern.” Be persistent. Over time you will gain greater confidence in God’s faithfulness and goodness. And with such thoughts filling your mind, you will be unshaken and undeterred by temptation and trials.
Training in Spiritual Battle
The Pathway to Purity is not a journey of sitting cross-legged and humming while levitating. It is a battle! And the battle is fought first in the mind. Therefore, you must train yourself in spiritual battle.
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:11-12)
The enemy of your soul, the devil, wants to lead you astray from all that is true and good. Therefore, he is relentless in his attacks on your mind because he knows that thoughts are at the root of every decision you make. His tactic has been the same from the beginning: plant seeds of doubt about God’s Word and His promises.
The good news is that God has given weapons to fight the enemy’s attacks. But you must use them! Storing God’s weapons in your closet do you no good when attacked in the marketplace. Spend time in Ephesians chapter 6 so you know what God’s armor is and how you can daily put it on. The battle is real, but the victory is yours in Christ Jesus!
Also, I recommend you read The Bondage Breaker by Neil Anderson for additional help in combatting Satan’s lies with God’s truth.
As you march along the Pathway to Purity remember that these markers are simply guideposts for moving you forward. All of them are reminders that movement is essential to growth. Never stop engaging any of them. Keep pressing on!
For helpful purity resources, visit PureCommunity.org.
The Bondage Breaker
by Neil T. Anderson
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His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord. 2 Chron. 17:6a
I'm not a theologian, but I love God's Word and read it every day. One of my favorite ways to read through the Bible is chronologically. In case you didn't know, the content of the Bible is not laid out in the order that it occurred in history. This year I'm once again reading the Bible chronologically.
Sometime in early June I found myself reading in the book of 2 Chronicles. This is a book that highlights much of the nation of Israel's early history as they struggled to establish a unified kingdom (very unsuccessfully, I might add). There were many kings who came and went, most of whom were not good kings, regularly summarized by these words, "And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord." But a few kings would have positive things said about them, that they obeyed the Lord and walked in his commandments. One such king was a man named Jehoshaphat.
While Jehoshaphat was certainly not perfect (no king is other than Jesus), he had this said of him: His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord. (2 Chron. 17:6a) Wow! What a wonderful badge to be pinned on the chest of any human being. These words leapt off the pages of Scripture and sunk deep into my soul. Oh, Lord, how I long to be labeled with such words of commendation.
What does it mean to be "courageous in the ways of the Lord?"
Courage is defined as "the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery." I think everyone (especially men) would like to be described as courageous. We want that noble quality that emboldens us to face difficulties with bravery, even heroism. But anyone can exhibit the actions of courage, even those of poor character. What separates the merely courageous from those who are courageous "in the ways of the Lord?"
To boil down "the ways of Lord" you could simply go to Deuteronomy 6:4-5, which says, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." And in another place in the law (Lev. 19:18) it says, "You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord."
These are the two passages that Jesus drew from when millennia later he would be asked by a religious leader what the greatest commandment was. Jesus responded, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40) This is the way of the Lord: to love God and love others in obedience to God's law.
But the Scriptures did not say that Jehoshaphat simply acted courageously in the ways of the Lord. It says his heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord. Why is this significant? Because it is from the heart that we live. What is in the heart is what makes a person righteous or unrighteous before God (Mark 7:14-23). It was Jehoshaphat's heart that was being commended by God, not merely his actions.
How can you and I have this same commendation pinned on our lives? In exactly the same way it was for Jehoshaphat: to obey God from a pure heart. Are there areas in your life in which you are not obeying the Word of God? Or are you obeying the "letter" of God's law but with impure motives, maybe trying to impress people instead of truly serving God for His own sake? Check your heart and ask God for boldness of character in the face of temptation and opposition.
The world we live in today is begging for us to blend in and abandon our Christian beliefs. You and I have a choice: to be "courageous in the ways of the Lord" or to "do what is evil in the sight of the Lord." What is in your heart to do today? May you grow in courageous love day by day...
by Dan Allender
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