19 Sep

Yes, Indeed, God Loves “Gays”

“Why doesn’t God love gays?”  That was the question a teenager asked on a recent Wednesday during our youth ministry time.  To be honest, the question was sort of out of the blue since the discussion was on the return of Jesus, but clearly it was on the heart of at least one, if not many, of the teens there that night.  I appreciate this teenager’s boldness to ask!

This question is one this generation has had to wrestle with that previous generations did not.  In fact, the speed with which the topic of homosexuality has come to dominate the social and political conversation is staggering, aided along by what pastor Voddie Baucham calls, “a coordinated, well-funded, well-connected propaganda strategy,” (“Gay Is Not the New Black,” http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/07/19/gay-is-not-the-new-black, July 19 2012).  The entire movement has become like a snowflake that turns into an avalanche, demolishing any opposition in the public arena, and it’s still growing larger.

Gay Pride HeartWithout a doubt, many of our young people are confused on the subject.  They are hearing in pop culture and maybe even in their schools that homosexuality is a perfectly legitimate lifestyle and should not only be tolerated, but even celebrated and explored.  However, they then hear from faith communities (and not just Christian ones) that homosexuality is sinful.  The mixed messages cause a great deal of confusion in many people’s minds, especially in our young people, leading some to ask, “Why doesn’t God love gays?” with the implied addendum “when so many others do.”  It’s a question we will increasingly have to answer regardless of one’s stance on homosexuality.

The question itself—”Why doesn’t God love gays?”—presupposes that God does not love people who would label themselves “gay.”  Therefore, the initial response must be, “What makes you think that God doesn’t love people who label themselves ‘gay’?”  The truth of the matter is that God does indeed love those who label themselves “gay,” but He loves them in a way that is culturally strange to us at this point.

If we would press the person asking “Why doesn’t God love gays?” to tell us what makes them think He doesn’t, most likely the response would “because He doesn’t think their homosexuality is okay.  If God loved gays, He’d affirm their homosexuality because that makes them happy.”  Indeed, that is the popular definition of love in contemporary culture.  Love is seen as affirming people in whatever makes them happy.  Many have just enough Christian influence to know that the Bible tells us we are to treat others the way we want to be treated, and so they reason, “I would want others to love me by affirming me in what makes me happy.  So, I am going to love others by being in favor of whatever makes them happy.”  That’s fair logic, but is that love?

Is it loving to affirm others in whatever makes them happy?  Let’s see.  Little Rachel wants nothing more than to play in the middle of the interstate.  In fact, she tried it one time for just a few seconds and is convinced that her happiness depends on playing regularly smack dab on the dotted line between the driving lane and the passing lane.  Would it be loving to affirm little Rachel in her desire?  No?  But she really believes it’ll make her happy.

Bobby loves to shoot heroin.  Nothing in the world compares to the high he gets when that needle enters the vein and pushes liquid happiness into his body.  He’s certain that heroin is the key to his happiness and wants more all the time.  Would it be loving to affirm Bobby in his desire?  No?  But he really believes it’ll make him happy.

Sandra loves 12-year-old boys.  That would probably be fine if she was around 12-years-old herself, but she is 42.  Nevertheless, she is convinced that if she doesn’t find a romantic relationship with a 12-year-old boy, she will not be happy.  Would it be loving to affirm Sandra in her desire?  No?  But she really believes it’ll make her happy.

Further examples are abundant, but the ones provided suffice to clearly demonstrate that we have to be careful in affirming whatever makes a person happy because in this fallen world, that which a person believes will make them happy is often hurtful to themselves and others.  Someone may quickly rebut that homosexuality harms nobody, but that is counterfactual.  Medically, homosexuality is harmful, especially to men who practice homosexuality.  Socially, homosexuality is harmful in that it cannot provide what the opposite sex brings to a romantic relationship, including but certainly not limited to the potential of procreation and then the presence of a mother and a father in that child’s life.  However, most harmful is the spiritual harm that homosexuality brings.

The Bible is clear that practicing homosexuality brings great spiritual harm.  In fact, Romans 1:18-27 declares that the increasing presence of homosexuality in a society signals that God is bringing about judgment on that society due to idolatry.  God, as a function of His wrath against sin, simply withdraws His restraining grace from those who rebelliously pursue sin, giving them over to degrading passions such as homosexuality and all sorts of other destructive devices.

However, the spiritual harm in this life pales in comparison to the spiritual harm that homosexuality brings in the age to come for those who practice it in this present age.  The Bible is emphatic that practicing homosexuality will bar a person from heaven.  God tells us so in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”  It’s important to note here that homosexuality is not the only sin listed.  It’s right there with adultery and drunkenness and many others.  This list is by no means exhaustive.  Nevertheless, God is communicating to us that those who continue in sin, including homosexuality, will not inherit the kingdom of God.  In other words, they will be barred from Heaven and will experience Hell forevermore.  There is no worse consequence imaginable.

So, let’s play this truth out in a scenario.  Don is a man in his early 20s who has experienced same-sex attraction for years now and has finally given into the temptation.  He has been for several months seeking out homosexual partners, and it has been absolutely exhilarating to him.  He hopes to one day settle down with the man of his dreams but is just having too much fun right now.  Beyond a shadow of a doubt, he is convinced that his happiness hinges on living a homosexual lifestyle.  Given the harm practicing homosexuality has been demonstrated to bring, is it loving to affirm Don in his desires?  Absolutely not!  In fact, the opposite is true.  To affirm Don in his homosexuality would be as loving as affirming little Rachel in her playing on the interstate or Bobby in his heroin addiction or Sandra in her pedophilia, which is to say that it wouldn’t be loving at all.  All of these not only harm the individuals with the desires, but others as well, and to affirm them would be unquestionably unloving.

If a person’s definition of love is affirming whatever makes someone happy, then a redefinition is needed because that’s not love.  Love doesn’t just affirm whatever makes a person happy.  It seeks the well-being of its objects.  That’s why God indeed does love “gays” and at the same time doesn’t affirm them in their homosexuality.  Instead of unlovingly affirming them in an eternally harmful lifestyle, God lovingly calls them out through the gospel of Jesus Christ just like He does all sinners.  And yeah, we were born that way (sinners, that is)!  God lovingly says to all sinners, including the homosexual sinner, turn from your sin and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be forgiven, made righteous, increasingly freed from sin itself, and inherit everlasting life in Heaven.  Now that’s love!

“Why doesn’t God love gays?”  My dear friend, He does love “gays.”  In fact, God loves them so much that He calls them out of homosexuality and into Christ!

17 Dec

Hope of the Nations – Love

Advent - Love

This week we continue the season of Advent, which is the Christian season of preparation for Christmas.  Our theme this year is “Hope of the Nations,” and we are thinking on the world-wide hope found in Jesus Christ.  We’re meditating on the ideas of light, life, liberty, love, and Lord.

Our focus this week is on love.  We read in Ephesians 2:1-7:

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,

2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.

3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,

5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

 

Reflection

This week we light the CANDLE OF LOVE.  It’s clear from Scripture that we are unlovely.  We’re by nature and by action death-ridden rebels chasing our worldly appetites around.  We’re wretches deserving of wrath, but something greater than our wretchedness forestalls God’s wrath, namely God’s love.  We’re unlovely, but God is love, and He has set His affection on us!

It’s love that saw our death and depravity and worked to make us alive and righteous.  It’s love that pursued rebel hearts and won them to adoration and obedience.  It’s love that changes our destination from the pits of hell to the very thrown room of God where Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand.  God’s love for humanity is a powerful force!

It was love that caused the Father to give the Son to the world, and it was love that motivated the Son to voluntarily take on flesh and dwell among us until His death, resurrection, and ascension.  The cross is a sure sign of God’s love, but so is the manger.  This Christmas season, may you marvel at the depth and intensity of God’s love!

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song

08 Aug

Super-Conqueror

One of the great testimonial songs in the hymnal begins this way:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!

In the midst of life’s storms, assurance that God will never let you go is a wonderful comfort.  The fact that you, no matter the situation, will be victorious in the end through Christ is a soothing balm to a stinging sore.  Friend, through God, you are not just a conqueror, but a super-conqueror!  Romans 8:31-38 promises this to be so.

Christian, you can rest in knowing that God’s love is fixed on us.  In Romans 8:31, Paul asks a critical question:  What then shall we say to these things? When Paul says “these things,” he’s talking about the massively good promises made to Christians contained in Romans 8:

  • There’s now no condemnation for us (Rom 8:1)
  • The Holy Spirit has indwelt us (Rom 8:9)
  • God has made us sons and heirs (Rom 8:16-17)
  • The Holy Spirit intercedes for us (Rom 8:26)
  • God is working for our good (Rom 8:28)
  • God has foreknown us and predestined us to conformity to Christ (Rom 8:29)
  • God has called us, justified us, and glorified us (Rom 8:30)

What amazing promises from God to all who believe on Christ!  And so again, Paul asks in Romans 8:31, What then shall we say to these things? Actually, he answers his question with more questions.

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31)
The answer to this rhetorical question is:  absolutely nobody.  Nobody can be against us if Christ is for us.  Now, Paul is not saying that we won’t have opposition, but rather that any opposition to us will not be victorious.  We are on God’s side through Christ Jesus, and God always wins.

Having God on your side is way better than having Kobe Bryant on your basketball team, Peyton Manning on your football team, or even our great American armed forces in your military.  They’re all great, but even they aim and miss from time to time.  But God…God cannot miss.  His sovereign power linked up with His sovereign grace has already undeniably won the victory.

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Rom 8:32)
Paul is astounded by the gift that we’ve been given in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  You see, the Son is the ultimate gift from God.  The rest is lesser and easier to give.  God’s already shown the depth of His charity in Christ.  Therefore, anything else you need, God will surely give you.

Now, some take this phrase “all things” here in this verse and pervert to mean that God will give you just anything you ask for.  They say things like, “If God’s given you Christ, He’ll give you a new car or that dream home or exceedingly good health or surpassing material riches.”  That sort of teaching is called the Prosperity Gospel and is a terrible perversion of Scripture.  You can read my critique of the Prosperity Gospel here.  In truth, when Paul says that God will freely give us “all things,” that phrase has the scope of all things that are necessary to complete God’s purpose of conforming you to Christ.  That’s the good for which God is working in your life (Rom 8:28-29).  It very well could be material things that He’ll use to conform you to Christ, but most likely it will be spiritual things.

Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? (Rom 8:33)
Again, the direct answer to this rhetorical question is:  nobody.  In the end, God’s elect are completely innocent through the blood of Christ.  You see, God’s elect are those individuals whom God has foreknown, predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ, called, justified, and glorified (Rom 8:29-30).  That’s why Paul indirectly answers his question here by saying in Romans 8:33, It is God who justifies.  In other words, God has made His elect righteous.  Their scarlet sins have been washed white as snow through the blood of the Lamb.   By grace through faith in Jesus, we are in the end as righteous as Jesus because we’ve been given Jesus’ righteousness.  Any charges brought against those of us in Christ will be false.

Who is the one who condemns? (Rom 8:34)
Again, nobody can condemn those who are in Christ.  Why?  Paul basically says in v34 that Christ has already been condemned for us—Christ Jesus is He who died.  But he goes on to say that Christ didn’t just die.  Christ was also resurrected, is seated at the right hand of God the Father, and intercedes for us—yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

You see, our debt has already been paid by Christ.  He was our substitute on the cross.  We deserved it, but He took it for us, leaving no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? (Rom 8:35)
Paul breaks this question down into different scenarios:

  • Will tribulation separate us from the love of Christ?
  • Will distress separate us from the love of Christ?
  • Will persecution separate us from the love of Christ?
  • Will famine separate us from the love of Christ?
  • Will nakedness separate us from the love of Christ?
  • Will peril separate us from the love of Christ?
  • Will sword separate us from the love of Christ?

To illustrate what Paul is talking about here, he alludes to Psalm 44:22, saying, Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED” (Rom 8:36).  Indeed, there is often great hardship in the lives of those who follow Christ.  But will these difficulties separate us from the love of Christ?  Paul basically says, “No way!  We are victorious!”  That’s what he means when he says, But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us (Rom 8:37).  The KJV says that we are “more than conquerors.”  We are super-conquerors!

Paul is talking about a landslide victory.  To apply what Paul is talking about to basketball, the score would be 100-0.  To football, the score would be 49-0.  To baseball, the score would be 15-0.  To war, it would be zero soldiers killed, while the opposing army experiences complete obliteration.  Keep in mind that Paul makes it clear that the landslide victory is because of Christ.  He is our champion, and without His alliance, we are lost.

Paul finally gives us a direct answer to his question—who will separate us from the love of Christ?—in v38-39, For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Simply nothing will separate us from the love of Christ.  The Lord Jesus himself promised this assurance to us in John 10:27-29:  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

Friend, even in the valley, God loves you.  Even though He’s brought you into the valley, He’s doing it because He loves you.  God loves you more than you can even imagine.  His love is fixed on you.  This truth is good news and is reason for celebration.  The victory is ours!  I tell you the truth, church should sometimes be like Rupp Arena (for us Wildcat fans) or like Memorial Gymnasium (for you Commodore fans) or like Neyland Stadium (for you Volunteer fans).  God has worked miracles in our lives by saving us through Christ, and we should celebrate the victory!  Christ is the super-conqueror, and so are we along with Him!  Won’t you praise Him?

This is my story, this is my song!
Praising my Savior all the day long!