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Showing posts with label Homosexuality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Homosexuality. Show all posts

Monday, June 20, 2022

Faith For Our Times - Trusting Biblical Authority to Lead Us Through Troubled Times

Introduction
Happy Father's Day!  I talked with my Dad recently about his challenges of living in the 60s when there was so much turmoil in our world with politics, the Vietnam war, civil rights, and the cultural revolution.  He was in the Army from 1962-1964, as soldiers were training and ramping up to go over to fight.  

I guess every generation faces challenging times in different ways.  We live in very challenging times today.  You can't help but see all the things happening in the news and be concerned.  Today, I want to share about how the Christian faith can help us through these dark days.  

Paul, a seasoned Christian leader, wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy, to give him an important warning and advice to encourage and guide him through the difficulties of his day.  I believe Paul's words to Timothy can guide us too.

2 Timothy 3:1-5
1
You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

[Having warned Timothy what he is facing, Paul now gives his son in the faith some important advice about how to navigate the treacherous dangers of an ungodly world.]

2 Timothy 3:14-17
14 
But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

Our Times
Is there any doubt we live in crazy times?  On top of the hyperinflation, wars and civil unrest, we are seeing sweeping changes in societies morals and rampant mass shootings in schools, hospitals, and even churches.  What kind of world are we living in.  It sounds so much like the "difficult days" Paul described to Timothy, doesn't it?

As crazy as it may sound, we may not be living in times as crazy as what Paul and Timothy faced.  They were a tiny religious minority living in a overwhelmingly pagan world.  At least most people today (even if they aren't Christian) accept many of the universal values Christianity has instilled in our world over the last 2,000 years.  Paul and Timothy did not have that advantage.  Yet still, our times are crazy enough. How can we get through them?

I believe Paul's words to Timothy give us many clues.

Paul said, "Remain faithful to the things you were taught."
Timothy was raised in a spiritual home. He was taught the Holy Scriptures by trusted family members. Paul says, "You know what they taught you is true. You can trust those who taught you."

Perhaps you grew up in a Christian family.  Perhaps your father or mother or grandparents taught you some important lessons--maybe even the Christian faith.  Or maybe it wasn't your biological family, but a spiritual family.  (Remember, Paul was not Timothy’s biological father, but  a spiritual father to him.)  Have you had someone who was an important Christian mentor for you?  Can you trust what they said?

Our world today is blessed with 2,000 years of Christian heritage--Christians who faithfully followed Christ and helped transform our world for the better.  We have much Christian tradition to draw from to help guide us.  

The most reliable Christian tradition and teachings are firmly founded upon the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.  

The Authority of the Bible
2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”

Scripture is inspired by God.  These aren’t merely human words.  God gave Scripture to His people and preserved them to guide us today.  Scripture corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  

However, to truly be guided by Scripture, we have to humble ourselves under Scripture.  There is a way we sometimes approach the Bible where we have already decided what we believe.  We may come to the Bible merely looking for texts that will prove what we already believe.  So we can say, "Look!  See!  The Bible says this!  That proves my argument!"  That will never do.

We must come to the Scriptures with humiliy, with a heart open to hear what God wants to say and not what we want it to say for us.  We must be willing to obey God’s Word in Scripture, even if it's not what we wanted to hear.  And we must be sure the Church's beliefs and actions are firmly founded upon the Bible.

The Bible Is An Anchor
Just because all faithful Christians base our beliefs and practices on the Bible, doesn't mean all Christians always interpret the Bible the same way.  Honest people can come to different conclusions about non-essential elements of the Christian faith.  That is why we have different denominations--Methodists and Baptists and Presbyterians and Pentecostals, etc.

A good analogy of how Scripture works is a ship on the ocean attached to an anchor.  The Bible is an anchor that keeps the ship from floating away.  The Bible doesn't change.  It says what it says and God's Word in it hasn't changed in thousands of years.  However, the Bible allows room for different interpretations. The interpretations are the ship floating on the surface of the water.  The shift may drift this way or that way, but it doesn't drift off into oblivion.  It stays attached to the unmoving anchor even as it may move around a bit.

So, in terms of Biblical Christian churches, Methodists may interpret the Bible one way and Baptists another, but we are attached to the same Holy Book and we do not simply make up our beliefs to be whatever we want.  The Bible keeps us anchored.  And in humility, we recognizes our interpretation of Scripture could be wrong and another's could be right.  So we don't have to fight about it.  Let those who believe the Baptist interpretation be Baptist and let Methodists be Methodists.  There is freedom to allow different interpretations. 

However, what happens if you cut the line to anchor?  If you cut the anchor, the ship will drift off wherever the wind and waves push it or wherever the captain drives the ship.  In terms of the Christian faith, if you cut away your reliance on the Bible then people will  make their religion whatever they want it to be--even if it has no real connection to Christ and His teachings at all.  And unfortunately, the human heart is such that it can and will justify anything it wants--especially without Scripture to restrain it.

Furthermore, there the winds and waves of cultural whims and  evil influences and dark spiritual forces constantly pushing people here and there.  Without the firm foundation of Holy Scripture, people are driven before the storms of their times and may easily have their faith shipwrecked.

The UMC in the News
At annual conference in Georgia this year, 70 United Methodist Churches disaffiliated from the UMC.  News outlets reported these churches disaffiliated over the issue of homosexuality. 
This is misleading and inaccurate.  Secular news doesn't understand or take the time to dig down to the real issues--nor is the general non-Christian, non-Methodist public capable of understanding the deeper roots of the disagreement.  

The real issue is not homosexuality.  The real issue is biblical authority.  Seventy churches broke away from the United Methodist Church because the UMC wants to disregard God’s clear teaching in the Bible.  Seventy churches in our annual conference do not want to be part of a denomination that has cut the anchor to Scripture.  I believe many more churches will disaffiliate from the UMC in the coming year because faithful Christians still believe the Bible is the essential, firm foundation of a true Christian Church.

Homosexuality only enters the current debate in the UMC because the Bible clearly teaches homosexuality is not God’s plan for His people.  The same Scriptures that forbid gay sex also forbid idolatry, stealing, greed, drunkenness, abuse, and cheating.  Progressives in The United Methodist Church have no problem calling out a long list of sins, but it is very unpopular in the world right now to say homosexuality a sin.  Many progressives in the UMC would rather follow the world than follow God’s Word.  So, they say, “Well, Scripture is wrong about homosexuality.” 

You need to understand the division in the UMC is not about homosexuality, it’s about the Bible.  Is the Bible still authoritative for Christians in the 21st century?  This is the real issue at hand.

If you abandon Scripture on the issue of homosexuality (as these progressives in the UMC want to do) then where do you stop?  Why not turn away from Scripture when it teaches Jesus is the Son of God?  That he died and rose again?  Or other essential Christian doctrines.

There are some progressive United Methodist clergy who now teach that Jesus was not really born of a virgin or that he literally rose from the grave.[i]  Other progressive United Methodist pastors are actively denying biblical truths such the reality of sin, the necessity of being born again, salvation through Christ alone, heaven and hell, or an afterlife.[ii]  If you are not anchored to Scripture, then you can drive off (or float off or be driven off) into an oblivion of teachings, beliefs, and actions that have no connection to Christ or the historic Christian faith whatsoever. 

The history of the Church shows again and again that the Church always makes the world a better place when it is faithful to God’s Word in the Bible.  So many of the important values our modern world cherishes as were not always universally appreciated--values even non-Christians see as essential.  For example almost everyone today believes in the sanctity of all human life.  Prior to Christianity, it was not so.  Children, handicapped adults, the elderly or infirm could be and were routinely discarded by society and even their families if they were deemed not valuable or productive.  Christians came along and challenged the pagan world on this issue.  Christians taught that every person is made in the image of God and of sacred worth regardless of their potential or abilities or productivity.  2,000 year ago a pagan world thought those Christians fight for the sanctity of all human life were crazy and their ideas were pure foolishness.  Yet those Christians saints stuck by their beliefs because of what the Bible says and they eventually won the pagan world over. That's why almost all people today agree that every human life is valuable.

The list of virtues and justices Christians brought to the world through their faithful Scriptural Christianity are long and include such things as women’s rights, the abolishment of slavery, civil right, equal opportunities for all people, hospitals, orphanages, etc.  

On the other hand, the church has also done terrible evil in our world whenever it has strayed from the clear teachings of Scripture.  For when you break free from the restraints of the Bible, you can make religion whatever you want and can justify anything.  Thus, unbiblical, counterfeit Christianity has justified the selling of indulgences, the oppressions of the poor, the inquisition, colonialism, and even the killing of Jews in Nazi German.  

Stay Anchored to Jesus in the Bible
It is essential that we stay anchored to Jesus in the Bible.  We must make sure our congregation remains a church firmly faithful to the Scriptures.  As individuals, we must also listen to God’s Word in Scripture.  We must read and study and know our Bible.  We must humble ourselves before it.  We must let it correct us when we are wrong, teach us what is right, and change us to be more like Christ.  We must be faithful to what the Bible teaches—even if it conflicts with the prevailing views of our world.



[i] https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2003-02-19-0302190091-story.html

[ii] https://juicyecumenism.com/2022/06/15/methodist-david-felten/

Monday, February 15, 2016

How Jesus Fulfilled the Old Testament Laws


Christ’s life, death, and resurrection fulfilled the Old Testament Law and ushered in a new era of God’s grace, changing the way we apply the laws of the Old Testament[i].  The Old Testament Law can be subdivided into three major categories:  moral laws, civil laws, and ceremonial laws.  Let’s look at how Jesus’ fulfillment of these three kinds of laws affect the way Christians apply these laws today. 

Moral Laws  (The 10 Commandments, sexual ethic, etc.) 
The moral laws show us our sins so we know how much we need Christ.  Also, they teach us how to act in love towards our neighbors.  Jesus fulfilled the moral requirements of the Law to perfection since we couldn’t, but he also restated many of the moral laws and said we should follow them—including the sexual ethic of the Old Testament.  These moral laws are also restated by the other New Testament writers so they still apply to Christians today.  Moral laws guide us to love God and love our neighbors—which are the greatest commandments (Matthew 22:36-40).

Civil Laws (Laws about slavery, stoning, etc.) 
In the Old Testament, the people of God were the nation-state of Israel.  In the New Testament, Jesus reconstituted the people of God so they are a universal Church embodied in numerous local gatherings around the world and subject to the laws of secular governments. The Old Testament laws relating to the civic life of Israel (such as requiring the death penalty for grave sins) no longer apply to believers today in the same way as they did in the Old Testament. 
 
Ceremonial Laws 
Ceremonial laws encompass two subcategories—cleanliness laws (don’t touch lepers or eat pork or shellfish, etc.) and worship laws (sacrifices, circumcision, etc.)  Jesus declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19) and also touched lepers and dead bodies, and was not made unclean by doing so.  Thus, Jesus ended the cleanliness and food laws of the Old Testament.  Yeah!  We can all enjoy our pork BBQ and bacon!  Jesus also taught his body was the true Temple and his death was the ultimate sacrifice for sin (John 2:21, Mark 14:36). Thus, his death opened the way for us to approach God, making Old Testament regulations concerning the Temple and its sacrificial system obsolete. 


[i] http://www.livingout.org/arent-we-just-picking-which-bits-of-the-old-testament-law-apply-today

Monday, February 1, 2016

Living Christian in a Gay World, part 4 - Coming Out of the Closet

Part 4 – Coming Out of the Closet
Galatians 6:1-3

Introduction
            Four Sundays is not nearly enough time to say all that could be said on the subject of homosexuality.  If you would like more, I recommend the book by Sam Alberry, Is God anti-gay? Allberry is an Anglican pastor who struggles with same-sex attraction and has chosen to remain single and celibate in obedience to the Gospel.  Allberry’s book is written from a unique perspective.  The book is easy to read and offers an easy to understand examination of homosexuality from a Christian perspective.  I highly recommend it and have a few free copies if you are interested.
The goal of this blog is to encourage everyone to break the silence about their personal struggles.  Whether it is homosexuality or divorce or substance abuse or anything else, we are called to love, pray for, and support one another in our struggles instead of hiding them and pretending we are perfect. 

Galatians 6:1-3
1Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. 

Coming Out of the Closet
Most people who struggle with homosexuality keep their struggle secret.  They don’t tell anyone for fear of how they will react.  In this secretive stage, they are said to be “in the closet.”  In other words, they are keeping their struggle secret as if hiding in a closet.  Once a gay person finally decides to reveal their homosexual feelings to others, they are said have “come out of the closet.” 
Coming out of the closet can be very scary.  One doesn’t know how their family and friends will react to the revelation about their sexuality.  Will they be angry or disappointed?  Will they reject?  Will they be understanding, kind, or supportive?  It takes great courage for someone struggling with something as sensitive as homosexuality to make their struggle known to others.
You may not know this, but there is a strong parallel between homosexuals who “come out of the closet” and the journey of the Christian faith.  For the Christian is also called to “come out of the closet” (i.e. reveal to others the secrets about that with which they struggle).  1 John 1:9 says “confess our sins to [Jesus]” and James 5:16 says “confess your sins to each other”.  Galatians 6:2 says we should “share one another’s burdens,” meaning we should share our most difficult struggles with each other.  Homosexual temptations might be one of those struggles, but it is not the only one or even the toughest one.  We are all burdened with sin and temptation and we usually want to keep our secret struggles locked away in the closet.  Christ calls us to “come out of the closet” in order to let the light of His love heal and help us.  

We’re Not Perfect
Somewhere along the way, many people got it into their heads that Christians are always supposed to live happy, perfect little lives and never struggle.  Christians often try very hard to keep up this fa├žade.  We smile, hide our struggles, and pretend to be the perfect people we’re expected to be.  This is not the reality the Bible teaches.  And in all honesty, it hinders our witness.  People need to know Christians are real people with real struggles.  We are not perfect, but we serve a perfect Savior who promised to help us through our struggles.  Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
We should expect that Christians will struggle with many kinds of temptation, sin, illnesses, tragedies, and other problems.  We should expect that some Christians will struggle with homosexuality.  Struggling does not mean one is not a Christian or is somehow weak or lacking in faith.  It simply means you are human. 
When we “come out of the closet” about our struggles—whatever they may be—we open ourselves up to healing and other Christians are able to help us.  Furthermore, our lives become a powerful witness—not that we are perfect people (we never are), but—that Christ took our brokenness and didn’t give up on us.  People cannot see the power of Christ overcoming your brokenness if you always wear a mask pretending to be just fine. 
 
 
Advice for Coming Out
In his book Is God anti-gay, Sam Allberry offers some helpful advice to those struggling with same-sex attraction.  This is good advice for dealing with any kind of problem, not just homosexuality.  I offer the following suggestions for everyone, regardless of the secret problem with which you struggle. 

Pray about your struggles.
            You can talk to Jesus about any struggle you face—whether it is homosexuality or anything else.  There is nothing off limits with Him.  Jesus said in John 3:17, “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”  You can talk to Jesus about anything and know that He will love you unconditionally.  Furthermore, there is no one who can keep a confidence better than Jesus!
            When you pray, you don’t have to use fancy language.  Just be honest and authentic.  Talk to Jesus about your confusions.  Share with Him your distress.  Ask him to help you with your temptations.  Seek forgiveness for times you feel you failed.  Jesus “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John 1:9).  Jesus “understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15).  Talk to Jesus in prayer and tap into the unlimited power of God to deal with your struggles.

Think about your struggles in the right way.
            Sometimes we struggle with something so hard it starts to look like an insurmountable problem.  Some people here might be thinking, “You know, I’ve struggled with this for so long and failed so many time, God has probably given up on me.  I’m just too far gone.” Or you might think, “My temptation, my sin is just too big, too dark, too unspeakable, to despicable, God would never want to have anything to do with me.” 
Sin has a way of twisting our perspective that way, but don’t you believe the Devil’s lies.  God loves you no matter what and He will never give up on you.  You are never too far gone, out of reach, too dirty, too lost, or too wicked to be saved by God through Jesus.  God would save the Devil himself if only he would turn from his sins and turn to God through Jesus Christ.  Surely, you are not that far gone.
Regardless of whether you struggle with homosexuality or something else, something big or something small, keep it in perspective.  Your struggles don’t disqualify you and they define you.  You are not a homosexual.  You are not a pervert or a thief or a drunk or a liar.  You are a child of God and Jesus would go to the ends of the earth to seek and save you.  In fact, he went all the way to the cross for you.  So when your problem seems too big, you just remember how much bigger God is and you let Him define you instead. 

Seek support from others.
            Galatians 6:2 says, “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”  A burden is something you were not meant to carry all by yourself.  Everyone has to carry their own load, but a burden is heavier than one person can safely carry by themselves.  So we should share our burdens. 
            In our context today, this means we should share our struggles with each other.  Now, you might not want to run around telling your deepest, darkest secrets to every person you meet—not even within the church.  But you should find a trusted, Christian friend—someone who will listen and not judge you and not go around talking behind your back.  If you don’t have someone like that, you can come talk to me.  That’s my job as a pastor.
            Galatians 6:2 also says that when we share each other’s burdens, we “obey the law of Christ.”  So it would seem that sharing our struggles with each other—both opening up to others and helping others with their struggles—is the law of Christ (which is love).
            Sharing our struggles with others and seeking support can yield tremendous results.  Sometimes, just talking about our problems brings marvelous relief.  It relieves built up pressure and anxiety and helps put our troubles in proper perspective.
            I have seen amazing results and personal growth when people “came out of the closet” about their secret battles.  I am bound to keep names and specific details confidential, but I can tell you that right here in this church, I have seen racism overcome and family bonds healed.  I have seen drug and alcohol addictions conquered.  I have witnessed broken marriages made whole.  I have watched out of control tempers brought under control.  I have seen friendships restored, shame and guilt released, and lives put back on track.  And in each case, it was possible because people courageously opened up about their struggles and sought the support of others. 

Conclusion
It takes courage and faith to “come out of the closet” about our problems with each other in the church because it seems like everyone else is perfectly happy.  What we don’t realize is that everyone struggles with something and often the smiles we see are only the masks people wear.  We all need to remove our masks and live more authentically.  It is the only way we can grow in Christ.  And who knows, when you are honest and come out of the closet, it might not only help you.  It might just help someone else who is secretly struggling too.  So what are you waiting for?

 

 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Living Christian in a Gay World, part 3 - Living Out the Gospel

Part 3 – Living Out the Gospel
Luke 4:14-19

Introduction
            This is the third of four messages on homosexuality.  All the previous messages for this series are posted here on my blog.  You can look at previous posts if you missed a message or if you would like to share it with someone else.  It has been very challenging to preach this series, because it’s a very sensitive subject for many people.  My sincerest hope is to speak the Truth in Love.
            My message last week was especially difficult for some to hear because it points out the ways the Bible clearly marks the practice of homosexuality as a sin.  The Gospel (or Good News) of Jesus is sometimes hard to hear.  However, never forget that it is indeed Good News.
            The goal of my message today is to explain how Christians should live out the Gospel in a world with mixed up views about homosexuality.  Let’s start by reading Jesus’ calling to bring Good News to all humanity. 

Luke 4:14-19
14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region. 15 He taught regularly in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 

16 When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17 The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
    that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19     and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”

Good News
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus’ message is called the Gospel, which translates “Good News.”  The very names of the four books about Jesus’ life are called the Gospels.  The Gospel of Matthew tells us Jesus traveled around “…announcing the Good News about the Kingdom.” (Matthew 4:23)  The book of Mark begins by saying, “This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.”  We just read in Luke 4:18 that Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.”
It is indeed Good News that Jesus came to save the world.  For when we were yet sinners, Jesus came to forgive us and lift us out of our sin.  Sam Allberry, an ordained pastor in the Anglican Church who struggles with same-sex attraction, put it this way in his book Is God anti-gay?  He said, “The Christian message is the best news anyone can ever hope to hear.  It’s all about a God who is more forgiving and loving than we could possibly imagine.”  And yet, Allberry understands the Good News of Jesus Christ compels him to refrain from acting upon his attraction to people of the same-sex.  [Click Here to find out more about Sam AllberryClick Here to find out about his book Is God anti-gay?]

The Bad News
The Good News of Christ inevitable reveals there is also some bad news.  If Jesus came to save us, he must have come to save us from something.  Our Luke passage said Jesus came to bring Good News to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, etc.  The bad news is poverty, captivity, blindness, and many other troubles caused by sin are part of the human condition. 
            The corrupted nature of humanity reveals itself in numerous ways and everyone is affected. We lie. We cheat. We steal.  We may also experience physical malfunctions.  I have a tendency to eat too much and that tendency can have dire consequences for my health.  Others have trouble controlling their tongue or are prone to addiction or suffer from mental illness or emotional troubles.
Sometimes the consequences of sin in our world are completely out of our control.  For instance, a child is born blind.  Neither the child nor his parents did anything wrong to cause the blindness, yet the child is born blind because sin has corrupted the very nature of our world.  This was not God’s will.  God’s will is for everyone to be perfect and whole.  Yet sin has distorted God’s original plan.
People argue about whether homosexuality is a choice or whether people are born that way.  In the context of the Gospel, it doesn’t matter.  We know that we are all born with many kinds of troubles.  I want to eat too much.  Another is born blind.  Yet another is born with an attraction to people of the same sex.  One is not worse than the other in God’s eyes.  They are all consequences of the same sin-sickness that infects our world.
The consequences of sin are very serious when we consider it in these broader terms.  And our horrible, hopeless situation reveals how desperately we need salvation.  That is why it is such incredibly Good News that Jesus came to save us.
            When we read the 4 Gospels, we see sickness, sin, demons, ignorance and walls of division being destroyed as a sign of God’s Kingdom breaking into our world.  And Jesus invites all who will to come be part of the Kingdom.  His message was and is "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."[i]
            He said repent, because we cannot bring our sin with us into God’s Kingdom. It doesn't matter what the sin is: whether it be hypocrisy or homosexuality, lying or lusting, gossip or greed, we must die to these and all selfishness with the help of Christ. Sometimes we will find complete healing from our sins in our lifetime. Sometimes we will continue to struggle for a long time, but the Good News is there is forgiveness and grace in Christ Jesus. He understands our weakness and his strength is sufficient to help us endure.  Ultimately, we will be made perfect. 

It’s Not Picking and Choosing
Some argue Christians just pick and choose which sins in the Old Testament Law apply today.  A couple friends of mine commented on Facebook about my message last week.  They rightly pointed out that the same Old Testament that forbids homosexuality, forbids eating pork, also endorses slavery, and stipulates many other disturbing regulations.  Are we just picking and choosing what we want to believe?
Definitely not.  This line of reasoning misunderstands the power of the Gospel.  Christ’s life, death, and resurrection fulfilled the law and ushered in a new era of God’s grace, changing the way we apply the laws of the Old Testament[ii]The Old Testament laws break down into certain categories and we can see how the Gospel affected each category: 
Cleanliness laws. (Don’t touch lepers or eat pork, etc.)   Jesus declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19) and also touched lepers and dead bodies, and was not made unclean by doing so.  Thus, Jesus ended the cleanliness and food laws of the Old Testament.  (Yeah!  We can all enjoy our pork BBQ and bacon!)
Worship/Sacrificial Laws.  (Sacrifices, circumcision, etc.)  Jesus taught his body was the true Temple and his death was the ultimate sacrifice for sin (John 2:21, Mark 14:36). Thus, his death opened the way for us to approach God, making Old Testament regulations concerning the Temple and its sacrificial system obsolete. 
Civil Laws. (Laws about slavery and stoning, etc.)  In the Old Testament, the people of God were the nation-state of Israel.  In the New Testament, Jesus reconstituted the people of God so they are a universal Church embodied in numerous local gatherings around the world and subject to the laws of secular governments. The Old Testament laws relating to the civic life of Israel (such as requiring the death penalty for grave sins) no longer apply to believers today in the same way as they did in the Old Testament.
Moral Laws.  (The 10 Commandments, sexual ethics, etc.)  The purpose of the moral laws is to show us our sins so we know how much we need Christ.  Also, they teach us how to act in love towards our neighbors.  Jesus fulfilled the moral requirements of the Law to perfection since we couldn’t, but he also restated many of the moral laws and said we should follow them—including the sexual ethic of the Old Testament.  These moral laws are also restated by other New Testament writers so they still apply to us today.[iii]
So if you look closely, you will see we are not being inconsistent—picking and choosing which laws we like and don’t like.  We are simply living out a new reality brought on by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 
[Click Here for a blog by Rev. Brent White with more about the "picking and choosing" debate.]

Reaching Out
            The Good News is for everybody.  The church is called to be in ministry to all people.  Jesus didn’t come to save people who are already OK (or think they are already holy).  Jesus came to seek and save the lost.  He came to heal those who are spiritually sick; this includes people who struggle with all kinds of sin—including homosexuality.  But how do we reach out to people struggling with homosexuality? 

First of all make it easy to talk about.
Keeping quiet about a taboo subject like homosexuality (or any sexual sin) only promotes secrets, isolation, and darkness where sin and suffering grow and fester.  Sadly, sometimes the last person someone struggling with homosexuality feels comfortable talking to is a Christian.  There are plenty of people in our world today who will tell them there is nothing wrong with practicing homosexuality, but it is not helpful just to be told what you want to hear or what sounds good.  What we all need is unconditional love and biblical truth. 
People struggling with same-sex attraction (or any kind of sin) need to know it is safe and encouraged to talk about our problems and struggles with loving Christians.  Therefore, live the kind of life that lets people know they can come and talk to you about anything, knowing you will be honest and caring, and will still love them no matter what. 
Along with this, you need to be careful how you talk about homosexuality.  Realize that people are listening to everything you say and the way you say it.  The careless things we say can have unintended consequences.  How would it sound to a teenage boy who is struggling with homosexuality if he hears his football coach joking about gay people or telling another player he tackles “like a girl”?  How would the angry, politically charged article condemning “gay rights” you share on Facebook be perceived by someone who is struggling with homosexuality?  How would someone feel if they overhear you talking about homosexuality as if it were the worst possible sin anyone could commit (which it isn’t)?  They’re probably not going to trust you with their struggle.  That doesn’t mean we disengage on the issue, but it does mean we must be thoughtful and loving and careful in how we engage.
If someone opens up to you about their struggles, recognize how much courage it took them to speak up.  Be sure to thank them for trusting you.  It is truly an honor for someone to open up to you about something so sensitive.  Be sure to protect their trust by keeping a confidence.  Pray with them.  Be truthful (as best you understand truth), but always be loving. 

Get rid of unhealthy stereotypes.
If you want to be helpful on the issue of homosexuality, try to deal with biblical models of masculinity and femininity, rather than cultural stereotypes.  Be considerate in how you talk about others.  Learn to recognize and promote true, biblical values about what it means to be a man or a woman.  Discard the false images that the non-Christian world promotes and that sometimes creep into our churches.  What does it really mean to be a man?  What does it really mean to be a woman?  The type of person we are sexually attracted to has very little to do with our masculinity or femininity in a biblical sense. 

Honor Singleness.
Jesus offered an alternative to heterosexual marriage—singleness.  Therefore, people struggling with same-sex attraction may need to spend long years or even their whole life as single persons.  This can be difficult and requires the support of the church.  Don’t forget special efforts to minister to singles in the midst of all the couples and family ministries in the life of the church.  This is helpful for all single persons, regardless of why they are single—whether because they have not married yet, are divorced or widowed, or have chosen not to marry.  Always remember that people who remain single are as important as those who marry and singleness is a highly honorable condition in the eyes of God.
“But isn’t it unrealistic and unloving to expect someone to remain single just because they are attracted to people of the same sex?”  No.  That is a message our culture tells us—that you are not healthy or whole unless you are sexually active and eventually married.  But this was not Jesus’s opinion and other New Testament writers also offered singleness as an honorable and desirable condition for people to choose.  Centuries of devoted Christians have chosen singleness.  Some famous Christians who remained single were:  Jesus, St. Paul, Joan of Arc, Mother Theresa, George Handel, Leonardo de Vinci, Susan B. Anthony, and Isaac Newton.  But it’s not just famous people.  We have people in our own churches who have chosen to be single and have been blessed by it as they have been a blessing to many others.  And while singleness has its struggles (so does marriage by the way), singleness offers great rewards as well.  So let us support those who choose to be single.  It is a practical and godly alternative to marriage.

Be the Family of God.
Remember that the Church is a family.  Be sure to adopt people who struggle with homosexuality into your church.  You—as their church family—may be the only family they have.  You are a precious gift to them.  Make the most of it.  Invite them to be with you—especially in those times when a person normally gathers with family.  Sometimes the holidays can be the loneliest times for single adults.  Your friendship can make all the difference. 

Be a Welcoming Church for Everyone.
People need to know that the church offers support for those struggling with homosexuality.  They should feel comfortable coming to the church, knowing they can find help with their questions and struggles.  They need to know the church wants to and can help.  They need to hear the Good News that Jesus forgives and loves us no matter what we struggle with. 

Conclusion
            The Good News is for you!  We all have sin.  We all struggle.  Your sin—whatever it is—is no worse than mine or anyone else’s.  We are all in desperate need of Jesus’ saving love.  The Good News is Jesus freely offers salvation to anyone who sincerely wishes to take hold of it.  So there is no need to be trapped by your guilt.  There is no need to pretend like nothing is wrong.  The first step in healing is admitting the problem.  So I invite you to come to Jesus and cry out for help.  What he wants more than anything is to reach out and take your hand and lift you out of whatever sins you struggle with.  Won’t you come to him?  Won’t you trust him?  Won’t you let him save you?
 
 





[i] Matthew 3:2 NET
[ii] http://www.livingout.org/arent-we-just-picking-which-bits-of-the-old-testament-law-apply-today
[iii] Examples Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20; 1 Timothy 1:8-11