Ben Tellinghuisen - May 4, 2014
Responding God's Way to Homosexuality (Romans 1:21-32)
Recognize 4 Stages of Sin that Will Help you Respond to Homosexuality Transcript: We will be looking at a number of different texts this morning. If you want to open up the primary text, it’s going to be Romans chapter one and we will get there probably towards the middle of our sermon. Now because homosexuality has become more and more a political issue some may be expecting to talk a lot about the politics of homosexuality and their support and some of those issues that have come before us, but I want to make sure that I say from the outset, the church is not a political entity. What we believe should most definitely affect how we vote even how we support or how we don’t support different legislation, but this sermon will not address the Christians response politically. There’s something more foundational that we need to understand and we need to get right in our own minds before we even talk about what the response might be in a political sense. That foundational question is really a couple questions – First: How do we rightfully think of homosexuality? How would the bible have us think about homosexuality? And the second question is how do we rightfully respond to those struggling with homosexuality or even the struggles that you may have if you struggle with same sex attraction in your own heart? So the only politics dealt with the today are the politics of your own heart. It’s often been said in these days that we are living in the midst of a moral revolution. You’ve heard that right? But really we’ve been in the midst of a moral revolution for decades, haven’t we? Began many years ago, the breakdown of the sexual ethic in this country has been well documented since the 1960s and most evidently it began with not a homosexual morality, but a heterosexual community and the notion of free love that rips sex out of the context of marriage, right? Fast forward to 2006 and the movement to normalize homosexuality and homosexual behavior was beginning to make serious strides in this country. But let us remember in 2006, not many years ago - eight years ago – there were several statistics that are important for us to recall. In 2006, over half of the couples living together did so before getting married. Cohabitation was the norm for a majority of the people in this country. Also, we know that in the year 2006, it is reported that only 3% of couples or of individuals successfully waited until marriage to have sex for the first time. This was in 2006. This is rather shocking until you have a frank conversation with friends and family and we realize that even many within the church have not been faithful to reserve sex exclusively for marriage. So it should come as no surprise that as goes a biblical ethic for sexuality, masculinity, femininity, and marriage, so too will radical moral revolutions soon take place. I mentioned 2006 because it is in that year that South Carolina overwhelming passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. 80% of the population in that state voted for that. By the end of 2013 in that same exact state, 48% percent are in favor are of some form of same-sex legalized marriage. This was in 7 years. A lot has changed. Nationally the trend is about the same with many polls indicating that a majority of Americans favor the legalization of same sex marriage. In the midst of this, you have many public figures capitulating, coming out in support of same sex marriage, when once they had been opposed to it. Whether it has been politicians, and we’re not talking about politics, but even many Christian leaders have voiced their support. The most recent is the lead singer of the band Jars of Clay - A very famous, biblically based, evangelical band that have written a lot a great songs. Well the lead singer of the band, Jars of Clay, recently tweeted his support of same sex marriage. World Vision, a very famous organization, has gone back and forth on the issue. And in many biblically based Christian colleges and churches have suddenly come to a new understanding on the bible’s teaching on sexuality. And so we have many voices calling for the radical revision of the churches understanding on sexuality and the meaning of marriage that has been faithfully understood for 2000 years. Others too in the wider culture recognize that a showdown is coming for the evangelical church in America. Anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann of Stanford University has remarked, “It is clear to any observer, and to an observer like me, that evangelical Christianity is at a crossroad.” What is that crossroad? “The question of whether gay Christians should be married within the church.” Less than two weeks ago, a book was released into this controversy: God and the Gay Christian, attempting to bring to the mainstream, bible believing Evangelicals, the same arguments that many liberal, Bible-rejecting denominations have taught for years. The basic arguments that have been purported in this particular book are: the bible doesn’t condemn all homosexual acts, and the church should embrace warmly all practicing homosexual Christians. We’re at a point in our culture where we can no longer ignore the moral revolution happening around us. Children will be exposed to the idea of homosexuality younger and younger. Sixth graders who are in this room right now, many of you are going into 7th grade next year – a new school - and I can guarantee that this will be a topic of conversation in your middle school. Everyone – this is a topic of conversation at your workplace, your neighbors, on the TV, we can’t escape this. We can’t pretend that it doesn’t exist. Do you know how to respond? As a Christian, do you know how to respond? Some of you may know instinctively know that homosexuality is wrong and you’ve always hated it as sin. But sadly, that has resulted in hatred or at least in rude treatment to those you perceive to be gay. I’ve seen Christians respond in each of the following negative ways: turning in disgust from two men holding hands or seeing them from a distance and yelling, “Fags!” I’ve seen those picketing with signs, “God hates gays! God hates gays! Say no way to gay! Say no way to gay!” I’ve even, myself, used gay slurs, instead of saying “that’s so lame,” I say, “That’s so gay.” Do you think any of those actions will create any opportunity for the Gospel? Each of these are not the right response and we need to give credit to the mantra, and actually, when we respond this way gives credence to the mantra that homophobia is real and alive in Christian cultures. Brother and sisters, if the shoe fits, wear it. Repent of an unloving spirit towards those struggling with homosexuality and put on much love and much grace. Yet, we need to never back away from the truth about what the bible says. In order to understand our response to homosexuality, I think we first need to ask some key questions. We need to look at the biblical response to those questions and then look at Romans 1 where we will see four stages of sin that once we recognize these stages of sin we will recognize that they’re the stages that we go through as well and they will help us respond to the issue of homosexuality with much grace and a heart of compassion for the lost. Is it possible to be a Gay Christian? Well the first question we need to look at is: Is it possible to be a Gay Christian? God and the Gay Christian has just come out like I just mentioned and it’s a book. Entire denominations for decades have been appointing homosexual clergy but in order to rightly understand this question we must first define some terms. We’re going to define the terms and the difference between same sex attraction and gay, or identifying yourself as gay and when we do that we will understand that same sex attraction is a sinful temptation. 1. Same sex attraction is a sinful temptation. Same sex attraction is a sinful temptation. Well in order to help define the difference here, when you say, if you were to ever say, “Well, I’m gay,” it is often an identity that encompasses much more than sexual attraction, isn’t it? It indicates a whole lifestyle that is believed to be an important, inseparable, an unchangeable part of a person’s being or identity. In other words, “It’s just who I am, I am gay.” Whereas the term same sex attraction defines a specific type of sexual orientation or a struggle and I believe Christians, and many Christians do, struggle with same sex attraction and it is seen in the right light as a sinful temptation to be avoided – a sinful temptation that should be avoided. When seen in this light, same sex attraction really is no different than any other sexual temptation, is it? Look at 1 Thessalonians 4:3 and 4. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 and 4. We’re going to be doing a lot of flipping this morning. This is not the way we normally operate. We normally park in one Scripture and really work through that and we’re going to do that with Romans 1 this morning, but it is important to get the whole counsel of the Word of God on this issue. So we’re going to look at 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, verses 3 and 4. In this passage, we will see that the Bible prohibits any and all sexual immorality. Here’s what Paul writes to 1 Thessalonians 4, verse 3. He writes: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification that you abstain from sexual immorality.” That you should abstain from sexual immorality. The word that is used, “sexual immorality,” is the Greek word “pornea,” it’s where we get ‘porn,’ and it’s the idea of fornication. It’s a catch all term for any and all sexual activity outside of the bounds of marriage – heterosexual marriage. In a lot of this prohibition, all Christians then, according to verse four are commanded this: “Why are to abstain from sexual immorality? That each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor. Not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.” And so here, Christians are encouraged to learn to control these sexual temptations. To learn to control any form of sexual urge outside of the bounds of heterosexual marriage. It’s actually the same term, this ‘pornea’ term, is used by Jesus in Mark, chapter 7, verses 20-23. It’s another passage, you can turn there if you like – Mark 7:20-23. Jesus says this – he’s talking to a Pharisee and the Pharisee is wondering, “Well, what defiles a person?” The people are concerned that the traditions of the elders and of the Pharisees are not being followed by its leaders and whether it’s what they eat, how they eat, they eat with unclean hands, all this stuff, and Jesus says, “You know what? It’s not about what goes into a person that defiles a person; it’s what comes out of them that defiles them.” That’s what he said in verse 20. In verse 21 in says, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, come sexual immorality [that’s the same term that is used in 1st Thessalonians], theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, [etc…].” Verse 23, “All of these evil things come from within and they defile a person.” So here we have, very clearly, Jesus saying that the evil, and he call’s something evil and it’s any form of sexual deviation apart from the bounds of marriage. He says the same thing and it comes from within. It comes from a temptation and an urge that we have from within our own hearts. You see, many who believe that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality or any other sexual preferences claims, “Well, Jesus never mentioned homosexuality specifically.” It’s true that Jesus mentioned homosexuality specifically, he never uses that word. But arguments from silence are never good and actually he does include sexual immorality in a list of terrible, defiling sins and ‘pornea’ includes the sin of homosexuality – in the definition of the term itself. So Jesus also speaks of marriage in other places reflected in the created order between one man and one woman for life. So the issue of same sex attraction, although it was not specifically mentioned Jesus is definitely something that Jesus would not have condoned. The issue of same sex attraction, like all sexual temptations, is to be steadfastly avoided. But the presence of a sinful temptation is not sin in it of itself, is it? It’s not sin in it of itself to be tempted. Now, I’ll give you an example. Most men in this room understand sexual temptation, don’t you? You’re checking a news page, and I’m sure women are doing the same thing, you’re checking a website and a particular attractive young lady in very little clothing all of a sudden pops up on the side and it’s not sin that that lady popped up, at least in your heart. But the sin begins as your eyes start to linger. As you click on the picture, the link, as you long for and lust to see more. So the presence of the temptation isn’t sin in it of itself, even same sex attraction, isn’t a sin in it of itself. Just as it is possible to struggle with heterosexual lust and be a Christian, so too is it possible to struggle with same sex lust and also be a Christian. You see, we need to be those to recognize any and all sexual temptations in our lives and learn to hate it. Not call it love, not celebrate it as the world does. This means that those who struggle with same sex attraction can live wonderfully fruitful Christian lives. I know many young men who do. I’ve the privilege to counsel a number of men struggling on this particular issue and they live wonderfully happy Christian lives for the sake of the glory of God. Or another example is, as Sam Allberry, he actually wrote a great little book, I brought it here with me because I want to recommend it you, it’s Is God Anti-Gay. He is a pastor in England who struggles with same sex attraction. It’s something he admits to struggling with for a long time. Never acted on it, never has been involved in a homosexual lifestyle, yet he realizes that this is a struggle in his life. It’s an excellent book for you. While I’m giving you recommendations, loveintolight.org is wonderful website. Loveintolight.org is a wonderful tool to give to anybody struggling with same sex attraction. 2. Your sexuality does NOT define you Well, God’s grace has abounded in Sam’s life and it’s abounded in many other lives as well and he has a blessed testimony that can be a beacon of hope to those who struggle with same sex attraction that they don’t have to give into that temptation, to those desires. They can love Christ as their savior. So first we need to understand that same sex attraction is just one of many sexual temptations. Further, we must reject using sexuality to define us. Your sexuality does not define you. I want to grant this, that God has blessed mankind with sex and encourages it in the context of marriage, even commands it in Genesis, chapter 2, and 1st Corinthians 7. He’s even inspired a whole book that explores the wonders of intimacy within the context of marriage, The Song of Solomon, but as many married couples will realize that there is so much more to who we are than our sexuality, isn’t there? But the lie that your sexuality defines you is what our culture teaches. You are defined by your sexuality and that began, of course, with the famous psychologist Sigmund Freud. Everyone who reads Freud understands that he was obsessed with sex and believed that one’s sexual desires radically affected any and all behavior that one had. Freud, as one person writes, “Freud essentially replaced the soul with sexual identity as a singular defining characteristic of humanity.” You see, our sexuality is indeed a part of how we feel, but it does not make up fundamentally who I am. We’re so much more than our sexual desires. See God has called you to a specific occupation, has he not? God has called you to serve him in his church, has he not? God has given you different hobbies, different food preferences, different academic abilities, has he not? We are by design complex, and yet every part of my complex self, according to Jesus, be given over to Christ, including our sexuality. If you are Christian, then your new identity is in Christ. And so a closing statement here is: it’s absolutely possible to be a Christian and still struggle with same sex attraction. It’s just that your identity is not in that, but is in Christ. An illustration of this, one thing I’ve heard often is that our culture often blames a puritan, or Christian, sexual ethic is the reason why so many kids who struggle with a variety of sexual temptations want to kill themselves and they point the finger at Christians, point their fingers at our puritan past and say, “Well the reason why this is such a struggle for so many people and there’s so much angst in teenagers about their sexuality is because you all have created this idea that sex is only to be reserved to marriage and they just need to be free to express that in any way they have and as they so desire.” Well actually the kids struggling with wanting to kill themselves is not because of the puritan, or Christian, sexual ethic. It’s because they bought into the world’s lie that fulfilling your sexual desires is the chief end of your identity. Angst, depression, and suicide are the result of misplace priorities, misplaced identity, misplaced love, thinking that the desires that you have in your heart are something to be celebrated. So is it possible to be a ‘Gay Christian?’ Well it depends on what you’re talking about. Is it possible to be a Christian and struggle with same sex attraction? Absolutely. Is it possible to be someone who has come out of the closet and living a gay lifestyle and wants to live a gay lifestyle, never has any desire to change from a gay lifestyle and still be a Christian? No. We have to be careful not to let one particular struggle define who we are. What’s at stake with this issue? 1. The Gospel is at stake Well another question we need to ask is, “What’s at stake with this issue?” Some people will say, “Well isn’t this just about what people do in their bedroom. It’s just a private issue. We really don’t care what people do or don’t do.” Well, brothers and sisters, with this particular issue, I believe the Gospel is at stake – the Gospel is at stake. And that’s because central to the gospel is what? It’s a correct understanding of sin. You see, many Gospel presentations fall flat because they miss the mark on sin and repentance. They say, “God is all powerful, loves you, sent Jesus for you. You just need to believe in him and he’ll embrace you into his loving arms.” And that is partially true, but you see, central to the Gospel call is an understanding that we are hopelessly lost in God’s eyes. And central to the Gospel call, as we’ve already recalled this, is repentance, a rejecting of the old self and putting on Christ. The Gospel requires us to say no to our deepest sense of who we are and the most natural lifestyle that we may want to lead. That’s what this central call to the Gospel - it’s to deny self and follow Jesus with everything – not to live the way you want to live. As Sam Allberry said in his book, “If someone thinks the Gospel is slotted into their life quite easily without causing any major adjustments to their lifestyle or aspirations, it is likely that they have not really started following Jesus at all.” So if we reject homosexuality as sin, as the culture most definitely wants us to do, we reject God’s understanding of sin. And if we reject God’s understanding of sin, there is no possible way for us to turn away from that sin - no way for us to ask for forgiveness for something we don’t see as being wrong in the first place, and we forfeit God’s eternal hope and promised blessings that come with being born again – adopted into his family. 2. The Bible is at stake Well, not only is the Gospel is at stake, but the bible is at stake. And that’s because the Bible is crystal clear in God’s view of sex and the perversion of homosexuality and I think at this point it will be helpful for us to do a quick survey on the pertinent passages on this topic. So grease up the spines of your bible, look at Genesis, chapter 19. It should be easy to find – go to the very first book – Genesis 19. Genesis, chapter 19, verses 4 and 5. This is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and we know that angels in the form of men came to visit Lot and to tell him to leave the city of Sodom because God and was preparing to destroy this place and the angels came and visited Lot and Lot accepts them into their home and we see in verse 4 this following scene: “But before they laid down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man surrounded the house.” Think this is an all-encompassing statement? We’re not saying just a couple of people; this is pervasive in this culture. Here’s what happened: the men of the city, young, old, everybody, surrounded the house because they saw two apparently attractive men come into Lot’s house. What happened? Verse 5: “And they called out to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them.’” Everyone knows what that means – “That we may know them.” Of course they don’t want to go there and say, “I just wanted to get to know these guys and have a good time. I just wanted to see where they came from, maybe who their dads are and, you know, just have a wonderful hospitable time. I just wanted to greet these people.” No that’s not what they were talking about – Lot knew that’s not wasn’t what they were talking about. That’s why he did the irreprehensible thing of offering his daughters to them as a sexual placating option. That’s terrible, but he knew exactly what these men wanted, didn’t he? Well the angels struck the men with blindness and they’re groping, struggling, desiring with their hearts to get into this house so they can somehow know these men. It’s very clear what this passage is talking about and God destroys this city. This is probably not the only sinful struggle that Sodom and Gomorrah had as we know from the book of Ezekiel that its talking about several different type of sins that are going on in Sodom and Gomorrah and some actually reject the clear teaching of Scripture here and they say that the men of Sodom and Gomorrah, they just weren’t hospitable. That’s literally what their interpretation of this passage is and where do they get that? Well they get that from passages like Ezekiel because they mention the destruction of Sodom without reference to any specific sexual sin. But not only does Genesis 19 make it crystal clear that the sin of men of Sodom was homosexuality or of sexual nature, Jude 7 says the same thing. It says, “Just as Sodom and Gomorrah, which likewise indulge in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment.” So yes, clearly the whole bible acknowledges that what was going on in Sodom and Gomorrah was a sin of a sexual nature. So naturally, you would also expect some further passages of the bible to condemn homosexual acts and you do see that in Leviticus. We don’t often to go to Leviticus - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus – the third book of the bible. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Leviticus 18:22. And then also Leviticus 20:13. It’s a couple of passages and laws that specifically prohibit any form of same sex acts. We see this in Leviticus 18, verse 22. It says this: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” It’s no clearer than that. Context here says several laws against several immoral practices and so same-sex sex is mentioned as an abomination in the eyes of God. Now this word, abomination, is used several times to describe many other sins, sexual and otherwise. It’s a common word for a terrible sin. We see 20:13 also indicates that both parties involved in the sexual act are culpable. God hates this type of behavior as he hates all sin. Now, for a homosexual kind of biblical interpretation will grant that these passages have a rather negative view of homosexuality as I’ve read this week, “but that really isn’t a big deal because it’s part of a law that’s no longer applicable for the church today, like the dietary restrictions, or maybe wearing blending fibers and we don’t have time to get into which laws that do or do not apply to us today,” but sufficient to summarize as like this, we know that this isn’t true because this same exact same sexual ethic is repeated in the new testament for the church. The New Testament is crystal clear on its teaching against the sin of homosexuality. For that, let’s look at 1st Corinthians chapter 6. 1st Corinthians chapter 6, verse 9. 1st Corinthians chapter 6, verse 9. The second major epistle after the book of Acts - Acts, Romans, 1st Corinthians in the New Testament - 1st Corinthians chapter 6, verse 9. Paul writes this: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? You see, do not be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral [that’s that ‘pornea’ word - describes anything], nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men that practice homosexuality [and actually two words are used in this specific verse to describe homosexuality, describing both partners in the homosexual act], nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the Kingdom of God.” This is crystal clear. 1st Timothy 1:10 is another sin list where it describes a number of sins in the same way say, “The people who continue to practice these sins will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” The people whose lives are characterized by living according to these sins, never once rejected them, never once saying that they are terrible and continuing to live in that lifestyle, people who do that cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. It’s crystal clear, again. Condemnation is the end result for those consumed with these passions in an ongoing, unrepentant manner. This does not mean that these people who struggle with these sins are going to Hell. Remember we’ve already discussed that. I mean Paul’s got greedy on this list, doesn’t he? How many of you struggle with the sin of greed? I think every hand in here should go up. So the struggle with these sins doesn’t mean that you are going to necessarily go to Hell, it means that if your life is given over to these types of sins, you cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. Take greed for example. If your life marked by continuous desire to get what your neighbor has, or to continue to grow in everything you have and to be more comfortable, and etc., etc., your passions and everything in your life is directed in the wrong way and you can’t inherit the Kingdom of God. Likewise, those who celebrate homosexuality and the sinful desire that is in some people’s hearts - who celebrate that as normal and continue to celebrate that lifestyle cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. I also love Paul’s conclusion in verse 11. It says, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” He gives hope, doesn’t he? Even if you struggle with a variety of different sins, or a variety of different perversions in your heart, God gives you hope that things can change, and that hope is in Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ gives us hope that we can change, Amen? Sure, we will have various temptations, but we’re those who have been given the ability to resist these temptations, to the power of the Holy Spirit in us. So the Bible unquestioningly condemns all forms of homosexuality. So what’s at stake as we think about homosexuality? The Gospel’s at stake and the Bible’s at stake. There’s one other passages that we need to look at, and it Romans 1, but we need to learn something more from this passage as this passage clearly condemns homosexuality, calls it unnatural. But as we look as this passage, we are going to look at the full context which reveals different stages of sin. The progression of sin that all of us are prone to fall into, and as we discover Paul’s teaching of sin, it will help you respond with empathy to those struggling with same sex attraction. Recognizing the stages of sin, still tempting even you. Recognize 4 Stages of Sin that will Help you Respond to Same-Sex Attraction And so I want us to recognize four stages of sin that will help you respond to the struggle of same sex attraction. Should be with us in Romans, chapter 1. Go ahead and turn there because we’ll park there for most of the rest of the time. Romans, chapter 1. Well in the context of verses 21-32, we see verse 18 setting the stage for this whole passage and it says in verse 18 of Romans 1, “For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all the ungodliness and all the unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” This is the subject heading of these 3 paragraphs in your text here. It’s that mankind knows the truth about God, at least can observe that there is a God in nature and reject that. Why? It’s because they want to follow their own passions. They want to follow their own desires and they suppress the truth about God. And where does that sin start? Well that sin starts in the mind. 1. Sin Starts in the Mind (vv.21–22) Look at verses 21 and 22. That sin starts in the mind. Verse 21 says this: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to Him. For they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools. Theologians call this the “noetic effects of the fall”. Comes from the Greek word ‘nous,’ understand, or ‘nous,’ or the mind or the intellect. It’s the idea that after God created man, his intellect was un-surpassing. I mean you think about Adam, what were his first words in the garden? Poetry. The first recorded words of Adam – how many of you wax eloquently poetry to your wives at the drop of a hat? Very, very few. But that is just a snapshot about how an undefiled mind works. Once Adam fell into sin, sin has affected even our ability to think. Our ability to understand, our ability to go through life and understand everything there is to know about God. In a sense, after the fall, we became stupid - every last one of us. And most of us are selectively stupid. You think of the brilliant physicist who is incredibly socially awkward. You think of the brilliant musician who hates God, the God who designed music. You think of the brilliant doctor who also hates the God who designed the body that he spends his life studying and trying to understand. Across the board, mankind naturally hates God because we hate authority. We want to be the God of our own little lives and take control, but the ultimate arbiter, the ultimate judge of right and wrong is God and God alone. We surely don’t want anybody to tell us not to do what we are most passionate about doing, do we? That’s why he writes in 21, 22, “Mankind, although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him. They became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened. They claimed to be wise, yet they became fools.” The fall of the intellect, I think, is very helpfully illustrated in Psalm 36. So let’s keep our fingers here and I want to look at Psalm 36. Just the first 4 verses as it helps us understand this fall and the progression of this fall of our intellect. Psalm 36, verse 1, and we’ll see in this verse that the first step in the fall branches off as we begin to listen to ourselves. You start to listen to yourself. Psalm 36, verse 1 – David says this: “Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart. There is no fear of God before his eyes.” So deep in the heart of the wicked man, in the heart of really everybody, transgression speaks. God starts begins to fade, we don’t look and fear God. Sin looks oh so attractive, oh so normal, oh so lovely and begins to talk to our hearts and when we begin to think about it. You recognize pervasive sinful desires and you say, “God is all loving so he wouldn’t give me passions that need to be rejected, would he?” And you say, “There’s no fear, there’s no respect or reverence for God.” And so as you begin to lack that fear, respect, of reverence of God, you begin to listen to your own flesh and you begin to say, “You know what? This is a wonderful thing; otherwise I wouldn’t have this passion because I’m wonderful.” Secondly you convince yourself, in verse 2: “For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.” You got a couple of stages. First, he talks himself up. He flatters himself and says, “Look. You’re Mr. Wonderful. God would never give you a desire that is sinful. You just have to listen to the desires of your heart and do them ‘cause God loves you and that’s what he would want for you.” That’s what you talk to yourself and we flatter ourselves. We think about that. Really ends up the point you can’t possibly hate yourself. So I’ve got to fulfill what God has given me, these desires. And you begin to say at the end of verse 2: “His iniquity can’t be found and out and can’t be hated.” You listen to yourself and convince yourself that sin isn’t sin, it is never to be hated, it is part of who I am, and I love it and everyone should love it and affirm it in me. That’s the natural response of man – we convince our self that our sin is natural. What else? You express yourself. We see that in verse 3: “The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit. He has ceased to act wisely and do good.” What are the two ways we express our sin? In word and in deed. We full embrace and defend what we have now convinced ourselves in our minds what is acceptable and we begin to act upon these sinful inclinations, these sinful desires. Well verse 4 – you also orient yourself. You orient yourself. “He plots trouble while on his bed. He sets himself in a way that is not good. He does not reject evil.” So when you say ‘sexual orientation,’ this is a perfect description of what is going on. They’re setting themselves in the way to do what is evil. We do the same thing, it’s not just with sexual orientation, brothers and sisters. We are tempted to do the exact same thing. We listen to ourselves, we convince ourselves that the sin that we are tempted to do is okay and then we begin to express that and then we begin to orient ourselves to continue to do that sin over and over and over again and see it as perfectly normal, as perfectly natural, defending it as normal, and wanting everyone else to do the exact same thing. You are loved. You are okay. That’s what we want. You can see, easily, how this would describe one who is self-identified as gay. Brothers and sisters – describes us too. The Christian recognizes this slide into sin and maybe for a time you listen to yourself, you convince yourself, you even express sin. But the Christian who is made aware of sin to the bible or of other Christians, that Christian learns to hate sin with a passion – learns to recognize this slide into sin, learns to reject the voice inside that says, “This sin is okay,” learns to reject the convincing spirit that we have in every single one of us to normalize our sinful actions. We learn to hate the sin that remains. 2. Mankind Exchanges Worship (vv.23–25) So we first must recognize that the battles that we wage within the mind are crucial to the ongoing slide of sin, into living a life of sin. We give ourselves over to following the mind, let’s look back at Romans. We’ll see that mankind exchanges worship – mankind exchanges worship. That’s the second stage of sin. First, is our minds begin to be given over to sin, well man also exchanges worship. We see this in verses 23-25. Paul, here, gives three exchanges. He uses the word ‘exchange’ several times in this passage as a typical Greek rhetorical device that was used – if you say something three times, it means it really important. And so here in verse 23 he says the first exchange and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God and in verse 25 you see a second exchange – they exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and in verse 26, you see another exchange – for their women exchanged the natural relations for man. So Paul is making the point, “So because sinful man has claimed to be wise and claimed to think they know what is best, they’ve also exchanged the truth about god for a lie – and they’ve exchanged their worship.” These first two exchanges really are about worship exchange – exchanging worship. Verse 23: “They exchange the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” “Images resembling mortal man” is not strictly a reference to physical idols. It can speak of any misplaced glory. Any exchanged glory that we have. Many refer to Mother Earth or nature with extreme reverence. Could refer to yourself – often – and when you slide into a mind sin, like we just saw, you worship yourself as the highest moral and intellectual and religious authority. And so that’s why god gives them up to pursue what they want to pursue in verse 24 - God gives them up to the lusts of their heart, etc. And why? Because verse 25: “They exchange the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” So the creature that is worshiped is most often, even in ancient times, ourselves. It’s giving up the biblical teaching about how we should live and say, “No. I want live the way I want to live. I don’t care about what God says. I’m going to pursue what I want to do.” Claiming to be wise, we became fools. 3. Mankind Exchanges Natural Sexual Relations (vv.26–27) Well there’s a third exchange. Exchange worship, they also exchange natural sexual relations. We see that in verse 26 and 27. “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature and the men, likewise, gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another. Men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” And so here we have women exchanged, and men likewise, giving up the normal relations with women for one another. It’s the only place, both male and female homosexuality are mentioned in the entire ancient Greek literature. Female homosexuality was not even mentioned, we know of anywhere, except for in Romans 1. I think it’s very helpful for us to see that God wants to include a full understanding of sins that are not pleasing to him – of sins that are unnatural – and so he even includes female homosexuality. Both are said here to be unnatural, not a part of God’s created order - Incapable of producing biological offspring necessary to fulfill mankind’s mandate, right? Which is to multiply, fill, and rule over the earth. We see that men here are consumed with passion for one another. This is a vivid depiction of sexual drives gone horribly wrong. Not simply like other men, ‘buddies,’ passion is for men here – talking about sexual passion. That’s what this verse is talking about. And then at the end of the verse, we see these words: “And receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” Now at this point, I’ve heard many preachers say that this is in reference to AIDs epidemic among the homosexual community. But if you stop and think critically about that, there’s a problem with this interpretation, isn’t there? Was the AIDs epidemic around when Paul wrote this? I don’t think so. AIDs was not a problem back when this was written and maybe some STDs were, but it would have been very hard to say that Paul had specifically this specific issue in mind. And so the correct interpretation is that God most definitely punishes those who are passionately pursuing sexual sin, and that may include STDs and they can be part of the punishment, but so too can mental, emotional, and other such breakdowns, but even if there are very little effects of sin in this life – eternal punishment awaits for everyone who continues living an exchanged lifestyle, never turns to God, right? 4. God Allows us to Follow our Sinful Passions (vv.24, 26, 28–32) Now homosexuality is obviously a sin, but we must recognize that the context makes it clear that homosexuality is just one example of a variety of sins that follow after we exchange our worship. And we’ll see the fourth stage of sin that will help us understand this, is that God allows us to follow our sinful passions. God allows us to follow our sinful passions. I’ve already mentioned that there’s different layers of Paul’s argument – he’s said that mankind has exchanged the glory of God, and he uses the word ‘exchanged’ three times. Well, he also uses “God gave them up” – that phrase – three times well. We see that first in verse 24, “God gave them up in the lust of their hearts.” Verse 26: “For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions.” And verse 28: “See they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind.” Again, emphasizing that God is willingly giving up sinful men to pursue the desires of their wicked heart. He’s let them go. Said, “You know what? You want to live the way you want to live, you want to worship yourself, you want to worship the passions in your own heart… Go ahead.” The word is used several times in Scriptures in connection with a variety of different sins. First, here, it’s the passion of our hearts. We see that in verse 24. God gave us up to follow the desires of our hearts. Verse 24 says: “Therefore God gave them up in the lust of their hearts to impurity to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.” Our natural desires are for impurity, the dishonoring of our bodies – these are very broad terms and can encompass any selfish, prideful, desire of our heart. This is not just talking about the sin of homosexuality. These are broad terms. Well he narrows it down to a specific out working of the sinful heart attitude with the second use of ‘God gave them up’ to a specific sexual nature. God gave them up to dishonorable, sexual passions in verse 26: “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions.” And then we have already looked at 26 and 27. And so far from of our feelings of love and sexual desires being a good part of who we are, that it’s to be celebrated, the Bible says perversions in sexuality is a result of our propensity to reject God and worship ourselves and God has given us up to go ahead and follow those sexual perversions and those sexual perversions come with self-worship. Remember the select heading of this whole passage is that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all the ungodliness of men.” That means that same sex attraction is also a part of that ungodliness of men, that God gives people up to follow their own desires of their heart. While I was at a high school recently and noticed a poster campaign in the hallways and there were a variety of different posters. One says, “Love is love.” The other said, “Legalize love.” And the idea that they’re promoting is that love expressed in sexual passions is a beautiful thing in every sexual context, right? “Love is love, it’s a wonderful thing. It’s to be celebrated.” And then also it’s saying that every consensual expression of such love should be legal. The Bible tells us that loving sexual relations are found in only one type of relationship – that’s monogamist, heterosexual marriage. But our sexuality is just one of many examples of our sinful nature coming to bear. Look at the third use of ‘God giving us up.’ He’s gave us up to debased thoughts and actions in verses 28-32: “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God [verse 28], God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decrees that those who practice those things deserve to die, they not only do them, but they give approval to those who practice them.” What a list. If you were to sit and look at that list, you know and realize that this condemns us all. Far from homosexuality being a terrible class of sin in it of itself, Paul makes it clear that is all mankind is deserving of God’s wrath and he’s given us up to following these sinful passions of our heart. Each of us all, likewise are still tempted by these old passions – greed, sexual temptations, boasting, gossips – you lie if you say you have no sin, right (1 John 1:8,10). So we are those who need to recognize homosexuality as a sin, yes. Recognize the remaining temptation of same sex attraction that plagues so many. As Christians, we need to recognize that sin no longer has dominion over us – no longer rules us. This is Paul’s bigger point in Romans, isn’t it? Romans 3:23-25: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by the grace as a gift, to the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, who God put forward as a propitiation [as a payment] by his blood to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because of his divine forbearance [his patience], he had passed over former sins.” So praise God that we have a savior that is able to cover every sin, that is able to open blind eyes to see sin as sin, who gives us the power to resist sin and temptation, who lavishes grace upon grace for all of us undeserved sinners. The stages of sin that we have reviewed are common to all sinners. And the remedy is the exact same - the wonderful Gospel message. So concluding, what does this mean? It means that we need to have a mission mindset, not a memory mindset. What do I mean by that? Well memory mindset is always looking to the past. A bit of moral nostalgia: “I never thought I’d see the day when…” – right? I even do that and I’m 30 years old. You think, “Oh man, this country used to be a wonderful God fearing country,” well, I mean the founders were deists mostly, not Christians. That’s not the Gospel, either. So don’t have a bit of moral nostalgia. Look towards this as a mission field. When we have that moral nostalgia or the memory mindset, it only divides sinners into us versus them, right? The homosexual community no longer becomes a group to reach for the Gospel, they become our enemies. They become someone who is trying to corrupt our culture that we love and that we wanted to protect and that we fought for and that we spilled our blood for… No, that’s not what we’re supposed to do as Christians. Don’t have this moral or a memory mindset, have a mission mindset. Do everything I can to reach lost sinners. Homosexual sinners, heterosexual sinners - it doesn’t matter. In some sense, this moral revolution is a great blessing. You see, we’re much more aware of the temptation of same sex attraction today and even those within the church who were afraid to admit to struggling with this sin is now more open to sharing their struggles and get the help they need. That’s a good thing. We need to admit that’s good thing. And so, far from a disgusting glance or rude words being exchanged with those struggling with same sex attraction, we need to be those who respond with love, gentleness, and courtesy, while never backing down to what the Scriptures teach. Listen to what Titus 3:2 and 3 say. Titus 3:2 and 3: “We are to speak evil no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and show perfect courtesy towards all people, for we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” We used to be those worst of sinners, who are we to then throw those first glances, to throw those words that are hardly gentle, hardly courteous. What do you see in your bulletins? 1 Peter, chapter 3 – what are we to do? We are to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you,” yet do it with gentleness and respect. We are to do this with gentleness and respect, while never backing down to what the Scriptures teach. We need to know what it says, and we need to hold to what it says, and we must do so with love, passion, and gentleness. Here’s what an anonymous lady wrote about church: she says, Homosexuality is just not talked about in the church so it made me think that I was the only one struggling through this. This is a horrible place to be thinking that you are the only one. Please help my other brothers and sisters who maybe struggling with the same things. Jesus has saved my soul and has taken my burdens away. I have peace and contentment in Christ. They need to know that they too can have this and the way they can know this is through the body of Christ reaching out in love and preaching the Gospel of Christ. You see, God’s heart breaks over the sinner’s rejection of his love and he wants to reach out to the lost – to everybody. And if that’s God’s response to homosexuality, then it ought to be ours as well. Let us go from here and purpose to keep that balance in our hearts and respond to this mighty moral revolution. Let’s pray. God, we thank you for giving us your word and we thank you that it is so clearly stated what it is we are to think, know, and do about the issues that you have even provided in this culture today. And Lord, I pray that you would help us to be a Church that reaches out to everybody, that would never discriminate, that would never rudely pass judgment, that would never look at any community of sinners as some terrible pariahs of society that we would never want to associate with. Lord, help us to have a mission mindset and seek to reach out to every last individual who struggles with sin and we know there have been many wonderful testimonies of people who have been brought out of a variety of sinful lifestyles, including this sinful lifestyle of homosexuality and come to know you as their Lord and Savior and so we pray that we would take advantage of our opportunities to make your Gospel known and that it would go forth powerfully to everybody. And we pray all of this in your Son’s holy and precious name. Amen.
Scripture References: Romans 1:21-32