All right, last week, I ended by looking at Jesus’s encounter with the adulterous woman and the compassion He showed, but also the instruction when He said go and sin no more. He didn’t say go and follow and pursue the desires of your body and the application was that people who have a homosexual orientation should be celibate, should abstain, so where I want to start this morning really is by talking about human desires.
Are we to assume that Jesus is saying that we should repress all sexual desire that falls outside of heterosexual marriage, and most people say, you know, that’s not really that healthy. Modern opinion is that self-fulfillment is the rule of life and that sexually, as in all areas of life, each of us has the right to chart our own individual course towards personal satisfaction. If not, you’ll find yourself repressed, and as a culture, we have developed a popular notion that sexual gratification is essential to person-hood and that celibacy is just unreasonable. But I want to ask you two questions as we start this morning. Should certain sexual behavior be declared morally right because I have a desire to do it? Think about that. Are we going to allow God’s truth, I guess the second question is, are we going to allow God’s truth to shape sexual morality or are we going to instead allow sexual desires to determine what is true and moral? If you think about it, since human sexuality was God’s idea, do you not think His opinion on how we conduct ourselves sexually matters? I mean, does He care about this at all? Does He have an opinion?
You see, what we don’t realize is that a society that says premarital sex, adultery, sodomy, any, all these types of behaviors that falls outside of the Biblical norm, if we say that it is morally acceptable, basically what we’re doing is we’re making a clear philosophical statement about human sexuality, and that philosophical statement says, there really are no rules about sex. It’s for our pleasure. It’s a form of recreation. It’s kind of like going bowling with somebody else. It’s for our pleasure, but if you think about it, not only is it a philosophical statement, it’s a theological statement, as well. It says that God doesn’t care how I should limit my lust or how I should channel my passions and desires. You should do whatever is a positive pleasurable experience, and many people really believe that this should be the overriding factor in making moral decisions, but this is something, and I have really thought through this carefully, what people don’t realize, if you jettison and get rid of the Biblical standard for sexual morality, then where do you draw the line? You open the door for pretty much everything, and that’s what they’re talking about right now. Polygamy is coming next, and what about incest, open marriage, prostitution, sodomy, bestiality, pedophilia? In fact, Alfred Kinsey, who is the most famous sexologist to ever live believed that since we’re all mammals, we should be able to have sex with any other mammal you choose. It could be your aunt, your uncle, your dog, I don’t mean to be crass, but that’s, he really believed that, and that’s where we seem to be headed. You see this in the in the gay liberation movement. A guy named Malcolm Macourt, who, for example, has written that, “The gay liberationist vision is of a wide variety of life patterns, each of which is held in equal esteem in society. Among them he lists the following alternatives: monogamy, or multiple partnerships, partnerships for life, partnerships for a period of mutual growth, same-sex partners, opposite sex partners, living in a community, living in a small family unit.”
Now, one of the best resources in all the research that I did was a book by Dr. Jeffrey Satinover. It’s titled Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth and many believe it’s the most comprehensive balanced approach on this issue, and Dr. Satinover is obviously, he’s got great credentials, he’s a psychiatrist, he was a former fellow in psychiatry at Yale. He holds degrees from MIT, Harvard, and the University of Texas, and he says this. Listen to this. He says, “The dramatic shift of values that normalizes homosexuality must inevitably come to normalize all forms of sexuality. This is not merely a hypothetical argument. Both here and abroad, the normalization of homosexuality has been followed by a move to normalize all forms of sexuality, pedophilia explicitly included, and also to lower the age of consent laws to make it legal, as well.” He says, “My purpose here is not to warn against homosexuality on the grounds that homosexuals prey sexually on children because the vast majority would not dream of such things. Also, their heterosexual counterparts would. My purpose instead is to warn against the general lifting of sexual constraint which the philosophy that undergirds gay activism necessarily promotes.” And you know, guys, we’re unfortunately, we’re seeing this come to pass in the homosexual community, and though they demand the right to marry, they have a difficult time being faithful to their partner in living normal healthy lives.
For instance, the multi-center AIDS Cohort Study recruited 5000 homosexual men to complete a survey and almost 80 percent of these men had had over 50 lifetime sexual partners. Satinover comments on one of the most carefully researched studies ever done. It was titled “The Male Couple”, and this is what’s interesting about this particular study. It was researched and written by two authors who are themselves a homosexual couple. One is a psychiatrist and the other is a psychologist, and it’s investigators found that of the hundred and fifty six couples that they studied, only seven had maintained sexual fidelity. Of the hundred couples that had been together for more than five years, none had been able to maintain sexual fidelity. The authors admitted that the expectation for outside sexual activity was the rule for male couples and the exception for heterosexuals. And then Satinover goes on to say, in another study published by Indiana University Press, that 43% of male homosexuals estimated having sex with 500 or more different partners and 79% of those admitted that half of these partners were strangers. And I might point out that there are many single men who sleep around regularly with women and there are similar statistics with single men. Remember Wilt Chamberlain? He purported that he, said, admitted before he died that he slept with 20,000 different women. I was reading an article about that and they started doing the math on that and they had a hard time figuring out how he really pulled that off, if you think about it.
Now, another book that I used in studying this topic is a very well researched book by a scholar named Dr. Thomas Schmidt and he wrote a book called Straight-and Narrow: Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate, and in chapter six of the book, it’s called “The Price of Love”, he reveals some significant statistics. And again, why I’m reading this, and why I’m sharing this goes back to the point that I started with. When you basically, when you throw out the Biblical standard for human sexuality, you open the door for everything, and it’s like there are no limits, there are no lines, but anyway, in chapter six of this book by Schmidt, he says this, “Because my research for this chapter lies outside of my field of professional expertise, I have taken special precautions regarding accuracy of information. Four physicians with relevant specialties reviewed the first draft of this chapter in order to correct any factual errors that I had. I avoided all secondary sources of information such as newspapers and popular magazines or books, and I cite no Christian writers.” What’s he’s trying to say is this is very unbiased, very objective. He says, “Instead, I document every point of fact in this chapter only from scholarly secular medical and social scientific publications and from the most recent research available at the time of writing.” And then, in the chapter, he lays out all of these statistics, and then, at the end of the chapter, he says this. He says, “The most poignant way to summarize the barrage of statistics and descriptions in this chapter is to translate them into an illustration. Suppose you were to move into a large house in San Francisco with a group of ten randomly selected homosexual men in their mid-30s. According to the most recent research from scientific sources, whose authors are, without exception, either neutral or positive in their assessments of homosexual behavior and with the use of lower numbers where statistics differ, the relational and physical health of the group would look just like this. Of those ten men, four of the ten are currently in a relationship but only one of those is faithful to his partner and he will not be within a year. Four have never had a relationship that lasted more than a year and only one has had a relationship that lasted more than three years. Six are having sex regularly with strangers and the group averages almost two partners per person per month. Three of them occasionally take part in orgies. One is sado-masochistic, one prefers boys to men, three of the men are currently alcoholics, five have a history of alcohol abuse, four have a history of drug abuse, three currently smoke cigarettes, five regularly regularly use at least one illegal drug, and three are multiple drug users, four have a history of acute depression, three have seriously contemplated suicide, two have attempted suicide, eight have a history of sexually transmitted diseases, eight currently carry infectious pathogens, and three currently suffer from digestive or urinary ailments caused by these pathogens. At least three are HIV-infected and one has AIDS.” And I think I would point out, I think it’s only right to point out, that this doesn’t apply to lesbian women. I mean they’re much more faithful to their partners and they don’t have multiple partners.
Now, what I’ve just read is what happens if we believe that there are no rules for sex. It’s just for pleasure and that God doesn’t care how I limit my lust or channel my passions and desires, however, I really do think Schmidt’s research reveals something I think that’s important. I think it reveals the pain in the hearts and in the souls of homosexual men. Remember in John 4, which we talked about last time, Jesus encounters that Samaritan woman? She’d been married five times, she was currently living with a guy, and you don’t see any condemnation from Jesus, but what He does is offer her living water, the Spirit of God, to satisfy the deep longings of her soul, because this woman had truly believed that men and sex and romance would satisfy her emptiness, and it clearly hadn’t worked, and so Jesus offers her living water. Remember what He says? The water that I offer will become like a well in your soul, springing up to eternal life.
I’m going to come back and touch on this next week when we look at how poorly the church has handled this issue and how we should respond in a Christ-like manner, but before we move on, I think it’s important to point this out. Through the four Gospels, we consistently hear phrases from Jesus such as, die to self, deny self, and at the heart of following Christ, guys, there are times that we have to deny ourselves and our desires. This is at the heart of being a man or woman of Godly character, to have an ability to restrain your desires. For instance, if you’re married, you have to restrain your desires if you’re ever tempted to be unfaithful to your spouse. Another great book that I read is called Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, and it’s written by a man named Wesley Hill and he has, and admits, a clear homosexual orientation, but he’s also a real committed believer, and therefore, he’s chosen celibacy, but he shares in the book the temptations he experiences, and he speaks of celibacy and says, “Significantly, this kind of long-suffering endurance is not a special assignment the Gospel only gives to gay and lesbian persons. Many believers of all stripes and backgrounds struggle with desires of various sorts that they must deny in order to remain faithful to the Gospel’s demands. ‘Homosexual Christians who choose to remain celibate must face the dilemma of a life without a sexual fulfillment,’ wrote Francis Schaeffer in a letter to a friend. ‘We may cry with them concerning this but we must not let the self-pity get too deep, because the unmarried girl who has strong sexual desires and no one asks her to marry has the same problem.’ And then, what about the nuns and priests in the Roman Catholic tradition and the Greek Orthodox tradition. They offer a wealth of experience and literature on the gift and the discipline of celibacy.”
Now, next week I’m going to talk about can a person be delivered, can a person be, I’m going to share with you a number of people who have experienced real deliverance, and healing, and are basically married and have children, have a regular life, but it isn’t always the case, but I’m going to get to that next week. But listen to what Hill reads, or shares, in his book a letter from an unmarried heterosexual friend that he has. He says, “Your email, Wesley, speaks in some detail about the desire for marriage and intimacy; to not experience this relationship means living with unfulfilled desire, but I assure you, even if you have to live your whole life without the blessing of marriage and family, you are not alone. Many, many people are and have been in the same boat. I’m 41 years old, a virgin, and one who has never experienced physical intimacy with another woman or man. Do I long for it? Sure, but God’s grace is fully sufficient to accomplish His purpose in me. Furthermore, I’d suggest that living with unfulfilled desires is not the exception of the human experience but it’s the rule. Even most of those who are married are, as Thoreau said, living lives of quiet desperation. Maybe they married the wrong person or have the pain or suffering within marriage or feel trapped in their situation or unable to fulfill a higher sense of calling. This list of unfulfilled desires goes on and on.” And then Hill reflects on this and right after this letter, he says, “The Christian story proclaims that all the demands of Scripture are ultimately summons, calls, invitations, beckoning us to experience true, beautiful, and good humanness. C.S. Lewis once faced the question, won’t pursuing Christian holiness make me naive, less worldly-wise and less experienced as a man? If I follow the dictates of the Gospel I become a sheltered backwoods bumpkin unaware and irrelevant to real human experience. To this objection Lewis writes, ‘A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is… A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.’ Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is the only man Who knows to the full what temptation means. the only complete realist.” Then he said, “I’ve spent a lot of time pondering this passage from Lewis and I’ve come to see more and more that it involves a reversal of perception, an alteration of values. Many may say that for me, as a gay Christian, to abstain from homosexual sex means that I’m choosing to prudishly, pitiably, shelter myself from the only life worth living. Lewis turns the table on this kind of objection, audaciously claiming that, no, in fact it’s the sexually active homosexual person who misses out,” and then finally, Hill says, “Imitating Jesus, conforming my thoughts, beliefs, desires, and hopes to His, sharing His life, embracing His gospel, saying no to homosexual practice, I become more fully alive, not less. According to the Christian story, true Christ-like holiness is the same thing as true humanist. To renounce homosexual behavior is to say yes to full rich abundant life.”
I thought of Paul’s words to the Christians in Corinth and how he challenged them. Remember what he says, 1st Corinthians 9, he says, you need to see life as a race, he was speaking to the church, he says that you need to run this race in such a way to win the prize. Athletes, he says, go into strict training to win the prize, they demonstrate self-control. He says, their prize is a temporal prize, he says, I’m talking about one that is eternal, for this reason, he says, I do not run aimlessly, I do not wildly beat the air. To do this, he says, I discipline my bodily desires, and bring them under control. I make the desires of my body my slave. What he’s saying is either we are slaves to our bodily desires or we have them under control and they are slaves to us. Paul is saying that we if we are striving for a worthy goal like God’s will then the sacrifice is worth it.
Listen to what Cliff Knechtle says. He says, “Self-control is not repressive or psychologically hazardous when a person is aiming for a valuable prize. When the goal is sufficiently worthy, self-control is not an evil, it’s part of the realistic process of achieving that goal. When we realize that the all-wise God is good and He loves us, then we understand that it is beneficial to exercise self-control in the use of our sexuality.”
Now remember, Dr. Tim Keller shared the story about when his wife had an illness, a real serious illness, for like an eight, nine-month period ,and he said that during that time, there had no physical intimacy. He said, but we talked more than we’d ever talked, we shared our hearts more than we ever had, and he said we really connected in a way that we never had before. He said, we experienced incredible intimacy in such a way that they had never experienced in all of their married life.
Everything I’ve said kind of runs counter-intuitive to a culture that believes that sex is just a form of recreation, something you just do for pleasure. When we’re finished I’ll give you all chance to make comments, but I want to now move in a completely different direction and talk about how the Church has responded to this issue. You see basically two different responses. One, you probably have seen, or there’s maybe three different responses, but you see two that are most visible. One, you may have watched some of these, where they might have a gay pride parade, I was in Boston years ago and they had this huge parade celebrating gay pride, and you’ll often, you’ll see people from some churches, and they’ll be there with signs and they say that all fags will burn in hell. So, you see that on one side, and then you read of other mainline churches who accept homosexual behavior, they endorse gay marriage, and the ordination of homosexuals into the church’s ministry.
So, what gives? What’s the deal? Well, the first group who carry the signs that fags will burn in hell, again, I would direct your attention back to Jesus’s words, those who wanted to stone the adulterous woman. He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her, and I also would remind them that we’ve all sinned, we all fall short of the glory of God, we all have need for His forgiveness, for His cleansing, for His transforming power in our lives, but before we proceed any further, I think it’s important for me to point out the way Orthodox Christianity has viewed sexual sin. And I read this a number of years ago and I kept it. He says, “In regard to homosexuality, there’s a huge difference between orientation and behavior. The fact that we feel homo-sexually oriented has nothing to do with how we act. Whenever the Bible mentions homosexuality, it always condemns the behavior, not the orientation. Behavior is what counts. When the Bible talks about heterosexual relationships, it speaks of chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage. It talks about behavior. Those who claim they were made this way may be right, but it’s not their orientation that they will be accountable for; it’s their behavior. I may be a heterosexual and tempted to commit adultery, but its behavior that counts.”
Now that, I realize, I’m not, I think it’s probably important to point out, Jesus does say, if you’ve committed adultery in your mind, if you know, basically if you kind of imagine it with another woman, it’s like you committed it, but I think he does make a really good point here. So, how did certain churches embrace and accept homosexuality as being morally acceptable? Well, I spoke to a minister whose church is part of a denomination that’s deeply divided over this issue and the first thing he said is that those promoting gay rights see it truly as a civil rights issue. You know, if you think about it, what they’re really saying is that we’re a minority, and they are. Most people don’t know the statistics. Satinover says that 2.8 percent of the male population are practicing homosexuals and that 1.4 percent of women are practicing lesbians. Gallup says it’s 3 percent for men. But I had a father tell me he asked his teenager what percent of the population do you think is homosexual and the teenager responded, 25 percent, at least. But, in one sense, yeah, they are a minority in the culture, and therefore, they see it as a civil rights issue because they say, they believe, that homosexuals are born that way and therefore, you shouldn’t discriminate against them.
Now, Thomas Sowell, who is a brilliant journalist, who has great insight into this, because he’s an older African-American who lived through the Civil Rights era, and he said this, gay activists have thrived on the confusion between homosexuals and members of racial or ethnic minorities, but you are a black or white or Chinese or Cuban regardless of how you behave. Homosexuality is defined by behavior. It is one thing to say that all people have the same rights, as the 14th Amendment does, and something very different to say that all behavior has the same rights. There is no reason why the law should make all behavior equally acceptable to all people, or surround all behavior with legal obligations on others.” So, first, they see it’s a civil rights issue and therefore they’re going to stay with it to the bitter end, but secondly, they reject the Bible’s teachings because they say they’re led by the Spirit of God, and they’re all guided by the love of Jesus, and therefore, for them, love overrides the authority of Scripture, as if love is the only absolute and that it overrides all other Commandments. But love needs God’s law to guide it. This is why Jesus says, if you love Me, you will obey all My Commandments. And this is what’s happening; this is not something new that’s happening in the Church. You see it in the Old Testament. Listen to God’s own words in Jeremiah chapter 5, verses 30 and 31. He says, “An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely and the priests rule on their own authority and my people love it so.” I’m going to underscore that last little part. “The priests rule on their own authority and my people love it so.” Not God’s authority, their own authority, and this is what you see happening. When I say, I’m guided by the love of Christ, and so we can do whatever we want to do.
Then, some of Paul’s last words warning the church in 2nd Timothy chapter 4, verses 3 and 4, he says, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear and they will turn their ears away from the truth.” I mean, do you think this is possibly what has happened in the Church? You see, guys, the heart of the Christian faith is that God offers to each of us the gift of salvation and it’s delivered to us by His mercy and His grace and it’s received by us into our lives by faith, not by following the law, and we are called to live humbled, surrendered lives before Him, meaning we do have to deny ourselves, our desires, and we look to the Scripture as our final authority. The problem is, the Church often deviates from this path, either to the left or to the right. You have liberalism on the left, you have legalism on the right. I mean, even in Christ’s day, you had the liberal Sadducees and you had the legalist Pharisees, and what you’ve seen happen is that legalism has often plagued the more evangelical churches and liberalism has been the thorn in the flesh of the more traditional mainline denominations.
Let me comment on both them and maybe kind of do a contrast. Liberalism is very much anti-supernatural. They struggle with the belief that God is sovereign and at work in people’s lives. They place great emphasis, though, on God’s grace, and therefore, the importance of being tolerant, and because God is love, He wants me to pursue whatever fulfills me. Most significantly, though, liberalism is characterized by words like freedom and choice and that I have rights, which is what naturally leads to freedom from God’s law and authority, because everything is covered by love and grace. Legalists, on the other hand, have the almost opposite problem. They easily become slaves to the law. They don’t believe in freedom. They focus on a highly-disciplined, rigorous, performance-oriented life, convinced that I have to win God’s approval, I have to earn His love, and the life of a legalist is marked by joylessness and self-righteousness and being very judgmental. The bottom line, though, when it gets right down to it, when you get to the heart of each of these deviations, liberalism has the problem of rebelliousness to refuse to submit to God’s authority. Legalists struggle with pride, with self-righteousness, because I follow the law, I’m superior to you. That’s what the person carrying the sign in the rally, that all fags will burn in hell, is a self-righteous legalist, and that’s who the Pharisees were and Jesus blasted them.
But I want to close with these final words that Jesus directed to the Sadducees, the Liberals, which is a good close, since we’re considering those who do not see the Word of God being authoritative. The Sadducees, the liberals of the day, they didn’t believe in the Resurrection, they don’t believe in the power of God, they really didn’t follow the Scriptures, and they wanted to stump Jesus. So, in Matthew chapter 22, they asked this hypothetical question. Let’s say a woman has more than one husband in this life. Let’s say she’s married, he dies, she remarries, he dies again, she remarries; they then ask, whose wife will she be in the Resurrection. You remember that? And in verse 29, Jesus says this. You are greatly mistaken, because you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God. You’re greatly mistaken, you don’t understand what the scripture teaches, and you do not understand the power of God in a person’s life. And this is what I believe is what Jesus would say to those in the church who approve of homosexuality and gay marriage. You don’t understand My Word, nor do you understand my power and the work that I can do in a person’s life, nor do you realize that fulfillment in this life does not come from giving in to all your desires. It comes from learning to deny your sinful desires and to seek to live in harmony with God’s will, recognizing that His desire is to empower us to do this.
Let me close with prayer, and then we’ll have discussion or get comments from you. Father, thank You for this time. We thank You that You do give us light to live by that You give us a path to walk down, and what we all realize, that there are all kind of temptations and desires out there, and that You’ve called us to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and to follow You. We thank You that You don’t leave us to our own strength and power to do this, but that You give us the Holy Spirit to empower us, as the Scripture says, to work in our innermost being, that we might follow You and that we might please You in all of our ways. For it’s in Christ’s name that we pray, Amen.