Questions from Sunday’s service.

Sunday’s Q&A was really good. I appreciate all the questions. Certainly more came in than we had time for, and more than I can answer here. Below are the three most difficult questions that came in and that were related to the topic of relating to and evangelization to those in the gay community. These questions were texted in to my phone during the service. –Pastor Gary

Q: At what point in witnessing to an unbelieving homosexual do we bring up the issue of homosexuality being a sin?

This is a very hard question. The answer may depend. For example, if the person asks before conversion, we have to answer their question. This discussion may give them pause about becoming a Christian. At that point they are “counting the cost” of what it means to be a disciple and this is a good thing. If this question or issue never comes up (unlikely today), should I bring it up? One the one hand, I don’t list all of the sins a person must abandon (in principle) to become a believer when sharing the Gospel. On the other hand, conversion involves repentance from sin. Conversion is not just the addition of new theological information about the person of Jesus Christ. It is a response to his Lordship. But it seems to me that this response happens at the individual, personal level…it is not administrated from the outside by a third party (like me). If I really believe that it is the Lord who will take care of the sin in the person’s life, then I can leave that to the Lord to deal with.[1] At conversion one settles with the issue of sin in principle. That issue is settled in practice over a lifetime and with the conviction of the Holy Spirit (Phil. 1:6). I suppose the bigger question is how we make sure when we are leading someone to Christ we make it clear that they are choosing him above all other allegiances—which is what it means to say he is “Lord.”[2]

Q: How do you help someone understand the need for repentance in the conversion experience?

This is related to the previous question. Of course someone considering becoming a Christian doesn’t know what “repentance” means. Where evangelism involves guiding a person to saving faith, we have to explain what it means. I think the core is the issue of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. When one repents, he/she turns from one allegiance in life to another. Our job is to get the potential convert to see Jesus not as the head of a religious system, but as Savior (the one who died for my sins) and Lord (the one who delivers me from my sins and deserves my allegiance). Before conversion my relationship to Jesus is defined by my sin. It is my sin that separated me from him in the first place. In the sense that he solves this problem his is Savior. The fact that he can solve this problem in the first place is because he is Lord (God). A convert must understand that the Jesus he is embracing has rights over my life (Lk. 6:46).[3] It is a monumental turning point in life.

I think the answer to the question is that as we explain who Jesus is and what it means to “come to him,” we are in fact defining true repentance.

Q: How does one respond to an old friend who claims to “still be a born again Christian”, but has “discovered that they are gay,” and now have a same-sex life style. When does this turn into a 1 Cor. 5 situation?

Another difficult situation. This question involves a confessing believer, and my response to someone who claims to be a believer would be quite different than to someone who does not claim to be a believer. The church is called to hold its members accountable for their actions. There is an interesting and important distinction here…we hold one another accountable for our actions…not our feelings or even our inclinations.[4] This is important to remind us that someone is not subject to church discipline because he or she has a homosexual struggle or inclination…but homosexual acts would be different. On the basis of the clear teachings of Scripture the church would be obliged to meet with the person in question and walk through a process to determine if he or she is willing to do what it takes to abandon any activities that are condemned in Scripture. If the person is unwilling, and simply rebellious, Paul’s admonitions in 1 Cor. 5 come into play (i.e., church discipline). But given the high level of theological propaganda that pervades today it may be that someone is simply confused about what Scripture teaches. This may involve a counseling/teaching process to clarify for the person what Scripture actually does teach. Ultimately we hold that the Scripture is clear enough to hold believers accountable to a clear standard for living. The goal of the church in this regard is to make it’s teaching clear to the membership and once they understand its precepts, to hold them accountable to them.

[1] Conversely, if I tend to think it is my job to “clean the person up”—I will end up doing the very thing Stephen described: confuse sanctification with justification.

[2] This is the significance of the title “Lord.” Some have tried to limit this word to just mean “God” without the implication of Christ’s authority. But this distinction is artificial. In what sense is Jesus God if he does not have inherent authority?

[3] I don’t want to overstate or understate this. This understanding is probably very basic…but there must be some sense that Jesus is more than just another religious personality. He must be one who deserves my allegiance, not because I chose to give it to him, but because of who he is (Jn. 8:24).

[4] Paul’s list of vices worthy of church discipline in 1 Cor. 5:9-13  is an interesting one. It includes the vice of “greed.” I take that to mean an inclination that has cached out in some kind of immoral action. The rest of the list includes vices of act: swindling, idolatry, sexual immorality, drunkenness, etc. Of course God judges the heart at that deeper level (its thoughts and inclinations), but we lack the ability to know a person’s motives and intentions (Prov. 21:2; Matt. 5:27-28).