The play of the devil from the beginning has been to redefine things such that God’s people come to believe that God’s word no longer applies. A few decades ago, the liberalizing faction tried to claim that the Bible condemned promiscuoushomosexuality but not committed, monogamous homosexual unions. Today our fearless and daring schemers are trying to redefine lust as “attraction” and they are trying to redefine homosexuallust as something entirely different than heterosexual lust. But lust is lust, and sexual sin really is a staircase people fall down not separate, unrelated doors various people enter. And this is good news because it means that the Bible actually prepares us to deal with these sins.
Leaving the Natural Use
The Bible teaches that homosexual sin is the judgment of God on a society (Rom. 1:24-26). Homosexual sin is something that God gives people over to. And we should not miss the fact that this consists of vain imaginations, foolish and dark hearts, and becoming fools (Rom. 1:21-22), which is to say that this sin (like all sin) doesn’t really make sense. So, there is a kind of randomness to it, in the sense that it makes no sense. But when sinners sin, they tend to find the same wicked grooves as generations before. When men sin sexually, they are not actually being creative, and their “heterosexual” promiscuity is already heading inevitably in a homosexual direction. Leaving “the natural use of women” is not merely speaking about intercourse. The “natural use” of women is one man marrying one woman and loving her faithfully “till death do us part.” While there are varying degrees of sexual confusion, fornication, prostitution, pornography are all unnatural uses of women. Sodomy and bestiality are the end of that road, but they are practiced by refusing to love one woman well. To the extent that a great deal of sexual promiscuity is driven by perverted masculine sexual impulses, manipulating women to serve the selfish desires of men, we should see homosexual lust as one of the likely results.
Is Homosexual Sin Worse than Other Sin?
This question is often playing on ambiguity rather than actually trying to be theologically or pastorally helpful. The Bible is very clear that some sins are worse than others. David prays: “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression” (Ps. 19:12-13). The Westminster Catechism agrees: “QUESTION 83. Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?ANSWER: Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.” Ezekiel speaks of “greater abominations” (Ez. 8:6, 13, 15), and Jesus speaks of the greater culpability of those who reject Him than cities that were judged for their sins (e.g. Mt. 10:15). Likewise, those who cause little ones to sin are clearly deserving of greater judgment (Mt. 18:6). Even the image of removing the log from your own eye before addressing the speck in your brother’s eye presupposes different degrees of sin. Of course, all sin is sufficient to separate one from God and merits eternal death (Rom. 6:23). All sin is equally damning eternally, but not all sin is equally damaging temporally. Some sins do more harm than others. And homosexual lust is a “vile affection” (Rom. 1:26), and if heterosexual lust is heart-adultery, then homosexual lust is a shameful, debased abomination of the heart (Lev. 20:13, Rom. 1:27-28).
At the root of so much of our cultural confusion and corruption is the plague of fatherlessness. Sometimes absent or limp or abusive fathers cultivate harsh and domineering women and lost, confused, and starving children result. Fatherlessness creates holes that frequently drive kids to look for happiness and love and acceptance in all the wrong places. The “LGBT community” offers a superficial version of love and family. But the corruption of sin (unchecked) also seeks to corrupt others (witness sodomite parades, drag queen story hours, pornography, etc.). Faithful fathers normalize masculinity, family, marriage, work, etc., but the goal of these public displays of corruption is to corrupt the naïve, ignorant, bitter, and lost. “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage” (2 Pet. 2:19). In the absence of fathers, hurt feelings, loneliness, bitterness, puberty, and curiosity combine to create flammable situations, and if the wrong image, video, thought, situation can get lodged into mind and body, ruts of sexual sin can quickly seem like identities.
Use biblical language unapologetically: Call lust “lust” not “attraction” or “orientation.” The only “orientation” the Bible gives us is either male or female. And that is created by God and established by biology. In the very rare instances of biological/chromosomal ambiguity, parents/pastors/doctors should do their best to understand and receive what God has created as either male or female. And those sex assignments are general callings to be oriented to the world in certain ways and not others. Even a “eunuch” should live as a man/woman even if marriage and/or children is not possible. Failure or refusal to accept those assignments, to long for others, to pretend others is envy, lust, bitterness, rebellion, perversion, corrupting, and shameful.
Call sinners to repentance through the blood of Christ: The point of biblical clarity is to call people to the simplicity of repentance. Sin is a tangled web of confusion. But the blood of Christ simplifies everything. We want to call sin sinbecause the blood of Christ washes away all sin. Apart from the gospel, we have nothing. All the schemes and machinations of men amount to various forms of alchemy, salvation by psychoanalysis, medications, free health care, etc. But our culture is increasingly like the woman in the gospels, who the more she was treated by the physicians the worse she got. Jesus is the great physician, and He bled and died for these sins (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Homosexual lust should not surprise us or make us panic. The consequences may be more severe, but where sin has abounded, God’s grace abounds still more.
Cut off the hands, pluck out the eyes: After sin has been recognized, confessed, and forgiven, the same steps of repentance apply across the board: put off the old man and put on the new man (Eph. 4:22-24ff). Where are you tempted, where are there weak points? Do you need to get rid of your smart phone, cancel your internet, stop spending time with those friends? Do you need to get into the Word, join a Bible study, get a second job, tithe, learn to be a man/woman?
Pursue Christian marriage and family: “But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn” (1 Cor. 7:9). Critics want to claim that Paul was here only speaking about heterosexuals who cannot contain their passion, but this is to assume distinctions where the Bible speaks of none. In the vast majority of cases, someone tempted to homosexuality is fully capable of heterosexual marriage. And with careful discipleship and monitoring should be pastored toward that goal.
The Bible talks a lot about temptation and sin. And we know that we sin all the time. But we often don’t know how we get into sin in the first place. James 1:14 and 15 says, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” Notice that the text distinguishes between temptation and sin. But what is temptation? What is its point?
Temptation is Not Sin
Hebrews 2:18– Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Hebrews 4:15– For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.
Temptation is a Test of Your Faith in God
Either to try to get you to fall away from God, or to show you how much you love God
James 1:2– consider it all joy when you encounter various trials.
1 Peter 1:6– In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials (temptations).
1 Peter 4:12– Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial (temptation) you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.
James 1:14– but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.
What Does Temptation Produce in Us?
Greater purity from having come through the temptation intact—Like Jesus, we learn obedience through the things we suffer (Heb. 5:8). And, like Jesus, coming through suffering without sinning perfects us (Heb. 5:9).
Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, (Heb 5:8-9)
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (1Pe 2:21)
Victory over trials produces steadfastness/patience which leads to perfection and completion lacking nothing (Jas. 1:3, 4).
…for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (Jam 1:3-4)
In Romans 5, Paul tells us, that when we suffer we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.(Rom 5:3-5).
Confidence in your relationship with God—Faith is trusting in a faithful God. As our understanding God’s faithfulness increases, so does our faith (Heb. 11:1).
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Heb 11:1)
Growth in faith—God is shown to be more trustworthy when we trust him in small things and thus we are able to trust him in ever larger things.
Sin—On the other hand.
What Should We Do When We Are Tempted?
Understand this – 1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. Also, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1Pet. 5:8).
- Pray to avoid the temptation –
Matthew 26:41– “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
Matthew 6:13 – And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
2 Peter 2:9– if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.
- Be obedient when you find that you are being tempted/tested.
Luke 4:2– where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
James 4:7– Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
- Run away
1 Corinthians 6:18– Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.
1 Corinthians 10:14– Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.
1 Timothy 6:11– But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
2 Timothy 2:22– Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
- Come up with a Plan to avoid Temptation in the first place
Psalm 119:9– Keep your way pure in the first place by immersing yourself with Scripture and then obeying it. “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.” (Psalm 119:9)
Psalm 141:4; Proverbs 21:8; 1 Cor. 15:33– Stay away from friends who are edgy or not Christian. Do not be deceived:Bad company ruins good morals.(1 Cor.15:33)
Psalm 111:1– Surround yourself with people who walk with God and encourage you to do the same.
2 Timothy 2:22– Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
Prov. 6:6– Imitate others. Consider the ant O sluggard.
Prov. 4:14-15– Come up with another plan such that you avoid the temptation altogether. Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.(Pro 4:14-15)
Things to Remember
- We all have desires, we are all prone to thinking we are the center of God’s universe, and we are all thus prone to being tempted. The devil is prowling around looking for someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). We want what we want (Jas. 4:1,2).
- The avoidance of temptation is all about worship. Who is God, where is Jesus in all this, will I submit myself to the authority of God, will I love him above all else? Will I take up my cross and follow him (Mt. 16:24)? Will I continue to follow even when things around me are falling apart?
- God is glorified when we obey him and we are blessed when we obey (Jn. 14:15; 21; 1 Jn. 5:3).
- Every test/temptation is an opportunity to serve God or to rebel and sin.
- God’s commands are not burdensome (1 Jn. 5:3). If they seem to be it is because we aren’t worshipping correctly. This includes persecution.
In a recent article entitled, Shame Storm, a writer chronicles how true and false accusations of wrong doing combined with the internet and social media have mixed together to create storms of shame: One person commented on a situation, “I think nobody has quite figured out what should happen in cases like his, where you have been legally acquitted but you are still judged as undesirable in public opinion, and how far that should go, how long that should last.” The author continues: “No one has yet figured out what rules should govern the new frontiers of public shaming that the Internet has opened… Shame is now both global and permanent, to a degree unprecedented in human history. No more moving to the next town to escape your bad name. However far you go and however long you wait, your disgrace is only ever a Google search away.”
We live in a world that has become shameful– literally, we have done shameful things, we feel shame, we are afraid of being exposed, and we are frequently driven by avoidance of shame. But the Bible speaks to this situation, and the gospel is good news and good courage for this.
Shame first enters the world in the Garden of Eden in the sin of our first parents: “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons… And [Adam] said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Gen. 3:7, 10). Shame is the feeling or fact of exposure – the visceral, frequently physical sense of disgrace, defilement, dishonor, humiliation, or embarrassment. If guilt is the objective fact of wrong doing, shame is the subjective feeling and the public exposure of that fact. When Aaron led Israel to worship the golden calf, they did so naked to their great shame (Ex. 32:25). Shame is something that covers people like a garment or covers their face (Job 8:22, Ps. 35:26, 44:15, 69:7, 83:16). It’s a spoiled reputation, a despised status, blot, filth, a mark of folly that is seemingly impossible to remove. Think of Joseph not wanting to put Mary to open shame, supposing she had sinned to become pregnant with Jesus (Mt. 1:19). Shame is the private and public humiliation of being wrong, the removal of respect and glory (1 Cor. 11:6). And yet our texts say that we are to look unto Jesus, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:2). He endured such contradictions against Himself, that we are to remain resolute and confident (Heb. 12:3). We are to establish our hearts with grace, going to Jesus outside the gate, bearing His reproach (Heb. 13:9, 12-13).
The Grace of Shame
In the first instance, if we are to rightly despise the shame, we must welcome a certain sort of shame. How does Paul say that we are to establish our hearts with grace? Not by diverse and strange doctrines and not by eating meat (Heb. 13:9). What does he mean? He means that you cannot establish your hearts by doing respectable religious things – he’s talking specifically about priests and Jews trying to trick grace out of the sacrificial altar in Jerusalem after Jesus has come. Of course, at one time that altar did point to Jesus, our sacrifice for sin, but those sacrifices could never actually take away sin, and now that Jesus has come, turning back to the Old Covenant was worse than useless.
But the temptation here varies through the ages: it’s the temptation to respectability, various and strange and new doctrines and fads. The Jews had a nice building, formal sacrificial liturgies, and an inner circle inside the camp, inside the gate. The carcasses of the sacrificial animals were burned outside the camp (Heb. 13:11), and so that is where they also crucified Jesus, outside the gate (Heb. 13:12). And that is where God’s grace is found, outside the gate, where Jesus was nailed to a tree, hung up naked for all to see, mocked and jeered, until our sins were paid for, until God’s justice was completely finished. In the beginning, God killed animals and covered Adam and Eve’s shame, and in the fullness of time, God laid the wrath of His justice on His own Son and covered all of our shame forever. It is the grace of shame to cause us to know our sin, to know our nakedness, to drive us to the cross of Jesus, despising the shame of owning our sin.
I remember years ago when I was teaching, I called a parent to report something about their student. In the course of the conversation, I was not completely truthful, and when I hung up the phone, I knew immediately that I had lied and needed to put it right. I called back a second time, and proceeded to apologize for a good half of my lie. Upon hanging up a second time, I was thoroughly ashamed and embarrassed as I proceeded to call the parent for a third to finally tell the entire truth – and I’ve never done that again! Shame drives us to deal with our sin, but shame also teaches us to hate sin, to stay far away from sin. This is the graceof shame.
True and False Shame
But in a fallen world, rebellious sinners who refuse to repent of their sin must do something with their shame, and so they embrace it. They call evil good and good evil, and they glory in their shame (Is. 5:20, Phil. 3:19). They rejoice in their shame; they are shameless and proud of their shame. “Who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked” (Prov. 2:13-14). They are “raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame, wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever” (Jude 1:13). “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you” (1 Pet. 4:3-4).
The logical end game of refusing the message of true shame for sin is a complete reversal or inversion of glory and shame, calling good evil and evil good, to the point that you are evil for not joining in with them in their evil, for not rejoicing with them in evil. And the goal is to make you ashamed. The goal is to make you feel bad about confronting their sin, for not endorsing it. And so this is also what it means to “bear His reproach” outside the camp (Heb. 13:13). They falsely accused Jesus. They said He was a blasphemer and rabble-rouser and traitor. They condemned Him, crucified Him, speaking evil of Him. They sought to shame Him, and therefore they will seek to shame all who would follow Him (Jn. 15:18-19, 1 Jn. 3:13). This is what Peter and John faced when they were beaten and rebuked: “they departed from the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:41-42).
The first application is the straightforward invitation to have your shame covered by Jesus. And you must be entirely covered. When Jesus came to wash the feet of Peter, Peter was apparently embarrassed, ashamed to have the Lord wash his feet, but Jesus said to him: “If I do not wash you, you have no part with me” (Jn. 13:8). And Peter immediately got the point and asked for the full bath. The same is true for our shame. Unless Jesus covers you, you have no part with Him. Jesus has white robes for everyone who comes to Him, but you must come (Rev. 3:18). This invitation is for all sinners and all sin, but it is particularly for the sins and filth that you think cannot be covered: the shame of sexual sin, the shame of abortion, the shame of divorce, the shame of wayward children, the shame of being fired from your job. He even covers the shame of things that are not necessarily our fault — not being married, not having children, not accomplishing the great things you said/thought you would. Take it to Jesus, He’s waiting outside the camp.
The second application is that whatever Jesus has covered with His blood and righteousness is utterly blameless, and you must not give a wit for the accusations of the Devil or the shame-weaponizing of the world (Col. 2:14-15, Heb. 2:14-15). When Peter and John rejoiced to suffer shame for the name of Jesus, they did not cease to preach and teach Jesus Christ. So too, when you are privileged to suffer shame for the name of Jesus, do not cease to walk with Jesus. Do not slow down. Do not hesitate. If you have been forgiven, then learn to teach transgressors the ways of God, so that sinners will be converted (Ps. 51:13). “And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed. And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed” (Joel 2:26-27).
Do not grow weary, lay aside every weight, and fix your eyes on Jesus, who despised the shame for you.