What Does the New Testament say about Homosexuality?

The Bible is consistent through both Old and New Testaments in confirming that homosexuality is sin (Genesis 19:1-13; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Jude 1:7). The New Testament reinforces what the Old Testament had declared since the law was given to Moses (Leviticus 20:13). The difference between the Old and New Testaments is that the New Testament offers hope and restoration to those caught in the sin of homosexuality through the redeeming power of Jesus. It is the same hope that is offered to anyone who chooses to accept it (John 1:12, 3:16-18).

Some people have a misunderstanding about the two sections we know as the Bible. Many mistakenly believe that the New Testament was written to cancel the law God gave in the Old. They state erroneously that since Jesus came, we are not "under the law" and therefore the Old Testament prohibitions no longer apply. However, Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Matthew 5:17). God's standards of holiness did not change with the coming of Jesus, because God does not change (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8). What God made known about Himself has not changed, nor have His moral boundaries. Jesus did not condemn those who were careful to observe God's law. His harsh words were for those who twisted God's law to their own advantage. They were focused on outward obedience while neglecting heart devotion (Matthew 23:2-4; Luke 11:39). The law is good (Psalm 19:7; Romans 7:16; 1 Timothy 1:8). It was given to show us what holiness looks like and that none of us can attain it perfectly on our own.
The New Testament is merely a continuing revelation of God's interaction with humanity. God hated idolatry in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 5:8), and He still hates it in the New (1 John 5:21). Homosexuality is not the cause of a society's decline; it is the result of people making themselves the final authorities. Romans chapter 1 gives the natural digression of a society that has chosen idolatry and sinful pleasure instead of obedience to God. The downward spiral begins with denying that God has absolute authority over His creation (v. 21-23).

The result is that God gives "them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator" (vv. 24-25). Verses 26 and 27 say, "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." The phrase "God gave them up" means that when we insist on shaking our fists at God, He finally lets us have the perversion we demand. Homosexual behavior is the result of ignoring God and trying to create our own truth. When we defy God's clear instruction, we reap the "due penalty" of our disobedience (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; Revelation 21:8).
The good news is that homosexuality is not the unpardonable sin. It is forgivable just like greed, theft, and murder are forgivable when we repent and turn to Jesus (Acts 2:38). He provides us with new identities (1 Peter 1:14; Colossians 2:13). Second Corinthians 5:17 says that "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away; all things have become new." Those old things include former sins that once held us captive. Whereas we were once defined by our sin, being born again (John 3:3) means we are now defined by Jesus and His righteousness (Colossians 3:3). A thief no longer has to define himself as a thief. He is cleansed from his former ways and made new in Christ. A murderer--such as Saul before he became the apostle Paul--is forgiven and conformed to the image of Christ (Galatians 1:13; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Romans 8:29). And someone trapped in homosexuality can be set free to walk in purity when he or she agrees with God about sin and trusts His power to forgive and restore. 
First Corinthians 6:9-10 includes homosexuality in a list of sinful identities that will not have a part in God's kingdom. But verse 11 goes on to say, "Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." God's kingdom is populated by sinners. No one comes to God on personal merit. We all come the same way: through repentance, renouncing the sin for which Jesus died, and accepting the righteousness of Christ in its place (2 Corinthians 5:21). So the New Testament offers good news for everyone struggling with sexual identity. Jesus wants to replace our sinful lifestyles with His own righteousness so that we become more like Him.

Hipster Jesus

There has been a recent trend to redefine Jesus as a cool dude who fit in to common culture. Even well-meaning Christians can get swept away in the "Jesus was one of us" tidal wave and if not careful, may come perilously close to preaching "another Jesus," as Paul warned us about. I've even heard it stated enthusiastically that if Jesus had come to earth now, into 21st century American culture, He would have sported a couple of earrings and a big tattoo. He would have been the coolest of the cool, ripped jeans and all.

That may be fun to speculate, but it is far from the truth. If we're not careful, we can start imagining a Jesus that never existed. And if that's the one we worship, that is idolatry. Our casualness can even become irreverence as we pretend the Lord is delighted with our "Yo, God!" attitude. We can be guilty of bringing God down to our level rather than rising to His.

The truth is that the real Jesus never stooped to compromise on any level. The fact that the Lord God Almighty took on human flesh and allowed Himself to be born as a baby is common enough. But He never stopped being exactly who He was in order to connect with those unlike Him. In fact, that was what made his consorting with sinners so shocking.

The gospel writers include significant details about him that indicate the exact opposite of the "hipster-Jesus" some want to imagine. Contrary to the ripped, low-rise jeans some have proposed, Jesus wore a distinctive white robe, seamless and expensive. His clothing indicated that He was an exalted rabbi, a highly-educated teacher. Today we would probably address him as Dr. Jesus Ben Joseph, PhD. He would have been expected to wine and dine with the elite of society, and He did at times. But He was just as interested in hanging out with those who were nothing like Him.

As to the piercings and tattoos, the Son of God was obedient to His Father's law, which forbade marring the body in any way. The only men allowed a pierced ear were slaves. Jesus would never have violated the holiness of God in order to fit in. He never changed who He was in order to reach those unlike Him. That's why the crowds flocked to him. No one of His echelon had ever acted that way. His entire earthly ministry was a demonstration of a holy God reaching down to embrace unholy humans, while never losing any of his holiness.

He also modeled for us that we don't have to become like the world in order to love the ones enslaved by it. Rather than act like us, He taught us how we could become like Him. Whether the first century or the twenty-first, Jesus never changes.

The Real Loser

What happens when you lose something? 

I lost my daughter once, when she was three. At the water park. She was there and then she wasn't. Terrified, we looked everywhere until we found her. Losing things we cherish is always accidental. We don't lose things we value on purpose. When we do lose something important to us, it's scary.

In Matthew 16:25, Jesus says something scary like that. "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." What does that mean? Martyrs lose their lives rather than deny Christ, but what about the rest of us? Do we have to die for Christ in order to fulfill this promise? What does it mean to lose your life for Christ's sake? And it sounds as though we are to do it intentionally.

The word "lose" might be better understood with an extra "o". Read the verse with the word "loose" instead. When we "loose" our lives, we don't hold on to them so tightly.  Jesus was saying that in order to follow Him fully, we cannot cling possessively to the things this world offers. Even the good things. Relationships. Family. Career. Home. Even  health, finances, and happiness.

When we choose to follow Jesus, we have to loosen our grip on anything that diverts our attention from Him. Even our own lives. If I am driving down the highway, I'd better keep my eyes on the highway or I will no longer be driving down the highway. If my attention is captivated by the color scheme on the building I'm passing or the little kids on a playground, I will soon be off the road. 

The same thing happens in our spiritual lives. Unless our attention is fixed on our goal, we are easily distracted and quickly lose our way. When our loyalty is divided between following Christ and pleasing ourselves, our flesh wins every time. We're good at justifying, explaining, and ignoring, but Jesus was clear that to do so results in losing everything that matters.

A. W. Tozer calls this "the blessedness of possessing nothing." Possessions and passions are gifts from God, but they can quickly become masters when we place too much importance on them. Jesus warned us that if we make those gifts our god, we will end up losing everything. 

But when we choose Him, we must loosen our grasp on everything else. When we willingly let go of everything we think we cherish to follow Jesus, He often entrusts us with those very gifts because they won't get in our way. We can be trusted to have them without possessing them.

In place of earthly passions, God grants us purpose that the world cannot offer. He turns our faces toward eternity and our hearts toward His. Only then do we discover real life the way God created it to be lived. When we "loose our lives for Christ's sake," we will find them.

Why, You Flatterer!

  Is there anything wrong with flattery?

Flattery can be defined as “the act of giving excessive compliments, generally for the purpose of ingratiating oneself with the subject.” The difference between flattery and a compliment is the benefactor. Flattery has a selfish motivation. The flatterer hopes to gain approval or advantage over the one being flattered. Compliments, however, are sincere acknowledgments of admiration spoken to praise someone else. A compliment is intended to benefit the recipient, whereas flattery benefits the flatterer.

The Bible has a lot to say about flattery. The book of Proverbs warns of the “flattering lips of an adulteress” (Proverbs 6:24; 7:5, 21). Flattery is often the first step to an adulterous affair. A wise person learns to recognize it and separate flattery from sincere compliments. Flattery is often coupled with lying, as a flatterer is not concerned with whether or not he or she is being truthful (Psalm 5:9; Romans 16:18).

Unfortunately, flattery can also be used within Christian circles under the guise of encouragement. Since biblical times, some false teachers have used flattery to lead people astray and to benefit themselves. In 1 Thessalonians 5:2, Paul reminds the church that the apostles had never resorted to flattery in spreading the gospel: “You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed.” Scripture warns of false teachers who use flattery to introduce heresies intended to deceive Christ’s followers and line their own pockets (2 Peter 2:3; Romans 16:18; Daniel 11:32).

Some teachers use flattery as a means to increase personal followings. Leaders desiring to attract a crowd sometimes water down their message until the gospel is reduced to little more than a God-tainted self-improvement program. They pepper their talks with cheerful verses and illustrations designed to make their hearers feel better about themselves (and about the teachers). There is much talk about discovering one’s potential and developing personal greatness. This is nothing more than flattery intended to create popularity for the speaker and his or her message. It sells books and media time, but it often bears little resemblance to the message Jesus proclaimed.

Jesus’ message did nothing to inflate the self-importance of His hearers. Rather, He stressed the need to die to ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him (Luke 9:23). He said that those who desire to keep their lives now will lose them (Luke 17:33) and that, if we love anyone more than Him, we are not worthy of Him (Matthew 10:37–39). These teachings are the opposite of flattery. Jesus never shied away from stating what someone needed to hear (Mark 10:21–22; Luke 9:61–62) because His motivation was always to do His Father’s will (John 8:29). Jesus spoke the truth whether it was popular or not. He refused to compromise the Word, even when great multitudes left Him (John 6:66). He spoke in love, but He never resorted to flattery for personal gain. As His followers, we should be careful to do likewise.