Read at the conclusion of services at Wynne Baptist Church (Wynne, Arkansas) on Sunday morning June 28, 2015.
I have been a follower of Jesus Christ for 37 years. My journey began when I learned from the Bible that I was a sinner who was hopelessly damaged by sin, that my natural desires and longings were corrupted by sin, and that because of my sin, I was separated from God. And I was helpless to do anything about it. My sin debt was too great.
But I also learned from the Bible that God loves me. That He loves me so much that He sent His sinless Son Jesus to die an unimaginably horrible death for my offenses. That when He died on the cross, He died for the sins I had committed. When Jesus rose from the grave, He proved that the punishment for my sins had been satisfied in a way that no one else could accomplish for me. I believed Him. I believed in Him. I believed what the Bible said.
And He changed me when I surrendered myself to Him. He is still changing me from the inside out. He is real.
When I sin now I experience an inner conviction – a sense created in me by the Holy Spirit that I am wrong… that what I have done is not okay… that in that moment I was not like Jesus… that I did not please the Father who loves me.
When I am tempted to sin, it never crosses my mind to say: “Well, that’s just the way I am. I cannot help it. It must be the way God made me.” The temptations are real, but that “something” in me that desires sin is not from God. The Bible calls it the “flesh” – a way of describing that part of me that is earthbound, that seeks only to gratify itself, and that refuses to be denied what it wants. The “flesh” always wants more and is never satisfied. It is that part of me that does not want to be ruled by God or to be submissive to His will.
Gradually, I learned to walk with Him… to listen to Him as He speaks to me through His Word and His Spirit inside me. I have learned to recognize His voice. I feel not only His conviction now, but also His prompting and leading. My walk is not only about avoiding sin, but it’s also about following His lead as He draws me into His work. I am growing to know Him. And the more I know Him, the more I love Him.
After leading me to school to study His Word, and after leading me to marry my wife, He led us to Southern California over 30 years ago, where we lived in a small apartment in West Hollywood – a gay community.
There I saw firsthand the truth about homosexuality in all its forms: it is sin. It separates men and women from God. It is another expression of the same inner brokenness and shame that all of us experience before we know Christ. In the gay community, I witnessed the sufferings, the deceptions, the unfulfilled longings, the endless wanderings, the deep unsettledness, and the death that all sin brings. There was nothing “gay” about it.
Working closely with those who wanted freedom from same sex attractions, I dug deep into the scriptures. The biblical truth we needed went beyond whether homosexuality is a sin or not… we needed to answer questions like: Will I always feel this way? How can I overcome temptation? What does God think of me when I fail? How does spiritual transformation happen? God’s Word gave us the answers to those questions and so much more. Several young men learned that they were more than the sum of their attractions. They discovered how to overcome their sinful desires – to stop feeding the “sin monster” – and to give themselves fully to finding the life that Jesus had for them. Many others have made those same discoveries since those days. Truly, our God saves!
So I stand before you today as a witness that our God is still saving and transforming human lives. God’s Word is powerful and true. Only God can tell you the truth about you: what is wrong with you, what He made you for, and how you can be reborn and made new. His Word is absolutely unchanging and unbreakable.
After God created Eve – not from the dust of the earth – but from Adam’s rib – she became a completely different and special kind of creation from everything else in the universe. Because of the way she was created as a partner and completer for Adam, the Bible says in Genesis 2:24 – Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. This is the basis or foundation for marriage – a covenant involving only one man and one woman – a unique relationship that is rooted in creation itself. This is the way God designed and defined marriage.
Jesus Himself makes this perfectly clear when He taught about marriage, quoting the Genesis passage in Matthew 19:4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Because of what God has said, I must resist same sex marriage in the same way that I resist bigamy… or polyamory… or sex before marriage… or adultery… or any other use of our God-given sexuality in a way that cheapens or lessens what God had in mind when He made it. Not because I want people to live in misery, but because I want them to discover that God is good and everything He designed is good – especially when we follow His directions and draw on His power.
Because I believe God loves all people, then I love all people – period. Because I believe the gospel alone has the power to change a human heart forever, every person without Christ needs to receive a loving, truthful presentation of the Gospel from someone who has experienced it. That means that if a person struggling with same sex attractions already lives among us in our church family– or if a gay person or persons shows up in a worship service, or shows up with their kid at VBS, or wants to be a part of a Sunday School class… well, on this pastor’s watch we are going to welcome them, love them, and lead them to find the answers they are looking for in God’s Word.
However, on this pastor’s watch, we will never bless, host, honor, or support a same sex marriage, wedding shower, or reception on this property. Neither myself, nor any member of the pastoral staff, will ever officiate a marriage ceremony for two members of the same sex – no matter where the ceremony is held. My personal conviction is that I cannot even attend a same sex ceremony: as a witness in the crowd I would be giving my approval and my blessing to the union.
I want you to also know that as a church we will never accept the legal redefinition of marriage as handed down by the Supreme Court on Friday, or any future legislative or judicial act that affirms that decision. Until such time as we are able to make this clear in our bylaws and building use policies, I am stating this today: we will not recognize same sex unions. We will only recognize biblical marriages consisting of a covenant commitment between one man and one woman.
Southern Baptists have gone on record many times issuing resolutions and statements opposing homosexual behavior and same sex marriage. As a church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, we understand that no decisions made outside this church are binding on us. However, we are in full agreement with the Baptist Faith and Message, Article 15 which states, “In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography.” We are also in full agreement with Article 18, which states, “Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.”
Why are we doing this? We do this because we believe homosexual practice and same sex marriage are destructive and deadly to the human spirit. Because it is not loving to tell someone who suffers from unwanted same sex attractions that God made him or her that way. That is cruel. That is not good news. Caving in to sinful desire will never answer the deepest cry of the human heart. We must challenge the lie that gender doesn’t matter – that God was somehow mistaken when He made you a man or a woman. Gender and sexuality are beautiful and powerful gifts from a God who only creates good things. God made us in His image as male and female, and He is a God of beauty. He alone has the power and truth we need to be healed on the inside of whatever brokenness we have inherited, or hurt we have created due to our own sin and rebellion. He made you for Himself. He wants to make you whole and complete and satisfied in Him.
We take this position with absolutely no hate for anyone, but with a deep sense of conviction that these practices take away from the abundant life that God offers every human being – a life characterized by genuine love, freedom from the bondage of sin, an abundance of meaning and purpose, and an unspeakable joy.
Friday, June 26, 2015 will long be remembered as the “spiritual 9/11” of American history. We have crossed a line. We need not be afraid of what will follow, there is certainly no panic in heaven. But we would be foolish to minimize the significance of what has happened or act as if nothing has changed.
It is past time for us to repent and begin doing life as the people of God.
- We must become the salt and the light of our world.
- We must use every opportunity to spread the gospel to our neighbors.
- We must embrace in a new way what it means – really means – to be the body of Christ.
- We must choose to love one another as brothers and sisters, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
- We must become deadly serious about overcoming our own sinful desires, targeting any practices in our homes, or words from our lips, or thoughts in our hearts that grieve and wound His Spirit.
- We must find the freedom He promises if we will abide in His Word.
- We must stop talking about these problems, but begin bringing them before God together, crying out to Him for guidance and power.
- We must refuse to place our hope in the kingdoms of this world, instead we should seek His kingdom first.
- We must devote our lives to making His name great in our generation.
- We must become a people who shower others with grace and mercy, because we have experienced His infinite grace and mercy in our own lives.
- We must answer His great love by loving Him with all of our heart and mind and soul and strength.
Ask God to come, to fill us with His Spirit, and to use us for His glory.
Grace and peace,