Click the title or this link to hear this 2-part message at the Lead Them Home Podcast website.I was recently asked, do homosexuals have to repent? When the ground is flattened to make room for homosexuals at the Cross, people sometimes ask me to clarify my theology. My theology is clear from my own story: I left a same-sex relationship 13 years ago. I replied, yes, they do need to repent. But I added that this journey toward repentance takes time (often many years), and that some may come to Christ and walk with Him for quite a while before they surrender this difficult area. Like many of us in our own difficulties… This answer sounds fine except that it misses my own message: that we focus on our sins; not on others’ sins. I would have been wise to follow the example of Jesus and answer this question, do homosexuals need to repent, with the question, do we all need to repent? I missed that opportunity. One young gay man in the audience did not miss the opportunity. He humbly asked, What about heterosexuals? I affirmed his question but failed to perceive his deeper concern: his deeper concern is likely the underlying implication of what happens if homosexuals do not repent of this particular sin? The quick answer he has often been told is that he will go to hell. So rightly, he pinpoints my bias and sincerely asks, What about heterosexuals? He asks the right question. If we seriously consider his question, we will discover our bias. We see the need for homosexuals to repent, yet we often miss our need to continually repent. It is actually worse than that: we often resist repenting of some obvious sin yet we claim to know a Savior who by God’s grace paid the penalty for our sins. We then withhold this very same grace from others who resist repenting of some sin we do not struggle with. In short, we know we need to repent…but don’t. We say they need to repent…and complain that they won’t. This is our bias… I recognize that most of us are willing to repent; it just seems to take us years and years to finally let go of certain sins. So the more accurate way to represent this bias may be to say that while we allow ourselves years and years for God’s sanctifying power to work out His deliverance in our lives, we expect this sanctification process to succeed much more quickly for others. As in, right now! But once again, it’s much worse than that: we believe that if we don’t repent of every last sin before we die, we’re OK because God is merciful – He is our Savior after all! But if homosexuals do not repent of this one specific sin, they’re not OK because God will send them to hell. This too is our bias… But it gets even worse: in our view, we can be Christian and struggle with what we might call majority sins. Yet many reject that someone acting out homosexually can also be a Christian. Honestly, if a person who acts out homosexually cannot be a Christian, I doubt that a person who engages in lust, gossip, greed, pride, pornography, divorce, materialism or a myriad of other sins can be a Christian. Yet again, this is our bias… I am deeply convicted – by a Holy God – to represent the Gospel with an even measure. The fact that most of us struggle with majority sins does not allow us to use a different measuring stick for those who sin in ways we do not. God’s grace and His judgment apply to all of us using the same measure. He does not show favoritism. Or does He?Does God show favoritism? Most of us want a God that does: we never say this outright but the way we measure our sins versus others’ sins reveals our desire for favor. We want our sins to be small potatoes. We want others’ sins to be particularly egregious. Surprise! Sometimes we get what we want – but not always in the way we want it. It appears as if God does show favoritism but He offers it in a shocking manner: His judgment favors Pharisees while His mercy favors Sinners. This looks like a victory for Sinners and it is; for the humble, repentant Sinner who is in Christ. But just as the Pharisee in us can hold to a biased theology, we as Sinners can hold to the same biased theology when we deny our sin. For when I deny my sin – which the Pharisees were famous for – I become a Pharisee and am exposed to God’s judgment. Likewise, it looks like the Pharisees are in big trouble – and we are. But God always extends grace and one of His graces is that when we judge another, we become Sinners and thus have the opportunity to receive God’s grace – if we will repent of judgmentalism and confess our sin. The Sinner in me becomes a Pharisee when I deny my sin. The Pharisee in me becomes a Sinner when I judge others. These two Prodigals end up looking like twins. While the Sinner is lost on a foreign farm, I am lost right at home on my father’s farm. But both of us are equally lost. The Sinner churns in sin until his resources run dry. I, measuring stick in hand, haul the wicked guy before my Father complaining, look what he’s done! Our Father looks with mercy at this scene. His heart pleads for both of us – He knows we both need rescue. Yes, He does later tell the Sinner, go and sin no more. But first, he asks me, can you measure the heart of man? I hesitate. My heart grows hard. I in effect say, yes I can. Then, the Father bends down, starts writing in the sand, and I am utterly exposed. I am so shocked by my own un-confessed sin that I drop the measuring stick and walk away. Compared to the measureless righteousness of the Father, my measly measuring stick proves to be highly inaccurate. It turns out that I am incapable of measuring the heart of man… Our Father asks us, will you come to ME? He invites us initially to a threshold surrender or repentance where we receive salvation. This is the most urgent threshold for us to cross: to receive Christ in confession of our sin, in recognition of our need for a Savior and in acceptance of His sacrifice for our sin. But then, there is the gunk that continues to flow out of us after we come to know Jesus: the Father asks us to surrender all that stuff too; again, again, and again. Whether we are a Seeker, a new Christian or a seasoned Christian – a Sinner or a Pharisee or both – our Father initially saves and then continually sanctifies us by inviting us over and over again: surrender your sin, drop your measuring stick and come to ME. Our Father bestows a boundless favor upon anyone who lets go of his sin and drops his measuring stick. We learn afresh that the ground at the Cross is flat; no one is spotlighted. The Father invites us to walk on Holy Ground. In poverty of spirit, we bring our sin and do not even notice the sins of others. How can we, at the Cross, when we’re looking right into the eyes of Jesus? How could we ever? It’s impossible. It’s equally impossible to hold onto our sin when we’re kneeling before the Cross looking into His eyes. Just as the Pharisee in me immediately drops the measuring stick, the Sinner in me is drawn, even compelled, to let go of my sin and come to Him…again and again and again. It is this ‘again and again and again’ journey through which our Father slowly transforms us into the image of Jesus… This looks like is my life. Does it look like yours? I cannot help but ask: how many more years will it take for me to let go of my most troubling sins? At times, I worry about this. The worry, though, only draws me deeper into surrender at the mercy of God where I am comforted: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us for there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. As Christians, it may be the sin we most resist surrendering that leads us to a more sanctified freedom – if only we will let it go.Christ’s kindness, tolerance and patience draw us toward this kind of surrender. Having received God’s Amazing Grace, will “I” now offer this same Amazing Grace to others? To the weathered prostitute? To my high school classmate who is now a porn star? To men around the world who ‘e-devour’ her body online? To my friend who denies his alcoholism? To my friend who left her 25 year marriage for a woman? To my friend’s very out and proud gay son? To the trans-gender teen who shows up in youth group? To the person who gossips and unjustly damages my integrity? To an adulterous spouse? To the hard-hearted church leader? To the materialist Christian? To the guy who ‘misses his message’ and exposes his bias? How can I ever put a roadblock of condemnation in the path of one being drawing toward the Cross? How can I ever claim to measure the inner heart of another when all I can see are externals? How can I ever seek to justify my sins simply because they are quantitatively considered majority sins – or minority sins? Should I not instead focus on answering God’s call – to me – to enter into repentance? If it is truly moral renewal I seek, let it start with my next repentance. Repentance can be a firestorm of Gospel power: if we will enter it, God will bring others right behind us. Imagine if entire faith communities entered into it… To close, I want to go back to the question, what about heterosexuals? The answer is a resounding, yes, they too must repent. There simply is no favoritism. To flatten the ground at the foot of the Cross is not to deny sin: it simply means that there is no one left to look down upon. There is only One to look up to; His name is Jesus. When we look into His eyes, all of our biases melt and we see others’ through His love: a love that invites each of us once again, Surrender your wearisome sin. Put down your burdensome measuring stick. Come to me and I will give you rest for your soul.
This is the Good News of Jesus Christ.
I think I just found my message…
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