Sunday, April 3, 2016

IDENTITY CRISIS: Created In The Image of God as Male and Female

A person’s sexual identity is a special gift from God. Every person is worthy of dignity, honor, kindness, compassion and respect. Genesis 1:27 tells us that “God created man in his own image…male and female he created them.” This identity as an image-bearer of God and as male and female is something that is coming under serious attack in our culture today, just as it was under attack in the first century when the New Testament was written. Jesus affirmed this teaching and added an endorsement of marriage as being between one man and one woman for life in Matthew 19:4-6:

“Haven’t you read?” He answered. “He who created them from 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…Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate”

Sexuality is a deeply personal issue that affects every part of a person’s life. Intimacy within the context of marriage between one man and one woman is the only type of sexual relationship permitted by God, who designed our bodies. Since satan, who the Bible calls “the enemy of our soul,” so relentlessly attacks this area of sexual identity, it is worth examining the Scriptures to see what God’s word says on the subject. It is my sincere hope that by reading this paper, you will come to a better understanding of how God’s heart is turned toward people, looking for our good, in matters of sexuality and that you will be able to take steps to bring your life into alignment with God's word to live the happy, fulfilling life Jesus died for you to have.

God’s Protection

1Thessalonians chapter 4 shows us that it is God’s will that no person ever be harmed in any sexual way. Verse 3 reads “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; to abstain from porneai.” This word, porneai, refers to any sexual sin or sex crime. Clearly it is God’s will that no one ever commit such an act and that no one ever be hurt in this way. Verse 4 continues “to know, each of you, how to gain control over his own body in holiness and honor—not in the passion of lust like the pagans who do not know God.” This passage declares God’s blessing of self-control—which is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives (Galatians 5:23). It also shows that it is God’s will that no lustful or depraved desire which would cause harm or calamity to another person would be allowed to bear its evil fruit in our lives.  Verse 6 declares that no one should ever “overstep his brother or sister or take advantage of them in this matter.” These words, in Greek, describe any action that would deceive, mislead, cross boundaries, press an advantage, encroach upon, manipulate, coerce, force, rape, pressure or otherwise impose one’s will on another person, or that would cause them to sin or to make a bad decision. It is God’s will that we be protected from every type of sexual harm and the psychological and emotional trauma that follows.

What Else Does God Considers Sexual Sin?
Leviticus chapter 18 provides more information about what God considers to be sexual sin. It forbids sexual relations with close relatives and animals. It forbids sexual relations outside of marriage or with another person’s spouse. Song of Solomon 8:8 and Ezekiel 16:7 show that it is not appropriate to have sexual relations with someone who is underage.

Violating any of these principles is a serious sin, but this post was originally prepared for a class as a position paper to address homosexual sin in a compassionate and grace-filled way while holding to God's infallible and inerrant word as the standard of sexual conduct for our own good. In order to Biblically examine the LGBTQ agenda that is so prevalent in our society, I will maintain that aspect of the paper. We have also read that God does not want anyone to deceive their fellow man and this makes it necessary to address transvestite and transgender behaviors as well.

TRANS
A transvestite is someone who cross dresses like the opposite sex. A transgender person is someone who either wishes to become the opposite sex, or thinks they really are the opposite sex. This second situation is known clinically as gender dysmorphic disorder or gender dysphoria. Either way, our responsibility as Christians is to provide counseling and help. Deuteronomy 22:5 warns against cross dressing or trying to deceive someone sexually:

"A woman shall not put on a man's clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman's clothing, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord."

Deception is lying. Satan is the father of all lies. God hates deception. It is wrong for someone who is clearly biologically male, or clearly biologically female to choose to deceive others by living as the opposite sex. We also recognize that people in this situation have believed a lie about their own selves. This is a serious form of self-hatred and self-rejection and we want to bring truth, light and hope into their lives.

Deuteronomy 23:1 also forbid anyone whose male organ was cut off or whose testicles were crushed from entering the Old Testament temple. This relates directly to "transitioning" and gender reassignment surgery. This statute was meant to protect young boys, by preventing parents from making their children into Eunochs and to prevent the pagan practice of turning servants into Eunochs from happening in Israel. There was special concern and mercy expressed for men who had been abused and harmed in this way. While the old temple has passed away and all may enter into God's presence, the moral imperative still remains, our viewpoint as Christians is that we need to have compassion and an attitude toward rescue and the prevention of harm being done to individuals suffering from gender confusion. The New Testament application of this principle is that it is wrong and sinful to alter someone's sexuality through surgery. You cannot change a person's XY chromosomes, you can only mutilate, manipulate and make them appear like the opposite sex, but you cannot change DNA. Such action breaks a Doctor's oath to "do no harm," and is not wise, good, helpful or legitimate medicine.

Galatians 5:20 warns against sorcery or pharmakeia, which can refer to any type of harmful drug or experimentation.  It is wrong to give someone hormones to alter their sexuality in order to transition to appear like the opposite sex and it is a horrific sin to give a child drugs to prevent them from going through puberty in order to facilitate such a transition before they even have an understanding of their own sexuality. Again, I cannot understate the importance of understanding that my concern here is preventing harm to people in gender identity crisis, defending those in need of counseling and help, preventing children and mentally ill patients from being exploited for political purposes and the furthering of the LGBTQ agenda, protecting children who are not yet mature enough to understand what is being done to them and bringing hope through truth to all people.


WHAT ABOUT BIRTH DEFECTS?
A special note about the section above. In Matthew 19:12, Jesus specifically mentions and shows compassion toward the issue of "those who were born eunochs." This refers to birth defects which prevented people from being married at that time. Fortunately, Doctors are now able to correct many such congenital defects and allow children to life normal, happy lives. This type of surgery is a completely different  issue than those I mentioned above and I believe it is good and admirable medicine. Such individuals are worthy of compassion, Christian love, pastoral care, guidance and support.

WHAT ABOUT GENDER-RE-ASSIGNMENT SURGERY?
On the other hand, Jesus addresses "those who have been made eunochs" as being unable to be married. I do not believe that there is any way for a person who was born without defects as clearly a biological male or clearly female and then had gender re-assignment surgery to be biblically married and so it is very important that we prevent this from happening to them.  My counsel to someone who has undergone such a procedure and then later becomes a Christian would be to remain single.

There is special hope for those born with birth defects. There is also special hope for those who have been fooled into mutilating themselves, who later choose to follow God's ways and to turn toward him. This hope is found in Isaiah 56:4:

For thus says the LORD: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.


"OPEN" MARRIAGES/SWINGING/POLYAMOROUS RELATIONSHIPS
Marriage is between one man and one woman for life. This is the only sexual relationship allowed by Scripture. There are liars who claim to be Christians that are practicing "open" marriages or swinging in which they allow each other to sleep with other people's spouses. This clearly violates the marriage covenant and is adultery. Deuteronomy 5:21 commands us not to desire such things: You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. The word "covet" means to lust after or desire pleasure from. Leviticus 18:20 absolutely forbids acting on such desires: You shall not lie sexually with your neighbor's wife. In the New Covenant, Hebrews 13:4 contrasts Biblical marriage with this sinful and unacceptable view: Marriage is honorable among all and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Adultery, by definition is having sex with anyone other than one's spouse. A person cannot claim to be a follower of Christ, or Christian, and claim that adultery is not sin. It is one thing for a Christian to commit a sin. It is another to claim that what you did was morally acceptable.



HOMOSEXUALITY
Leviticus 18:22 reads "You shall not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, that is detestable." Chapter 20:13 explains that both the dominant and submissive partner in a homosexual relationship are at fault: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.” The word abomination means that God loathes or detests such activity. Not only does such activity distort God’s view of marriage, which He uses as a picture of Jesus’ relationship with the church, but he loathes this type of activity because it robs a man of his God-given identity, of his dignity, honor and respect. It robs him through the pain, physical trauma, damage and disease associated with anal intercourse. It also robs him of his role as father and husband and it prevents men from receiving all of God's promises such as family, children, long life and health. It also robs women of the joy of motherhood, the blessing of family and marriage. Jesus said “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.” God created Eve to be a special partner for Adam. She was designed to be his perfect mate, a special gift from God and as James, the brother of Jesus wrote: “Every good and perfect gift comes from above.” To reject God’s plan for marriage to be between one man and one woman for life is to reject a very special and precious gift that He designed for us. Many people mistakenly believe that this is just an Old Testament issue, but in fact, the New Testament authors speak frequently of these matters because Jesus died so that we might realize the abundant, full life God always meant for us to have.

God Wants All People To Be Saved (and turn away from sin)

1 Timothy 2:4 tells us that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” As Christians, we do not get to judge who is worthy of hearing the truth. God has already judged them worthy. We should have an attitude of grace and love toward homosexuals. 1 Timothy 1:10 tells us that “sexual immorality and homosexuality” are contrary to sound teaching. Love must tell the truth and here is a New Testament picture of where those who choose a homosexual lifestyle stand with God. Keep in mind that God does not want anyone to be wronged or deceived in any sexual way:

“You yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren. Or do you no know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals…will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were, BUT you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” -1 Corinthians 6:8-10

The sins described above include descriptions of both the dominate and submissive partner in a homosexual relationship. It describes anyone who engages in flagrant sexual sin, participates in prostitution, sexually abuses young boys or engages in sexual religious practices. It forbids sodommy and any type of cheating or adultery against one's spouse. 

Notice, however, the good news and the message of hope and redemption contained in this passage. The term righteousness means that God sets things right in our lives. There is freedom, forgiveness and cleansing through Jesus’ name. Anyone who accepts Christ into their lives can experience healing, restoration and renewal.

What About Homosexuals Who Claim To Be Believers?

The next issue is dealing with someone who continues openly living a sinful homosexual lifestyle, while claiming to be a follower of Jesus. Every Christian struggles in some area and we are to show grace and mercy to help in time of need. But when a person blatantly defies the teachings in God’s word, there is Biblical instruction for what to do. 1 Corinthians 5:11 reads: 

But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler…Do not even eat with such people.” 

We will deal with outreach and restoration later, but the issue at hand is that anyone who is claiming to be a Christian, while living an openly sinful lifestyle for which they are unrepentant will be subject to church discipline. They may be denied church membership or have their membership revoked and might not be allowed to take communion based on this text. Please understand, this is not about dealing with someone who has committed a sin and repented of it. This is about dealing with someone who does not believe they have done anything wrong in the first place, denies the truth of Scripture, or chooses a lifestyle that blatantly defies God. Paul tells Christians not to mingle, mix, eat or go around with such people according to this passage of Scripture. While it is appropriate to interact with them at work or school in the same polite, respectful way we would interact with an unbeliever, Paul is saying that people who are habitually involved in these sins should not be brought into a Christian home for a meal or socialized with. The good news is that there should always be a path of reconciliation and restoration. When a person repents, 2 Corinthians 2:6-8 says “You should forgive him and encourage him. Otherwise such a person might be swallowed up by excessive sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.

How Do We Behave Toward Unbelievers?

Paul clarifies the position of the church toward unbelievers who are in sexual sin in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 explaining that “I wrote to you in my letter not to mix together with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral people of this world…for then you would have to exit the world.” Jesus ate with sinners and ministered to them. These restrictions on interactions are in no way meant to hinder the spread of the gospel. The attitude of believers toward homosexuals in the world is evangelical. Jude 1:23 says “Have mercy on some who are doubting, save others, snatching them out of the fire on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” It is appropriate to show mercy, but to do so with caution and within appropriate boundaries so that we are not affected by their behavior: “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

An important thing to remember in dealing with someone who is caught in this type of spiritual bondage is that only God’s words can save a life. Hebrews 4:12 says “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword and capable of dividing soul from spirit.” God’s word can shatter strongholds, break generational curses and cut away harmful spiritual influences from a person’s life. It is our most powerful tool for ministering freedom to those suffering in the bondage of homosexuality and other sexual sins as we fulfill our calling to “set the captives free.” We fight the lies the enemy has told them with the Truth of God’s word. There is no room for rudeness or hateful arguments. Those things stir up a spirit of rebellion and might cause the person to slip deeper into the grip of the enemy. Truth should be told, but with kindness and graciousness. Peter wrote: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Paul likewise wrote “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that it will minister grace to the hearers.”

Conclusion

Those of us who love Jesus must tell the truth in love. Romans 1:8 says that it is not right to suppress the truth. Causing a person to reject their own identity as a child of God, created in His image as male and female is one of the strongest holds that satan can get on a person. Romans Chapter 1:24-32 shows what happens when people exchange the truth for a lie, reject God’s plan and choose to believe satan’s lies over Jesus’ truth. It also shows that both male and female homosexuality are sinful and demonstrates what happens when a spirit of uncleanness rushes in on a person. This is what Jesus wants to save people from:

Therefore God gave them over in the evil desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies with one another. They EXCHANGED the TRUTH of GOD for a LIE and worshipped and served the creature (satan) rather than the Creator (God), who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to shameful passions. Even their women exchanged natural relations for what is against nature. Likewise the men abandoned natural relations with women and were burning with passion toward one another—men committing shameful acts with other men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And just as they did not see fit to recognize God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what is not fitting. They became filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents. They are foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree—that those who practice such things deserve death—they not only do them but give hearty approval to others who practice the same.” Romans 1:24-32

This passage shows what happens over time, the longer a person persists in open sin. In choosing to believe the lies that satan tells them about themselves instead of God’s truth, they make the same mistake Adam and Eve made—listening to satan’s voice over God’s. They ascribe more worth to his lies than to God’s truth. They worship the creature, satan and become his subjects, gradually falling under wrongful spiritual influences and slipping deeper into darkness.

This passage teaches that such sins are worthy of death, but sexual, or otherwise, every person has committed a sin deserving of the death penalty. Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God," and Romans 6:23 explains that “The wages of sin is death but the GIFT of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus died in the place of every sinner. He can forgive and heal homosexuality just as easily as anything else. Jesus continually healed every sickness and disease and cast out unclean spirits and He gave those of us who are His disciples the same authority: “Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, so they could drive them out and heal every kind of disease and sickness.” (Matthew 10:1) This is why we offer counseling and ministry to help those who are trapped by sexual sin and why it is important for people to submit to receiving this help.


Here is the Truth, especially if you have struggled in this area of your life. God, your Creator, says that you are dearly loved and longed for, chosen, created in His image as male and female, a masterpiece who is reverently and wonderfully made. That’s who you really are. He loves you and He desires reconciliation. He wants to welcome you back, forgive you and have fellowship with you. Jesus said “Here I Am. I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person and they with me.”  God desires relationships. He desires family. Jesus gave His life up for it. And He is happy to restore fellowship and communion. “IF we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins AND to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:19) He is eagerly waiting to forgive your past AND to heal you from it and put things right in your life. If you need to be rescued from a homosexual lifestyle, or any other type of sin, Jesus is waiting. He is in the business of rescuing souls. “If you declare with your mouth “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, You will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) Jesus wants to heal the wounds of your past. Satan is an identity thief. Jesus is the giver of identity. Whatever may have happened to cause you to question your sexual identity, whatever lies you may have believed about yourself, God did not want that to happen to you. He wants to heal you, restore you and deliver you. “Adonai is close to the broken hearted and rescues those who are crushed in spirit…He gathers the outcasts…He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 34:18, 147:2-3) 

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