Sin, temptation, and the Campuscrusadification of the Church...
When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?”
And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:25-26).
Again, here's a response to a question asked by "Jay" under the post, "Must a gay man go straight?" I thought it best to put the response here on the main page as a post.
Jay asked: "I do know other men and women who struggle with homosexual temptation, who not only reject copulation but also gay identity and culture, but who do not have any heterosexual desires. Are they saved?"
Sorry for the lack of response. The post took all my time for the blog yesterday so I'm playing catch-up.
First, I'm doubtful these men and women you know who struggle with homosexual temptation actually reject gay identity and culture as clearly and with the finality you indicate. If we live in a culture that hates sexuality as God made it; if we pursue androgyny in the pulpit in the way we preach (see the category of Baylyblog titled "gelded discourse"), in our appearance--hair length and style, for instance; if our men are physically vain (whether macho buff or femmie bling and piercings or a sweet combination of both); it's likely no Christian tempted by homosexuality has really turned away from androgyny to Biblical manhood and womanhood. Made an effort, sure, but today within the Church there are precious few heterosexuals who pursue Biblical manhood or womanhood.
So being "straight" in our sexuality as the Bible presents manhood and womanhood is exceedingly rare, today. Men are narcissists and refuse to man up, taking responsibility for themselves or others...
On to your question about desires. Christian faith is not validated by the absence of temptations or sin. Jesus said He came to save sinners--not the righteous--and near the end of his life, the Apostle Paul called himself the "chief of sinners." This is why we say the life of a Christian is a life of repentance. Day after day we repent because we have faith in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. So Christians sin in this life and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. We are saved by grace--not works or perfection or the absence of temptation.
So yes, every true believer (and there are many false ones) lives daily with temptations to horrible sin, sometimes falling to those temptations. If those tempted by fornication and adultery are to resist those temptations and live by faith in the grace and mercy of our precious Lord Jesus Christ, those tempted by sodomy are to resist those temptations and live by faith in the grace and mercy of our precious Lord Jesus Christ. If the man or woman tempted by adultery doesn't test his faith by the absence of that temptation; if the man or woman tempted by fornication doesn't test his faith by the absence of that temptation; if the man or woman tempted by greed doesn't test his faith by the absence of that temptation; why would the man or woman tempted by same-sex intercourse test his or her faith by the absence of that temptation?
Our Savior's rule is "by their fruit ye shall know them," so we test our faith by fruit. Yes, one kind of fruit is a decline in the strength of temptations to our besetting sins, but the more usual test is the fruit of resistance to the temptations of our besetting sins.
Whether greed or gossip or bitterness or lying or sodomy or fornication, true believers would like the Holy Spirit to take away our temptations once and for all, immediately. Rarely does the Holy Spirit work that way. Sanctification is a lifelong process that is very painful and humbling and only ends at death. That's the reason I love the old statement that Christians desire three things with regard to sin: justification that it might not condemn; sanctification that it might not reign; and glorification that it might not be.
Really, I think most of us need to read a good book on sanctification. We have unrealistic hopes of the absence of temptation in this life, and this is primarily because of the Campus Crusadification of doctrine (which really means the destruction of doctrine) that's taken over the Church in these United States the past seventy-five years or so. The Church has become the parachurch and she has no doctrine of sanctification--and therefore no doctrine of the Church. There are few pastors; men ordained today have no expectation of being shepherds because, again, we have no doctrine of sanctification and so we need no shepherds. We have no elders exhorting, rebuking, or disciplining the flock because, again, we have no doctrine of sanctification. We have no doctrine of the Sacraments--and specifically the Lord's Supper--because, again, we have no doctrine of sanctification.
If you respond, "what's sanctification got to do with it?" you've made my point and you need to read the Westminster Confession on assurance and sanctification, then Marshall's The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification. (For links to listen, read, or buy, please see the end of this post.)
One of the most destructive aspects of the Campus Crusadification of the Church today is their habitual conflation of justification and sanctification such that the man who mourns over his sin after confessing Jesus Christ is simply told he needs to cling to God's grace and that he's seated in the heavenlies. No exhortations to holiness. No admonitions to test himself to see if he's in the faith.
Only justification reigns and those who try to go beyond justification are rebuked for not trusting God's grace enough. It's my observation that most men who speak about being missional and Gospel-centrality are not simply uninvolved with, but actually opposed to giving themselves to the bloody work of sanctification within their flock. But of course, if holiness and purity and temptation and sin and daily repentance and all those other parts of sanctification are not a part of being missional and Gospel-centric, Houston, we have a problem. If any passage of Scripture defines being missional and evangelistic, it must be the Great Commission. But who is obeying the Great Commission if he refuses to speak about the grace of the Law and the necessity of holiness and the authority of the church's officers and the grace of the Lord's Supper and the entire range of bloody and dirty work enccompassed by our Lord's commands?
"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20).
Where's the making of disciples in the Church today? When do we teach obedience? Who is conscientious about leading the souls under his officership into everything Jesus commanded? And that bit about authority--which one of us is careful to point out to the world and the church that our Master possesses all authority in Heaven and earth, and that one day soon He will return in power and glory to judge all men by the standard of His Own perfect holiness? Why, we don't even demonstrate His authority in our own offices of father and husband and pastor and elder and deacons! We're petrified to mention authority for fear our children will be taken from us or our church will be called a cult. Which is to say we repudiate the authority of our Lord and Master both in our words and deeds.
Yet He Himself began His commission to us with the declaration that "all authority has been given to me in Heaven and on earth...."
So, dear brothers and sisters struggling with all forms of sexual temptation and other besetting sins, read the Westminster Confession (hard copy )(Kindle) (read online-free)(listen online-free)--especially the chapters on sanctification and assurance; read Marshall's The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (hard copy)(Kindle) (pdf-free); John Owen's On Indwelling Sin in Believers (hard copy); On Temptation (hard copy)(Kindle)(read online-free) (listen online-free) On the Mortification of Sin (read online-free) (listen online-free); and Forgiveness of Sin (read online-free).
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:13-17)
Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)
Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)