PART 1 TESTIMONY
PART 1 TESTIMONY
Our conduct as Christians should bear the strictest scrutiny. Close examination by others should lead them to the conviction that we are upright and honest.
I am writing this study to help fellow believers, who are having a difficult time in their walk with God, especially in addressing their sexual inclinations or propensities. This study came about as my wife and I were watching the news on TV, and a story about sexual abuse in a particular mainstream church was being reported. The allegation was that many, who were leaders in the church, preyed upon young boys and forced them to have sexual relations. Not only were these actions reprehensible, but what else we were told was even more shocking. There were some in leadership who were aware of these liaisons but did not report them as criminal actions to the civil authorities. In fact, they did all they could to keep quiet whatever happened along with eventually relocating these sexual predators to resume their position in the church somewhere else.
A few days later, my wife found an article on the internet involving sexual misconduct that had to do with a well-known Christian megachurch. I was familiar with this church mainly because of its Christian music, which I listen to almost daily. So, she sent the article to my email, and I proceeded to read it. The name of the article is entitled, Sex Abuse & Gay Conversion Therapy: The Dark Past of Justin Bieber’s Megachurch Hillsong.1
What resonated with me were a few things. The founder of the original ministry, which was initially under a different name, allegedly admitted to abusing some of the young boys in the church. Eventually, he resigned. His son took over the ministry under a new name, Hillsong. As I continued to read the article, something else caught my attention and that was how there were some members and/or former members, who were not happy with the church’s stance on gay marriage, gays in leadership, and in general how they were being treated.
Some of their comments set my mind in motion. I wanted to help in their perception of their walk with God. One of their comments was, “I can’t worship at a church knowing that I am not fully accepted and considered equal to all those around me.”2 Another one was, “…surrounded by people that might love me as a person but do not accept me as being gay; instead, tolerate me.”3 The final one was, “…people who don’t recognize that any relationship that I have with a man is part of God’s plan and that it would be full of love, equal to any other.” 4
What was being conveyed by them seemed to be saying to me that they were looking for answers to the comments they made. So, let’s see if we can find a Biblical perspective on each of their concerns. But before I do, I would like to present my testimony. The purpose is to identify with those believers, who are having a difficult time in their walk with God. Along with this is to provide clarity as to how we can walk victoriously in Christ irrespective of the sexual inclinations or tendencies that try to distract us every day.
Why Do We Come to Jesus?
I’m sure if we were to ask different Christians why they came to Jesus, the answers would be varied and innumerable. Rather than speculate, let me share my testimony with you. In my younger years, I was brought up in a particular church that my parents and their parents were faithful to attend. I can honestly say that I didn’t enjoy going to church. I went through all of the different requisites as a young man in this faith but had no appreciation for it.
As we tended to move around a lot due to my father’s job, not only would we find a new place to live but a different church structure that was affiliated with the same mainstream faith. I remember there was one church facility that had a cafeteria in the basement to which attendees could go to before service. One of the items they sold was fresh bulky buttered rolls that were out of this world. So, when my father would ask my mother and me if we wanted to go to church, I would respond, “Yes, if we can get a bulky roll.”
One of the drawbacks of moving around a lot was not being able to stay in contact with young males or females with whom I had become friends. When I reached my teenage years, there was a lot of soul searching going on due to many factors. One of the decisions I made was to stop going to church as I thought of it as a waste of time.
My dad, who was working in a factory, decided to quit and open up his own spa and grill business in town. To my dismay, he demanded I work for him after school. Initially, I looked forward to it but soon found out how difficult it is to work for family. I didn’t like the idea of cooking food and waiting on others and eventually expressed my sentiment to my dad that I didn’t want to work there anymore. This began a clash between us, which caused a lot of friction. At work, when we labored together, this denigrated to condescending comments by my father whenever I made some kind of mistake like over-cooking a burger, too much syrup in a milkshake, etc. Over time, this continual verbal assault caused me to want to leave home as soon as I was of age.
When I became a senior in high school, I started to hang around with the wrong crowd. I got involved with smoking cigarettes, smoking marijuana, and girl-seeking. Following high school, I decided to attend a four-year college and subsequently graduated with a B.S. Degree in Mathematics. I tried persistently to get a high school teaching job in math but to no avail. It seemed like nothing was working out for me. I had no job, no girlfriend, didn’t get along with my father, drank heavily, smoked marijuana, and got to a point where I just didn’t like myself. I needed a life change.
A few more years went by, and I decided I needed to go back to church. The catalyst for this decision was not only a personal desire to change, but it also had to do with a course I took during my senior year in college. This course was an elective class on the life of King Saul. The professor believed that a description of different events about him was not only contained in different Old Testament books, but he alleged there were errors in the accounts, which in his mind meant that the Bible stories were not true. In other words, this Book was errant and not to be believed.
What resonated with me was the fact that God (Jehovah) interacted with King Saul in a personal way. My thought was if He interacted with Saul in this manner, then does He still interact with us today in a similar way? If He does, then where is He to be found? I had no answer to this question but nonetheless went on a quest to find out. I decided to attend different churches in my home city to see if I could find Him.
Now that I think back on this, it is evident that God knew I was looking for Him, and He, in turn, was looking for me. On one particular day, a Sunday, as I was leaving the morning shift at my dad’s store, a parade commemorating a state holiday was heading past on the main street toward the center of the city. After all of it went by, I followed until it arrived at the city’s town hall and dispersed. As I was about to walk back to my father’s store and pick up my car, I heard a blaring voice broadcasting words over a loudspeaker.
I turned around and saw a crowd of people gathered, so I walked over to where they were to see why. There was a person speaking about Jesus. I had heard about Him before in my younger years in the church I used to attend, having been told that He was one of the members of a Trinity of one God who reveals Himself in three persons with the other two being called God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. But what they said about Jesus at this time was not what was conveyed to me about Him before. It was different in the sense that if a person acknowledged they were a sinner and believed in who He was and what He had accomplished, they would receive another member of the Trinity into their life and thus have a personal encounter with God. This drew my attention. This is called the Gospel message, the Good News. While I didn’t respond to the Gospel message at this time, I found out about their upcoming Bible study and attended it the next time it was scheduled.
After a few days had passed, I showed up at the Bible study and noticed that there were quite a few people in attendance. A spread of food was available for all to partake. After eating, a young pastor stood up, opened in prayer, and shared a message. When he was done, he came over to me and presented the Gospel to which I responded. At that moment, I was overwhelmed with God’s peace and joy. This immersion of God’s presence stayed with me after that for three full days.
I decided to attend this church regularly and realized that the assembly was made up of a mixture of older folks along with young Spirit-filled believers, who would go out street-evangelizing every week. Sadly, a dispute arose over doctrinal differences, and every one of the young evangelizing team left. Being a new Christian, I didn’t know what to do, so I stayed in this church for another couple of months.
What I noticed was that a change had taken place as far as God’s presence was concerned. Hymns replaced spiritual songs. Messages seemingly were not fresh (anointed). Doctrinal teachings became more emphasized with we had better do what was being said or else, which just didn’t sit right with me. If you were rich, you were told not to work as much because your material abundance was considered offensive to those who didn’t have much. If you had long hair, you were told to cut it, because Jesus wouldn’t look like that. We were also told many people weren’t going to go to Heaven because God didn’t choose them. While I might have been a baby as far as learning and understanding doctrine, I thought these views just weren’t right. I left this church and starting looking for another while praying to God that He would find the right place for me to attend and call my spiritual home.
As usual, you couldn’t make up what God did next. While I was driving my car heading to work for my father, I noticed a young man to my right flailing one of his arms directing me to pull my car over. When I did so, I recognized him as being someone I used to hang around with. I asked him how he was doing, and he responded with something like, “God has changed my life, and I no longer drink alcohol or take drugs.” And then he told me about a Bible study he was attending whose pastor was dynamic. I took down the time and place of the study and went the next time it met.
This Bible study was being held in the home of one of the attendees. When I arrived, there were probably about fifteen or twenty gathered together. The study opened up with prayer, and then a young pastor started playing the guitar and singing. Everyone sang along. Following the music, a message was brought forth with memorized verses of Scripture being spewed out of his mouth like a machine gun. And along with this, God’s presence was saturating my soul. God had led me to the place where He wanted me to be.
After about a year had gone by, the attendance at the study had significantly increased, and the young pastor wanted to purchase a facility where the church assembly could meet, along with providing housing for him and for any others who expressed a desire to live there. Finally, two buildings were purchased that were at one time used as a convent for Catholic nuns. At this time, I was asked by this young pastor if I would consider going on staff as an outreach coordinator and live at the property full time to which I responded, yes.
All I can say is that working in this church position and living at this location was amazing. Worship services were held three times a week. Bible classes from an affiliate Bible college were being offered for credit via video tape. Once a week, there was an opportunity to go street witnessing. And if someone had time off, they could leave early in the morning on a particular day and drive to the affiliated Bible college campus, where they could watch a softball game, attend live radio broadcasts, eat lunch in the cafeteria, attend evening worship service, and return home later that day. This was my schedule for about a year and a half before I left to attend Bible college. My new wife, who I met and married in the faith, accompanied me, along with our newborn child.
What I wanted to bring to the attention of those who are having difficulty in their walk with God, especially in the areas of sexual weakness as pertaining to the Hillsong article, is that just because someone is on staff and regularly attending to the many activities that their church has to offer doesn’t mean that they will not still be having difficulties in this or any area of their sin nature. You might be wondering how this could be if someone were so immersed in God’s work.
This brings us to a discussion about the difference between being saved and growing spiritually, which we will look at next.
Being Active in Church Activities Doesn’t Necessarily Mean We Are Growing Spiritually
So, here we are attending to all that our church has to offer. Our schedule is full, but something is amiss. A battle is going on inside of us. We have begun to gain some knowledge about our Christian faith. Depending on where we are going to church will determine the various doctrinal teachings that will be brought forth.
Over time, we might have learned about what Christ has accomplished for us on the cross in that He paid the debt we owed to God the Father for our sin and subsequently forgave (canceled and removed the debt from the record). Maybe we have learned about the different gifts of the Holy Spirit, eternal rewards, eternal security, the office leadership gifts, the seven days of creation, the Mosaic Law, and much more. But again, something is amiss. What could this be?
Let’s begin by taking a look at one of the comments that we highlighted in the Introduction section of this study, which was taken from the article pertaining to one of the former Hillsong members. Here is the comment again. “I can’t worship at a church, knowing that I am not fully accepted and considered equal to all those around me.”5
This begs the question, what does it mean to be considered equal or accepted in God’s assembly?
I assume that the person who said this was referring to how he perceived others were treating him concerning his sexual inclinations or propensities.
But what does it actually mean to be considered equal or accepted, scripturally?
Let’s start out by going to the book of 2 Corinthians.
All things are become new
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
One of the things to be considered equal means is that at salvation we have become a new creature (a new creation) just like any other person who has become saved.
Please go to the book just before this one: 1 Corinthians.
God has set the members
1 Corinthians 12:11, 18 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
Another thing to be equal means is God the Holy Spirit has given to each of us at least one gift of the Spirit as it has pleased Him. In other words, God chooses for each of us the spiritual endowment that He decides to bless us with, the purpose of the exercise of such use is to edify the body of Christ. While the gift may differ, each of us is given at least one of them.
The book of Romans is where we will go next.
Baptized into Christ
Romans 6:2-4 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Something else that has happened to each believer at salvation is they have received the indwelling Spirit into their life. At this time, he/she was baptized into Christ being identified with Him in His death and burial (as He died to sin on the cross, so he/she likewise has died to sin in the sense of being separated from its power). And as He rose from the dead, likewise he/she has become a new creation who can walk in newness of life in the power of His resurrection.
In the book of Galatians, there is a particular word used that connotes equality or acceptance among believers.
For ye are all one in Christ Jesus
Galatians 3:26-28 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
We are told that there is no longer any national distinction between Jew or Greek, there is no longer any class distinctions between a slave or freeman, and last, there is no longer any gender distinctions between male or female, for all of us are one in Christ. Some might interpret this as saying that there being no gender distinctions between male or female has to do with a person’s allowance for choosing someone to have a sexual relationship whether of the same gender or not.
This is not what these verses are about. If you read them in context, the emphasis is on the fact that no matter what ethnicity you are, no matter whether you happen to be slave or free, no matter whether you are a man or woman the same grace of adoption or hope of salvation applies to all and that is by faith in Christ Jesus. This is further illustrated by the use of the words one in Christ Jesus.
What does it mean to be one in Christ Jesus?
These words mean to be equally accepted through the Lord Jesus Christ, to be on the same level, and to be entitled to the same privileges in your Christian profession.6 These words also mean that they are one and the same man or woman in Christ Jesus.7 This is another way of saying that no person has any advantage or disadvantage in the Kingdom of God, nor any special advantages for salvation.
To further exemplify this idea of oneness, equality, or acceptance, please go to the book of Ephesians.
Hath made both one
Ephesians 2:13-14 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
There used to be those, albeit Gentiles, who were far off from being unacquainted with God, but who were made near as they were brought into favor with Him through the blood of Christ. Because of this, God the Father has brought about a peace, or a union, between Jew and Gentile, and between those who have responded to the invitation of salvation in His Son in making them one new people forming one church. Another description of oneness is that it refers to the reconciliation of both Jews and Gentiles, who were at one time separated, but are now made one in Christ worshiping the same God, having the same savior, depending on the same atonement, and belonging to the same redeemed family.
These are just some of the areas where Christians are one, equal, or accepted with one another in Christ. But did you know that there are other areas in which we are not equal or accepted in Christ? If you noticed I didn’t use the word one, because this word pertains to salvation, in which all are accepted or equal in Christ.
What are those areas where we are not equal or accepted?
Let’s begin in the book of Ephesians.
Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
God the Father has called some Christians, but not all, to an office gift, a leadership gift in the church.
Please go to the book of 1 Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 3:14-15 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
Some believers will receive more eternal rewards in the eternal state than others.
The final book we will go to is the book of Philippians.
Work out your own salvation
Philippians 2:12-13 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
And here is where there is much disparity from one Christian to another as to our walk with God. Each one of us is told to work out or to put into practice what the Holy Spirit has provided for at salvation, i.e., we are dead to sin’s power and are made alive to operate in newness of life. And because of such, we are to carry out our identification with Christ to its ultimate conclusion, Christ-likeness. The salvation spoken here refers to sanctification, victory over sin and the living of a life pleasing to the Lord Jesus.8 And this can only happen when God the Holy Spirit is enabling us by His divine power operating in our hearts as we subject ourselves to His ministry.
This begs the question, how are we able to operate in the Spirit’s power and not be under the influence of sin? While I have not provided you with the answer to this question, what I can tell you is that once we know what the believer’s responsibilities in this area are, the realization of these spiritual realities in our lives will be dependent on the choices each of us makes in our free will.
As for the comment made by one of the members of the Hillsong church, “I can’t worship at a church knowing that I am not fully accepted and considered equal to all those around me,”9 there is a clear misunderstanding as to what it means to be accepted, equal, or one in the body of Christ.
Oneness means that no matter who you are, whether of a certain ethnicity, gender, or class, each has the same opportunity for salvation. Once we are saved (by repentance and belief) in Christ, we are accepted by God the Father.
As far as being accepted by other believers, their acceptance of us should be based on God’s acceptance of them at salvation.
In terms of the idea of being equal to all those believers around us, we are equal in the sense that each of us has the indwelling Spirit, who has provided us with additional benefits one of which is that He has given to each of us at least one spiritual gift.
And as for as having equal opportunity, all of us have equal opportunity to grow spiritually, exercise our gifts, and receive eternal rewards.
There are, however, areas where there is no equality. Not every believer receives a calling to leadership. Spiritual growth varies from believer to believer and as such so will eternal rewards.
And the acceptance of one another means that if a fellow believer is living in an area of weakness, we don’t simply condone it, but we choose to help them in learning how to be an overcomer in that particular area.
With what was just said, let’s proceed in taking a look at the second comment that was made by someone in the Hillsong church which was, “I was surrounded by people that might love me as a person but do not accept me as being gay; instead tolerate me.”10 Obviously, it is evident that this Christian was upset because his fellow believers did not accept him as being gay.
What this says to me is that this Christian is unaware of who he is in Christ and what God has done for him at salvation. If he knew about who he is in Christ and what God had done for him, he would have a different view about himself and about others. This would have a distinct impact as to what he would be thinking, what he would be saying, and in what actions he would be choosing to be engaged.
I will close this chapter by asking this question to this believer.
Do you know how God sees you and who you are in Christ?
1Sex Abuse & Gay Conversion Therapy: The Dark Past of Justin Bieber’s Megachurch Hillsong, 2016, 01 January 2019 ˂ https://www.thedailybeast.com/sex-abuse-and-gay-conversion-therapy-the-dark-past-of-justin-biebers-megachurch-hillsong>.
2Sex Abuse & Gay Conversion Therapy.
3Sex Abuse & Gay Conversion Therapy.
4Sex Abuse & Gay Conversion Therapy.
5Sex Abuse & Gay Conversion Therapy.
6Barnes’ Notes.Pc Study Bible version 5, 2006, 01 January 2019 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
7The Pulpit Commentary Pc Study Bible version 5, 2006, 03 January 2019
8Weust’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005, 06 January 2019 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
9Sex Abuse & Gay Conversion Therapy.
10Sex Abuse & Gay Conversion Therapy.
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