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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 8am & 11am service, 2015-03-08

Text: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

 

Human sexuality is one of God’s gifts to mankind, and we ought to thank Him for it. It was God who made us male and female. He specially designed human beings to have the desire and capacity for intimate relationships. And He did this to fulfil two important purposes: The first was to populate the world with people (Genesis 1:27,28), and the second purpose was for married couples to enjoy intimacy together. 

Genesis 2:22-24 tells us how human sexuality began – “And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” From this we see that human sexuality is defined as a permanent physical union between one man and one woman. This was not based merely on their being male and female (as other creatures are male and female too), but also on the fact that woman was originally part of man, and hence woman is rightly joined back to man in marriage. All this means that human sexuality is meant only for monogamous heterosexual marriage. 

However, while human sexuality was defined at Creation, it was defiled after the Fall. Since then, man in his sinful nature has abused this gift of God, resulting in sexual sins. People everywhere have sexual desires that are unnatural and distorted, resulting in lust and immoral behaviour. This included the people of Corinth at the time when the Gospel arrived there. 

From verses 9,10 of our text we know that there were Corinthians who committed sexual sins. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” Fornicators are unmarried persons who indulge in sexual acts. Adulterers are married persons who indulge in sexual acts with someone other than their spouse. The word ‘effeminate’ literally means ‘soft’ and it refers to men who willingly submit to homosexual acts, while ‘abusers of themselves with mankind’ literally means those who go to bed with males, and it refers to male homosexuals. All these sins were very common in Corinth, which was a cesspool of sexual immorality.

Unfortunately this immorality has now become a worldwide phenomenon. It started in the 1960s when the western world went through a sexual revolution. Moral purity was abandoned in the name of personal freedom and social acceptance. This opened the floodgates to casual sex, premarital sex, cohabitation, public nudity and pornography. All these have infested the world today through the powerful influence of mass media and the peer pressure of social media. 

Singapore has not been spared from this massive onslaught. Many young Singaporeans today have very liberal attitudes toward premarital sex, cohabitation, and homosexuality. Surveys done in recent years have revealed that a quarter of our youths aged 17 to 20 are sexually active; one in ten teenagers in Singapore has had unprotected sex, and this has caused the number of sexually transmitted infections among teens to rise dramatically. Youths today have the idea that, ‘If you are more sexually forward and upfront, more willing to try, then you’re edgy and cool.’ 

I remember watching a TV show featuring a well-known local actress. She was being interviewed about her marriage plans, and her husband-to-be was also there with her during the interview. And when asked why she decided to get hitched, she replied that she liked being with him and they got along well together. Then without any embarrassment at all, she announced with a bright smile that they were going to have a baby. The interviewer congratulated them. Well that whole interview seemed to convey the message, “It’s now the ‘in thing’ to have sex before marriage!” It’s cool, fashionable and exciting – that’s what the world thinks of sexual immorality. 

But what does God think of these things? He hates them! This can be seen in several passages: Ephesians 5:3-6 – “But fornication, and all uncleanness [i.e. moral impurity], or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; …for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.” Hebrews 13:4 tells us – “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” 

Genesis 19:4,5,24 – “But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them [which means having sexual relations with them]… Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven.” 

All these verses clearly demonstrate that sexual sins of any kind – whether fornication or adultery or homosexual acts – brings God’s awful wrath and judgment. According to our Scripture text, those who persist in them will not inherit the kingdom of God. And as v.9 tells us, we must not be deceived by the world’s careless attitude toward sexual sins. We must never take them lightly. We must never forget how much God hates them.

Therefore we must keep ourselves away from these sins, even if it means being called old-fashioned, ‘uncool’ or foolish. Always remember that human sexuality is God’s gift to us, but it is meant to be enjoyed only within the confines of monogamous heterosexual marriage. And today we need to emphasise the heterosexual aspect of human sexuality. Why? Because there are forces at work in society that promote the toleration of homosexual acts.

These acts are specifically prohibited in God’s Law: Leviticus 18:22 says, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” This is repeated in Leviticus 20:13 – “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”  

Romans 1:26-27 describes how sin has changed human sexuality from natural to unnatural: Verse 26 tells us: “…their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature.” This refers to homosexual acts between women. Verse 27 is about homosexual acts between men: “…the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly…” Here we can see the change very clearly – from the natural use, to that which is unseemly. The word ‘unseemly’ means disgraceful or shameful. 

And so, following God’s Word, we know that homosexual acts are unnatural and shameful. And that’s the way that society used to regard homosexuality as well. However, the attitudes of society on this have changed tremendously within the last 50 years. Let us see how this happened: 

Before 1967, homosexuality was a crime called sodomy. Then in 1967 it was reduced to a mental illness. But in 1973 the American Psychiatric Association removed it from its list of mental illnesses (after much pressure from the gay community). In the 1980s homosexuality was attributed to environmental conditioning. In the 1990s it was promoted as a normal alternative (like being left-handed). Today it is advocated by some as a preferred way of life to provide the highest form of loving relationships, and as the best means of population control. 

In former days homosexuals were very discreet about their sexual orientation. Now they openly declare it. They kiss and hug each other in public and they organise gay pride parades in June every year. Celebrities and professionals have been coming out to confess that they are gay – movie stars, actors, musicians, politicians, writers, dancers, sportsmen – giving homosexuals a respectable image. Their aggressive worldwide campaign has been very effective. It has led to changes in government policy and cultural acceptance of same-sex marriages. Within the last 14 years same-sex marriage has been legalized in 17 countries. More than 20 other countries allow same-sex civil unions. The numbers are increasing every year. 

Today the gay rights movement has become a very visible force that is seeking for recognition and lobbying for legal action against discrimination. They want to have the right to adopt children. Seven years ago the Catholic Church in Britain had to close down its seven adoption agencies because of a new law that made it illegal to refuse to let gay couples adopt a child. A pastor who refuses to marry a gay couple, or a photographer who turns down a request to do a photo-shoot for them may be sued in court for discrimination.

They also want to make changes in the education curriculum so that children will be taught that homosexual relationships are perfectly normal. You may remember the AWARE saga which took place six years ago – what sparked it off was the pro-homosexual agenda of its sex-education programme in schools.

How about homosexuality in Singapore? The authorities took a very conservative stand against it until the early 1990s. It was only when Internet access became available in the mid-1990s that the gay community here started to become a strong movement. In 2003 gays were allowed to hold sensitive positions in the civil service. They have been pushing hard to have section 377A of the penal code repealed by the authorities because it criminalises homosexual acts with a penalty of up to two years’ jail. In 2009 they started the Pink Dot Movement which holds annual rallies at Hong Lim park to support inclusiveness, diversity and ‘freedom to love.’ This movement is gaining more support. It has spread to many other cities in the world, and it also sparked off a reactionary ‘Wear White’ campaign last year. 

Last year the National Library Board decided to remove three children’s books from its shelves because of their pro-homosexual content. This drew a strong response from the gay community, calling the Board homophobic and demanding the reinstatement of these books for public reading. We can see how public opinion is gradually being influenced and swayed. Those who express anything against them are called homophobic and are criticised for discrimination. 

Now that we have seen the current trend of attitudes to homosexuality, let us consider the present thinking on what causes homosexuality. The gay movement wants everyone to believe that homosexual orientation is inborn. To them, it is very harmful to suppress or change one’s sexual orientation because it comes from the genes. Just as I am born Chinese and I cannot change that, they claim that they are born gay and they cannot change that. 

Is there any proof for this claim? Much high quality research has been carried out by many scientists to find a genetic cause to homosexuality. These studies involved studying the sexual orientation of identical twins, tracing the sexual orientation of adolescents as they grow into adulthood, measuring a part of the brain called the anterior hypothalamus, and even scanning the entire human genome to find a gay gene. But after more than 20 years of research, there is still no conclusive proof that anyone is born homosexual. 

One significant finding however is that same-sex attraction is fluid and can diminish and disappear over time. A longitudinal study was conducted by the Health Research Council of New Zealand involving 1,037 children over a period of 23 years. The findings were published in 2003. They revealed that rates of same-sex attraction were almost halved by age 26 years old in both sexes. This fluidity of sexual attraction shows that homosexuality is not caused by the genes. If it is caused by the genes, it can never change over time, just as no one who is born Chinese can ever become Indian over time. 

However, while homosexual orientation is not inborn, the Word of God tells us that sinful orientation is inborn. Listen to what the psalmist said in Psalm 51:5– “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Listen also to what Paul said in Romans 7:17-18– “Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” 

We all have an inborn sinful nature. And that sinful nature is manifested in different ways. As Jesus said in Matthew 15:19 – “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” This does not mean that every person will become a blasphemous, adulterous, lying thief and murderer. It means that the sinful nature we are born with expresses itself in different ways in different people. In some people it tends to express itself as an uncontrollable rage that may lead to murder if unchecked. In others, it produces a life of dishonesty and deceit. And in some people, that same sinful nature is expressed in a tendency to commit sexual sins, such as adultery and fornication. Thus, each person has his or her own personal besetting sins. 

The same thing is therefore true of homosexuality. This is reflected in vv.9,10 of our text when it says“…neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” I want you to observe that those who commit homosexual sins are placed together with eight others who commit other kinds of sins, e.g. thieves, drunkards and extortioners. 

What does this show? It shows that each of us have different sinful tendencies, and if we yield to them, we end up sinning against God. One person may be easily tempted to steal whenever there is an opportunity to steal. But she must resist the temptation to steal, and if she has already stolen from others, then she must put a stop to her habit of stealing. Another person has no problems at all with temptations to steal, but he is easily tempted to drink. Whenever he sees the bottle he struggles hard to resist the temptation and sometimes he ends up getting drunk. 

Here is a question we need to answer: What if both of them decide one day that it is just too hard to keep up this resistance to temptation. And then in order to justify their habits of stealing and drinking, they both say, “I am born this way, and therefore I can never change.” Can they be absolved of all responsibility to change their behavior just by saying, “I am born this way”? The answer is clearly, No. (Otherwise stealing and drunken driving must be decriminalized.) The same thing must then apply to all the rest in this list, including homosexuals. 

We understand that some people are sorely tempted to commit homosexual acts. The people they meet and the places where they live are filled with such temptations, and the sinful nature that is in them makes them particularly vulnerable. But this does not excuse them from resisting these temptations. Like everyone else, they can choose to resist their particular temptation so that they do not commit sin. But many homosexuals say, “I am born this way” because they were unable to overcome the temptation. They could not change their sinful habits in their own strength, and so they resort to deluding themselves with the excuse that they are born this way and can never change. 

But here is the good news that all homosexuals need to hear: There is power available for those who sincerely want to change. This is the only effective way to deal with the present homosexual issue. We may make our views against homosexuality known and sign petitions so that the authorities will not give in so easily to pressure from the gay community. But the most important action we need to take is to give homosexuals the good news that there is power available for them to change. 

In fact our passage of Scripture indicates that some of the homosexuals in Corinth had successfully changed their sexual orientation. Here is what it says, – “…neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” 

The words “and such were some of you” in verse 11 reveal that some Corinthian Christians had been homosexuals before. And the rest of the verse describes how they received God’s power to change – they were washed, sanctified and justified. This change took place as they trusted fully in the Lord Jesus alone to save and heal them, and as the Spirit of God worked in them after that. To put it all succinctly, No one is born gay, but everyone is born in sin, and everyone needs to be born again by turning to Jesus Christ to deal with sin. 

Many have reported success in putting away their sinful lifestyle. Some like Stephen Bennett have ended up in faithful heterosexual marriages with children. This former homosexual testifies: “Today life is wonderful – I am free, and it is all because of Jesus Christ and His love for me.” In June last year, a new two-hour documentary entitled,  “Such were some of you” was released in the US. This video features interviews with many former homosexuals who testify to the same life-transforming power of Jesus Christ. This power to change is freely available to all homosexuals today. And the key to finding this power is to admit that one has a problem. Homosexuals who keep insisting that they are born this way will never be able to change because they don’t think that they have a problem. 

This principle is found in Mark 2:16-17– “And when the scribes and Pharisees saw [Jesus] eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto His disciples, How is it that He eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, He saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” The Pharisees were actually just as sinful as the publicans and sinners, but they kept insisting that they were righteous. Hence Jesus told them that since they thought that they were whole and had no problem at all, they won’t get the help they need. But the publicans and sinners were convinced that they were spiritually sick, and hence they sought His help to be delivered. 

When we were saved we too realised that what we were doing is sinful and we must change. The same thing applies to homosexuals. They must first be convinced that they have a problem. Their mindset has to change. They need to accept the truth that they were not born gay and that their sexual orientation is not normal. It is the result of the sinful nature within them interacting with a sinful environment. And this has caused them to fall into a sinful lifestyle. 

And so our approach to any homosexual is to tell to him lovingly that there is great hope for him, but only if he is willing to confess that his lifestyle is sinful, repent of it and seek the Lord’s forgiveness and help to change. What he needs is not freedom to love, but freedom from sin, and the freedom to experience the love and power of God working in his life. We must let him know that we are not homophobic. For we were once just as sinful as he, and though our sins may be different from his, they are just as hateful to God as his sin.

Hence we do not discriminate against homosexuals at all, but we simply want them to experience the same salvation and deliverance from sin that we have found in Christ. May our Lord Jesus Christ be glorified more and more, as sinners of every kind come and find salvation and deliverance from sin by being washed, sanctified and justified through Him.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11