Killer Q & A

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Hey TD!

Those who went to the Ligonier conference last week were treated to a wonderfully rich time of teaching, theology, and a deeper knowledge of the God of the Bible.  This was the Upward Prong of our 3-pronged approach to the Christian life.

One particular treat were the Q & A sessions – one with Dr. RC Sproul and one with the rest of the speakers.  There is always lots of candor and humor that accompany the insight and truth shared.

Below is a Q & A session from LIgonier’s National Conference a couple of months ago with Dr. RC Sproul, Dr. John MacArthur, Dr. Albert Mohler, and Dr. Steven Lawson. Below is the list of questions discussed:

Questions:

1. Dr. MacArthur, can you tell us about the Shepherds Conference? (1:09)
2. How do you explain the term “Reformed” to a someone unfamiliar to Reformed teaching? (2:34)
3. Is our still heart deceitfully wicked after we are born again? (4:47)
4. How should I share the gospel when it could cost me my job? (7:08)
5. Is it biblical to say God “loves you” to believers and nonbelievers alike? (9:32)
6. What does it mean when we confess that Jesus has a reasonable soul? (13:05)
7. Dr. MacArthur, you spoke at 2016 Shepherds Conference about clergy malpractice. What did you mean by that? (17:08)
8. How can I best prepare students to live their faith out in public schools? (19:17)
9. How do I counsel a Reformed mother who is married to a Roman Catholic? (22:25)
10. With the rise of seeker-sensitive churches, how do we understand biblically ‘seeking’ God? (25:02)
11. How do you define a false teacher? How much error is needed before they are considered false? (32:23)
12. How is the current cultural climate forcing the “mushy middle” out of the church? (35:55)
13. Giving the failure of ecumenical movements, how do you promote unity in doctrine? (37:59)

Note: Answers given during Panel Discussions reflect the views of the individual speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dr. R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries.

Enjoy!

TD at Ligonier Conference Friday

Why We Can’t Choose God

Does God Hate the Sin But Love the Sinner?

Hey TD!

We just got back from having dinner with our good friends at Ligonier Ministries, the Teaching Fellowship of RC Sproul, and I’m really excited for our outing on Friday and Saturday!

So, just a reminder that TD will NOT be at church on Friday.  Instead, we will be “Discovering the God of the Bible” with Ligonier Ministries.   If you want to join us, either on Friday or Saturday, let your small group leader know asap.

Otherwise, we’ll see you next Friday for our final TD meeting of the year!

In the meanwhile, enjoy RC’s teaching above on “Why We Can’t Choose God” and “Does God Hate the Sin and Love the Sinner?”  They are short, but very poignant, and more importantly … true. – Arthur

TD – RSVP NOW for “Discovering the God of the Bible”!

2017 Regional Conference

Hey TD!

This weekend, we will have an amazing opportunity to go Upward and engage with God through deep, rich, God-focused theology! TD will be heading to Ligonier Ministries’ “Discovering the God of the Bible” conference on Friday and Saturday!

This will be a fantastic opportunity to not only hear the exploring and preaching of God’s word with excellence, but it will be an opportunity to hear the legendary John MacArthur in person.  Being under his preaching in itself is a treasured experience..  As he is closing in on 80, I don’t know how many more opportunities you will have.  His preaching itself is worth the price of admission.  Speaking of admission, the price for you TD’ers is … FREE!  Unfortunately, that’s not true for TD leaders 😦

The cost for TD’ers is FREE, but you do have to register!

You do have to register, however.  So, if you are able to come Friday or Saturday or both, please contact your small group leader ASAP and give him/her your name, age, mailing address, email address, and when you can go.

We will meet at church at 4:45 p.m. on Friday and at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday.

I need to turn in our registration on Wednesday morning!  Let us know ASAP! – Arthur

Schedule

Friday, June 09 2017

Start End Description Speaker
6:00 p.m. 7:00 p.m.

Sovereign Over All

“The Lord, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth” (Ps. 47:2). God is Lord of all, sovereign over everything in creation, actively governing it to fulfill His good and holy purposes. This session will present the biblical doctrine of the sovereignty of God, explaining how His sovereign providence is a comfort to believers.

Julius Kim
7:00 p.m. 8:00 p.m.

Holy, Holy, Holy

“The Lord of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness” (Isa. 5:16). The one, true God is set apart from all other gods—indeed, apart from all creation—in His holiness. This session will explore the holiness of God, emphasizing its importance in understanding who God is.

Stephen Nichols

Saturday, June 10 2017

Start End Description Speaker
8:30 a.m. 9:30 a.m.

A God Merciful & Gracious

God revealed Himself to Moses as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6). This session will discuss the mercy and grace of God, making sure to note that these attributes are understood rightly only against the backdrop of God’s perfect justice and righteousness.

W. Robert Godfrey
10:15 a.m. 11:15 a.m.

None Other

“I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God” (Isa. 45:5). Counterfeit religions and philosophies present views of God or the gods that are ultimately the creation of humanity’s imagination. The God of the Bible, however, is like none of these beings. This session will consider the uniqueness of God in a world full of false gods.

John MacArthur
11:15 a.m. 12:00 p.m.

Questions & Answers

A questions and answers session with Dr. R.C. Sproul (live via video).

12:45 p.m. 1:15 p.m.

Optional Session: Learning to Love the Psalms

Throughout history, Christians have turned to the book of Psalms to inform their worship, prayers, and understanding of Christ. This session will look at the significance of the biblical psalms and why we should turn to them in worship and in private study.

W. Robert Godfrey
1:15 p.m. 1:45 p.m.

Optional Session: Seeing Christ in all the Scriptures

Christ Himself testified to the fact that Scripture leads us to Him (John 5:39). This session will consider how the Old and New Testaments testify to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Julius Kim
2:00 p.m. 2:50 p.m.

Question & Answers

A questions and answers session with Drs. W. Robert Godfrey, Julius Kim, Stephen Nichols, and John MacArthur.

3:30 p.m. 4:25 p.m.

The Lord Is My Salvation

“The Lord is my light and my salvation” (Ps. 27:1). God is the source and goal of our salvation, and He saves people from His wrath for the sake of His glory. This session will look at the Lord as the One who initiates, sustains, and completes our salvation, directing us to live lives of gratitude and worship for what He has done for us.

John MacArthur

The Church and Discipleship

discipleship-the-key-to-spiritual-growth

Hey TD,

We will be continuing our look at a key to spiritual gowth – discipleship.   When reading this article a few weeks ago, I found myself highlighting most of the article.  It’s a valuable article to read.  May we take it to heart. – Arthur

The Church and Discipleship by Jay Bauman

W hen I was fourteen years old, I had my first summer job: historical tour guide. I led tours through a well known historical site in a small, quaint town in the upper Midwest United States.

On my first day on the job, my boss handed me a large manual and said I needed to learn all of the historical facts of the site to be ready to give tours. The problem was, I didn’t have a lot of interest in learning the facts. So, I skimmed through it just to get enough basic information to start giving tours.

I ended up being a poor tour guide as a result. People started asking me questions on my tours—a lot of questions, the kinds of questions that history buffs love. What did the people eat? What did they wear? What was a typical day like? And I didn’t really know the answers, so I just started making things up. People seemed to like the answers I was giving, so I just continued on with my half-truths to pass the tours and to pass the time.

One afternoon, my boss told me that he was going to come on my tour the following morning. I was scared to death. I knew that I had been telling half-truths and didn’t know the manual. And one evening would not be enough time for me to learn everything I should have already known. I was in trouble. And since I had been lying on these tours for so long, I was confused about what was really true and what was a lie. I didn’t even know the facts anymore. In essence, I had begun lying even to myself.

The following morning, my boss went on my tour. That same day, I was fired.

Sometimes our discipleship efforts in the local church mirror this experience. Someone is converted in the context of our local church. Perhaps they even seem to have had a powerful encounter with God. We hand them our manual (a Bible), and we assume that this is sufficient for their long-term development. We don’t check in with them to see how they are doing. We don’t walk with them. As long as they are attending church services and performing their religious tasks, we assume everything is OK.

Yet, when we look a little closer, we see that they have not learned the Word, that they have not applied the Word, or even that they don’t know the Word. And often, they have begun to lie to themselves about basic truths of Scripture. They needed discipleship. But what we gave them was a service opportunity, something just to keep things running at our church. We just left them alone until something stopped working.

“But true discipleship is not just about hanging out … It’s about progressively becoming more aware of our sinfulness and of God’s holiness. It’s about the cross’s looming larger and larger in our lives as we embrace gospel truths.”

The Great Commission calls us to make disciples (Matt. 28:18–20). All power on heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus, who gives power and a call to us. Making disciples means that we embrace this call by accompanying people along their way. Some churches call this “doing life together.”

But true discipleship is not just about hanging out. True discipleship is about embracing gospel truths in the context of a biblical community that results in life change. It’s about visibly seeing sanctification in the life of a new believer. It’s about progressively becoming more aware of our sinfulness and of God’s holiness. It’s about the cross’s looming larger and larger in our lives as we embrace gospel truths.

Gospel-centered churches understand this. The true measure of a church’s success is not its size but whether it is making disciples. We have a vast problem in our churches, not only in American churches but in churches around the world. We have many “conversions” but few disciples. We have many “conversions” but few who embrace the lordship of Christ.

Sometimes, under the guise of “leadership training,” churches try to stimulate some form of holiness in new believers. Often, they teach business principles sprinkled with Scriptures that are taken out of context. But leadership training is not the same as discipleship. Many churches talk about vision, potential, and human flourishing endlessly, but it is not true discipleship unless we are teaching gospel truths about sin, confession, and repentance. It is not true discipleship unless we are leading people to the cross.

The Apostle Paul calls us to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Disciple-makers understand that people need help putting on the new self.

True disciple-makers are not just interested in developing leaders, or superficial tour guides. They are interested in seeing the cross loom large in the life of a new believer. They are passionate about sanctification. They are passionate about teaching gospel truths. And the result of this kind of biblical discipleship is amazing—people and churches whose testimony truly reflects God’s character, bringing much glory to Jesus.

Rev. Jay Bauman is founding pastor of Igreja do Redentorin Rio de Janeiro and founder of the church-planting network Restore Brazil.

When “Honoring” God’s Word Doesn’t

Hey TD,

Have you ever been so desirous to honor God and keep His Word that you actually break His Word in doing so?  I have.  And I’ve had it done to me.  And neither have been right, nor felt right (though the latter feels much worse initially, the former arrives in due time).

Here’s a reading from Tabletalk magazine that speaks to this propensity of ours.  Learn and apply.  You’ll be thankful you did (and so will your family and friends!):

Making Void the Word of God

He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to [a]be put to death’; 11 but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, [b]given to God),’ 12 you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.” Mark 7:9-13

Zeal without knowledge puts one in great spiritual danger, and we see this demonstrated in Jesus’ clashes with the Pharisees and scribes regarding their extrabiblical traditions.  No one could question the zeal of these sects to keep God’s law. So concerned were they to make sure they did not violate the Lord’s commandments that they developed what they called a “fence around the law” consisting of various regulations designed to help ensure that the Mosaic law was obeyed.  They reasoned that people would certainly be innocent of transgression by observing those extra regulations.  Judaism’s system of kosher laws is a classic example. (Modern Judaism is based more on the traditions of the rabbis than on the Old Testament) Exodus 23:19; 34:26; and Deuteronomy 14:21 all say, “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”  Over time, the kosher law that milk and meat products should not be eaten together developed out of a desire to keep the commandments of these passages.  After all, if one never puts meat and milk together, one will certainly never boil a young animal in its mother’s milk, even accidentally.

That extra rule is legalistic enough, but even worse are rules that end up causing direct transgression of the commandments. Legalism is a problem because misplaced zeal for the law can lead one to violate the law without even realizing it. One tradition of the Pharisees, the Corban rule to which Jesus refers in today’s passage, took a good thing—giving gifts to the temple—and turned it into a means by which God’s law was broken. One commentator likens the Corban rule to the modern practice of deferred giving, which allows individuals to deed property and other gifts to another at death while retaining control over the gift in the meantime. Under the Corban rule, Jews could pledge something to the temple and have it pass into the temple’s possession at their death, but while the givers lived, they stewarded the property and lived off its proceeds.

In itself, such a rule was not evil and in fact could be a good thing. The problem was that the Pharisees and scribes were allowing people to use the Corban rule to escape their obligations to other parts of the law. According to the Corban rule, men and women who made gifts to the temple in such a way were free from having to support their elderly parents. This broke God’s command to honor our fathers and mothers (Mark 7:9–13).

Coram Deo

Matthew Henry comments that “it is the mischief of impositions, that too often they who are zealous for them, have little zeal for the essential duties of religion, but can contentedly see them laid aside.” Like the Pharisees, we can be obsessed with good but optional things (giving extra gifts to the temple) in a way that makes us break God’s law. Let us have zeal for God’s law, but let us not let it develop into legalism that makes us break it.

Passages for Further Study

Exodus 20:12
Proverbs 23:22
Matthew 15:1–9
Ephesians 6:1–3

– Reproduced from Tabletalk magazine, May, 2016 Issue, “John 3:16,” May 16, 2016 devotion, “Making Void The Word of God.”

We’re Called to Make Disciples, not Simply Converts

Hey TD,

The Christian faith is a sharing faith; a faith that shares and gives life to others, both Christians and non-Christians alike.  And it is a faith that shares time, talent, treasure, and … Truth … to those in our lives; the Truth of God.  That sharing is to happen at all levels, from conversion, to spiritual infancy, to spiritual childhood, to spiritual adolescence, to spiritual maturity.  As we learn how to follow Christ, we are to share with others how to do the same.  It’s called discipleship.  And that’s what we Christians are ultimately functionally called to.

This is what our dear legendary mentor and friend, Dr. RC Sproul, reminds us of in the article below.  Please read, and if anyone has helped you learn to follow Christ, you are blessed.  Pray a prayer of thanks and petition for him or her.  And then pray for your role in this calling. – Arthur

We’re Called to Make Disciples, not Simply Converts

FROM Mar 07, 2016 Category: Articles

We should take notice of what Jesus did not say in the Great Commission. He did not say, “Go therefore and make converts of as many people as possible.”

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:18-20)

One of the most exciting times of my life was when I was first converted to Christ. I was filled with a zeal for evangelism. However, much to my consternation, when I told my friends about my conversion to Christ, they thought I was crazy. They were tragically amused, remaining unconvinced despite my sharing the gospel with them. Finally, they asked me, “Why don’t you start a class and teach us what you have learned about Jesus?” They were serious. I was elated. We scheduled a time to meet, and I got there a little bit early—but they never showed up.

Despite my profound desire for evangelism, I was a failure at it. This realization came to me early in my ministry. Yet, I also discovered that there are many people whom Christ has called and whom He has gifted by His Spirit to be particularly effective in evangelism. To this day, I’m surprised if anybody attributes their conversion in some part to my influence. In one respect, I’m glad that the Great Commission is not a commission principally to evangelism.

The words that preceded Jesus’ commission were these: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” He then went on to say, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” When Jesus gave this commission to the church, He was speaking authoritatively. He gave a mandate to the church of all ages not simply to evangelize but to make disciples. That leads us to a significant question: What is a disciple?

The simplest definition of disciple is one who directs his mind toward specific knowledge and conduct. So, we might say that a disciple is a learner or pupil. The Greek philosophers—people such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle—had disciples. Socrates described himself ultimately as a disciple of Homer, the person Socrates regarded as the greatest thinker of all of Greek history.

We tend to think of Homer as a poet rather than a philosopher. But Socrates saw him as the supreme teacher of ancient Greece. Then, of course, Socrates had his own student—his chief disciple—whose name was Plato. Plato had his disciples, the chief one being Aristotle. Aristotle also had his disciples, the most famous being Alexander the Great. It is astonishing to think about how drastically the ancient world was shaped by four men: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Alexander the Great. In fact, it is nearly impossible to understand the history of Western civilization without understanding the influence of those four individuals, who in their own way were each disciples of another.

Aristotle, in particular, was known as a “peripatetic” philosopher. That is, he was a nomadic teacher who walked from place to place, not teaching in a fixed location. The students of Aristotle would follow him as he walked the streets of Athens. In one respect, Aristotle’s disciples lived life with him, learning from him in the course of a normal daily routine.

The aforementioned concepts help illumine the nature of discipleship. However, they fail to capture the full essence of biblical discipleship. Discipleship in the biblical sense involves walking with the Teacher and learning from His words, but it is more than that.

Jesus was a rabbi and, of course, the most important peripatetic teacher and disciple-maker in history. Wherever He walked, His students would follow. At the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, He chose particular individuals to be His disciples. They were required to memorize the teachings that He spoke as He walked. What’s more, people didn’t file an application to get into the School of Jesus. Jesus selected His disciples. He went to prospective disciples where they were, whether in the marketplace or at their place of work, and give this simple command: “Follow me.” The command was literal—He called them to drop their present duties. They had to leave their work, their families, and their friends in order to follow Jesus.

Jesus was more than just a peripatetic teacher however. His disciples called him “Master.” Their entire way of life changed because of their following Jesus not merely as a great teacher, but as the Lord of all. That’s the essence of discipleship—submitting fully to the authority of Christ, the One whose lordship goes beyond just the classroom. Jesus’ lordship encompasses all of life. The Greek philosophers learned from their teachers but then tried to improve on that teaching. Christ’s disciples have no such warrant. We are called to understand and teach only what God has revealed through Christ, including the Old Testament Scriptures, for they point to Christ; and the New Testament Scriptures, for they are the words of those Christ appointed to speak in His name.

The Great Commission is the call of Christ for His disciples to extend His authority over the whole world. We are to share the gospel with everyone so that more and more people might call Him Master. This calling is not simply a call to evangelism. It isn’t merely a call to get students for our seminaries, our colleges, or for Ligonier Ministries. Rather, Christ calls us to make disciples. Disciples are people who have committed in their hearts and minds to follow the thinking and conduct of the Master forever. Such discipleship is a lifelong experience.

When we’re involved in discipleship, we do not graduate until we get to heaven. Discipleship is a lifelong experience of learning the mind of Christ and following the will of Christ, submitting ourselves in complete obedience to His lordship. Thus, when Jesus tells us to go to all nations, we are to go into all the world with His agenda, not our own. The Great Commission calls us to flood this world with knowledgeable, articulate Christians who worship God and follow Jesus Christ passionately. Our mission at Ligonier is discipleship in the biblical sense. By God’s grace, we want to help the church raise up a generation of people who are dedicated in heart and soul to the Master and His authority. We want to call people to obedience and to following Christ in their daily lives.

Sexuality and the Christian Faith: A Google Hangout with Rosaria Butterfield Tomorrow at Noon

Hey TD!

In preparation for the TD year ahead, if any of you happen to be available at noon on Friday, this live Google Hangout with Dr. Rosaria Butterfield (hosted by Ligonier Ministries) will be very helpful for you as she will discuss sexuality, our culture’s objection to biblical morality, and what it looks like for Christians to speak the truth in love. You can watch it live above:

Courtesy of our friends at Tabletalk magazine, here is a very honest and riveting interview with this former atheist lesbian academic, who sought to protect society from the dangers and illogic of Christianity:

An Unlikely Convert: An Interview with Rosaria Butterfield

by

Tabletalk: Your book is titled The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. Could you explain some of your “secret thoughts,” and why you were an “unlikely convert”?

Rosaria Butterfield: I considered myself an atheist, having rejected my Catholic childhood and what I perceived to be the superstitions and illogic of the historic Christian faith. I found Christians to be difficult, sour, fearful, and intellectually unengaged people. In addition, since the age of twenty-eight, I had lived in monogamous lesbian relationships and politically supported LGBTcauses. I coauthored Syracuse University’s first successful domestic partnership policy while working there as a professor of English and women’s studies. I was terrified to aliate on any level with a worldview that called me, my life, my community, my scholarly interest, and my relationship sin. Add to this that I was working on a book “exposing” the religious right from a lesbian feminist point of view. I approached the Bible with an agenda to tear it down because I firmly believed that it was threatening, dangerous, and irrational.

But when I came to Christ, I experienced what nineteenth-century Scottish theologian Thomas Chalmers called “the expulsive power of a new affection.” At the time of my conversion, my lesbian identity and feelings did not vanish. As my union with Christ grew, the sanctification that it birthed put a wedge between my old self and my new one. In time, this contradiction exploded, and I was able to claim identity in Christ alone.

TT: How has your story been received by Christians?

RB: The protagonist of Secret Thoughts is Pastor Ken Smith, who modeled to me organic Christian hospitality and the life-sustaining action of neighboring. Christian readers have responded to Ken’s example and have been encouraged by it.

TT: How has your conversion to Christianity been received by your former colleagues?

RB: At the time of my conversion, my colleagues and students treated me with suspicion and confusion. Understandably, many friends felt betrayed, exposed, and criticized by my conversion and the changes in heart, life, and writing that this produced. When a person comes to Christ and repents of sin, this turning around makes enemies out of former allies. And while this aftershock eventually led to Bible studies and many opportunities to share the gospel, it also destroyed friendships and allegiances. The exclusivity of Christ has rugged consequences.

TT: How do you respond to someone who says that one can continue to live a homosexual lifestyle and yet also be a Christian?

RB: First, I always start by asking for clarification about what she means by “Christian,” often requesting that she share her testimony (and offering to share mine as well). She may tell me that she is a Christian because she believes in Jesus and said the sinner’s prayer at a certain moment in her childhood. She also may tell me that she has a “high view” of Scripture and believes that the historic Christian church has misrepresented the issue of homosexuality. As I listen, I pray for the Lord to give me not only the words to say, but a transparent kindness that can uphold the weight of these words. I say I am glad that she believes in Jesus, but I share that the Bible calls for more than that, as even the trembling demons believe in Jesus. The Bible defines a Christian in a fuller way, including an understanding that:

(1) God set me apart from before the foundations of the world.

(2) The Holy Spirit removed my heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh, leaving me with justifying faith.

(3) Jesus Christ infuses sanctifying grace through His hard-wrought love and blood.

(4) Repentance and belief go together, as both are gifts of God and fruit of Christian living. Without repentance there is no salvation.

Sometimes at this point in the conversation, she will ask me where she might meet this Jesus, because this is a different Jesus than the one that she knows. We open the Bible together, and I invite her to my house for dinner and church. Alternatively, if she tells me that she just interprets the Bible differently than I do, I then discuss how Jesus is inseparable from the Bible, and how the Bible is a unified revelation of God, fully true, inspired, and inerrant. At some point, if God allows, I suggest that we start reading the Bible together, reading systematically and not topically.

As you can see, I do not ask my questioner about why she identifies as lesbian or what this means to her, or when she first felt like a lesbian or had her first sexual experience. It is not that I don’t care, but if I start with her, I start in the wrong place. Instead, I start with the triune God, and call out the soul-orientation of any person with whom I speak.

TT: What is the biggest misconception that evangelicals have about those who are a part of the “homosexual community”?

RB: Reformed Christians know that God’s elect people are everywhere, but one big misconception evangelicals have is the wholesale writing off of all people who identify as gay as God-hating reprobates. Another misconception is that a person’s homosexuality is the biggest and most life-defining sin of her life. When Ken Smith, the pastor the Lord used in my conversion, first met me, he knew that being a lesbian was not my biggest sin. My biggest sin was that I was an unbeliever.

TT: What counsel would you give to Christians as they attempt to preach the gospel to those who experience same-sex attraction?

RB: First, we need to apologize for “gay jokes” that we said or condoned in silence.

Next, we must: (1) counsel people who have repented from homosexual sexual pasts and feel called to heterosexual marriage; (2) encourage people who live daily with unwanted homosexual desires and feel called through justifying faith to celibacy, helping these brothers and sisters to resist temptation, secure accountability, and rely on the Word and on the fellowship of the saints to renew minds and affections; (3) lift the unearned burden of guilt off of the parents of children who identity as gay or lesbian; and (4) create meaningful community from within the membership of the church. To offer intentional commitment to members who are lonely and isolated, the church must demonstrate in everyday ways how we care for each other from cradle to grave. In the LGBTcommunity in the 1990s, I learned the power of accompanied suffering, of standing together in grief as we faced the AIDS virus. The hospitality gifts I use today as a pastor’s wife, I honed in myLGBT community.

Pastorally, the Westminster Standards give us much wisdom about sanctification and offer helpful correctives to the unbiblical teachings of our day. It is important to tell people who struggle with sexual sin that their struggle is not proof that God is not working sanctification in them, because God knows that sanctification is both imperfect and incomplete in this lifetime. For the church to lovingly counsel those who experience unwanted homosexual desire, she must steer clear of parachurch ministries that hold to a false understanding of sanctification (that it is complete in this lifetime) or an over-actualized eschatology (that God wants you to experience perfection this side of the second coming). The Reformed church is much more competent to counsel because of the systematic theology that informs our understanding of law and grace.

TT: What three things would you tell a Christian young person who is experiencing same-sex attraction and is tempted to selfidentify as a homosexual?

RB: (1) Don’t embrace labels that God doesn’t use. God does not rank-order His beloved sons and daughters. If you are a believer, then your identity is in Christ and Christ alone. MemorizeColossians 3:1–4, remembering that “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (v. 3). Meditate on what it means to take refuge in Christ. And remember that union with Christ and the communion of the saints go together, so don’t isolate.

(2) As you practice the ordinary means of grace—Bible reading, psalm singing, taking the sacraments—do so with the communion of the saints. Don’t isolate. Be a fully present member of your church. If you struggle with unwanted homosexual desires, tell your pastor, elders, and friends so that they know how to pray for you and love you. But don’t think that the fact of these feelings makes you a dangerous person. A dangerous person is someone who either does not know what sin pattern percolates within him or foolishly believes that if he hides it, he is controlling it.

(3) Know your enemy. Unwanted homosexual desire is not the unforgivable sin. It is a vestige of the fall, and as such, is a vestige of original sin, the ultimate “pre-existing” condition. Daily, I ask the Lord: Lord, how has my original sin distorted me, how is my indwelling sin manipulating me, and how is Satan enlisting me? Your temptation pattern does not define you, but you must be armed for the battle, knowing that victory is promised, in God’s timing, incomplete but powerful here on earth, and complete and full in eternity.


Dr. Rosaria Butterfield is a pastor’s wife, full-time mother, and speaker. She is author of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, a book detailing the experiences of her journey to Christianity. A former tenured professor of English at Syracuse University, Dr. Butterfield started a college ministry upon her conversion to Christianity in 1999. Dr. Butterfield is a member of First Reformed Presbyterian Church of Durham, N.C., where her husband, Rev. Kent Butterfield, serves as senior pastor.

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