In seeking to bring the good news of Christ to people in the Eastern Valleys of South Wales, we have been blessed as a church to see many unlikely converts. I have found that in today’s culture people think that God, and Christians, hate them because of their lifestyle choices, especially when it comes to sexuality. They think that their identity is defined by their actions and desires, and so to follow Christ would be to deny who they really are.
What does the gospel have to say to people who think like this?
Christians in the United Kingdom are struggling to live and evangelise in a secularised society built on the premise that ‘we can be whatever we want to be.’ On the surface this sounds wonderful to many; they feel as if they are no longer constrained by the old morality and, what they believe to be, the archaic, oppressive rules of the Bible. But the truth is very different. Society has sold them a lie. In reality we are defined by the God who made us, and our greatest freedom comes from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Society’s acceleration away from biblical standards is clear to see, but our duty as Christians to reach the lost still remains the same. Whatever their views may be, and however confused they are about the truth, each person in our secularised society is made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27), we all share in the same sinful brokenness (Rom. 3:23) and we are all equally in need of the same Jesus.
The church’s failure to bring the clarity of the gospel to our changing culture is partly to blame for our nation’s current state. We need to regain our confidence in God’s Word, rise up in love and stand unashamedly for the truth of the gospel. We must be both uncompromising on biblical truth, and at the same time loving to those who have bought into the lie. This is a fine line to walk, but it can be done – our Saviour did it.
The sins of our secular age are no different to those we read of in the Bible. So, when combatting the lies of our fallen society we must lead the charge with the same gospel truth, reminding the lost that they are selling themselves short when they define themselves simply by their desires or actions. For we have all been made by God for a much higher purpose, to know and glorify him for all eternity.
In 1 Corinthians 6 verses 9-11, Paul gives us a list of sins that are widely accepted in today’s new normal, such as greed, drunkenness, adultery, idolatry and homosexual acts. He warns us not to be deceived, those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Only God determines what is right. He alone is our ultimate judge (Is. 33:22).
To reject God’s path of love and life, is to follow the path of sin and death (Rom. 6:23) and as Christians we simply don’t want this for people. Our society does us all a disservice when it tells us that our desires or actions define us, when we are so much more. The truth is, in our belief that people are more than their distorted understanding of themselves, we hold them in a much higher regard than they hold themselves, so much higher. This is a truth that we can be proud of, it shows no prejudice and loves all.
The good news is that our desires and actions do not have to define us. There is hope. We can be forgiven and accepted by God as righteous (justified) and have our desires changed (washed) and be set apart to serve God (sanctified) and glorify him. ‘And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God’ (1 Cor. 6:11).
This all comes through the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lived the righteous life God requires and endured the punishment that sin deserves on the cross, and through the work of the Holy Spirit in us, who gives us new life, brings us to repentance for sin and to faith in Christ, and gives us resurrection power to follow God’s path of eternal love and life. Isn’t this so much better?
Sin has corrupted our society and as a result people are confused and broken, reliant on their fallen desires for meaning in life. They are building their house on sinking sand. We must grieve for them, love them, pray for them and be compassionate in how we approach them.
Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus reconcile the lost with love. He invited all people to come to him just as they were. He distinguished between the person and their sin and we should do the same, welcoming all people into our churches just as they are and not putting any obstacle in the way of anyone coming to Christ as a sinner in need of salvation. After all, Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).
Jesus always spoke the truth about sin, boldly to the self-righteous and gently to the broken-hearted. But his aim was never to crush them, but to draw them to himself. ‘I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance’ (Luke 5:32). ‘And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to myself” (John 12:32).
Our society is lost and deeply hurting, but it is filled with a vast spectrum of wonderful people and all of them should be met with the same dignity and respect that Jesus would have given them. When they feel accepted by the church and are listened to, we will find that their more public sin is not the heart of their problems, and their needs are just the same as ours. We all need forgiveness and new life in Jesus!
Our society has changed but Jesus has not and his gospel still transforms souls today. We need to embrace this truth with confidence. It is Christ who saves, so we do not call on people to change themselves as a condition of coming to Christ. Rather we call on them to turn to Christ just as they are, so that he alone might save them.
Salvation is by faith in Christ Jesus (Rom. 10:9, Gal. 3:26), not by our ability to change ourselves. And as we turn to Christ in faith and experience his mercy, so we turn from sin in real repentance and we begin to live new lives as the repentant, believing children of God.