Ministry, Not Magic
Ellen White wrote, “Every true disciple is born into the kingdom of God as a missionary.”1 So how many souls have you won? How many have I won? Four and a half years ago God gave me a “lightning bolt” experience, clearly convicting me that I was not living in accordance with His divine plan. For many years I had blamed Him for my struggles. I was mad at Him for creating me “gay,” only to have His Word stipulate that my “behavior” is an abomination to Him.
From Mad to Motivated
Do you know what the troubling fact about this is? I wasn’t spending time in communion with God, His Word, and conversation with Him. I blamed Him, I was mad at Him, when I didn’t even know Him. Far too many good people, even earnest Christians, are like this.
But then, as part of my conversion, I found that a relationship with Jesus is key. My rest came from a continual surrender of self and abiding in Him. This was a stunning realization. It confirmed that knowing God was not magic. If I wanted to know and please Him rather than myself, I’d have to do my part.
It wasn’t long before God instructed me to begin sharing these simple personal realizations through a ministry to others. As I have shared with thousands of people, it has become evident that every one of us has a ministry. But what are we doing with it?
Real redemption is different from indoctrination. As a denomination we are very strong on prescription, possessed of a desire to set things (and people) straight. What we sometimes miss in our zeal for fixing everybody and everything is that without an intimate walk with God we have very little to share with those who are rapidly losing a thirst for biblical solutions. This applies to all the sin-sickened, not just practicing homosexuals we desperately want to get straight. I can count on both hands the number of people I know who have accepted God’s redemption from homosexuality. Some of the reasons are not necessarily comfortable to consider.
To begin with, pastors, teachers, scholars, and congregational members have often been poorly equipped to reach out to homosexuals. This has bred a denominational silence about offering a redemptive message for those who suffer from homosexuality. At the same time, member ignorance has driven many same-sex-attracted people away from the One who can restore and heal them. Everywhere I speak I find parents, loved ones, and concerned church members who are anxiously waiting for a “quick fix” for homosexual behavior. “How can I make my son, daughter, mother, father, brother, or sister straight?”
And therein hides the carefully crafted snag from the enemy. Satan will focus our minds on sexual practices, rather than allow us to realize that the vital issue is completely independent of sexual orientation. Real redemption does not come from modifying sexual appetites.
Exchanging one sexual appetite for another is not the same as coming to Christ. Unfortunately, I don’t have to go very far to find people who want to direct me to a heterosexual relationship. They believe this will put me in good standing with concerned church members, pastors, family members (perhaps), and, of course, God. Think about how little sense this makes.
Brokenness and Healing
My life was severely broken, but it ran far deeper than sex. No magic-button solution, including a new sexual appetite, turns anybody, gay or straight, from a sinner to a saint. Still, the solution has always been right in front of us. The solution regarding sin applies to homosexuality as surely as it does for any other temptation or activity condemned by God. The miracle homosexuals need is the miracle all sinners need: surrender, letting self go, and humbly accepting God’s plan instead of our own. And we hardly know God’s plan if we aren’t paying attention to Him, spending time communing and building a relationship with Him.
Lives are not changed by beating people into submission with truth. Jesus’ ministry presented a balance of love and truth; the two are inseparable. After years of being pushed into a corner our predicament has become glaringly clear. We need love, the pure love of Jesus Christ. Only love can make the change that matters. The goal is not to make someone straight, but to encourage them to seek God personally. We do this by surrounding them with prayer, being supportive, and lifting them up for healing. James 5:16 tells us to confess our sins one to another and pray for the healing that is promised.
This is not “magic”: it is ministry. Our calling is to care for those who seek the healing that God has promised. Invite practicing gays to dinner. Get to know them as individuals. Stop imagining what goes on behind their bedroom door. They are not modern-day lepers. Get to know them as friends, and place on them the same value Jesus Christ has. Such loving acceptance is not compromising God’s truth. Nor should we give a false affirmation in hopes that they pick up the message of purity buried in a fog of fake smiles.
Seek the Holy Spirit, wait for His prompting. Prayer is still the most powerful tool there is in the rescue of gays from self and falsehood. God is not powerless! When we establish communication, be praying for those we are seeking for Christ. Watch for opportunities, such as questions asked by the gay person. Claim promises. Remember that all things are possible for them who love the Lord (Phil. 4:13).
No, I’m not sure that hoards of gays will be storming our church doors. Many sinners search only for an “itching ear” message. Gays are, of course, no different. It’s going to take time and ministry, under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, to change perceptions. Is it possible? Absolutely! But it can take place only through education and replacing our prior prejudices. Same-sex-attracted people seeking or experiencing redemption have to be integrated into the church family to lay the foundation of establishing love and healing for them.
Accepting Jesus Christ as our loving, personal, and intimate Savior was likely not the result of someone highlighting choice verses in the Bible that pointed out that we were living in total and complete disregard for God. But for many, if not most, it is as a result of compassion and tenderness that touched and humbled us, creating an irresistible desire to seek the majesty of our awesome Creator.
Much has been lost while we’ve been silent. But it is no longer safe to be silent. Surrendered, committed, and blessed children of God must bear their testimony. For every true disciple is born a missionary. So let’s begin where we are. Share with a same-sex-attracted person how God conquered the sin that was natural to us. Against the claim that our genes compel us to permanent slavery to sin, consider the only two perfect people created on this earth, Adam and Eve. All of us inherited their fallen nature after they sinned. Our “natural” bent is toward sin.
Perhaps, like me, you loved God as a child. I just couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, or how to apply His Word practically to my life. Now I understand that my problem is the same as everyone else’s. The enemy is trying to claim me. But God keeps revealing to me that I may freely choose to seek Him and His will, or disobey Him and live for what comes naturally.
All humans suffer from temptation. But we Christians have Jesus’ model for handling temptation: “It is written” (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). This was no simple matter for Jesus, gaunt with hunger, parched from thirst, and utterly alone for more than a month. Nor should we expect a fight to the death to be simple for us. “Ye have not resisted unto blood,” writes the author of Hebrews, “striving against sin” (Heb. 12:4, KJV).
Ellen White wrote: “The Lord permits His people to be subjected to the fiery ordeal of temptation, not because He takes pleasure in their distress and affliction, but because this process is essential to their final victory. He could not, consistently with His own glory, shield them temptation; for the very object of the trial is to prepare them to resist all the allurements of evil.”2 Note that it is allurements, not repugnance, that we have to resist. But resisting the attractions of self-indulgence and self-exaltation will give us victory where Satan and Adam lost.
The salvation God gives in Jesus is for all. “Come to Me,” Jesus invites all souls who labor and are heavy laden, “and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28, NKJV).3 This is for all the sin-sickened, longtime saints and societal outcasts together.
So as we journey and struggle together, let us encourage one another as we testify of overcoming grace. Let none abandon Jesus for the cries of our flesh, whatever crosses we may bear.
Also, let us open our arms and hearts to same-sex-attracted individuals who are willing to invite God in, who want God to reveal His love and truth to them. Before opening His Word together, invite the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Claim the blood of Jesus Christ and rebuke the enemy. In your personal time with God pray for the heart you are claiming.
God has not left us helpless. He has provided us with His love letter. He cherishes our love and trust in Him. He will not force, we have a choice. If we are the loving, believing, trusting church family God wants us to be, many will be drawn in. Many whom we have lost will return and experience support and healing.
Let’s be careful not to isolate, stereotype, or stigmatize these important lives. “If we would humble ourselves before God, and be kind and courteous and tenderhearted and pitiful,” wrote Ellen White, “there would be onehundred conversions to the truth where now there is only one.”4
How many souls have I won? I’m no head counter, but I pray that because of the life I led and the victory in Jesus to which I am willing to testify, others will exercise courage and the power of choice God has given us.
I dare to pray that as a result of reading this, you will join me in commitment to biblical, godly solutions. Let’s be committed to winsomeness, to sharing with all who need it, including those who need it most. Many have been rejected, and, despite outward appearance, peer pressure, social propaganda, and the perverse victimization of political correctness, are most hungering and thirsting for what Jesus alone can give.
Help them find Jesus so He can give it to them.
- Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), p. 195.
- Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 528.
- Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 9, p. 189.