One very common complaint I have come across from those dealing with same sex attraction and the seemingly impossibility of getting free from it is ” I’ve tried to get free and it didn’t happen”. This is typically the most common response and among the many different arguments people put forward, this one is the one that I want to address.
It is not unknown to me personally, the various aspects of brokenness and the ways they reveal themselves as I continue to experience freedom and grow in my walk with Jesus. I have never been, nor felt disillusioned by any difficulties I may deal with or have in my journey.
Except for one particular time in my life. Let’s go there, shall we?
In 2007-08, (somewhere in there) I was a participant in a recovery program, dealing with my past trauma from abuse and my addiction to pornography. Unfortunately I wasn’t being forthcoming about the sin I was actively practicing, pornography. When someone refuses to come clean about their sin, it does tend to grow in intensity and frequency, and can have very unwanted consequences. So here I am in my small group, and when it comes time to check in, I’m not being transparent. ” I’m struggling with pornography”. And my groups leaders never challenged that. The truth was, I wasn’t just struggling, I was immersing myself in it. I looking at it day and night, and that led to needing a bigger fix, which led to magazines and DVD’s which led to telephone hookup businesses, and those ultimately led to my acting out anonymously with other men. Now, during this period of time, I had run into an old friend – someone I knew when I lived in Tulsa, who was out and proud and a big proponent for all things LGBTQ and a big fan of pornography too. Because of all this secret acting out, I experienced a ton of conflict. Not because I was denying “my true self” but because I was putting on the biggest circus act to everyone, pretending I wasn’t sinning, pretending I was this overcoming, victorious man, and yet sin was taking me to darker and darker places. This old friend whom I hadn’t seen in 10 yrs was the person I confided all my secrets to, and that took the weight from pretending off of me momentarily, but also caused me to begin to question everything. The word tells us that bad communication corrupts good morals. 1 Cor 15:33. Slowly, through the influence of my rekindled friendship with my old buddy, I began to reinsert myself into the gay life, as I began spending more time with him and his gay friends, going to the bars, drinking, and eventually acting out in terrible ways, re-immersing myself into everything I had previously repented of. I don’t need to go on because you get the picture. The big wake up call happened one evening, I was in a bar, sitting at a table with a drink…alone. And I was reflecting on what I had been experiencing up to this night, I thought about the many times I had tried to date, with no success, and it was as if I was deliberately being protected from being able to enjoy being a gay man. ( I thought more than once that God’s angels were keeping me from having any success in dating). So here I was, at this table, with a drink in my hand, and I took a really good look at my surroundings, and…….I woke up. Instantly I’m thinking, wait a minute, how did I get here, I hate this life, this is exactly where I was the last time…and , I walked out for good and repented all the way home. Later on, a meeting with a good, trusted GODLY friend, helped me see why this all this had transpired. In that meeting, I learned a valuable lesson on being transparent, honest and real about whatever sin, temptation or struggle is going on in my heart and life.
When I came out of homosexuality in 1999, there wasn’t anyone there to help mentor me, equip me, encourage me in my journey out of sexual and relational brokenness. Not that I didn’t have a couple of friends, a couple that I’m friends with today who are also among my supporters ( I have to raise support to work at the ministry where I’m employed). There is no manual for ” how to successfully eradicate all of your same sex struggles for eternity”. And for many people, the journey out of homosexuality into wholeness has been a horrible experience that left them disillusioned and distraught, until they eventually abdicated everything to return to the homosexual identity, making their situation worse than before. 2 Peter 2:20
As believers, we are continuously encouraged in scripture to practice warfare in our walk with God. We are reminded that we have an unseen enemy Eph 6:12 ( NLT describes this best to me), that we wrestle not with flesh and blood but against principalities and powers of darkness. We are further exhorted that the weapons of our warfare are mighty in God to pulling down strongholds, that we are casting down imaginations, and every high things that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and to bring every thought captive to the obedience to Jesus Christ. 2 Cor 10:5. There’s nothing new and unheard of here but for whatever reason, the church doesn’t seem to be very equipped to teach about the need for spiritual warfare. We talk about God, we talk about faith, we talk about sin, we talk about many things, but I’m disappointed to say that I don’t see an equipping of the church for warfare. Especially in the life of a same sex struggler. There’s an unseen enemy out there and we’ve been given everything we need to engage in warfare against them and yet, most people are more concerned about designer clothes , the latest fads in hairstyles or skinny jeans than they are in dressing themselves for battle. When people who repented of homosexual sin begin to experience spiritual warfare, many times they quit and return to whence they came because it feels difficult to impossible to overcome, with little to no help from the Body of Christ.
As I’ve been reflecting on the battle in my own life for truth, I’ve also been pondering about those who, because the warfare was so intense they abdicated the battle because the remnants of the old life were continuing to surface and how the seeming impossibility of the struggle was to overcome and the perception that they were losing more than they were winning the way, surrender to the old life became the final verdict, that they would never get free from the difficulties ( something that has never been promised anywhere in the word). In many, the surrender has led to a reversal of thought that ultimately exchanged the truth of God for a lie. Rom 1:25
Imagine with me an alcoholic man that wrestles daily with conviction over his addiction to alcohol and the seeming inability to overcome it. This man wages a daily war against something that feels impossible to control, and more than often, feels like the impulse to drink controls them far more that they control it. Ask anyone who had truly overcome alcoholism and they will tell you my description nails it pretty well. Now imagine that same man addicted to alcohol decides that he’s tired of the struggle and comes to the conclusion that he was created to be an alcoholic and therefore, immerses himself in it which causes the struggle to cease ( momentarily). Ludicrous, right?
Yet it’s that same mindset I see employed by SO many who’ve gone back into homosexuality surmising that they must have been created this way, otherwise the struggle would have gone away. So they create a new spiritual “truth” that makes way for all the things they struggle with to be okay. It sounds ridiculous, however, that’s exactly what happens, time and again. Let me say though, that not everyone who has overcome and completely walked away from that identity, ends up returning to it. There are many who walk in the strength God has given them to not only overcome, but are able to see themselves the way God created them to be from the beginning, one man for one woman, the Imago Dei. I’m one of those people! It’s amazing how God has transformed my heart AND mind. I’m walking in freedom.
The reality is, the moment we asked Jesus to come into our lives and hearts, calling him Lord and Savior, we instantly set ourselves against the god of this world. Congratulations, you now have a bullseye on your back whether you like it or not. And this journey is a consistent surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ over everything. Tit doesn’t happen quickly, nor easily. In the book, Pilgrims Progress , which is an excellent work, the story of this journey that we all face in following the Lord is told in beautiful detail and remarkable accuracy, considering the the story is a work of fiction based on biblical truth. This journey of the truly born again Christian, entails a plethora of dynamics that will define and refine what following Jesus looks like with each step. We are instructed, through the Word, that we must put on the full armor of God, and just so we know what that means, the writer lets us know what comprises that armor. The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation. It’s of interest to me that the first thing mentioned in the armor of God is the belt of Truth.
We are instructed to stand firm and maintain our surrendered heart in yieldedness to the Lordship of Jesus in everything. We are instructed to press on in endurance, that only in perseverance does one win the race. 1 Cor 9:24. In this race we remember that as Jesus has suffered in the flesh , we must arm ourselves with the same purpose. 1 Peter 4:1-2, Romans 8:8, Romans 13:14, Gal 5:17, Eph 2:3. As the scriptures indicate, there’s not one aspect of this Christian Cross-bearing life that does not employ a daily dying to the flesh of some sort. If the spirit wars against the flesh, why then are they seeking to be perfected IN the flesh? Naturally, I’m astonished at these folks that have gone back to Egypt, vehemently declaring that it was God’s will for them to remain a slave. Most of them, (not all) cite how difficult and how seemingly impossible it was to get free from all of their same sex struggles in trying to overcome them. This, in my opinion, led to doublemindedness, which then led to believing a lie, which then led to a debased mind, in which the end result was a final declaration that God created them to be gay, or anything along the LFBTQ landscape. It needs to be mentioned that every one of these people who walked away from the truth to embrace a lie had something very important in common. None of them indicated by the testimony of their lives and their difficulties that they were dependent upon the Holy Spirit to do what God had asked them to do, what His word commanded them to do. A friend of mine recently brought this to my attention, that it’s not taught like it needs to be that we cannot do this walk of obedience without the power of the Holy Spirit. Although I instinctively knew this, I was struck at how profoundly lacking this piercing truth is. There is an active partnership with the Holy Spirit that we have to engage to be able to do anything the word requires us to do. The Holy Spirit gives us understanding!! The Holy Spirit reveals Jesus Christ to us! My friend pointed out in a document that he wrote that we go to church expecting to experience the presence of the Spirit in worship, and then leave Him at church. Ouch!! I’ve been guilty of that. Of the testimonies I have encountered of people who just couldn’t seem to overcome their homosexual attractions and addictions, every single one of them indicated that their entire journey was based on willpower and personal effort. There was not even one testimony from them that indicated they sought to partner with the Holy Spirit in overcoming anything. There was no dependence upon the Power of the Spirit to do God’s will. And they smugly mock my life by calling it “white knuckling” or ” Fake it ’til you make it”. Did you know that Romans 8:14 says ” For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. Noone can overcome anything without the help and power of the Holy Spirit!! Every one of the defectors indicate openly that they were led by their desires. THIS is why they reason with ” I feel, I think, I believe” It begins and ends with their humanity.
For many of them, not all, but many, right up to the moment a person wanting to be free from their same sex struggles, have allowed a number of things to transpire before the moment of accepting Jesus. They can be YEARS of debaucherous behavior, years of employing the lusts of the flesh, of pornography addiction, years of addiction to masturbation, years of feeding that broken identity. Years! One moment of encountering Jesus doesn’t make all those things sown into the soul of a person just go away. We’ve used broken sexuality and relating to consume every part and fiber of our being, and there will be a season of undoing that has to be worked out in difficulty in order to experience freedom, TRUE freedom, from those broken ways we engaged the world around us. And there’s no promise that the battle will ever cease. And I want to add that I have noticed in particular, those who go back have retained friendships with people who live out and proud, seemingly vibrant, homosexual lives. And that produces temptation to doubt, especially if they continue to secretly love that idol. I’d venture to say, with the enemy at hand, we’re most likely looking at an ongoing battle until Jesus returns. But we do have a bunch of promises to those that overcome. Rev 2:17, 2:26, 3:5, 3:12 , 3:21, 21:7. It’s interesting to me that all these passages refer to the end times. There’s also promises concerning those who endure to the end. Matt 10:22, 24:13, Mark 5:26, 13:13, John 6:27, 2 Tim 2:12, James 5:11, 1 Peter 2:20, Rev 2:3
As I have reflected on this phenomena of people going back, I was reminded of my own journey, and the valuable lessons I’ve learned about how I’m experiencing freedom from Homosexuality. One of those valuable lessons is an analogy I learned from my good friend and devoted brother, Stephen Black.
Let’s supposed you have bought a large piece of land. One of the many things you are going to do if you haven’t already is do a survey of the land. This land is vast and at some point you discover that you have squatters on your land. These squatters are now trespassing on your land, and you’re going to have to evict them in order to do with your land what you want to do. This evicting isn’t easy and perhaps these squatters have been there SO long that they are convinced it’s their land too. Great story, huh? Except, it’s reality. We see in the New Testament that even when Jesus had encounters with demons, they didn’t go willingly or easily. Noone should expect that it will be easier for us because we know Jesus. Rather, we’ve allowed the enemy to have ground in our lives for a really long time, and they aren’t that willing to depart, ESPECIALLY when they see that we might be still open to sin, like porn and masturbation, or lust or fantasy. I think in most of my blog entries I’ve mentioned that there IS a death that HAS to take place and dependence upon the power of the Spirit in order for HIS life to remain. That’s scriptural, and it’s the testimony of my walk with God as well. I never would have seen the freedom I have if I had been unwilling to lay my life down to have His. Matt 10:39, John 12:25 How many times does Jesus has to mention something for it to be serious? Once. That’s all. Just one time. Yet in His mercy He repeatedly leads us in the direction of death to self, and that will include every single way we’ve allowed the hordes of hell to have dominion in our lives. That means we HAVE to be intentional and dependent upon the Holy Spirit in this battle. It’s absolutely necessary. The imagery here is unmistakable and, I might add, the Old Testament equally gives us a picture of what doing battle looks like.
I’m incredibly grateful for God’s strength, Holy Spirit and provisional grace He’s given me to overcome sin and brokenness. It’s that grace and strength that helped me to see that due to years of immersing myself in relational and sexual sin, that the process of of getting free takes great endurance and perseverance in continually embracing the cross, regularly petitioning the Holy Spirit for His overcoming power in the ongoing process of putting to death the deeds of the flesh by crucifying them daily. Some people scoff and mock this process, but did you know that the word tells us that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. 1 Cor 1:18 The word of the cross IS death to self. It is this same cross that Jesus endured which brought us salvation, deliverance and cleansing from sin.
We will ALL deal with the propensity to sin until we die, or when Jesus comes. Until them we will daily be faced with having to die 24/7 . 1 Cor 15:31. Romans 7 also paints a vivid picture of this battle with the flesh. It’s quite clear, that in order to be free from sin, we have to put it to death, and this will mean suffering of some type. Reader please hear me. I am not without compassion. I have great compassion because I understand the nature of the battle we are in. However, watching people return to the muck and filth of their former uncleanness, in defiance even towards those who would warn them, makes me cling a little tighter to the fear of the Lord, and call it what it is; rebellion. Even with compassion, I am still compelled by the Holy Spirit to call willful, unrepentant sin what it truly is. Somewhere, in the journey with Christ, they refused to give him all and held onto their idols, which gave way to demonic principalities.
These men and women who bemoan the battle, and I would venture to speculate that some, I won’t say all because only God really knows, but this journey I’ve been on, I know…..I KNOW, that there’s been some ongoing, unrepentant sin, and they have given ground to the devil! They’ve allowed the enemy to remain and torment them whether it’s due to holding on to idols, or refusing to forgive those who have hurt them in some way, OR they are still worshipping these idols in some form, and complain they are never able to get free. I came close at one point in my life to being one of them, because the places where I struggled the most were the places I refused to stop sinning. What brought me freedom was the Fear of the Lord, remembering and embracing God’s truth, the word of God. I had to remember WHY I had hated that life so much and the desperation to be free, and the only thing , THE ONLY thing that brought the freedom was the willingness to die to everything to have Him. Matt 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24. This laying my life down to have his is the moment I began my journey of freedom.
Every single no to sin is the YES to Him and the death to the flesh. And according to the word of God, there’s a suffering involved. Every.Single.Time. Years of continually sowing to the flesh will bring corruption and death, and those seeds must be weeded out consistently. Sowing to the Spirit of the Living God brings real peace and liberation. Reader, please hear me out. I have enormous compassion for the wayward, because I was once one of them. I’m not without understanding and mercy towards those who struggle with inner brokenness. The challenging issue here is the complete throwing off of all they once knew to embrace a “new” truth based on feelings and emotions. This is really important to remember, because EVERY argument they make is based on feelings and emotions. And it’s heartbreaking to watch them continue to spiral out of control to eventually reject everything they once stood firm on. It’s not my will these wayward ones need to obey, it’s not about pleasing me, or making sure they do what I think they should be doing. They listen to the enemy, the father of lies, and will tell you how terrible I am for suggesting that they can be free, or that it’s not God’s will for them to return to this path. That’s what they eventually end up saying. I believe firmly that once a person is willing to, AND believes a lie from the pit of hell, then it’s just a matter of an open door to the rest of the demonic influences that continue to compound one deception upon another deception. They become doubly deceived. 2 Thess 2:10-12 tells us that there will be a deception of wickedness for those who perish because they ” did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false… This is exactly what we are seeing. This really does stir up the Holy fear of the Lord within me.
Recently, I was having dinner with friends and we talked about Jesus’ sacrifice and that He had at His disposal, a legion of Angels from Heaven that could rescue Him the moment He chose to not die, and yet He chose the death that would result in our freedom. With that truth in mind how could I ever refuse to pick up my own cross when it means full access to His life? And Jesus offers us SO much. So much. Even today, the changes He’s wrought in my heart and mind and continuing to make have gone beyond convincing me that the journey is worth it. It’s helped solidify that there’s no other way but the cross. The cross where my freedom was purchased with the suffering and the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Even typing this I’m weepy because of how precious this thought is. After all He’s done for me, for you, for all of us, how can we not willing strive to lay our lives down and pick up our crosses to follow Him.
I choose Jesus. I choose to partner with the Holy Spirit. I choose obedience to the word of God and I choose the cross. Will you?