Posts Tagged ‘Life Together’

NPR’s Weekend Edition took an unusual turn. When I listen to NPR, which I do periodically, I don’t usually agree with their perspective on things. But it is good to hear opposing viewpoints. Sometimes they have interesting stories about people. This was not a story I expected to hear on NPR since it doesn’t fit their usual narrative.

They interviewed PCA pastor Allan Edwards. In his teens he realized he was attracted to men, not women. As a Christian he sought to figure all this out in terms of his relationship with God. It was not easy for him, he wanted to make sure he understood the Scriptures correctly. He came to the conclusion that he did, and that acting on those desires was wrong.

“I think we all have part of our desires that we choose not to act on, right?” he says. “So for me, it’s not just that the religion was important to me, but communion with a God who loves me, who accepts me right where I am.”

Here is what we have to remember; we ALL have wrong desires, including wrong sexual desires. Homosexuals are not the only ones who have sinful desires. We do them a disservice when we talk like they are. Those desires, at times, seem quite powerful. We can allow them to define us, to form our identity.

Allan wisely did not let his sexual desires define him. He finds his identity in Christ, as his parents’ son and his wife’s husband. Soon he’ll add his child’s father. Yes, he is married to a woman. Yes, they have a sexual relationship. He chose the route of marriage, not celibacy. Some of his friends chose celibacy.

The interviewer brought up the word “suppress” which wasn’t one he was wild about. He expresses his sexual desires in the context of marriage. He puts to death his same sex desires, as we would put any other sinful desire to death. We are to do this with our greed, hatred, fear and other sinful desires.

His wife displayed wisdom in discussing this.

“There’s always going to be situations where a partner is sexually attracted to someone else and isn’t necessarily dealing with sexual attraction with their partner,” Leeanne says.

We often don’t admit this or want to talk about this. At times we will be attracted to other people. Just about everyone deals with sexual attraction toward people other than their spouse. It is just a question of whom.

“Everybody has this experience of wanting something else or beyond what they have,” Allan says. “Everyone struggles with discontentment. The difference, I think, and the blessing Leeanne and I have experienced is that we came into our marriage relationship already knowing and talking about it. And I think that’s a really powerful basis for intimacy.”

What should be obvious is that he isn’t suppressing this or hiding it. He is open and honest. As a result it becomes a matter for prayer and encouragement, as well as ministry. Too often pastors are limited in ministry because people think they aren’t sinners. Maybe they used to be, long ago, but not now. But pastors continue to have struggles with sin, including sexual sin. They struggle with the desires of their hearts, including sexual desires.

When we hide these struggles they gain power over us. We suffer in silence. We don’t enjoy the fellowship with other sinners saved by grace, as Bonhoeffer notes in Life Together. As Steve Brown would tell us in seminary, “demons die in the light.”

But it is scary. That is because people can over-react or misunderstand. I once told a few other pastors, as we shared prayer requests, that I was struggling with lust. They were afraid I was having an affair. They meant well, but I was not inclined to share more. I did tell them I’d begun treatment for low T, and suddenly felt like a teenager again. Thankfully I didn’t have the acne too. I thought I was more sanctified than I was but it was just getting older. The increased testosterone didn’t put desires in my heart, but revealed them. I saw afresh my incredible need for Christ, my never-ending need for Christ (in this life).

As Christians we have to stop pretending we are more sanctified than we really are. We need more honesty about what is lurking in our hearts. We need to be more honest about weaknesses. Expressed properly they open the door to ministry to both Christians and non-Christians. People recognize they are not alone, and that because of Christ (who is ever and always our justification) we are accepted by God despite our on-going experience of temptation and practice of sin. Perhaps people will see that love does cover a multitude of sin.

114. Q. But can those converted to God keep these commandments perfectly?

A. No. In this life even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience. Nevertheless, with earnest purpose they do begin to live not only according to some but to all the commandments of God. Heidelberg Catechism

Read Full Post »

One of the mistakes that Ted Haggard made over the years was to be alone in his sin.  Ted is not alone in being alone in his sin- not confessing the great darkness that resided in his heart.  This is a common problem for all who have such public, dramatic falls “from grace” (I don’t mean to imply he has lost his salvation, just using common terminology).

At the gym today I listened to Kris Lundgaard’s 4th message at the Omaha Bible Church.  In it he referenced The Minister’s Black Veil, one of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short stories.  In this story, a minister began to wear a black veil over his face, and refused to take it off until he died.  He was hiding from his people, weary with guilt and afraid they would discover the secret sins of his heart.

Bonnhoeffer talks about this in the last chapter of Life Together as well.  Sin isolates us.  Satan loves the darkness (as Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones notes in his studies on the Sermon on the Mount).  This is why Steve Brown always told us “Demons die in the light.”

Confessing our sin, even the desperate longings of our hearts, or should I say especially those, is humbling.  And this humility puts us in the place of grace (James 4 & 1 Peter 5).  But when we, through pride, refuse to bring our sin into community we will remain isolated and alone.  And when we are there, we will inevitably fall prey to our Enemy who is like a prowling lion looking for stray Christians to devour.

Ted Haggard’s circumstances should illustrate to us the need to let others into our lives and see the sin and temptation we experience.  Then they can pray with and for us.  The more we humble ourselves, the more we will find the grace we need to put those sinful desires to death.  This goes far beyond controlling behavior, but being transformed from the inside out.

Update: He was asked to step down today, and did, for “sexually immoral conduct” without specification.

For more to ponder, look here.

Read Full Post »