Pastor Andy Stanley raised more than a few eyebrows 11 years ago when he shared a story about a couple in his church who got a divorce after the husband began a sexual relationship with another man.
I addressed the issue in a 2012 CP op-ed, and Dr. Albert Mohler Jr. described the incident this way: “Stanley clearly and repeatedly stressed the sin of adultery, but then left the reality of the homosexual relationship between the two men unaddressed as sin. To the contrary, he seemed to normalize their relationship.”
And then five years ago lightning struck once again when Andy argued that the Christian faith must be “unhitched” from the Old Testament. Sadly, those who downplay and dismiss the Word of God are terribly misguided and spiritually adrift.
Andy continued his assault on Scripture last year when he said, “I know 1 Corinthians 6, and I know Leviticus, and I know Romans 1, so interesting to talk about all that stuff. But just, oh my goodness, a gay man or woman who wants to worship their Heavenly Father, who did not answer the cry of their heart when they were 12 and 13 and 14 and 15. God said, ’No,’ and they still love God.”
So just to be clear. Andy seems to think that some adults today experience same-sex attraction because God supposedly told them “No” when they begged him as teenagers to remove this unwanted desire from their life.
This complete misunderstanding of man’s sinful nature led Andy to have “two married gay men” speak at a conference held recently at his church. Andy said these men are “Christ-followers” who have spoken at previous North Point Community Church gatherings. The intended purpose of the conference was to assist parents who have children with same-sex attraction.
The correct way to have assisted those families would have been to tell them what the Bible actually teaches about our sinful nature and God’s grace, rather than arrogantly blame God for our tenacious unholy affections.
The Apostle Paul wrote: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature” (Romans 7:18).
Every Christian has what I call the “basement” within their soul, and nothing good dwells in that “sinful nature” (see Romans 7:14-25). Your basement is not your heart or mind, and no child of God is required to spend time down there. Thankfully, we are free in Christ to resist the urge to engage in ungodly thoughts and sinful behavior.
Andy Stanley, like you and I, would benefit immensely by understanding and embracing the following two facts:
1. God does not remove depraved desires and unholy attractions from our sinful nature. Instead, 2. The Lord gives believers the grace to stay out of the basement.
Pause for a moment. Reflect upon what you just read. And then please read those two life-changing statements again.
Scripture declares: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ’No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:11-12).
So don’t ever bother trying to convert or change your basement proclivities and attractions. It won’t work. The biblical approach for a believer is to say “No” to those dark desires, which in turn helps foster godly thinking within your heart and mind.
Paul wrote: “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness” (2 Timothy 2:19).
Andy Stanley is responsible before God to teach people that unholy attractions and sinful temptations must be resisted. This includes pride, greed, jealousy, a judgmental spirit, worry, resentment, and fear; as well as a burning desire to engage in pornography, fornication, adultery, or a gay sexual relationship.
The grace of God teaches believers in Jesus to say “No” to every type of sin, which lies fairly dormant in the basement until we choose to engage with it. As a Christian, you are always just a few seconds or a few clicks away from being back down in the basement, separated from the joy of Jesus and the fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23). God produces this good fruit upstairs in the living room whenever you as a believer are humbly seeking to please the Lord with your thoughts, words and deeds.
One day some religious leaders wanted to stone a woman caught in adultery. They asked Jesus about her sin in hopes of trapping him. Jesus wisely responded, “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). Jesus compassionately informed the woman that he did not condemn her, and then he instructed her: “Go now and leave your life of sin” (v. 11).
What if rather than telling her to leave her adulterous lifestyle, Jesus had invited the woman to come listen to conference speakers who were openly and persistently engaged in adultery? Andy Stanley does something just as egregious every time he invites “two married gay men” to speak at his church.
Instead of affirming sexual sin, Andy could choose to invite speakers who have been transformed by God’s grace. For example, there are plenty of devout followers of Christ in the “Changed Movement.” These sincere and imperfect believers joyfully testify, “We left LGBTQ+ because we wanted to.”
Those who leave the lifestyle are wise to leave the label behind as well. Jesus and the apostles never once taught believers to wear a label that advertises ungodly attractions and proclivities originating in the basement of the soul. Paul presented a list of sinful labels to Christians in Corinth, including “adulterers,” “homosexual offenders,” and “slanderers.” He then wrote, “And that is what some of you were” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
Christian parents and pastors do harm to children in their families and churches who experience same-sex attraction by labeling them the way the world does, with labels such as “gay,” “LGBTQ,” and “lesbian.” You set yourself up for spiritual defeat if you identify yourself with your strongest temptation, rather than with godly words used in Scripture to describe those who belong to Christ and are therefore “a new creation” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The real you is who you want to be in Christ. So, who do you want to be? Only identify yourself with a label that tells others who you want to be.
By the way, do you know anyone who has ever wanted to have same-sex attraction suddenly manifest itself in the basement of their soul? Me neither. Nevertheless, a relatively small percentage of the population experiences this perplexing predilection without ever having asked for it.
Christians are tempted every day to go down to the basement to engage in one wicked thought or another. Believers in Jesus are forgiven and free to resist sinful desires, rather than to celebrate them (see Romans 6:1-23). Christians “have been set free from sin” (Romans 6:18) in order to remain upstairs and enjoy holy and happy fellowship with our Lord and Savior.
If Andy Stanley would choose to embrace the clear message presented in Romans 6:1-23, Romans 7:14-25, Galatians 5:13-26, and Titus 2:11-12, he could climb back aboard the righteous train of New Testament theology. As things stand right now, Andy’s dangerous teaching on homosexuality is a runaway railroad car that is taking unsuspecting travelers for an irreverent ride.
The moral of the story? It was Andy and Andy alone who chose to unhitch himself from New Testament theology. So don’t believe everything you think. And don’t teach anything that contradicts the Word of God.
I sure hope you realize and appreciate the amazing grace of Jesus who forgives sinners like us, as well as the Bible’s incalculable value in our daily struggle against sin and temptation.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska.
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