06 Nov 2012
A question often asked here at Harvest USA is a common one. “Why do people, Christians even, go back to a gay life after they have come for help?” It’s a legitimate question. For Christians who believe the Word, the Scriptures, and believe that faith in Christ makes one a “new creation,” the issue may seem confusing, but the answer must be honest and biblically grounded. Here is the second reason that could explain what might be happening here, as we have seen some common denominators over the years in our ministry.
The cost of obeying Christ seems too high a price to pay
For many people, the call to obey Christ and live within the boundaries of God-designed sexuality is just too difficult, and its benefits too intangible and not immediate enough. Unfortunately, this is the kind of society in which we now live. If anything seems too difficult or doesn’t produce immediate results, then it’s not worth the time and effort. The downside of life in a technologically-based society is the false, utopian ideal that everything should work or should be fixable—now! Growth that can only take place over time, and the very idea of struggle itself, is dismissed as unnatural.
I remember something Gail Barker, our first secretary at Harvest USA, said to me one day. Gail was telling me that while she was growing up in the 1940’s, life was difficult, and everyone just accepted the idea of struggle as a part of life. She went on to say that was why people enjoyed times of respite from struggle. There was an awareness that life was not easy, and therefore one came to appreciate, as a blessing, the times when life was not so hard. But those moments were brief, which made them so much more valuable. It is especially important for for those who desire to come out of homosexuality to realize this intertwining of struggle and respite.
God calls us all to obedience to his will, to what he knows is best for his creation, and that entails turning away from those things which seem to offer life but, in reality, lead to the death of the soul. Those who have embraced homosexuality have opened a Pandora’s Box and have found false comfort and counterfeit life in a mistaken attempt to make sense of a broken and fallen world. This is true for anything that anyone embraces outside of God’s design, not just for this issue. Sometimes, then, God’s call to all of us to live a life of holiness (that is, a life live according to God’s call, separated from the innumerable ways in which the world encourages us to live) seems not worth the price to pay. Like I mentioned in point number one, that price is nothing less than a death—the death that comes from leaving behind those things which once gripped your heart and felt good and affirming.
There is suffering involved in self-denial. The book of Hebrews reminds us that to walk in self-denial, in order to live fully engaged in a life with God, is costly. In Hebrews 11:24-26 we read that, “Moses . . . refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (ESV). To deny oneself immediate pleasure and gratification is only possible when you look ahead to a greater future, one that is only realized by immersing oneself in God and in the people of God.
Of course, to speak of a road of self-denial and suffering is an unattractive option to most people. Yet it will be the path, at least most strongly in the beginning, for the journey out of a homosexual life. That is understandable, as many who come to Harvest USA say that they can’t imagine a future life without sexual involvement with a person of the same sex.
But there is an answer here. Unless that person comes to see Jesus as the one who takes center stage in their heart, displacing all others and the idols of the heart which draw us away from following him, then there will be an overwhelming and unending ache over what has been left behind and what is being denied. Seeking to end that ache makes going back into sin that much easier and more attractive. Jesus has to been seen as more attractive, worth much more than the denial of the flesh. Self-denial is not displaced by nothing; it is replaced slowly, over time, by a growing relationship with Jesus, and it is in that relationship that the grace and power to live a whole new life comes. It is a life that has its own joys and pleasures, made all the richer in the knowledge that such a life pleases the One who redeemed you by his death for you. We have learned at Harvest USA that unless people grasp that there is a greater reward that comes with obedience, then they don’t make it.