Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Rosaria Butterfield reminds us following Jesus costs everything.

Rosaria Butterfield: The gospel's hard, and the gospel is everything. The Lord Jesus gives some people one cross to bear and some people ten. Is unwanted homosexual desire a hard cross to bear? Yes, it is. If you know that you are in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will have the Lord's power in overcoming that temptation.

It doesn't mean the temptation will necessarily go away, but you will have His power and His love and His arms folded around you, and you are promised in Mark 10:28–31, 100–fold in this lifetime, meaning that you've got the church family, who is your family of God. With God all things are possible—not necessarily easy.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Friday, February 12, 2016.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: I'm so thankful to have a new friendship with a woman that I've known of and admired for a long time. Her name is Rosaria Butterfield. Rosaria, welcome to Revive Our Hearts.

Rosaria: Thank you. I'm delighted to be here.

Nancy: And you are addressing, out of your own life experience, your own personal testimony, and even more importantly, out of the unchanging, absolute Word of God (a precious gift that is) some topics that are, well, you can't avoid them today.

Rosaria: Right.

Nancy: When I was growing up, these weren't things we were talking about in my Christian home day after day—issues of homosexuality, gender identity, sexual orientation, and terms that I'm learning thanks to Facebook, whatever. Anyway, we're talking about fifty different genders, gender fluidity, and this is a whole new conversation.

Rosaria: It is.

Nancy: It's not new, but it's at a level of ubiquitous everywhere. It's in the air we breathe.

Rosaria: It is.

Nancy: These are questions and issues that we, as Christians who love Jesus and love His Word, can't just put our heads in the sand and pretend like they don't exist and just sit in our churches and be comfortable and hold hands and share precious promises and ignore.

Rosaria: Right.

Nancy: These are issues that increasingly facing and interfacing with the direct lives and vocations and liberties of Christians and in the workplace and the public sphere. That's no secret.

Rosaria: Right.

Nancy: And I am so thankful for the skill and the mind and the ability God has given you to get into His Word and to open up and explain to us how God thinks about these things. That's super important because we're all being asked, "What do you think?" And when it comes down to it, it doesn't really matter what we think.

Rosaria: You're right. I think what's really key is that right now, especially after the Supreme Court decision, we potentially could just be fear-driven about the religious liberty implications, and we could forget that the biggest danger in the world is lostness. That's bigger than anything else—to be lost and to not be known by the God who made you.

Nancy: And that has to be a greater concern to us—the lostness of humanity around us—more than our precious liberties or what's going to happen to us.

Rosaria: Right. It has to be. And sadly, because the church itself has been absorbing the terms of this conversation in the wrong way, that lostness is now in the church in many, many ways. And so, what we need to do, maybe, is unpack some of these terms so that we can talk a little bit about how to stand as a firm witness for truth in love and in courage.

Nancy: Well, we're going to go where angels fear to tread today.

Rosaria: That's right.

Nancy: Rosario has written two books in which she unpack both her personal story and the insights and wisdom God is giving her from His Word about dealing with these issues.

The one we're offering here on Revive Our Hearts as a way of saying, "Thank You for your gift of support to Revive Our Hearts," for a gift of any amount, I will send you Rosaria's book in which she shares her personal testimony, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. We've interviewed her here on Revive Our Hearts. We've shared that story.

Then she has a more recent book called, Openness Unhindered, in which she goes into a lot of this whole thing of these terms and way further than we're going to be able to go on a short number of programs here.

Rosaria: Absolutely.

Nancy: I have now read most of this more recent book. I just got it into my hands before we came into the studio here. I want to go back and digest it. I think it's so helpful because we're hearing some of these terms, and we're imbibing them, absorbing them, and assuming they're fact when they may not be that at all.

Rosaria: That's right.

Nancy: But to get us started, I want to think about people who identify as gay. We're saying, "Here's what the Scripture says about that." We're offering the gospel, but that may not sound really attractive to a person who has found their identity in their homosexuality and feeling, That doesn't sound like good news to me. It sounds like a raw deal. If I buy into what you're telling me the Bible says, am I going to be condemned to a life of loneliness? If this is who I am, if this is my identity, it doesn't even seem fair that you would require we think God's way about our sexual identity.

Rosaria: Absolutely. That's right.

Nancy: Speak to that.

Rosaria: And that was very much in Justice Kennedy's Majority Report. That it's just not fair. It is not fair. So as Christians we do need to unpack that.

So let's think a little bit about what this means. We use this term: sexual orientation. About 100 years ago, that term—sexual orientation—became a category of personhood. Prior to about 100 years ago, no one ever thought of a person being oriented according to sexual desires. A person's orientation prior to—it was Freud who invented this word—was that you're a soul bearer, and you're a male or female.

But the category of sexual orientation is really an attack against that because it says what really makes you you is who you desire to be your primary life partner. And so what happened when Freud developed this sexual orientation is a separate species of humanity was birthed—not one that God intended.

So one of the first things we need to realize is that when someone comes in and says, "I am gay," you are dealing with someone who has desires that God does not want, and probably has had some struggle over that, probably has had some pain and difficulty associated with that. But it is also someone who has a false view of self. You are not gay. You are an image bearer of a holy God who is struggling with homosexual desires. And there's a huge difference in that.

Nancy: So this move since the nineteenth century was that sexuality moved from a verb—a practice, what you do—to a noun.

Rosaria: That's right—a class of people, a species even. And what's important is that the Bible doesn't say homosexuals, as in a group of human beings, a noun, are an abomination. That's just not in the Bible. The Bible talks about homosexual practice, sometimes also rendered homosexuality in some Bible versions. What is abhorrent to God is exercising those temptations that God does not have for you.

So is it a raw deal? Well, the gospel is hard, and we need to stop sharing a false gospel. The gospel says you are going to carry a cross.

Nancy: Come and die.

Rosaria: The gospel says, "Come and die." The gospel says, "Everyone is going to have to give up everything." The gospel says, "You will only be able to walk forward with the Lord's kind company and in the presence of a loving family of God."

Nancy: And that's true whether you're one who has practiced homosexuality or whether you're a twenty-first century, self-righteous Pharisee.

Rosaria: You're right—absolutely.

Nancy: Everything has to be given up.

Rosaria: Everything has to be given up—all of your idols. And just because your sin feels good does not mean that it's proof God wants it for you. And I don't mean to be . . .

Just because your sin feels good does not mean that it's proof God wants it for you.

Nancy: Wow! Say that again, Rosaria.

Rosaria: Well, just because your sin feels good doesn't mean it's what God wants for you. So we need to go back and think this through. The gospel's hard, and the gospel is everything.

The Lord Jesus gives some people one cross to bear and some people ten. Is unwanted homosexual desire a hard cross to bear? Yes, it is. If you know that you are in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will have the Lord's power in overcoming that temptation.

It doesn't mean the temptation will necessarily go away, but you will have His power and His love and His arms folded around you. You are promised in Mark 10:28–31, 100–fold in this lifetime, meaning that you've got the church family, who is your family of God. With God all things are possible—not necessarily easy.

With God all things are possible—not necessarily easy.

Nancy: So there's no promise—whatever the sin—that giving that up will be easy.

Rosaria: No!

Nancy: But the promise of great reward.

Rosaria: Right. And we need not be Pollyanna about this. Sexual sins go very deep, especially sexual sins that have become either a matter of identity, saying, "This is who I am. This is how God made me. It's not a sin because this is who I am."

Nancy: Respond to that.

Rosaria: Well, what I would say to that is that in original sin, we are all born distorted by sin. So when someone comes to me and says, "I was born this way," I don't argue. I say, "Well, of course. We were all born this way."

What "this way" means might be different for each one of us. I probably spent a year sitting with this question: Is my lesbianism a distortion of who I am, or is my lesbianism a reflection of who I am? When I was a gay rights activist, I truly believed that my lesbianism was a reflection of who I am. I thought coming out meant being honest.

Nancy: That was your identity.

Rosaria: It was my identity.

Nancy: Or so you thought.

Rosaria: It was how I felt. But after studying the Bible and coming to know the Lord Jesus and coming to see other Christians who gave up everything, who die to themselves every day, I came to realize that original sin distorts us at our most primal level, that my desire, my sexual desire for women was not a reflection of who I am but a distortion of it.

Nancy: And the gospel made what difference in that?

Rosaria: One of the things the gospel does is it gives you a sense of personhood that is vital.

We live in a world that understands self-esteem and pride as things you need to not commit suicide. And what we know as Christians is what you need is the Lord. Our strength is in the Lord. Our identity is in the Lord. And our relationships are mediated through the Lord.

So to tell someone who had thought she was a lesbian, "No, let's work this out. You actually have an identity that is so much bigger than that. It started out from before the foundations of the world—Ephesians 1:4. It took you to the cross and then to the resurrection—Romans 3–8. And now it is applied in your daily walking with the Lord to help you discern you are a child of God. You have sinned, and you have repented, and your identity is now as a daughter of the King. That's huge!"

So the problem with this category of gay Christian is it cheapens something. Our identities are very important. We need to use language that reflects our identities that we can bring into the New Jerusalem.

At best, the category of sexual orientation is a category of the flesh. It simply will not survive to the New Jerusalem. What we will inherit are two things: our souls reunited with our bodies walking at liberty and free from all vestiges of sin; and the Word of God that will be flourishing before us in a way that we can't even imagine.

Nancy: Yes!

Rosaria: We are never to have ball-and-chain identities on this side of heaven that do not have their place in a New Jerusalem.

Nancy: So for the listener who says, "I'm a Christian, but I have this strong pull of the unwanted homosexual desire. What do I do what that?"

Rosaria: Yes. Well, first of all, please know that I understand. Please know that there should be no one in your church who doesn't understand. All Christians feel a pull and a draw to something that God doesn't have for us because the vestiges of original sin don't go away on this earth. They lessen. They become more manageable. We're able to sort of stand at a different distance from them.

But please know that you are a vital member of Christ's community if you have repented of your sin and you have put all of your faith on Jesus for salvation. We all live with unwanted desires of one form or another that are a thumbprint from the Fall, and by God's grace, they're not our identity because we stand in Christ and Christ alone. His righteousness is alien, but is ours to claim for ourselves.

Nancy: I want to read a couple of sentences out of your book and just ask you to expand on this a little bit.

New nature—being in Christ—does not necessarily mean new feelings, though it may. We do harm to the call of Christ when we presume that opposite-sex desires should replace same-sex desires as the exclusive proof of real sanctification.

Now, just say that in English first.

Rosaria: I'm sorry about that. You can take the English professor out of the classroom, but it gets kind of dense in there, doesn't it?

Nancy: But I think it's a real important point, though.

Rosaria: It is, and may it honor God. But the point is this: For too long, Christians have relied upon parachurch ministries to help them work through the "issue" of homosexuality, as though the issue of homosexuality is a discreet issue.

We know from Romans 1 that homosexuality is an ethical outworking of original sin. It's a distortion, and it's a fairly, I would say, common or expected distortion. But what's important to realize is that homosexual desires, homosexual sexual desires are a sin that needs to be mortified or put to death. It's not a behavior that needs to be modified. We really want to be mindful that sexual sin can really, especially when it's acted upon, adds to our ledger of original sin by adding actual sin to it. And sexual sin, more than other sins, sear the conscience.

For many of us who have come out of a life of sexual sin, we are doing the best we can to be faithful Christians, to be faithful in saying, "Lord, You know I struggle with this, and with Your kind help, I will not act on it, but only with Your strength alone. I cling to You. I'm so grateful that You cling to me. Please plead for me because I am weak." And that itself is a testimony of grace.

Nancy: So you're saying you can be a truly born-again Christian and those same-sex desires may not go away or may not be replaced by opposite-sex desires and you can still be growing in faith.

Rosaria: Yes. That is absolutely right. We can still be growing in faith because we grow in our faith in two ways: We grow in our faith through the humility that says, "This body of death is plaguing me, and I am so hungry to live in that New Jerusalem when I will not be plagued by it, but, Lord, oh Lord, this body of death, I need Your help." That gives God glory. And as we grow in sanctification, as slowly and over time, some of those desires temper or are no longer things we need to act on, that gives God glory.

So both humility and victory count as sanctification.

Some of those parachurch ministries that have specialized in these "ex-gay" narratives have really been not only unkind, but pathetically badly, just deceptively anti-theological. The theology in some of these ministries are just abhorrent. God does not promise complete sanctification this side of heaven.

Nancy: I think even within the context of our local churches, it's important for us to understand that as we worship side by side with those who struggle with same-sex attraction or desires.

Rosaria: Yes, that's true. It's not that different. If I can interrupt for just a second. Sometimes people think, Well, how can I be welcoming? Should I put out a big sign that says, "Hey, if you struggle with same-sex desires, come here"?

Well, no. I don't think any of us need to be part of a ghetto. What everyone needs is just to be enfolded into a body of Christ where everyone is transparently repenting of the sins of identity. That means it's safe to openly repent of the sin of unwanted homosexual desires, and at the same time, it's safe to openly repent of the sin of covetousness.

Nancy: You're distinguishing between the sin, which is the acting on those desires, while saying those desires and temptation may still be present.

Rosaria: Absolutely. Temptation is not a sin unto itself, but it's not a good thing. This is where it's not good to create an identity out of it. The temptation is not a sin because it's part of life. But it is not in any way ever supposed to be part of your Christian identity.

Nancy: So we both know friends, we both have friends, who would self-identify as a gay Christian—celibate, but calling themselves gay Christian.

Rosaria: Right.

Nancy: And you would suggest an alternative or better way to say that.

Rosaria: I would, and I talk about that in my new book. But I also include in my new book a chapter written by a dear friend who identifies as a gay Christian who totally disagrees with me.

Nancy: How would you rather see that expressed?

Rosaria: I would much rather see that expressed as this: I am a Christian who struggles.

Nancy: Christian is my identity.

Rosaria: Yes. Christian is my identity, who struggles with unasked-for homosexual desires. But my identity is as a Christian, a child of God, standing in robes of righteousness, hearing God Himself say, "This is My beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased."

Nancy: Yes. Rosaria, I want to touch on another thing you bring up in your book, and that is how we have lost the ability to have non-sexual, same-sex affections—that is affection between women with women, men with men that are non-sexual. You say that's a loss. In fact, you attach a term to it which, when you first hear it, it sounds like something you wouldn't want to have, but it's homosociality. That means social relationships with those of the same gender.

Rosaria: Right. One of the things that happens when we live in the world we live in now, where everything is sexualized, is it's no longer safe to have friends of the same sex.

Nancy: Because assumptions are made.

Rosaria: Yes, assumptions are made. The term homosociality is a term that refers to the deep and abiding friendship and bonding that we have and that we need to have with members of our own sex and gender.

And for many people that are healthy, non-sexual, non-sinful, and they're not gay . . . many of our famous women missionaries were probably people who had a very well-honed homosociality. They were deeply comfortable and happy in the company of women and did not need or desire a husband. That's not a pathology.

One of the issues here is the church is at fault in creating part of the problem here by regarding single people as people who need to be "fixed" or "fixed up." We need to be really careful. If we really believe that singleness is a deficiency, we need to be careful about what that communicates. That communicates we believe we follow a deficient Savior, and God forbid!

Nancy: Rosaria, there is so much more we could talk about, and you have so many more insights to offer, but that's why I'm hoping our listeners will get your book.

The first one, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, we're offering during this series to anyone who makes a donation of any amount to help with the outreach of Revive Our Hearts.

And let me say, when you support this ministry, you're making it possible for us to get this kind of teaching and content in rich, biblical thinking into the hands, the hearts, the homes of women around the world, many of whom grapple with these very issues we've been talking about. There are moms, there are wives, there are daughters, there are single women, married women, women of every season, women of every background and story who need to experience freedom and fullness and fruitfulness in Christ.

It's through the support of friends and listeners like you that we're able to take that ministry out to a thousand different radio outlets in this country each day and then by means of the Internet, around the world.

I had a woman come up to me in church not long ago who was visiting the U.S. for a month from China. I walked in the church, and she said, "Nancy!" She recognized me, like we knew each other. It turns out I've never met her. She's just fresh in from China. She said, "I listen to your program, and I read the transcripts of your program. God has used you over these years to help disciple me, to help me become a woman of God."

She's a single woman in her thirties, a Chinese woman, listening to the program and being discipled by it in a closed country. Your support helps to make that possible. And when you support Revive Our Hearts during this series, we want to send you a copy of Rosaria's book. I think in the day in which we're living, all of us need to read this story and grapple with these issues in a way that, Rosaria, you have helped us do so beautifully.

Thank you for coming off of two days of conference work and speaking and ministry.

Rosaria: Oh, thank you. It was my pleasure.

Nancy: I know you had a session earlier this week where people walked out on your session because they were mad at what you said.

Rosaria: They did.

Nancy: We haven't had anybody do that here in the studio, but you're out there in the battle, and you're a faithful warrior and servant of the Lord. I am so, so thankful, and I wonder, I know many of our listeners want to pray for you. I encourage you to do that. Rosaria and her husband Kent are being courageous, bold warriors for Christ, and we're so thankful to have them in the battle.

But, Rosaria, I wonder if you would just close this time by praying for any listeners who, maybe it's their own battle, or maybe it's a family member or close friend who is battling in this area. Let's just lift them up to the throne of grace.

Rosaria: I would be honored.

Oh Lord, in all the earth, how excellent is Your name. Lord, we throw ourselves at the foot of the cross. We come to Your throne of grace. We are weak, and we pray that You would strengthen us.

Lord, I pray for all of my sisters out there right now who are struggling with an unasked-for desire that we know is just a thumbprint of this original sin. We're so thankful, Lord, for the words of the Bible because it allows us to see the difference between being distorted by sin and reflecting Your glory. So God, I just pray for my sisters that You would show them Your love, that You would draw them into Bible-believing communities that love them.

I pray for their mothers and fathers and friends and coworkers, that You would give the church a special measure of compassion to know when a sister or brother is carrying a heavy cross. We know, Lord Jesus, that You will carry the heavier part, but help us, Lord, to not unwittingly lean heavy and hard. Help us, Lord, to reflect Your words, that Your yoke is easy, and Your burden is light. Help us to not add yokes to the loved ones in our world, to both strangers and to sisters. Lord, we were once strangers in this land, and You have rendered us sisters through Your precious, precious blood.

We thank You for the means of grace. We thank You for the gift of the church. And Lord, we pray that even in our struggle of sin, we would give You glory. We thank You, Lord, that repentance is the threshold to God, and that it is a gift from You. We pray in our humility that You would be glorified.

Lord, continue to bring reformation to our church and revival to our land. Let us preach to the nations once again the mighty, mighty peace and victory that is in Jesus Christ alone. It is in His mighty and matchless name we pray, amen.

Leslie: Rosaria Butterfield has been praying for you. She has such rich insight on our identity in Christ through her personal experience and through studying God's Word.

I hope you'll read her book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. We'll send you a copy when you support Revive Our Hearts. Gifts from listeners like you allow the ministry to continue spreading a message that's much needed today.

When you donate any amount, ask for this book. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, Rosaria does a masterful job at sharing her life and God's Word for His glory. Could you do that? How might the Lord want to speak through you in a unique way? On Monday, we'll hear ways to be more effective at communicating and teaching God's Word to other women. I hope you'll be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.