As I gazed at my computer screen last night, just before a group of eleven surrendered Christians shared in communion together, I reflected on how proud I was of each member of this group. This group of men and women from afar afield as Phoenix, Arizona and as close to home as Norfolk, all have the common experience of choosing to pursue sexual holiness. We meet weekly, to worship together, to study God’s word and on this occasion to share communion.
We had just been studying the words of Jesus found in Matthew 16:24–26 (NKJV):
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?’”
Oh how this group know the challenge of dying to self daily, to lay aside their own desires and to pursue Jesus with all their heart, mind and soul. Some have been walking with Jesus in sexual purity for quarter of a century, our newest member just 6 months. But what we all have in common, what draws us together, is that we have all responded to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, not the cry of the world. In a world which champions sexual expression in every conceivable format, which encourages us to believe that sex and love are one and the same thing, and which has turned from God’s word and promoted a laissez faire approach to sex, this group is an oasis of truth.
I have heard most of their testimonies; testimonies of brokenness, abuse, shame and fear, testimonies of rejection and persecution, yet testimonies of joy, freedom, transformation, new life and peace. I see the work of the Holy Spirit in the midst of this group, I see them eager to read God’s word, to hear his voice, many of them wanting to run before they can walk, desperate to know where God has placed them to evangelise within their own communities.
Of course there is struggle, show me a follower of Jesus who doesn’t battle temptation or persecution. What strikes me most though, is that each and every member of the group recognises the joy set before them, they know that we are in a spiritual battle, and they are committed to giving their time to work at their relationship with God, to meet with him, and above all else to listen and be obedient to his word. We struggle yes, but 2 Corinthians 4: 8-12 reminds us that this is to be expected:
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
Sadly, later on the same evening, while I was reading the Bible, I found myself comparing the attitudes of our group with those of the liberal church. The verse that I was reading
is found in 2 Timothy 4:3:
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
Yes we are a group who have bonded over our common experiences and some may say, aren't you surrounding yourselves with those who are saying what you want to hear, what's the difference? The answer I give you is that we are a group who don’t say what our itching ears want to hear. What many in this group desired for years is for God to say, yes OK you can be sexually active outside of marriage, that perhaps is what our human, itching ears, want to hear. Our common experience is not about seeking how to make God’s word fit our experiences and morals, rather about surrendering our experiences and morals to God and learning that in surrender we find the greatest joy, in dedicating our lives to pursuing truth we are experiencing a fruitful discipleship relationship with Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.
It is because I see this joy and these fruitful relationships with Jesus that I am increasingly saddened by the path of the liberal church. When a church fails to promote God’s word as truth, and relies more on human experience or feelings to drive their doctrine, we see the church described in 2 Timothy 3, a church that relies on myths, not truth. This, I believe, is the church that is being prophesied about today, the “nominal church” where people are not followers of Jesus, they simply refuse to deny themselves what they perceive to be their rights.
Of course that’s not the end of God’s church, for those who are faithful and who do want to pursue God in total surrender, there is hope. The prophets are talking positively about how God is raising up a remnant, a church and people who will set their hearts on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, whatever is excellent or whatever is praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). I look forward to being part of that church, where freedom and transformation are celebrated on earth as in heaven.
At the beginning of the 2 Timothy passage Paul charges us to:
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
Many of the members of our group, including me, needed people of love, patience and with great spiritual maturity to help us as we sought to understand God’s word and surrender our lives to it. Can you be that person for people in your community?
If you are unsure of what God is saying to you on this topic, I encourage you to step outside of your current circles, find new and fresh ways of reading God’s word, new people to chat to and ask the Holy Spirit to give you fresh eyes, ears and a soft heart as you go on this journey of discovery with him. God is gracious, patient and loving, and will reveal his truth to those who earnestly seek him, will you ask him afresh?
Transformed International is a group of men and women from around the world who have left the LGBTQ+ community and chosen to pursue sexual holiness as followers of Jesus. We meet weekly, if you are interested in joining let us know! Additionally if you would like to speak to us about your own experiences please whether as a pastor, individual or ally please do contact us.