July 9, 2023
HOW THE GOSPEL INFORMS GENDER/SEXUALITY
Good morning, and welcome to River City Church! If you are a first time guest with us, or you are new around here, thank you for choosing to worship with us this morning! My name is Rodney, I am one of the pastors here, and it is good to be together with you all this morning.
Today we are continuing a series of sermons I’m calling “Footholds of Faith” that takes a look at how Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension informs various aspects of our lives. And here’s what I mean by that…
The way Jesus lived, the way he died, the way he rose again, and what happened after his resurrection makes all the difference in the world for how you and I can and should live our lives. Jesus lived the way he lived for a reason. He died the way he died for a reason. There is a reason he didn’t stay dead in the grave. And Jesus returned to heaven for a reason.
Last week, we looked at how the “good news” of Jesus helps us think about work and vacations and rest. This morning we’re going to talk about how the good news of Jesus should help us to think about sexuality and the buzzword of the day – Gender – and why this is a crucial foothold for our lives, especially lives of our young people.
Now, before we start, here’s my disclaimer. a) I do not have any illusions that I can answer all the questions, or address all the issues from all the angles to this conversation in one sermon. I realize there may need to be some follow up along the way, and we’ll seek the Lord on how best to accomplish that and continue any conversations that need to still be had; b) Please stay with me until the end. You may disagree with me on certain things, or draw different conclusions than I have. I expect that, so I’ve tried to not needlessly say things that don’t need to be said. But this series is all about how the gospel applies to the situation. So I first need to explain the situation before I get to the good part, so please stick around till the end, even if you disagree; and last c) let’s pray for humility as we jump into this. PRAY
As we did last week, we’re going to break this whole discussion down into three parts, and tackle them one at a time. Those three parts are: The Original order – meaning, what can we learn from the Creation story itself? The Fallen order – meaning, what are the effects of sin? And then the Redemptive order – what about Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension can bring good news to this very divisive, nuanced, even confusing topic. So, first of all, we start in Genesis, like we did last week, and we look at what kind of foundation the Creation story builds for us.
- In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. In the beginning, God strategized, designed, invented, created, and to this day, governs the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1 and 2 don’t give a whole lot of detail, but there is so much implied here by what he spoke into existence: Weather patterns, photosynthesis, evaporation, attraction, gravity, metabolism, cardiovascular systems, all reason and wisdom, and all forms of reproduction and sexuality across the various species… everything has its function and its purpose, based on God’s vision for it all and he declared it very good. For that reason…
- God is the first and the final authority on sex – Romans 14:10-12 says We will all stand before the judgment seat of God…[and] give an account of himself to God. You have a lot of personal freedom to do what you like with your life, so that in that sense you can choose a spouse, a career, what clothes to wear, what car to own, where to go to school, to seek God or not seek God, that sort of thing. But, no matter what you do, ultimately you will answer to God for the things you do with your time, with your lives, with your words, with your body, with your interactions with others and your relationship to God. Sexuality is God’s good design; He is the ultimate authority, and we answer to what he calls good and right and holy.
- The male/female partnership is God’s design. In Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” They aren’t slaves – they are managers of the things God has made. God is inviting them into his work. We talked about this last week so I won’t say much more on that.
1:27: So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female. This second purpose is to reflect God’s nature and his character simply by being what he’s created you to be. This happens in a whole variety of ways through our gifts, our character, our personalities, physical makeup, but a major part of that how we image him is by being male and female. Scientifically speaking, being male or female is something determined by the SRY gene about 7 weeks after conception. If the gene triggers – the Y chromosome comes into play and that entire development process from then on for the whole body is hardwired to produce male cells. If that gene doesn’t trigger, the chromosome stays X, and the cells are hardwired to produce female cells.
These cells would be very important for God’s next instruction in v28 – God blessed them, and said, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” Reproduce; Populate the planet. Author Abigail Favale points out that this biological reality is a picture of God’s relationship to humans. In creation, God gives life from himself, breathes life into Adam, but God stands apart from his creation. If every molecule and atom in the universe suddenly imploded and disappeared, God would still be God. He gives life from within himself, but he exists apart from his creation. Males reflect God in this way – they give life from within themselves, but they stand apart from it. Females reflect humanity in that humans were created with the ability to receive the love of God, be inwardly transformed, and let that love bear fruit. Embodied in the form of woman is humanity’s ultimate purpose… to say yes to divine grace, to let it transform us on the inside, and then bear outward visible fruit (Favale, 237). It’s for good reason the Church is called the bride of Christ.
- Both male and female are created with Worth, Dignity, Value and Harmony exists between the two. Neither is elevated above the other. They are separate, but equal. Both aimed at the same goal – fellowship with God and each other.
And then sin happened. Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s authority, and against his perfect plan for human flourishing. Sin comes on the heels of deception and manipulation by the serpent, to be sure, but in the end, sin is a choice to rebel against God’s authority and his good and perfect will. As we look over at Genesis 3, the consequences of sin are devastating to both the work humans were designed for, and the relationships humans were designed for.
- Shame is introduced. The first thing that happens after Adam and Eve rebel against God’s command is that they dive into the bushes to hide from each other and from God. They suddenly don’t like the way they look, they feel exposed, vulnerable, so they cover up the parts they don’t want the others to see. It’s not unusual to this day for us to avoid the mirror, or avoid the camera or the scales – it’s all part of feeling the weight of this brokenness and shame.
- Gratitude turns to resentment. When God comes calling for Adam in verse11 asking what had happened to make them hide from him instead of walking with him, Adam, who was singing Eve’s praises just a few verses ago, now says, “The woman you gave me did this to me.” He distances himself from her (she did this to me) and he distances himself from God (you gave me a faulty helper). You sort of messed up here, God. You gave me someone that wasn’t a good fit for me… and look what happened.
- Gen 3:16… Under sin, harmony is broken. Harmony is difficult now, and conflict takes center stage now. When sin has the upper hand in woman, she will desire to overpower or subdue or exploit man. And when sin has the upper hand in man, he will respond in the same way, and with his strength subdue her, or rule over her (Piper).
- Creation works backward - Romans 1 gives us a window into how this looks, not just for Adam and Eve for anyone who gives way to sin. Please turn there with me so you can see this for yourselves.
- Romans 1:21 – Their thinking became worthless and their senseless hearts were darkened. What I want you to see is that the result of not acknowledging God with gratitude, is that things progress away from Created order. Creation spins backward, uncreating, returning to a state of chaos. God said “let there be light”, but sin says, no, no, let there be darkness. Then the exchange happens. They trade the things of heaven for the things of earth.
- Verse 24: God delivered them over to sexual impurity, meaning, he gave them freedom to chase after the desires of their darkened hearts, and one of the first parts of creation to become undone is the holiness of the human body. The unique and intricate human body, which was designed for fruitful multiplication and meaningful work, is now degraded to be only an object. With these darkened desires, the human body becomes just a chunk of flesh. The darkened mind sees no soul attached to the body, no actual person belonging to the skin, no reflection of heavenly realities. It is just a body. Since it’s just a body and not a person, intercourse is no longer tied to a one flesh union and procreation – it is now reduced to simply an act; the way you “get some.” Along with this darkened desire for intercourse, the body is used for selfish gain. Casual sex degrades bodies. Pornography degrades bodies. Sex trafficking. Sexual abuse. Crude jokes. The use of the F word is all a result of cheapening the one flesh union and degrading our bodies. It’s the unraveling of Creation.
- verse 25 They exchanged truth for a lie, and worshiped and served what has been created instead of the Creator who is praised forever.
What is the truth they refused to acknowledge? The truth of Genesis 1 & 2: That sexuality is by God’s design. That a one flesh union belongs to a male and a female who are husband and wife. The truth they gave up is that God is the final authority and they will give an account to him. The truth they gave up is that their bodies are very much part of who they are created to be and how they image God to the world. The truth they gave up is that all worship and praise belongs to God who is praised forever.
I realize this is a very touchy subject, but right here in this truth exchange is where we find the whole conversation around gender identity - specifically transgenderism which includes a lot of other things. It’s being promoted in some public schools, it’s present in more and more commercials and TV, and it’s being presented as something normal to be celebrated. Now, before I say anything else, I want to also acknowledge that for some of the folks that identify with that community, especially young people, it doesn’t feel like blatant rebellion or wickedness to identify as a sex other than what their body says they are. It might feel more like rebellion to stay with their biological sex. They feel trapped inside a body that feels wrong, and it can be confusing and difficult.
I also want to acknowledge that the conservative Church has often treated the LGBTQ+ community harshly, pushing them away instead of being loving. So if you are here in person or listening online and you’ve personally experienced River City Church being hostile to you – I’m sorry. That is not our heart, nor the heart of Jesus. If you are a student who is questioning your identity and whether or not you should transition, I would love to talk to you about it and hear your thoughts.
But here is what is true. You need to know that transgenderism and the ideas that surround it are poison for your soul and your body. Transgenderism follows the trend of verse 24, which degrades the body. It reduces the body to just flesh. A shell. It’s not part of who I really am. I am a boy trapped in a girl's body, or vice versa. Or, the way I feel isn’t really male or female. That argument separates the body from the soul, the emotions, the mind, the heart.
God designs you as a whole person. Body, soul, mind, heart… Gender identity breaks apart who we really are. It breaks whole people into pieces. It says emotions are on their own. Reason is on its own. Your desire or attraction is a separate thing. Your body is a problem that can be painted, or dressed up, or surgically altered to fit the other fragments of my personhood. And you need to know that it’s founded on a lie – the lie that says your body isn’t a good part of who you really are.
The people who promote this lie use the word “gender” to talk about who you really are. They will tell you that sex is about what kind of plumbing you have – outdoor or indoor – and that gender is what you identify with… what you most closely align with in your mind. But it only makes it more confusing, because they say your emotions can have one gender identity, your body another, your attraction another, your mind another. That’s why there is a + sign at the end of LGBTQ, because there are endless combinations of what you could be.
Now, of course, as part of God’s design, there is variety among males and females. Some females have more facial hair or are stronger than the average woman, some boys have smaller frames and higher voices than average men. And those varieties are what gender-culture preys on. But those differences don't make you less male or female.
Gender-culture activists have hijacked the word gender from language. Words have gender – maybe not as much in English, but words can be masculine or feminine. But now it’s made to apply to how you feel – that if you are a female but you feel more masculine than most girls, that’s your truth. You can identify as male. If you are a male but you feel more feminine than normal boys, you can identify as female and that is what is really true. The problem isn’t with your feelings. God gave us the ability to feel because it’s yet another way we reflect his glory. The problem is when we treat our feelings as if they are God.
They will tell you that your body is a problem. It’s a prison that has trapped the real you inside. So they offer hormone treatments or encourage surgery to make your prison look and feel a little more like home, and then tell you that this will fix that pain and confusion and brokenness inside of you that they themselves caused by confusing you with the lie that your body doesn’t matter. They tell you to change your pronouns so that others affirm the real you inside your prison. But it’s demanding that everyone lie to you. That’s not love.
The most sinister and criminal part of this whole thing, is that, to make sure you obey the lie and follow their lead, they tell kids and their parents that they will probably kill themselves if they don’t transition. What they don’t say is that the suicidal tendency drops for about 2 years after transition, and then goes right back to where it was because the confusion didn’t go away.
The devil is the father of lies, he’s been a deceiver from the beginning, and his work in the world is to undo the goodness of creation. This whole gender-culture promotes confusion and chaos, which is what the world was before God started speaking! The whole thing is not built on reality or observable truth, but rather is built on words that change their meaning every other day.
If you are confused about your gender, or struggling with your identity, listen to the words of Psalm 139:13 that says it was God himself who created your inward parts… not just your lungs and your pancreas and your skeleton – he created your hormones, your chromosomes, your reproductive system, your voice, your height, your build, and everything that makes you who you are. It was God who knit you together in your mother’s womb. About the same time she discovered she was pregnant, your body was already following orders to develop you as male or female. Your sex wasn’t simply determined by whether or not the SRY gene randomly fired or not… who do you think fires that gene? Your whole body, mind, soul is knit together by God, who took great care to oversee your development one cell at a time. Verse 14 – You have been remarkably and wonderfully made, with every single part of you exactly as he carefully and purposefully designed you to be, even if you don’t look like the average boy or girl. His eyes saw you when you were conceived, and he knew what your whole story would be before you were 10 seconds old.
You are not a product of chance. You are not a fragmented confusion of gender. You are beautifully and wonderfully made with purpose by the God who loves you, and invites you to come to him and repent of believing the lie.
Back to Romans 1: Sin has a progression that starts with not acknowledging God, not glorifying him, and not being thankful. Instead sin only acknowledges self, it serves self, and resents anything that gets in the way of self, or as verse 18 puts it, sin suppresses the truth about God. That’s where it starts. At any point of this progression, repentance stops the progression. To repent is to turn back, acknowledge God again, glorify him, praise him with thankful hearts.
But, when there is no repentance, the progression continues to darken the heart, degrade the body, and eventually corrupt the mind. This is the doctrine of total depravity. It doesn’t mean that we’re all as bad as we could be. Sin corrupts every part of us – physical, emotional, mental and spiritually.
But before we get to the good part, what I want you to see is that verses 29-32 do not allow anyone to point a finger at the gender identity crowd or pornography addicts, or sexual abusers, and say they are somehow darker or more twisted or more corrupt than other kinds of sin. Yes, those things tend to hurt others in ways that some sins don’t. But not everyone who refuses to acknowledge God, glorify him, or give thanks to him, ends up with same sex attraction or gender confusion. Those are just two apples on the tree. Look at the other fruit of refusing to acknowledge God from those verses:
- Greed – that is a corrupted way of looking at your possessions. The truth that I am only secure in Christ is replaced with the lie that I must keep what I have for myself in order to be secure.
- Envy – corrupted way of looking at what others have. The truth that I can be content with my possessions because I have all things in Christ is replaced with the lie that I don’t have enough and I need more.
- Quarrels/Being Argumentative – corrupted way of communicating. The truth that others are unique persons with feelings/thoughts/perspectives different from me is replaced with the lie that I need to be right in order to be valued.
- Unmerciful – a corrupted view of life. The truth is that we all depend on the Lord’s mercy just to wake up each morning, not to mention eating, breathing, ability to think, work, etc. The lie is that I have earned my life, and the people who are less fortunate haven’t worked as hard as me.
Those things are all the fruit of refusing to acknowledge God for who he is. Sin reverses the created order, and aims at getting the world back to chaos, disorder, and darkness. And Jesus came to earth to stop the undoing of the Created order and reverse it back to its design.
John 1 says that in Jesus, a light shone into the darkness of the lie of sin. Jesus came to push back the darkness, not by standing far away and pointing out what to do, but by taking on a human body – a male human body. It was not just a shell that he inhabited. The Bible says Jesus became human. He got tired, hungry, he felt sorrow and grief, he cried, he laughed, he walked, he used language and his hands to communicate. He accepted the limitations of being human, and became one of us. The fact that Jesus lived a human life is good news for us, because he knows what it’s like to be human. To have feelings. To be conflicted. To value women. To respect others.
But John 3:19 says we’d become pretty comfortable with darkness, enjoying our little lies, and as a result, we deserved to die because of our rebellion. But Jesus fulfilled the scriptures by stepping in front of the death blow for us. His death was in the place of rebels (Isaiah 53). Jesus died for everyone who believed the lie that they are king of their own stories and refused to acknowledge him. Jesus died for the people who believe the lie and the people who perpetrate it. He does not affirm our rebellion – he died to save us from it.
John 8:34-36 says the actual cage around the human heart is not your physical body, but sin. We are slaves to sin. Anything we do that doesn’t acknowledge God, glorify him, or point to him is sin. And on that third day, as Jesus rose back to life, he broke the chains that kept us prisoners to sin. The door of the prison is open, and those the Son has set free are really free.
It’s not a new identity or a surgery that will set you free. It’s trusting your life, your body, your designed sexuality, your work, your future, your past into the hands of a loving and merciful Savior that will set you free! And that kind of freedom can’t be bought or reversed or surgically enhanced. In this kind of freedom, there is no regret, no shame, no need for any kind of religious presentation. It is the only place you will be truly free.
And then Jesus ascended into heaven, where he sits at the right hand of God the Father ruling all things as King and Lord… with his male human body! If the human body is worthless, just a shell, a prison cell for the real him, you’d think he would have left it behind. But he ascended with his body and the angel said, this same Jesus is coming back again, and when he does, all lies will be exposed, all darkness erased by the light of his presence, all evil and sickness and death and hatred and fear and confusion and chaos and tears and pain will be wiped away once and for all. We’ll be given new, glorified bodies that won’t break down, that won’t give out, that won’t deceive us.
So if you’re struggling with same-sex attraction, or wrestling with your identity; if you are a wife or a husband who has fought against your God-given role or rejected it altogether; if you are single or and wrestling with your worth and your future; if you are getting older and wrestling with your own insecurity as your body continues to change; if you’re struggling with pornography; if you’re carrying regret from things you did to someone else, or an abortion, or regret from choices you made in the past – hear me:
Jesus right this moment intercedes for you. He is working your case to his Father with the nail holes in his hands that purchased you out of the lie and into the truth; out of the darkness and into the light. He is right this moment asking the Father to show mercy and grace and to fill you with the strength of his Spirit to live in holiness and purity as you wait for all things to be made new. His promise is that he will never abandon you or forsake as you seek him out day after day, even if everyone else does.
Until then, you can trust his good and perfect plan for your life; you have full access to the throne of grace where you can repent of your sin; you can daily seek him for the strength and the courage to live in holiness and purity, and honor him with your body, your desires, and your thoughts as you wait for the day he returns and makes all things new. Don’t exchange all of that for the lie.
If you have a family member exploring a new identity, or you’re not sure how to talk to someone going through one of these struggles, three things then I’ll close. Worship team, you can come up to lead us out… remember this:
- The same grace of Jesus that rescued you from your own sin is the only thing that will convict, save, and restore anyone else. No one was ever argued into the kingdom of God. Go back and study the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. The only people Jesus obliterated were the religious.
- Keep in mind that their decision, even if it is wrong, may have come with a lot of pain, confusion, doubt and they may still not be settled that they did the right thing. Ask good questions. “Tell me your story. What led you to this decision? What do you hope will change as you move forward?” You might even ask them, if they grew up in church especially, how do they reconcile what the Bible says about sexuality and how they feel? It’s okay to even say, “I hear what you’re saying, but I respectfully disagree with your conclusions.” It’s possible to be respectful, dignified, and humble even if you disagree.
- Affirming a lie is not loving. You have no obligation to participate in a lie by using preferred pronouns, and if your job requires you to lie to the people you work with by referring to them as something they are not, you may have to trust God to open the door for you somewhere else.
- Where might I need to repent? Maybe you’ve called people names, or been condescending, or you’ve treated their sins as much worse than your own. Maybe you’ve leaned hard into truth, and used the Bible as a weapon. Maybe you’ve leaned hard into love, and participated in the lie. Confess it! Bring it into the light, and receive grace!
- Jesus came, John 1 says, full of grace and truth. Let’s ask God to help us to be people who are full of grace and truth.
Rachel Gilson, Your Gender is God’s Good Design,
Abigail Favale, The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2022)