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Conversion Therapy vs. Conversion to Christ

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What Are the Headlines?

Following Anchored North’s release of my video testimony last week, Newsweek’s headline was: “Christian ‘Ex-Lesbian’ Claims she Prayed the Gay Away in Controversial Viral Video“. Huffington Post reacted with, “Viral Video Claims People Can Stop Being Gay If They Pray Hard Enough.” TeenVogue’s lie was: “This Video Falsely Claims Praying Will Turn LGBTQ People Straight“. Sensational writing has an appeal. It allows people to work an agenda into their journalism, often at the expense of the truth. The articles that circulated made claims that were not only absent from my testimony, but that actually contradict both Anchored North’s and my own beliefs about conversion. “Solutions” such as reparative therapy and ‘praying the gay away’ were claimed to be my message when I said no such thing; I never actually mentioned prayer once. The common theme in almost all of these articles was that the Bible study “made me straight,” despite the video’s subtitle: “It’s not gay to straight. It’s lost to saved.” I say all this so you understand why I am compelled to respond sooner rather than later. The truth is, I’m not writing this for Newsweek or any of the other magazines who demonstrated their inability to distinguish between my testimony and what gets social media shares. I’m writing this to clarify what they, as people who do not know God, cannot understand; namely, the difference between manmade attempts to alter behavior, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ that saves.

What is “Reparative Therapy”?

Reparative or conversion therapy refers to counseling or psychotherapy that attempts to eliminate individuals’ sexual desires for members of their own sex. The American Psychological Association states that “such efforts have serious potential to harm young people” because “they often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure.” In his article, “What’s Wrong with Reparative Therapy?”, Heath Lambert, the Executive Director at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, states, “…we should reject it as an approach to change” because it “misunderstands the problems homosexuals confront, misunderstands the goals they should pursue, and misunderstands the need to lay hold of God’s grace in Christ through repentant faith.” It seems both believers and unbelievers are in agreement that this is a practice that should be rejected. The methods used in conversion therapy range from basic behavioral modification, psychoanalysis (“therapeutic” techniques related to the study of the unconscious mind), and even sex therapy. I cringed as I studied the subject further for the sake of this article. In my early teens growing up in one of Texas’s smallest towns, I had a season of trying really hard to suppress my feelings and pretend they weren’t there out of fear for how my family and friends would respond. I chose not to deal with my desires and it made me absolutely miserable. It was after years of remaining silent that finally, at the ripe old age of fifteen, I opened up about my feelings and embraced them as my “truest self.” In contrast to my earlier attempts, I felt liberated and was thrilled to no longer attempt to make my behavior one way externally while my heart raced towards the exact opposite. Devoid of the grace, love, and hope found in Christ, there is no reason to believe that any of these approaches would help anyone at all. In fact, it makes sense that they would only lead to severe depression and self-loathing. In my video, I stated that I looked at Scripture, believed what it said for the first time, and repented of my sins (practicing homosexuality, drunkenness, and others – see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). There was no therapy. The Bible study I attended was about the attributes of God, and not homosexuality. When I went to this study, as I mentioned in the video, I expected them to bring up my lifestyle immediately, and that I would then use that as an excuse to stop attending; but they never did. They shared with me their love for God and His work in their own lives. The Spirit and His Word took it from there.

What does it mean to “Pray the Gay Away”? 

I staunchly reject the “pray the gay away” narrative, despite what the news outlets are reporting. This concept says that if you pray hard enough, or have enough faith, God will remove your desire for the same sex; essentially, you’ll be “cured” of your sin. It’s easy to see that this way of thinking is also dangerous and unhelpful, as God never talks like that regarding our sin. As a matter of fact, identifying a person by one’s sexual desires, whether sinful or godly, is an unhelpful and unbiblical way for believers to discuss these matters all together. See Rosaria Butterfield’s answer for “Is sexual orientation a concept that Christians ought to use?” Biblically, we have no reason to expect God to totally take away our want for sin upon being born again. Can He remove your sinful desires? Of course! I believe at times that He does. We ought to be pleading with Him to do so, knowing that if His will is to remove it entirely, He’ll do it. Generally, though, that is not what we see in Scripture or what we should be relying on. Although HuffPo quoted chunks of a Facebook status from my page to state that I’d equated homosexuality with murder, they conveniently left out the paragraph directly prior, because it would have ruined their entire premise. What they chose to leave out was: “Nowhere are we told to pray to stop liking our sin in order to turn from it. We are commanded to stop the sin. Period. He gives us something greater in return, but the command to repent is still a command to repent. Apply that logic to another sin…” We’re not told that He’ll remove our want for sin. Instead, we’re told to “abstain from fleshly lusts” (1 Peter 2:11) and not to “gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:6). There’s definitely a fight that Christians are to have against sinful desires. We couldn’t do so if, upon conversion, those desires were immediately eradicated. Believers who promote this view are misinformed and are harming others by making claims and promises that God has not given.

What Is the Solution?

Homosexuality is a sin. See Romans 1:18-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Timothy 1:8-11, etc. I’m not going to spend a lot of time here making this case. Any honest reading of the text leaves one with the conclusion that God’s design for sex and marriage is for one man and one woman, for life, and that any variation of that (homosexuality, sexual immorality in opposite sex couples, adultery, etc) are deemed sinful time and time again. They contradict His moral law and for that reason alone, they are transgressions not only against the other participant but against God Himself. God is perfect, holy, and without any kind of sin or failing. He’s all knowing, all powerful, and unchanging. The big problem with sin is that it separates us from Him because it’s so contradictory to who He is and what He esteems. Every human being is made in the image of God and because of that we all have intrinsic value and worth, but that image is distorted because of the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden. God said that everything He had made was good, but that was before sin entered the world. Scripture tells us that now, because of sin, “no one is good; no not one” (Romans 3:10). God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness create a divide between the two. This is why God sent His Son, Jesus, to reconcile us back to Himself. He lived the kind of life we’re commanded to live but have all failed to do. He then took the punishment we ought to get, the entire wrath of God, on behalf of those who would repent, turn from sin, and put their trust in Him. This is a concept that those both inside and outside of evangelicalism are guilty of distorting and the consequences are lethal. People end up hearing that either repentance is not necessary and one can stay in their sin while holding fast to Christ, or that you should attempt change yourself via these worldly and unbiblical means. If they don’t work, God has failed you or has changed His mind on sin. Neither of these approaches are biblical, and both are condemning. Jesus came to save us from sin because He hates it and because it leads to destruction. The human heart cannot change itself (Jeremiah 13:23), so attempts made at that without God are in vain.

This is biblical conversion: that we have our eyes opened to see our sin as sin and see Him as the good and worthy Creator; because of that new sight, we joyfully forsake our sin and turn to Him by grace through faith. Scripture tells us this happens to all people when they’re ‘born again’ (John 3, Ezekiel 36:26), regardless of the kind of life they lived before knowing Christ. We’re all living in unrepentant sin until that moment. We need God to intervene and create in us a desire to obey out of a right kind of ‘fear’ that comes from reverence and love for Him, not confusion or self-hate or any other reason that is not centered on Him. It isn’t always easy, but He is worthy.

What Does it Look Like?

So what does all of this mean for believers in Christ who struggle with same-sex attraction? According to what we see in scripture, it means that one must ‘walk by the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:16) and ‘make no provision for the flesh’ (Romans 13:14). Those battling desires for the same sex must, like Jesus said, “deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow” Him (Luke 9:23). The instructions given to Christians battling this sin are not different from those given to every other believer. All of us “were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1-3). We must now obey God rather than these desires. Each of us are marked by sin, but because of Christ, have the will and ability to follow Jesus instead of our feelings. This doesn’t mean a perfect walk without trials and sin on our part, but as we grow in Him, we will have greater and greater victory over sin and will slowly, but surely, be conformed to the image of His Son who was without sin.

Does the Christian coming from this particular background have his or her own specific difficulties? You bet. We all vary in how sin and its consequences effect us once we’ve been born again, but our journey towards holiness and knowing Him deeper should look very similar to those who were saved out of other lifestyles of sin. The church should not be surprised at my conversion to Christ out of a life of sin that included practicing homosexuality. The fact that it has reacted so is indicative that we too lack faith and a rich understanding of the doctrine of sin. It’s my prayer that He uses stories like mine, His Spirit, and His word to grow His church in that understanding. In the mean time, believers must be patient with one another. A misinformed or shallow understanding of regeneration can lead to odd questions and harmful statements. We must demonstrate grace in those instances, for we’ve received far greater grace for our offenses against our Creator.

Speaking of such questions: Is the new believer bound to remain single or should they run fast towards marriage, or something in between? We, like all Christians, should seek first His kingdom. Some will marry because the Lord has given them desires and a spouse to do so. Some will remain single and focus their hearts wholly to the Lord. In either case, we are to strive for holiness. The believer who remains single is no less ‘new’ than the one who marries and has eight children. In either case, we should be aiming to glorify God in our bodies with a ‘holy sexuality,’ a term coined by Christopher Yuan in his book, “Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God.” The body of Christ, consisting of various stories and experiences and gifts is what enables us to edify and encourage one another so well. Had He desired we all be the same, we would be.

I sincerely hope my testimony will be a blessing to many and something that points others to the true gospel. The misinformation that is out there on this topic is easy to find, but the truth is a precious find. Your best source for truth in conjunction with scripture is a church that is faithful to preach the word of God. If you have any questions regarding my position, or any other topic, you can find out more at emilythomes.com or send your questions to emily@emilythomes.com.

Love Is Love

"It's not gay to straight. It's lost to saved."

Posted by Anchored North on Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Girl in the Picture

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Recently I came across the photo on the left and did a double take. The girl in that photo, with her hollow eyes and hopeless heart, no longer bears any resemblance to me. She was dead in her sin (Eph. 2:1). (To be clear, I am not saying everyone who looks like the girl on the left is dead in sin, or that everyone who looks like the girl on the right is not. Spiritual reality runs far deeper.)

I was always the type to push boundaries. Even as a child, I never really had a moderate pace. I tried everything once but most things at least twice for my own curiosity. Growing up in a small town, there wasn’t much to do, and I acted out often. In high school, I met my need for attention by constantly “going against the grain,” but in a way that maintained my popularity. I partied, slept around, and by 15 I came out as a lesbian to some friends.

By the time I was a young adult, I fully embraced the LGBT label. I cut my hair short, wore boy clothes, and used men’s bathrooms and dressing rooms. I enjoyed the thrill of doing and being what was outside the norm—trying harder drugs, exploring even more taboo sexual acts, and getting a couple of regrettable tattoos.

By 22, I had settled down a little. Shock value, though still something I enjoyed, was a lower priority. While still smoking weed and having sex with women, I maintained an outward appearance of morality. I considered myself a good person; I worked full-time, loved my friends, and usually balanced my budget. Family relationships were improving, and I was finally attempting to lead a relatively respectable life.

SURPRISED BY ATTRIBUTES

In March 2014, a group of coworkers started a Bible study and invited me to join. Because my aunt was part of the group, I agreed to participate. I actually considered myself a Christian at that point, though I had no desire to read God’s Word, let alone conform my life to his will. I told myself that at the first mention of my “lifestyle” I’d quit the study, and I felt pretty confident that moment would come.

The book we studied was on the attributes of God. For the first time I was confronted by the justice, holiness, and sovereignty of God. The more I read and understood, the bigger God became and the smaller I felt. I knew what the Bible said about homosexuality and other things, but I hadn’t cared before. I had little understanding of the God I was sinning against.

This study was slowly shifting my perspective. I would catch myself, just before falling asleep, questioning who I was and why I made these choices. I asked myself, Am I sure that gay behavior is as much of my identity as my gender or my race? But I’d wake up and laugh and say, Of course you can embrace your homosexuality—that’s who you are! It felt like I was almost convincing myself it was okay to continue on that way.

Two weeks later, a friend (also a lesbian) waited for me at my apartment after work to smoke marijuana and hang out as usual. After we smoked, I asked her, “What if they’re right?” She knew I was doing the study and understood immediately what I meant and said, “I don’t want to talk about it.” I pushed further. “We have to. If this is true, we need to talk now and not later.” She left soon after, so I picked up my book and read.

That evening, I read a chapter describing a “salad bar religion,” where you pick and choose parts of different religions, combine them into one, and call that your belief system. The book made clear that such an approach isn’t following Jesus at all; that’s following yourself and calling it some other name. I realized I was doing just that. I believed the parts of the Bible that suited me but rejected the parts that didn’t. His Word wasn’t my guide or a light to my path; I merely claimed Christianity because I had grown up in the South and prayed occasionally.

‘SUCH WERE SOME OF YOU’

This realization was like being struck by lightning. I searched for verses on homosexuality and found 1 Corinthians 6:9–10. I’d read these and other verses like them before. I’d argued against them to those who opposed me, but suddenly I could no longer argue. It was clear. I was in the “will not enter the kingdom of God” lineup. I was lost, wretched, and blatantly opposed to him. But the next verse said, “And such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6:11). Clearly, the Lord could save me. He’d extended his hand to me, the worst of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). I grasped his hand by faith, and I felt overwhelmingly awful and grateful. Although I’d ignored him and lived foolishly, he showed me mercy when I deserved nothing but justice.

My whole life changed that day. Homosexual practice and drug use were my most obvious sins, but there are many others he revealed and—continues to reveal—to me. I still battle same-sex attraction, pride, anger, and a slew of sins, but I trust he’ll complete the work he’s begun (Phil. 1:6). He’s also allowed me to be a wife, and one day, Lord willing, a mother. Two months ago—on the two-year anniversary of my conversion—I married the most Christlike man I’ve ever known.

The Lord has been so gracious to me. I’m grateful that he opened my eyes and saved me from the temporal and eternal consequences of my sins. He takes the worst of the worst and redeems them for his glory.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Originally posted as “Girl in the Picture” by The Gospel Coalition

Belfast Outreach Testimony

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‘I became a follower of Jesus Christ April of 2014. Before I became a Christian, my life was very different from the one I’m living today. God definitely had His hand on my life and the paths I went down. He made sure that I got to this point. I was always a very rebellious kid. I partied a lot; I acted out in school and towards my family. When I was fifteen, I started dating girls. 

This involved me sneaking around a lot and getting into all kinds of other trouble. I lived in the homosexual lifestyle almost exclusively until I was 22, all the while still rebelling against most types of authority. I remember my grandmother watching church on TV Sunday mornings, and I’d hear him preach. I would bash him for being outspoken on the major parts of my life at the time. I didn’t believe a word of what he said when it came to anything beyond the historical account of Jesus, but I certainly heard the message of the cross. God had many figures, aside from my family, placed in my life to help direct and share the truth with me about God and His design. However, I consistently rejected all of it, and I allowed my feelings to guide the decisions I made. Some women at my work started up a Bible study last April, and my aunt invited me to go with her. I didn’t want to make her go back and tell them I’d turned her down, so I agreed to participate. I told myself initially, that the second anyone said a word about my lifestyle, I’d quit going. No one ever said a word. I was only into the second week of the study when at night, just before falling asleep, I’d catch myself questioning my decisions and the choices I was making. It was almost like I had to convince myself that I was doing the right thing, by living like I was. 

We were reading a book about the attributes of God. I was at home by myself reading, and the book was talking about picking and choosing parts of different religions and combining them as your own. That’s essentially what I was doing; and the only thing that separated me from being a buddhist or an atheist was that I professed Christianity. I obeyed the Bible when it suited me, and I didn’t when it didn’t. It wasn’t my guide or my truth or the light to my path; Christianity was what I proclaimed because I grew up in Texas and assumed that because I prayed occasionally, I was His. It was like being hit with a lightening bolt. I realized that I was running my life. I grabbed my phone and searched for verses on homosexuality. I’d read them a hundred times and argued and twisted them anytime I’d heard them before, but suddenly I couldn’t. They were black and white, and I couldn’t bend them anymore. 

I knew then, I was going to leave my room either a Christian, fully surrendered to God because that’s what He calls us to do, or an atheist who refused the God of the Bible. I felt grateful, and I felt awful. I clung to Him. I believed Him, and although I had ignored Him and lived foolishly for the first 22 years of my life, He had brought me to this point. He showed me mercy when I deserved justice. Nothing has been the same since. Of course, that wasn’t the only sin in my life. It was just the most obvious manifestation of an unsurrendered life. God has carried me a long way since that day. He’s gently but effectively shown me more areas of my life that I need to give to Him. My pride, for example, is something I battle daily. God’s given me a heart for Him and His Word and His people. Currently, I’m working and speaking at churches and conferences and schools so I can reach as many people as He places in my path. I want to speak truth on some of the tougher issues we’re facing today. Sin is sin, and all of it requires repentance. We will always struggle with sin, but it has to be a struggle. It’s a daily laying down of our will and carrying His cross instead, whether that’s lying or sexual immorality, in any form. I am forever grateful for the mercy He’s shown me in pulling me off of that path and putting me on His instead. He showed me His truth, and it’s better. God is bigger, and He is better than any sinful behavior. He is enough. Not sure if you wanted any of this but it gives a more clear picture as to the girl I was before knowing Him in contrast to the girl I am today.

Let me never forget that I was, as all of man is naturally, a God-hater with the rest of this lost world.

We all want autonomy. We all disdain that there’s a God who calls Himself the Potter and us the clay. We all want to be our own gods and decide what’s right and wrong and which parts of the Bible are worth our attention and which parts can be dismissed. We have all fallen short and sinned against Him. The wages of sin is death; sinning even once puts us under His wrath. And on our own, we would remain there, slave to sin.

Our sin nature has us trapped; sin is who we are, sin is what we do, and we can’t fathom how a God would want to change that. We can’t fathom that if that God does not change that, we die with our debt on us to pay off eternally separated from Him in hell.

But it’s real. We are guilty. Naturally we don’t want God. We are born with a sin nature so deep that we are enemies of God and He’s an enemy of us.

Unless we are born again, we stay there. Some of us are more blatant in rebellion to God with more heinous sin showing outwardly but inwardly, we’re all dead inside until we surrender to Him.

Have you repented? Have you come to the end of yourself and said, “Your way, God. I’m done leading this life. I’m done living in sin and hostility towards you. I can see now that I am a wretch and that you still sent Jesus to die for me. This life is for your glory, not my own.”? If you are still the god of your life, the God of the Bible is angry with you everyday. You are storing up wrath for the day of wrath.

I plead with you. Repent. Stop right where you stand. Examine yourself. See that you are not submitted to God. You want Him to save you from hell but He is not your Lord. Surrender to Him. ‘Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him.’ This is a daily thing. We don’t “get saved” and that’s the end up of it. Either we follow Christ daily or we never have.

If you can read this, you’ve got time. Do not harden your heart. Turn to Him, forsaking all else, that He may have mercy on you. We deserve His wrath. He offers us His mercy. I pray you receive it.

Believers, let us remember that our role is to share the gospel. This time three years I was livid that someone at my work had the audacity to come to me about my lifestyle and my relationship with God. Today I’m enraging people left and right doing the very same thing. He is sovereign. He brings forth the growth; we need only be faithful. This is a reminder to me that I gave a lot of sincere people a lot of guilt and drama. Why would I expect this side of conversion to be without struggle? We obey Him because we love Him; if we do not, it’s because we don’t.’

Here is a great testimony of Emily, as she describes her life as in rebellion to God, there are at least 23 scriptures referring to rebellion, such as:

Hold them guilty, O God; By their own devices let them fall! In the multitude of their transgressions thrust them out, For they are rebellious against You. Psalm 5:10
But having rebellion God uses  And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
1 Peter 2:8.

But the good news is that Emily is transformed, as she realized she would die in her sins, she accepted Jesus as her saviour. But also a personal saviour. Of all the religions there are in this world, you can base them into two camps. The 1st are those who believe they can attain their salvation through good works and merit. Scripture teaches  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9. The 2nd are those who realize the no matter what they do, they fall short of the glory of God because of their sin. Sin is “Missing the mark” and thats why Jesus became that mark, that our sin fell upon him. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. Heb 9.22.

Emily has a great testimony, to share how a loving God showed mercy, giving her something that she did not deserve, and giving her a new life transformed.

Originally posted at Belfast Outreach.