My husband and I attended the G3 Conference this year. The focus was on worship. The pastors elaborated on all aspects of worship, in our homes with our children, during the worship service at church, and as an active part of how we live our life from day to day. The Sunday following the conference, we attended Prays Mill Baptist Church where we got to hear Bro. Paul Washer delivers what is possibly one of the best sermons I have ever heard on the assurance of salvation. In his sermon, Bro. Paul repeatedly referenced our thoughts: the who we are that no one else knows but God; how convicted we should be over our own thought life. (To watch the sermon go here: https://www.facebook.com/PraysMillBaptistChurch/videos/619370468851665/)
Shortly after, I had engaged with some believers in an online discussion pertaining to their thought life. Soon the conversation focused intensely on the difference between being tempted by a sinful thought vs dwelling in sinful thoughts. While researching for some information I realized that this was not an area delved into frequently by many theologically sound writers. Our thought life has significant implications on all aspects of our emotional health and physical life – it is a subject that should be taught more frequently. The one question I regret not asking is, “according to what standard, do you think that your natural affections are not sinful?” What is our standard? How can we know if something is good, or wicked? We must have a standard to which we turn if we are to have any truth whatsoever.
You Are Not Your Own
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
“Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers,” 1 Peter 1:18
The Bible clearly teaches that believers were chosen from before the foundation of the earth was laid. We were chosen by God to be given to Christ as His bride. Believers are convicted by the Holy Spirit of their sin and rebellion against God and by grace through faith in Christ’s atoning work on the cross we were saved from God’s wrath that is being poured out on sinners.
God purchased us with the blood of His Son, purchased us for Himself and by Himself. And then He takes us and presents us to Christ as a gift. We were purchased. We do not belong to ourselves. I am not the master of my own life. I do not get to live my life for my own desires. Even my thoughts do not belong to me. Every aspect of myself was purchased by God and for God. We are His. We are His children, who He delights in and knows what is best for us. And in another sense, we are His slaves – we are here not to do our own will, but the will of our Master.
Every aspect of ourselves should be thought of in this way: These are my eyes that God graciously has given me, eyes that He has purchased with the blood of Christ to be used for His glory. These are my hands that God has graciously given to me, hands that He has purchased with the blood of Christ to be used for His glory. These are my thoughts that the Lord has graciously given to me, thoughts that He has purchased with the blood of Christ to be used for His glory.
Growing in Sanctification
“To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, but the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.” 1 Peter 1:1-2
This life we have been chosen to is a life of obedience. This is not a life of drudgery but joyful obedience. It is a crucial aspect to our sanctification. Joyful obedience produces blessings in this life and in eternity. This is the grace upon grace that God has bestowed to us. Our salvation is an oath of loyalty. When we confess that Jesus Christ is Lord we are confessing that He is our Lord and we are His slave. This in and of itself is an oath of obedience.
“Therefore, putting aside all malice and deceit and hypocrisy and envy and slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” 1 Peter 2:1
We are to have a singular passion for the Word of God. Just as a newborn baby is singularly passionate about nothing but getting some milk when it is hungry. We must be as driven to focus on the Word. This is how we work to conquer our flesh and the sins of the mind such as malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. When we pour into the Word, we grow in faith. As we grow in faith we grow in the conviction of our sins and of the truth of the Word. The more our life is centered on the Word, the more we grow in love for the Word.
“Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” Psalm 119:97
Temptations and Our Thoughts
A temptation is not the same thing as a sin. Jesus was tempted and yet remained sinless. We can also see this in the Lord’s prayer. We are to ask for forgiveness from trespasses and debts while temptations need deliverance. It should be noted that our sins can lead us into further temptation. In the book of James we learn that the progressions is 1) desire 2) temptation 3) sin 4) death.
“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” James 1:14-15
“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
Our flesh is corrupted by sin. We are born sinners. Our natural bent is nothing but sinfulness. We naturally hold a grudge when someone hurts us. We feel inclined to demand our own way. We get angry when our way is thwarted. Our natural desire is corrupted by sin. Our desires lead us to temptation. Even in our God-honoring desires, we can be tempted to sin for we are corrupt and sinful people. The Bible teaches us that when we are faced with a temptation that we are to flee from it. Not just casually dart away, but to flee the scene. We are to keep a large distance between us and sin so that we do not stumble into it. In 1 Corinthians we are promised that God will provide a way for us to escape each temptation that comes our way.
Even with our thought life, we are commanded to bring it under the submission of the Holy Spirit. We will be judged for the thoughts that we have, just as strongly as if we had committed the sin in our life. We are to turn from harboring wicked thoughts. We are to not have the same worldview or perspective as the culture around us, we are to think rightly and Biblically.
“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteousness man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 55:7
Temptation vs Attraction
“You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.” Psalm 139:2
The conversation with my friends quickly delved into a discussion about Same-Sex Attraction. This is a sin that many women in the conversation struggle with. Some were adamant that it wasn’t a sin. Now, I struggle with a great many things in regard to my thought life, but this is a temptation that is completely foreign to me. So I began to research. Are attractions temptations? Can we be tempted by something that we are attracted to? At what point does an attraction become sinful? At what point is an attraction merely a temptation?
The answer is much more complex than a simple yes or no. Many people would say that an attraction is simply neutral. You have no choice in what you are attracted to. You just are. For me, I find kind eyes and pretty hair attractive. That sounds neutral enough. But what if you are attracted to something sinful?
These women were telling me that they have a natural bent to where they are drawn to other women. This in and of itself is a sinful attraction, for it goes contrary to the way God designed sex to function. It may not be a conscious sin – one that they do intentionally. But nowhere in scripture does it say that every sin must be done intentionally. In fact, the Bible teaches that we sin without even meaning to, for our flesh is that corrupted. We are continually sinning. Even just sitting here breathing and reading this article you are sinning. “Why? How?” you may ask. Because you are not loving God with every thought and every fiber of your being. Some parts of you are distracted, some parts of you are focused on breathing. You are loving your comfortable seat on the couch. We cannot physically love God as much as He deserves and has commanded. Anything even slightly or accidentally less than God’s perfect standard is sin.
“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9
Sin is not exclusive to our actions. Evil actions and sinful thoughts all pour our from the heart. Our heart is wicked, our thoughts and desires are frequently sinful. Jesus corrected the Pharisee and explained that sin was in the heart. Sinful anger is murder in our hearts according to Matthew 5:21-22. Our hearts are corrupted by sin. We cannot trust our own hearts to guide us to what is true – we must base all our understanding of what is true and good on the Word of God.
“And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.” 1 Chronicles 28:9
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
Our flesh is totally corrupt – even our hearts, which is where our desires come from Biblically speaking. Our flesh wants to serve its master – the devil. We are constantly in a war with our flesh. This war will be going on continually until the Lord grants us a perfected and glorified body in heaven. Our flesh will drive us to sin – even when we don’t mean for it to. This is why our lives need to be marked by a continual attitude of repentance. We always have something to repent about, for we are always falling short of God’s perfect standard.
“For thought we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.
Our bodies do not work the way that they were created to. They are marred by the Fall. We have disease, infirmary, and weakness. Our bodies sag and age and just flat out fall apart. Even our brains are affected by the Fall. One of the ways that our brains are affected is intrusive thoughts. Everyone has them. They can be a random thought jump in your brain that is frightening or extremely out of place. Usually, they are violent or of a sexual nature. These will surprise us – shock us, frighten us. They are not something that we want to think about or assume that we would think about.
Are they a temptation? Maybe. But maybe it’s just our brain misfiring because it is marred by sin. Sometimes, they can be caused by sin – if we are not keeping our thoughts reigned in and captive unto the obedience of Christ, our minds can be more prone to drifting and blurting out inappropriate thoughts. Some intrusive thoughts may be sinful if it is based on a sinful affection.
When confronted by these intrusive thoughts, take them to the Lord. Repent of any sin you’re aware of, ask God to reveal those you are not aware of, then focus the mind on Truth: on Scripture. This is how you combat these intrusive thoughts. They may go away – and they may not. There may be a physical cause for the brain to misfire, or there may not. If so – find a healthcare professional and a Biblical counselor to walk down that road with you. Regardless: learning to suffer well is something that we are all called to do.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting!” Psalm 139:23-24
In order to discuss this sin, we need to get our definitions lined up. Attraction can have a lot of variance to its implications. I am attracted to certain textures. I am attracted to certain art forms and music. There most often is a small level of non-sexual attraction towards people that you become friends with. When a man notices a beautiful woman, and he turns away so that he does not fall into the temptation of lusting – he is not in sin. His finding her beautiful is not sinful in and of itself. Is that the same sort of attraction meant by SSA? No. It is more than finding someone beautiful or an art piece aesthetically pleasing. You don’t say “Oh I’m dark-haired male attracted. DHMA.” That’s ridiculous. One is a minor aesthetic attraction and SSA is more. With it comes attraction, but it also encompasses an identity, a mindset, a worldview. It’s an affection of the heart.
“But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” James 1:4
In the book of James, we can see a great definition of Temptation. A temptation is when we are enticed by our desire, whether that desire is for good or evil. Some desires are not sinful – like the desire for food when you are hungry. But it can be warped into a desire for evil when you want more food when you are not really hungry still. Other desires are sinful because it is against God’s law. This includes sexual sins. Anytime you desire for a heated sexually charged interaction with someone who is not your spouse, or when someone desires someone of the same sex or pedophilia or bestiality. There is no lawful occasion whereby you may have these desires – they are sinful in and of themselves. The temptation for these things are drawn from wicked desires – the desire for them, the natural inclination to have affection for them is sinful.
Same-Sex Attraction is a desire or affection. It’s a mindset, a worldview, an identity. It is more than finding a pair of eyes handsome. Webster defines Affection as “A bent of mind towards a particular object, holding a middle place between disposition, which is natural, and passion, which is excited by the presence of its exciting object. Affection is a permanent bent of the mind, formed by the presence of an object, or by some act of another person, and existing without the presence of its object.” Webster continues, “Desire; inclination; propensity, good or evil; as, virtuous or vile affections.” Webster even agreed – an affection can be good or evil. Affections are good when it is reflective of or directed at that which is good and God-honoring. Affections can be sinful when they are contrary to God’s standard or when they are excessive. We can see these elaborated upon in Scripture here: (1 Chronicles 29:3; Colossians 3:5; Romans 1:26; 2 Timothy 3:3)
A young woman desires to marry and have her husband is not a sinful desire. It can be when it becomes excessive, or when it is directed at a particular person who is not her spouse. But the desire of a man wanting to be intimate with a woman or a woman desiring to be intimate with a man is not sinful. It is a God-honoring desire in and of itself, for it reflects how God created the male and female relationship to work. But a man desiring to be with a man intimately or a woman with a woman is contrary to how God designed sex to work, and it is contrary to how Scripture dictates that we are to live: therefore, the desire itself is sinful.
Even the level of intimacy as confessed by these women in the online conversation, though they adamantly said that it wasn’t a sexual lust for other women – it was a level of intimacy reserved for one’s spouse. An Attraction for other women, a desire for them in some form or fashion that is much much more intimate than that of a sister or a close friend. They are drawn to other women in some intimate fashion because it is an affection of their heart. Though, as we have discovered here, it is a sinful one.
Our Identity in Christ
Another valid point when discussing SSA is identity. Many people who struggle with the sin of SSA are quick to gravitate to the label. Whether they call themselves “Gay but Celibate” or “Non-practicing Bi-Sexual” or “SSA” it’s the same thing. It is not only a misaligned affection of the heart but it is also a dangerous label. We as believers should be known as Christ-followers. For we do not belong to ourselves. Thus, any label we choose to attach to ourselves must be in submission to He who bought us. If we who claim to be a Christian align ourselves with a label, such as “Gay” or “SSA” or “Bisexual” we are aligning ourselves with that which God has deemed sinful, we blaspheme the name of Christ. That’s serious.
If you claim to be joined with Christ, and yet at the same time joined with that which He has identified as sinful, you blaspheme the name of Christ.
If we define ourselves by our sin, this denies the reality of the justification of the cross. We must be defined and find out identity in Christ and Christ alone. We may struggle with sins, we may be broken in our mind and in our body – but we must never identify ourselves by our sins. Our sinful flesh must be crucified daily.
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.” Galatians 5:24
We ALL struggle with sinful actions, sinful desires, and sinful thoughts. We all need to focus on crucifying them on the cross and putting on Christ. Our heart is not to be trusted – our desires are not to be trusted. Weigh everything against what is the only reliable source of Truth: The Word of God. Hold fast to what is Good and True in Scripture and flee the temptation of the flesh.
One great resource for this topic on Same-Sex Attraction, especially in regards to whether one can be attracted in any way to the same sex and it not be sinful is a series by Founders Ministry. Here is part 1: https://founders.org/2020/01/06/revisiting-revoice-the-need-for-this-discussion/
Please check out another article on this topic here: https://strivingforeternity.org/why-gay-christianity-is-a-false-religion/
And here is an article on the authority of scripture
I am not sure if any of the ladies from the online discussion group will ever read this article. I hope they do. I am greatly concerned for them and pray that they repent and come to know Christ. No ill-will is meant by this article, only grave concern for the state of your soul and love for you as a fellow image-bearer.