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Good works are not optional for the Christian. Christians who live in habitual, unrepentant sin show themselves not to be true Christians. Of course, we all stumble (James 3:2; 1 John 1:8).  But there’s a difference between falling into sin and jumping in with both feet. It doesn’t matter the sin—pride, slander, robbery, covetousness, or sexual immorality—if we give ourselves to it and live in it with joyful abandon, we will not inherit the kingdom of God. Simply put, people walking day after day in the same sin without a fight or repentance go to hell (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; 1 John 3:14).

In our day careful attention needs to be paid to the issue of sexual immorality in particular.  This isn’t because Christians are prudes or like to judge others or are obsessed with sex.  We have to talk about sexual sin because it is the idol of our age. For the church to be silent on the most important ethical matters of our day would be irresponsible and cowardly. This means Christians have difficult waters ahead, especially as it relates to the issue of homosexuality. How can we talk about sexual immorality in a way that is both true and gracious?

First, we need courage.  We need courage to say that unchecked, unrepentant sexual immorality–like unchecked, unrepentant theft, greed, drunkenness, anger, and bitterness–cannot be tolerated in the church.  We need courage in our churches, our denominations, our schools, and our parachurch organizations to affirm clearly—not just on paper, but in our preaching and actions—that blatant sin, of any kind (especially when it is persistent), is to be lovingly rebuked, not celebrated and solemnized. The peace-loving, conflict-avoiding, middle of the roaders need courage to stand on God’s word and not compromise for fear of being thought mean, narrow, majoring on the minors, a distraction, or arrogantly self-assured. Young people especially need courage to stick out in their schools and among their friends as they winsomely defend the belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman for a lifetime.

Second, we need humility.  We need to check our own hearts to make sure our courage does not become hostility, and our love for the word of God does not become disdain for those who disobey it.  We need to ask God to show us our blind spots, whether it has to do with divorce, or greed, or self-righteousness. We need to repent of pride. We need to repent of our own sexual sins.

Third, we need love.  We must be willing to touch—emotionally, socially, and physically—those who sin just like us, even if they sin in different ways than some of us.  We need to love enough to listen to those who struggle with sexual temptations. We need to love enough to suffer with those who suffer and be willing to suffer for standing on the word of God.

Fourth, we need hope.  We need hope that God can change the hardest heart and slowly, over time, change the deepest addictions, habits, and affections. And if he chooses not to, we need hope to believe he can give us the grace to walk in the light as he is in the light. We need to offer hope—the hope of God’s mercy, the hope of forgiveness, the hope of eternal life, the hope of a warm, truth-filled, grace-saturated church community, the hope of 1 Corinthians 6 that “such were some of you.”

Finally, we need prayer. Pray that evangelical churches and institutions would not do the easy thing and try to make all sides happy under the guise of conversation and dialogue, but do the hard, loving thing and call sin sin so that grace can be grace and God can show himself to be the sort of God who forgives our iniquities, heals our diseases, redeems our life from the pit, crowns us with steadfast love and mercy, and satisfies us with good. Pray for those who struggle with sexual temptation—whether it be pornography, lust, or same gender attraction.  Pray that our churches would be welcoming places for strugglers, sinners, and sufferers.  Pray for open doors to minister to those who often hate the church—sometimes for bad reasons and sometimes for understandable reasons.  Pray for those in the gay community—one of the least reached peoples on earth—that they would be open to the truth of God’s word and that our hearts would be open to them. Pray that God would rid us of unrighteous anger, cowardice, compromise, and fear. Pray that the precious, holy, merciful name of Jesus would be hallowed, and that the light of Christ would shine in the dark places in our cities, and in the dark places in our churches, and in the dark places of our own hearts.

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27 thoughts on “What We Need”

  1. Mark B. says:

    Great post brother Kevin.

    “But there’s a difference between falling into sin and jumping in with both feet.”

    Thank you for making that distinction when many in the church world are crumbling under pressure. I appreciate this post and can see the love coming from it. Now may God help me to transfer this from head knowledge to how I actually live and apply it.

  2. Curt Day says:

    As important and dangerous as sexual sin is, the focus we put on it while having less time, energy, and motivation to confront other sins seems to be a stumbling block to many nonChristians. Again, it isn’t that we should not pay careful attention to sexual purity, it is that, in terms of other sins, we let too much go to the wayside that bothers nonChristians. They sometimes rightfully ask if sex is the only sin we care about.

    When people see how lackadaisical we are to wars, the economic systems that allow some to live in luxury at the expense of others, the destruction of the environment, and the intolerance for others shown by some while paying such close attention to sexual sin, they rightfully ask, where is the love? And they rightfully wonder why we are so eager to confront the individual on sexual sin while saying nothing to the elites who manage and maintain our political-economic system that allows for plunder and war.

    While working hard to guard against sexual sin, we need to oppose the oppression of others that so easily flies under our radar but is so obvious to many unbelievers. Otherwise, many unbelievers will view our selectivity as an indicator that we are not serious about opposing sin.

  3. Phillip says:

    In a word, begging for renewal.

  4. lisa says:

    Thank you, Kevin. Thank you so, so much.

  5. Kraig says:

    Kevin, you are my favorite pastor, and overall this was a thoughtful and humble post, but please refrain from referring to people who practice same-sex acts as a community or people group, because that plays right into the hands of the idea that people who practice same-sex acts deserve class protection in all respects. Do you also refer to people who are morbidly obese as a people group? Habitual liars? Gossips? Probably not.

    Also, seeing as how no one outside of your church or TGC circle cares about what you write (not a bad thing, by the way), why do you mention the issue of homosexuality so much? I know that you say “it is the issue of the day” and needs to be addressed “especially.” But I really don’t think it is the issue in our Christian subculture. Are there many people in your conservative evangelical church that are open and affirming to sexual liberation? I doubt it. But do you know what is rampant? Fornication. Pornography. Ungenerosity. Materialism. HGTVism (obsession with dream home/home improvement).

    I think if you focus on fornication and pornography and how to honor the marriage bed to the extent that you now focus on homosexuality, the fact that homosexuality is also immoral will be obvious. Except for the few trolls that frequent this site, no one is arguing with you, nor is anyone personally convicted, when you call out homosexuality as sin.

    So please move on. Please address our issues, because you are a great thinker and writer and preacher.

  6. Phillip says:

    Kraig The “WHY” of your statement, from a Christian point of view, is that Kevin DeYoung is Pastor, Shepherd, looking out for his flock, who belong to Jesus.
    Oh, being outside of Kevin’s Church, I am most interested about his writings. You sees, we are all one body, one faith, in Christ.
    We pray for his light to shine upon you.

  7. Keith K. says:

    The difference between homosexuality and other sexual sins like porn, etc., is that the latter sins are those which believers of all persuasions know are wrong but struggle with in practice. I don’t see many porn-rights movements in the church. I don’t see groups called the Adulterous Christian Network.
    The danger associated with homosexuality is not just that it’s being practiced, but that it’s being accepted and affirmed in growing numbers by those who call themselves Christians.
    No one needs to be told that porn is wrong. But many in the church do need to be told that homosexual acts are, even pre-emptively.
    Is this the central message of Christianity? No, but it is under attack as much as any other Biblical doctrine, if not more. And it’s not the wolves we’re trying to convince, but the sheep in the flock who may be vulnerable to being led astray. That’s why we talk about it this much.

  8. Paul Reed says:

    @Keith K.

    Yeah, right. Divorce and remarriage are rampant in the church. The church even celebrates remarriage.
    When was the last time you heard a sermon against remarriage, masturbation, or being rich?
    And if we think excessive sexual sin is something new to our culture, remember that Paul tells us that in Corinth there was a man in the congregation sleeping with his stepmother (for just one instance), and that historians tell us that sexual relationships between men and boys were widespread in the Greek and Roman empire.

    The focus is on homosexuality is because it’s an easy target (although it’s getting to be a harder target as more gays continue to come out.)
    Focusing on other sin on the other hand is can be a political nightmare, because it would mean looking inward at our own sin. With homosexuality, we can point a finger outward, and yet still look “bold”.

  9. Keith K. says:

    Yes, it’s easier. Of course, 100 percent of homosexual relationships are sinful, unlike cases of divorce and remarriage, so it’s not that simple. But there are plenty of hypocrites in the church as well. I’ve made the same point myself.
    There are also myriad sermons, books and ministries trying to save and preserve marriages from divorce. But politically, those who do still speak out against those sins (when they are sins) with the same fervor have, frankly, lost. There are just not enough of us. It’s too late.
    But with this, it’s not too late to resist the culture’s wolves invading our backyard, again. It will get harder, and maybe we’ll lose this battle, too, and the end-times apostasy will grow as Scripture says it will.

  10. Kraig says:

    @Keith K.

    I understand and almost agree with what you are saying. It is true that the relentless in-your-face gay agenda requires a response. But why is it the issue to address “especially” all the time?

    I would guess that if you poll members of conservative evangelical churches, you will be hard pressed to find a few on the fence regarding homosexual practice. These few are on the fence in their opinion of homosexuality–they don’t practice it.

    You will find diverse views, however, regarding the act of fornication (“premarital sex”) and remarriage. Why? Because most everyone in the church has had sexual relations with someone they were not married to at the time. It is difficult for people to call out a sin that they themselves committed. The average conservative Christian response to an engaged couple having sex might be, “Well, it is best to wait” instead of, “Do you not know that you will not inherit the kingdom unless you repent?”

    Are there liberal mainline churches and groups that are “open and affirming”? Yes, but they reject the inspiration and authority of the Bible, which is the main problem, so it should come as no surprise that they conform to public opinion. No amount of exposition will convince them otherwise.

  11. Faithworks says:

    Kev, how dare you talk about unrepentant sin and the consequence of sin-hell, that most pastors will not talk about!!! What are you trying to do man, tell people that you love them and don’t want them to be lost for eternity or something? There always has to be a rebel in the group.

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  13. JohnM says:

    @Kraig, I think you have a point about focusing on what is good and right, with the result that what is immoral will become obvious – of course I think it is anyway to some extent. Likewise with regard to the liberal mainline, which was pretty much a lost cause before any contemporary issues came along.

    However to the “What we needs” I would add: We need to be clear in understanding and communication. I say that because no matter how obvious something is when we have an unobstructed view, the world, the flesh, and the devil are forever throwing up obstructions to any clear view of things. I think that may be happening now with regard to this issue, even in evangelical churches, perhaps especially among the younger folk. I can’t dismiss all of the dissenting responses I see here as trolling.

    @Paul Reed, If we’ve left off saying anything about divorce and re-marriage (and I’d add: generally right and honorable husband/wife relationships) then that just further illustrates my point about the need to be clear in understanding and communication on the subject(s). These are different subjects from the one immediately addressed here, but very much related too.

  14. EricP says:

    I think about a 30% of the articles are about LBGT, so I agree with @Kraig that maybe a different topic could use some airtime.

    If there are going to be that many articles, there are ministries that train evangelicals on how to talk to LBGT. Articles like these are a prime example of why the training is needed. There are good parts, especially the last paragraph starting with “Pray for those who struggle”, but most of it is tone deaf.

    Please allow me to paraphrase and summarize the article as I think a LBGT Christian would read it.

    “Gay Christians aren’t real Christians. They live in habitual, unrepentant sin. There’s a difference between falling into sin and jumping in with both feet. Gays give themselves over to sin and live in it with joyful abandon, walking day after day in the same sin without a fight or repentance and will go to hell.

    Unchecked, unrepentant sexual immorality cannot be tolerated in the church. We need to affirm clearly—not just on paper, but in our preaching and actions—that gay Christians are to be lovingly rebuked, not celebrated and solemnized.

    As gross as it makes us feel, we must be willing to touch—emotionally, socially, and physically— gay Christians.

    Gays have the hardest hearts and have the deepest addictions, but hopefully God fixes them.

    We need to block conversations and dialogue by focusing on how sinful gays are. “

  15. Randy Buist says:

    The idea that sexual sins are larger than other sins as Kevin so believes has no biblical basis. None. Zero. Nada.

    In addition, the idea that we know when we sin and when we don’t… it simply betrays Calvinism.

    Finally, to conjure up criticism of others sins time and time again isn’t biblical.

    Well done Pastor.

  16. Randy Buist says:

    @ Paul Reed

    These topics won’t be covered because they’ve been dealt with and are now deemed o.k. for ‘Good Christians’ to partake. Plus it’s not popular to speak against divorce, remarriage, and wealth… it’s simply easier to beat on the marginalized and call it biblical…

    There are people who love Jesus, love our neighbors and are willing to recognize all people as having value and being created in the likeness of the Creator.

    If you would like a more helpful conversation, find me online. Be Blessed.

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  18. JT says:

    Sixth, we need Jesus, because we are sinners like everyone else in this adulterous world.

  19. Lee says:

    Randy, you state, “The idea that sexual sins are larger than other sins as Kevin so believes has no biblical basis. None. Zero. Nada.” I don’t find that belief stated in this article. DeYoung does state, “We have to talk about sexual sin because it is the idol of our age,” which is quite a different idea entirely.

    I visited your blog and it is obvious from your recent writings that you have a different theory on the most pressing issue of our current age, that of political/social oppression. I think all of the readers of this blog, and GC in general, would agree that the alleviation of suffering and oppression is also a worthy arm of the body of Christ, and would desire for God to bless your efforts.

    I’m sure you would also agree that good theology and accurate representation of Jesus’ teaching regarding oppression and justice drive the idea that we as Christians should be passionate about the very things you discuss on your blog. Bad theology leads to the opposite – health and wealth gospel, extravagant living at the expense of the poor, etc. In like manner, DeYoung desires that we communicate a robust theological understanding of the sexual ethic of the Bible through courage, humility, love, hope, and prayer to avoid equally harmful errors.

    Paul Reed, you state, “Divorce and remarriage are rampant in the church. The church even celebrates remarriage. When was the last time you heard a sermon against remarriage, masturbation, or being rich?” to which Randy responds, “These topics won’t be covered because they’ve been dealt with and are now deemed o.k. for ‘Good Christians’ to partake. Plus it’s not popular to speak against divorce, remarriage, and wealth… it’s simply easier to beat on the marginalized and call it biblical.” Your generalization and criticism of “the church” appears to be that churches have ceased teaching about and providing discipleship for sins/temptations that have become accepted in a widespread manner. Puzzlingly, your solution seems to be for the church to repeat the pattern with the latest cultural shift rather than to reform the errors you perceive have been committed.

    On the contrary, I would argue that the debates regarding same-sex attraction have done the church a great service by providing a challenging reminder that we do have a tendency to overlook familiar sins, and to avoid conflict in areas that are sensitive. As you rightly point out, any silence in the arenas of divorce, remarriage, greed, and wealth is not pursuing and teaching the whole counsel of God. However, reformation of those errors is better than using them as an example for how to proceed in the current environment.

  20. chris says:

    SO glad you mentioned God’s love, but it needs to move to 1st place. Out of that love flows a “rejoicing in the truth” (1Cor 13). The true, atomic blast of God’s love gives us the kind of courage that defies human description. It’s what moved Jesus’ legs up to Calvary in the face of dread so great He sweat drops of blood.

    God’s love is courage redefined. It roots us, grounds us, and casts. out. all. fear.

  21. Matt says:

    I have to agree with Chris. When love is mentioned in conservative blogs, it is usually in last place, the shortest part of the entire post, and pretty general in application (general that it requires little or no change on the part of the reader).

    And,frankly, your first point is theologically questionable. The Church is not called to address society or culture. We change these things by addressing individuals. The whole non-sense with WV for instance, was because a parachurh organization was trying to play church and in doing so, chose not to focus on the most important and foundational aspects of Church (doctrine and teaching) and, instead, had been focusing on behavior. One of the first things we need to do is the Church needs to be the Church and parachurch organizations need to learn they are NOT the Church and are not called to play church.

    To be blunt, the response of so many “Christians” to WV was nothing but crap and brought nothing but shame upon Christianity.

  22. Charles says:

    Thanks for the article. I never realized that Christians who live in habitual, unrepentant sin show themselves not to be true Christians. I know that Jesus says I must be perfect as my father in heaven is perfect. I guess I will just have to work harder to let go of all my sin so that I may earn my salvation.

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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