John & Charles Wesley wrote and translated many wonderful hymns.
But their theology stank.
The idea that “Christian perfection” or “the victorious Christian life” or “walking in the Spirit” could actually happen this side of heaven is nothing but garbage. It doesn’t confront the reality that Paul speaks of his life at the time of his writing Romans 7, not in terms of his pre-Christ state. Romans 7, therefore, is the picture of a Christian…not one who “has not yet surrendered his life to Christ.”
As I mentioned in the last post, the fruit of the gospel must never be confused with the gospel itself. Confusing the two creates the type of confusion we see in many of the interviewees in the previously mentioned story, of which this series of blog posts is about. Matt Gromlich (one of the interviewees) says,
At some churches that I’ve visited, you know, there’d be messages about how homosexuality is wrong, or they’d throw it in with a list of sins, and, you know, I wouldn’t really say anything, but just not go back. In that time I was really struggling with faith and being gay, you know, and well, if I accept that I am gay, which I had at that point, then how can I still be Christian?
That’s a great question. If one is told that if one has a propensity towards a given sin (be it homosexuality, lying, gossip, or whatever), then they must not really be a Christian, then they have been told a lie.
Certainly, a person can struggle with an ongoing sin and be a Christian. I realize this is over and against what J. C. Ryle says on the matter, but I would point to Romans 7 to buttress my argument. Anyone wanting to take me to task on this may in a civil fashion…but I don’t see the Gospel of Life-change anywhere in Scripture. Does the Spirit sanctify us? Yes. Does sanctification appear to others? It most certainly can. Does it always manifest in ways we can observe, track and measure? I don’t believe it does.
Am I using this rejection of always-observable sanctification to hide behind my sin? Absolutely not. I have sinned in many grievous ways. So have you. This doesn’t make it right, so I hope no one will accuse me. I’m simply pointing out that my sanctification is not the basis by which my salvation is fixed.
No, Christ’s righteousness is the only standing I have before a holy God.
So, returning to the question which Matt asked, “how can I still be a Christian?” Well, a person who is a Christian can still experience temptation. A person can even engage in homosexual activity and still be a Christian.
How can that be? you may ask. I thought homosexuals don’t inherit the kingdom of God! That’s true. But this is where imputed righteousness comes in. We wear righteousness which has been given to us by Christ as a robe. Our righteousness is, and continues to be, alien…that is, it isn’t ours. It’s given to us…but it’s still Christ’s, bestowed upon us as a gift. Continuing to read sin lists such as Romans 1 or 1 Cor. 6, or elsewhere, we are ALL laid low before a holy God. I mean, just look at the passage in Romans 1 where homosexuality is referenced…and then really awful stuff follows…and then suddenly you see, “disobedient to parents.” I mean, REALLY? Yes. Really. Those lists are to show us ALL our need for Christ’s righteousness.
So I would say to Matt, you CAN be a Christian and experience temptation and sin. It’s the lot of a Christian. I call you, myself, and everyone to repentance and faith before a holy God who is gracious in giving to us what we could never secure in and of ourselves: perfect righteousness.