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Sunday Service @ The Sanctuary: 464 E. Walnut Street, Pasadena, CA 91101

 

Sunday Services @ The Sanctuary (464 E. Walnut St. Pasadena, CA 91101

10:00 am

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9:00am

Sovereign Grace Church of Pasadena @ The Sanctuary

464 E. Walnut Street

Pasadena, CA 91101

 

 

We meet in The Sanctuary of the old First Congregational Church

 

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Gender and The Church Seminar Notes

“That We Be Found Faithful: Living as Christ’s Church in a Gender-Confused Age”

 

“Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.”

(1 Corinthians 4:2)

 

Introduction: Western Christians find ourselves living in challenging times. The LGBTQ revolution seems to touch all areas of society, and as a result our culture and political system is facing numerous difficult questions and divisive issues. As Christians within this culture, our challenge is even greater: how do we remain faithful as Christ’s church even while the culture changes around us? Which of these titles (from the cottage industry of Christian publications on gender and sexuality issues) best captures the moment?

 

  • “People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue”
  • “The Gathering Storm: Religious Liberty in the Wake of the Sexual Revolution”

 

Somewhere in between? Something totally different? Or a mix of both?

 

Main point: faithfulness as Christ’s church in a gender-confused age requires BOTH courage and compassion.

 

Point 1: Faithfulness as Christ’s Church Requires Courage

 

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.” (Philippians 1:27-30)

 

Why?

 

Modern gender theory offers a comprehensive way of viewing the world – a system of beliefs, values, and priorities – that is opposed to Christianity and destructive of human flourishing. To make the point, I will quote primarily from Maya Gonzalez’s The Gender Wheel, a children’s book marked on Amazon for 7-10 year olds.[1]

 

Gender Theory as a Comprehensive Vision of the World

 

Central issue: the freedom of the individual. 

 

“To be strong as human beings we must be open to evolution and what potential may come for human bodies and gender. To be strong as people in our world, we must be open to new ideas that connect us back to nature and the truth of who we are.”[2]

 

“There is no one else like you in the world. This is why everyone should be free to be exactly who they are on the inside.”[3]

 

“You are who you say you are, because YOU know you best…There are lots of ways to be a boy. There are lots of ways to be a girl. There are lots of ways to be a kid. BE WHO YOU ARE!”[4]

 

  • What Is Ultimate Reality? The Doctrine of Creation.

 

Nature is ultimate, and infinite. It is always changing, and nothing in nature is identical.

 

“Nature’s large dance with its constant circling and cycling creates something very important, an abundance of diversity…In fact, the natural world is only possible through this constant change and great difference. It is a rolling, circling, cycling dance. This is the nature of nature. This is what keeps us and our world growing forward.”[5]

 

  • Who Are We? The Doctrine of Man.

 

We are all a part of nature in its infinite diversity.

 

“Nature and the Gender Wheel show us that there’s room for everyone in our world, and every body is connected. The circle holds us.”[6]

 

“As a part of nature, human bodies are all different too. Like faces, no two bodies are exactly the same.”[7]

 

“Nature is ultimately a powerful and undeniable truth…The truth of nature is that bodies are bodies and all bodies belong. We are all a part of nature. Every body.”[8]

Our gender is an expression of our inner selves, and is a key way of communing with ultimate reality.

 

“Our body holds our heart and mind and spirit and this cannot be separated from us. This inside part is the most important part of our bodies because this is who we are. As we get older we know more and more about our inside self, this includes what we call gender. Gender is part of our connection to nature. In a sense it is how nature connects to our hearts and dances through our bodies.”[9]

 

“…the inside self is not only inseparable [from our bodies], it is as expansive as all of nature.”[10]

 

  • What Is Wrong With Us And With Society? The Doctrine of Sin.

 

Restrictive, limiting beliefs (implicitly, arising from Western/Judeo-Christian teaching) harm people and seek to control nature.

 

“…Many people believe there are only two kinds of bodies. Girl and boy. Why is that? There are a lot of reasons, but they mostly stem from something that happened a long time ago. 500 years ago, people came to North America from Europe with their beliefs about how they thought the world should be. Many of their beliefs were linear and rigid. The boxed people in and kept nature out. As the newcomers took the Americas for their own, they forced the people who had lived here for thousands of years to adopt their beliefs about everything, including bodies…If somebody didn’t fit or act according to their beliefs about GIRL and BOY, that person was considered wrong and bad.”[11]

 

“These beliefs about boyandgirlcontinue to be passed on and affect people today. But no matter how long or how forcibly beliefs like these are held, the truth cannot be blocked.”[12]

 

  • Who or What Will Rescue Us? The Doctrine of Salvation

 

 Embracing diversity and rejecting limiting beliefs frees us to be who we are meant to be.

 

“By making room for all bodies and not just bodies that fit into what we currently call boy and girl, we come back into nature’s circular ways. When we remember that no two bodies are identical, even the ones we consider the same kind of body, the circle expands more. Until every body is included. This is the way of nature. Expansive and inclusive.”[13]

 

  • Where Are We Going? The Doctrine of Last Things

 

When we pursue this vision, we are on the path back to nature and the experience of the transcendent infinite.

 

“The more we understand nature’s circles and cycles, the more we begin to see that we are all connected. To be whole, we need every body to be exactly who they are inside and outside. We are not now nor have we ever been two kinds of bodies, two genders or two ways to behave in the world. We were never two. We have always been infinity. This is who we are.”[14]

 

“We need infinity to express who we all are. This variety is the power of nature…Infinite bodies outside, infinite ways to feel inside. Everybody has a place on the wheel. As people, we are part of some very big stories, the sweep of humanity and the evolution of nature, in which every body is necessary. As humans, as a part of nature, this is our dance.”[15]

 

Summary:

The Gender Wheelis a comprehensive way of understanding the world, human nature, and our place in it. This is not to suggest that this one book is “the Bible” of gender theory – but it expresses, in succinct, child-friendly terminology, the key tenets of transgender ideology. It is not a matter of reductionistic arguments such as “girls don’t have to like pink” or “boys don’t have to like sports.”  

 

Notice how the vision held out by The Gender Wheelcontradicts Scripture at almost every point. These are two mutually exclusive visions. The contradiction is perhaps greatest on these two points:

 

We do not know ourselves best, and unlimited self-expression will never lead us to freedom.Biblically, it isgoodto be a creature made by the loving hand of an infinitely good God.

 

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them…And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:27, 31).

 

"The only appropriate reaction of a creature is to acquiesce in God's good pleasure. A creature really has a choice between only two options: either it chooses to be its own creator and thereby cease to be a creature, or it must be and remain a creature from beginning to end, and therefore owes its existence  and the specific nature of its existence only to God."[16]

 

Unlimited self-expression is a false redeemer, who can never offer the holistic salvation that Jesus offers.

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. O Israel,trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.” (Psalm 115:1-9)

 

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

 

Note well: if we as Christ’s church stand firm on the Bible’s teaching, we are “in the way” for the goal of the LGBTQ revolution as outlined above. Because gender theory and Scripture offer competing visions, it is difficult to see how they can coexist peacefully in a single society. Therefore, faithfulness to Christ will require from us courage.

 

Conclusion:

  • Courage to disagree

 

Are we willing to stand out as different? Are we willing to contradict the assumptions and ideologies of the day when they’re presented to us as “the right side of history” or “what everyone believes”? Doing so will make us stand out – but such standing out will be necessary if we are to be faithful.

 

  • Courage to face persecution

 

Are we prepared to suffer loss for what we believe? This might be loss of social standing, loss of friends, challenges or hostility at work, loss of academic opportunities. We cannotassume an offensive, chip-on-our-shoulder mentality, eager to pick fights and seek dissension; but we must notassume that we can follow Christ in a gender-confused age and still be warmly embraced by the world.

 

 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)

 

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)

 

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets…Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” (Luke 22-23, 26)

 

 

 

 

 

Point 2: Faithfulness as Christ’s Church Requires Compassion

 

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” (Matthew 9:36-38)

 

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

 

“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)

 

Why?

 

All the sins and struggles we have just described are “temptations common to man.” By grace alone, we have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. If our words, attitudes, or demeanor communicate self-righteousness, arrogance, or hard-heartedness towards any sinner or group of sinners, we have forgotten the gospel that saves us and makes us the church of Christ!

 

Multi-Dimensional Compassion

 

Compassion as sympathy: we understand sin struggles

 

As Christ’s church, we can have compassion on those who struggle with all kinds of sin, even when they don’t yet understand their struggle as sin!

 

Sexual temptation: whether same-sex attraction or heterosexual attraction, every Christian knows what it is like to be a sexual sinner and struggle with sexual desire.

 

But what about “gender dysphoria”? How do Christians understand this struggle? Is this something “new under the sun”? Two categories to help us express our compassion as sympathy for those who struggle with their gender.

 

  • Identity – who am I?

 

At a basic level, all gender identity struggles are about our identity: who am I? We can understand this as Christians! Similar themes emerge if we consider other struggles such as:

 

Fear of man– do other people’s opinions of me define me, or does God’s opinion of me?

           

Condemnation– does guilt, remembrance of past sins, Satan’s accusations, etc. define me – or does God’s proclamation that I am under no condemnation and accepted in Christ define me?

 

Pride– am I really the self-sufficient, better-than-others, awesome person that I tell myself I am when I succeed? Or am a created being totally dependent on God’s grace and mercy? Will the real me please stand up?!

           

  • Redemption – who can save me or make me whole?

 

Perhaps even more deeply, gender identity struggles are about searching for redemption (even though the language is different). Seeking wholeness, authenticity, completion – all these are, biblically speaking, emotional and spiritual synonyms for the basic longing for a Redeemer.

 

“Sin, misery, and death are facts whose existence is undeniable and that therefore to some extent evoke in all people a need for reconciliation and redemption. The desire for salvation, no less than the knowledge of misery, is common to all of us.”[17]

 

We are all prone to seek false redeemers – money, success, pleasure, control, to name but a few – and we therefore can sympathize with someone who feels a need to be redeemed from a struggle with their body. Just as with any other struggle, the false redemption offered by transgender ideology – whether cross-dressing, gender nonconformity, or medical intervention in pharmaceutical or surgical form – will not offer true and lasting redemption. We have the joy of pointing strugglers to the only Redeemer whose salvation is infinite:

 

“He is able to save to the uttermostthose who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)

 

Compassion as friendship: we bear one another’s burdens

 

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

 

The reality of life in 21stcentury America is that the struggles and issues raised by the LGBTQ revolution aren’t just “out there” – they affect us within the church as well. Are we prepared to demonstrate compassion as intentional, biblical friendship within the body of Christ by:

 

  • Bearing the burdens of those who struggle with same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria?
    • By learning to listen well
    • By refusing to allow any believer’s sin struggles to define them – whether in our mind, or in their mind
    • By equally sharing our own struggles
  • Bearing the burdens of lost family members and friends in prayer?
    • By praying faithfully – even over the long haul
    • By following up – not allowing shame or discouragement to keep anyone silent about ongoing burdens

Compassion as outreach: we look for casualties

 

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” (Matthew 9:36-38)

 

A helpful distinction for embracing both courage and compassion: the ideology of the LGBTQ revolution requires courageous opposition, for the good of real people. The innocent bystanders and casualties of the LGBTQ revolution require genuine compassion, because they are real people. As God gives opportunity, let’s look for ways, personally and corporately, to reach out with intentional, gospel friendships to coworkers, neighbors, fellow students, and communities who identify as gay or transgender.

 

Compassion as endurance: we’re not leaving

 

“…for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

 

Many (most?) of the personal struggles we have discussed are not going to go away quickly. Same-sex attraction may be that brother or sister’s constant battle from now until the final Day. Parents may have to face years of prayer for wandering children. Gender identity struggles may never disappear completely, even for a follower of Christ. A realistic, wise view of sin, suffering, and sanctification requires compassion that says: “I’m not leaving or giving up on you.” By doing so, we reflect the love of our Savior, who will never leave us nor forsake us.

 

 

 

[1]Maya Christina Gonzalez, The Gender Wheel: A Story about Bodies and Gender for Every Body(Reflection Press, 2018).

[2]Ibid., 37.

[3]Maya Gonzalez and Matthew Smith-Gonzalez, They, She, He, Me: Free to Be!(Reflection Press, 2017), 27.

[4]Brook Pessin-Whedbee, Who Are You?: The Kids Guide to Gender Identity(Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2016), 17, 22–23.Emphasis original.

[5]Gonzalez,The Gender Wheel, 10-11.

[6]Ibid., 9.

[7]Ibid., 13.

[8]Ibid., 17.

[9]Ibid., 22–23.

[10]Ibid., 25.

[11]Ibid., 13, 15.Emphasis original.

[12]Ibid., 16.Emphasis original.

[13]Ibid., 18.

[14]Ibid., 28–29.

[15]Ibid., 30.

[16]Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2: God and Creation, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 376.

[17]Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Volume 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ(Baker Books, 2006), 196.