You must change

VanityFairJuly2015Bruce Jenner is a 1976 Olympic decathlon men’s event champion. He was given the unofficial title of “world’s greatest athlete” for the win and became “an American hero” by winning the event back from Soviet Union during the Cold War.  He is also an American television personality and stepfather of the Kardashian children.  In June 2015 Bruce changed his name to Caitlyn and began to refer to himself with feminine personal pronouns.  He is now described as the most famous openly transgender person in the world.  He, through surgery and hormone treatment, now believes he is a she.  He has apparently “transgendered” to become a woman.  And the world applauds his/her great courage.

Male and female

It is important to observe that in the beginning of the world, and the Bible, God creates human beings male or female.  God decides which gender we are.  However, the Bible also tells us that since the Garden of Eden human beings have rebelled against God and his good order, now even rebelling against the gender God has assigned to us.

Mental illness

I understand that some people may have very real struggles with their gender and sexuality.  The view of Dr Paul McHugh is worth noting.  He is the head of psychiatry of John Hopkins Hospital which is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest hospitals.  Dr McHugh believes that sexual dysphoria—a sense of disquiet in one’s sexual role— can be classed as a mental illness and should not be encouraged by transgender surgery.  What the head of psychiatry says is what the Bible says:  God’s way is the best way and living in rebellion towards God is not good and always to our harm.  Why do I say all this?  Because people are being sold two big lies.

Lie #1 : Jesus does not want you to change

We are being told by the world and even by some churches that because Jesus accepts you as you are and that therefore means you can stay as you are.  In fact, some churches are so convinced that Jesus does not want you to change that they are trying to change the meaning of the Bible to show that God does not consider some sins to be sins.  You might be a practising homosexual, having sex outside or before marriage, be into pornography for your sexual gratification, or have a lifestyle characterized by any other sin, and these churches will tell you, “Jesus loves you the way you are and does not want you to change.”  Our church will tell you, “Jesus loves you they way you are but wants you to change.”

Lie #2 : You shouldn’t change

The new consensus says, “You were probably born that way and therefore it would be psychologically harmful for you to change.  The Bible is outdated, we now know about genes.  Bruce Jenner’s genes predispose him towards femininity so he should transgender to be a woman.  You might be predisposed to homosexuality, pornography, marital unfaithfulness, anger, gluttony, or lying.  But that’s how God, Mother Nature or the evolutionary process made you and you must not fight it.”

The problem of course with this argument is where does it end?  On the extreme, what if you feel that your genes predispose you towards sex with children or animals?  Just this last week a man in South Africa was arrested for performing the sex act on a goat.  News24 writes that women are streaming into a zoo in Japan to see an extremely well-built, handsome, silverback guerrilla.  What if you say that your genes predispose you to be attracted to animals?

The Bible says that we are indeed born predisposed, but predisposed to sin; and different people are predisposed to different sins.  This does not mean that that sin is good for us.  We might need to fight that particular sin till the day we die.

What does Bible say?

1. You must change

John the Baptist said in Matthew 3:8 that people should “bear fruit in keeping with repentance”.  “Bearing fruit” is Bible language for a transformed life that hates sin and seeks to honour God.  Our change in thinking about God (repentance) must lead to a change in lifestyle.  A changed lifestyle demonstrates that we have repented.  In 3:10 John said these shocking words, “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”  Churches are not being eternally helpful or loving to people when they say that people do not need to change and by implication can keep bearing “bad fruit”.  Those trees are cut down and thrown into the fire.

Jesus himself said in Mark 1:15, “the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”  Believing the gospel must be accompanied by repentance i.e. a turning away from sin and rebellion and turning towards God.

Jesus, also at the beginning of his earthly ministry (Luke 4:18), said that he has come “to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” According to Jesus, people are not free (as most think) but in bondage to sin and Satan and need to be set free.  If we do not change, we will remain in bondage and ultimately under the judgment of a just God.

Sin has greatly affected the world and us in ways we cannot even comprehend.  Just because we are born with a predisposition does not make it good or right.  The Bible tells us what is good and right because God as our creator knows what is best for his creation.

2. You can’t change

Ephesians 2:1 says that we are dead in our sins.  A dead person cannot change his state of deadness. We are spiritually dead and cannot fundamentally change.  People can attempt to reform themselves.  We might try to pull up our socks, rid ourselves of addiction or pursuing sin; but the changes will be largely superficial and cosmetic because we do not have the power or the ability to fundamentally change our lives, especially in a way that is honouring to God and for our long-term good.

Jesus said in Luke 6:43, “no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit.”  The problem is that we all start off as bad trees, unable to bear good fruit.

3. God can and will change you

People attempt to change in different ways:  through grim determination, asceticism, withdrawal from the “sinful” world into a commune, legalistic obedience, religious devotion fuelled by guilt (e.g. “Jesus has done so much for you what have you dome for him lately”), or even spiritual guidance and intervention by angels and psychic mediums. How can we change?  John the Baptist said in Matthew 3:11 that he baptized with water for repentance, but a greater one is coming who would “baptize with the Holy Spirit“.  The Old Testament prophesied that the coming Messiah who would change people’s hearts.  God would give his Holy Spirit to inwardly transform people.  God would write his law on their “hearts”.  John the Baptist said that time had now come.

Jesus said in John 3:7-8,

‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

We can’t see the wind, but we can see its effects.  We can’t see the Holy Spirit but we can see transformed, changed, born again lives that turn from deliberate sin and seek to honour God.

Turning from sin is a necessary sign and evidence that you are a Christian.  When we come to Christ in faith he forgives our rebellion and gives us his Holy Spirit to direct our hearts towards him.  The Holy Spirit produces more and more holiness in our lives and a deepening hatred for that which dishonours God.  If you love and cherish sin you are probably not a Christian.  The necessary mark of a Christian is that they hate sin, fight sin and struggle with sin.

4. Christians are continually changing

The question is not whether or not we should change; but how we must change. In this world we will still struggle with sin and our sinful nature; our desire towards sin does not leave us.  The Holy Spirit in us enables us more and more to say no to sin and gradually change more and more to be like Jesus.  The Christian life is marked by progress, not perfection (cf. 1 Timothy 4:15).

Romans 12:1-2 says that Christians should be continually renewing their minds so that we do not conform to the patterns of this world – whatever the latest cultural trend may be – , but are instead transforming to be more like Jesus.  The great catalyst for change is God’s Spirit working through God’s word to renew our minds to produce change and transformation.

Jesus said you must change.  Or in the words of John the Baptist, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”