We are entering June. This month brings us to the end of the school year and the start of summer. There are a lot of weddings in June. Father’s Day is on June 18th.
But something you may be confronting in June, something pushed in society, is the celebration of Pride Month, the celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. We are dedicating an entire month to celebrating sin. Homosexuality is a sin against God and needs the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
We are facing this sin in our society daily. It’s pushed in our stores, sports teams, children’s TV shows, and schools. We are facing a frontal assault in our culture against biblical morality. This assault is targeting our children. The goal is to normalize sexually deviant behavior apart from God’s design.
To understand an argument, you need to understand the underlying ideology. You need to know and hear where people are coming from. The idea goes like this: “You need to embrace your authentic self.” The authentic self is who you are at your core, free from external influences, societal expectations, or the need to conform to others’ standards. The authentic self is about self-acceptance, living in alignment with your true nature. You are encouraged to live according to your inner self rather than trying to fit into a societal mold.
Here’s the key: What this ideology teaches is that when you live according to your true self, in alignment with your inner desires, you will experience a greater sense of fulfillment, satisfaction, and well-being. If you don’t have personal happiness, you need more personal growth to embrace your authentic self.
Embracing the authentic self is not something that comes from a biblical argument. Society long ago removed respect for God’s Word. Society views the Word of God as ancient and oppressive.
But what’s interesting is that people will inevitably replace the Word of God with something else. Human beings need guidance. Human beings are seeking direction. We want wisdom. We want help in making sense of life.
For many, society has replaced God’s Word with the field of psychology. Psychology is a vital field of study. We need more Christians in this field. But when people don’t believe in God, they attempt to put faith in something else.
The current concept of accepting the authentic self comes from various areas in psychology. One such person is Carl Rogers, a humanistic psychologist who emphasized the importance of self-actualization and authenticity in his person-centered therapy. You reach self-actualization by aligning your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors with your true nature. In his worldview, the self plays the central role. All people need to reach their potential is a safe and supportive space to explore their feelings.
There were other influences along the way. But whether it is humanistic, existential, or positive psychology, the focus on the ability of a person to reach their fullest potential through being in touch with their inner, authentic self has created a society obsessed with being true to themselves and their feelings.
The main argument is, “If I can accept myself for who I am, no matter where my inner drives take me, then I’ll be happy. Then I’ll be fulfilled. I shouldn’t have to conform to what you tell me. You’re the oppressor. I need to be my authentic self, and you need to accept me for who I am, no matter what that looks like.”
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus describes the authentic self and what the authentic self exposes about a person. Let’s take a look together in the Gospel of Mark 7:1-23.
The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him. They observed that some of his disciples were eating bread with unclean—that is, unwashed—hands. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, keeping the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they have washed. And there are many other customs they have received and keep, like the washing of cups, pitchers, kettles, and dining couches.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders, instead of eating bread with ceremonially unclean hands?”
He answered them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written:
This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me.
They worship me in vain,
teaching as doctrines human commands.,
Abandoning the command of God, you hold on to human tradition.” He also said to them, “You have a fine way of invalidating God’s command in order to set up your tradition! For Moses said: Honor your father and your mother, and Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death. But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or mother: Whatever benefit you might have received from me is corban’ ” (that is, an offering devoted to God), “you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many other similar things.”
Summoning the crowd again, he told them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: Nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”
When he went into the house away from the crowd, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, “Are you also as lacking in understanding? Don’t you realize that nothing going into a person from the outside can defile him? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into the stomach and is eliminated” (thus he declared all foods clean). And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, self-indulgence, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person.”
The Pharisees confront the Lord. The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day. They were known for their strict adherence to the Law. The Law they followed was the Written Torah and the Oral Torah.Mark 7:1–23
The Pharisees come up to Jesus and confront him about his disciples. They gather around him and say, “We see your disciples are not following our Law. They are not following what we say will keep a person pure.”
The Pharisees had a ritual of cleaning their hands before a meal. They would pour water from a ceremonial vessel over their hands, allowing the water to run from the wrist to the fingers. They would pour it over the right and then left. They would rub their hands tightly, getting into all the crevices and trying to remove any impurities. There may have been spoken words or blessings during the ritual.
The message from the Pharisees to Jesus is, “You are their rabbi. Show them that they must separate themselves from any impurities. You must teach them our ways so they can be righteous.”
Mark says they had lots of rituals like this. There were rituals for washing cups, pitchers, kettles, and their dining area. Why did they have all of these cleaning rituals? They were coming in from the marketplace. Perhaps, without their knowledge, their hands touched some defiled food or thing along the way. After all, Greeks or Romans (Gentiles) were also in the marketplace. Maybe a dish or kettle had been in contact with some unclean food or item. They needed to be sure nothing unclean defiled them.
The path to remain clean and righteous for the Pharisees existed in the Written Torah, which we know as the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The path to righteousness also existed for them in the Oral Torah.
The Oral Torah, pictured here in Mark 7:5 as the tradition of the elders, is a body of interpretation, commentary, and application of the Written Torah, transmitted orally for generations. The Oral Torah included other laws not found in the books of Moses and different procedures on how to follow the Law. The Pharisees believed the Oral Torah had equal authority to the Written Torah.
Eventually, the Jews wrote down the Oral Torah in documents called the Talmud. The Talmud includes the Mishnah, compiled around 200 AD, and the Gemara, compiled around 500 AD. The teaching of the Oral Torah continues today in what is known as Rabbinic Judaism.
What you’re reading in Mark 7 is an early form of Rabbinic Judaism, a form of Judaism that continues today where they attempt to follow the right path to God through strict adherence to the Law.
Strict adherence to the Law and following the proper rituals might confuse some, but the Lord understood the point of their actions and pointed out their hypocrisy. He quotes from the prophet Isaiah and says this in Mark 7:6:
He answered them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.Mark 7:6
“Your heart is far from me.” The Lord says, “You say that you are good. You say that you have it all together. But your heart tells a different story. You think you’re embracing your authentic self as a Jew. But I see the sickness inside your heart.”
We recently had a maintenance day at the church. Our volunteers do incredible work around this campus to maintain the property so it can be a beautiful place for us here.
We have a set of stairs in the back of the church. I pointed out to them a beam sticking out from under the stairs that was rotting. It went up into the stucco, and it looked like all you needed to do was knock it out and put in a new piece of wood. The outside stucco seemed in good shape, so maybe all you needed was some new wood.
But these guys are pros. They said, “We should check what’s happening underneath.” So they started breaking off the stucco to see what was underneath. A little later, one of the guys came by my office and said, “We opened up a can of worms.”
When they looked underneath, water had gotten trapped and rotted out the underlying wood. Everything seemed promising from the outside. There was just this slight evidence of this one beam that was rotting. But when you peeled back the outer layers of the stucco and looked inside, you realized that all of this wood was rotting away.
That perfectly illustrates what the Lord is pointing out in these verses. On the outside, you believe that you look good. You think you must care for the outside to keep your authentic self clean. But your authentic self shows that it is not the outside things that are corrupting you. Your inside self, your authentic self, is defiled and needs cleansing.
This text shares two basic things about your authentic self. The first is,
Your authentic self exposes an unclean heart.
Jesus says this about the Pharisees in Mark 7:7-13:
They worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines human commands. Abandoning the command of God, you hold on to human tradition.” He also said to them, “You have a fine way of invalidating God’s command in order to set up your tradition! For Moses said: Honor your father and your mother; and Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death. But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or mother: Whatever benefit you might have received from me is corban’ ” (that is, an offering devoted to God), “you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many other similar things.”Mark 7:7–13
By setting up all of these other laws and procedures, but claiming their way is correct, the Pharisees invalidated God’s Law in preference for their own Law. He gives an example. Moses said to honor your father and mother, and whoever speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death. But you try to get around this. You tell people they don’t have to follow God’s law if it’s for the greater good. You deny God’s Word altogether because you prefer your ideas.
We do this today in society. What does God’s Word say about homosexuality? In Leviticus 18:22,
“You are not to sleep with a man as with a woman; it is detestable.”Leviticus 18:22
“Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or males who have sex with males, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.”1 Corinthians 6:9–10
And we could point to other verses, such as Genesis 19 or Romans 1. But what do we say today in society? That sounds oppressive. Please don’t put your societal pressure on me. If I want to be happy, I must embrace my authentic self. You are just being phobic. I need to be me. In an act of blasphemy, they say God created them that way, blaming God for their actions.
By claiming a need to embrace the authentic self over the instruction of God’s Word, one invalidates God’s Word for human tradition. God’s Word doesn’t say embracing your authentic self will make you happy, peaceful, and fulfilled. God’s Word says that your authentic self is the problem! Your authentic self is leading you to hell. Don’t embrace your authentic self. Embrace Jesus! Know your Creator and his design for your life.
Look at what Jesus says about the authentic self. The Pharisees were concerned about some unclean food or thing coming in contact with their eating utensils. But Jesus shows them where their defilement was. He says in Mark 7:20-22,
And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, self-indulgence, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.”Mark 7:20–22
Numerous sins are on this list, including thefts, murders, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. But on this list are at least four items with sexual connotations. Two of them are straightforward: sexual immoralities and adultery. That might be enough there. A third could be evil thoughts, which include things like lust. The fourth here may not be so obvious. It’s the Greek word translated in the CSB as self-indulgence.
The word “self-indulgence” is the Greek word ἀσέλγεια. This word can also translate as licentiousness. It means shameless, outrageous behavior or debauchery. A scholar wrote about this word, stating that the Jews would use this word to describe shocking violations of sexual morality, things that go beyond the norm. So in this list, by using this last term, Jesus is covering all kinds of sexual sins, including sex outside of marriage, adultery, sins of lust, and sexual sins that go beyond the norm, including homosexual sin.
Why does God care so much about sexuality anyway? Why does he care about what two people do?
To understand God’s plan for sexuality, you must look at Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In the Garden, God made everything good. But he does say that there was one thing that wasn’t good. It wasn’t good for man to be alone. So God brought all the animals to Adam, but none suited him. So the Lord caused a deep sleep on the man, took one of his ribs, and created a woman. God brings the woman to the man, and he says, “At last! This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” Then we have this explanation in Genesis 2:24,
“This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.”Genesis 2:24
God then blesses them and gives the man and woman a command to be fruitful and multiply.
So we have laid out for us this process: A man goes along in life. He desires a partner. God brings a woman to a man. The two join together in marriage. They then enter into a sexual relationship, and the sexual relationship has a purpose. The purpose of a sexual relationship is to create more of us. The end goal is to create a family.
But somewhere in our society, we changed the end goal. Now, we make the end goal to be a sexual relationship. When sex is the end goal, other things seem to get in the way. We decide that we don’t need the marriage part. The family becomes an annoying consequence of the end goal of sex. So now, if the end goal is sex, it can be whatever we want.
When you invalidate God’s Word for your ends, you create consequences. Sex outside God’s design is the reason for many of our problems today, including disease, broken homes, depression, and mental illness.
An unspoken issue within the LGBTQ community is an alarming rate of mental health issues. A recent report on LGBTQ+ youth ages 13-24 found that 41% considered attempting suicide in the past year. 14% had attempted suicide. Nearly one-third reported that their mental health was poor most of the time.
The report attempts to make the point that society needs to be more affirming of these individuals. If these individuals were not harassed or oppressed from the outside, they would be better on the inside.
That leads us to our last point.
Your authentic self does not need social change; it needs God’s cleansing.
The Lord ends his statement about the authentic self by describing it this way in Mark 7:23,
“All these evil things come from within and defile a person.”Mark 7:23
We live in a culture that demands that the outside change. People want social change so they can feel good. The world says we all need to adjust our thinking so people feel validated and accepted for who they are. If the Bible disagrees, that’s an old, outdated book. Society needs to evolve and change so that people can feel validated and live out their authentic selves.
But it is precisely people living out their authentic selves causing all the issues. Why is that? Because society is full of a whole bunch of people living their authentic, corrupted, defiled selves.
Your authentic self doesn’t need social change. Your authentic self needs God’s cleansing. If you want happiness, peace, contentment, and joy, these don’t come by embracing your inner desires. It comes by aligning your desires with God’s desires. It comes from aligning your heart with God’s heart.
Paul says this in Col. 3:5-11,
Therefore, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, God’s wrath is coming upon the disobedient, and you once walked in these things when you were living in them. But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator. In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.Colossians 3:5–11
The good news is that God wants to take your authentic self, the defiled self, and have you put on a new self. Paul says, “Put on the new self, which is according to the image of your Creator.” The good news is that Christ wants to live in you if you believe in him. He will take your corrupted self and make you into a new person. Put off the old self, and take on the new self of Christ.
I was thinking of those corrupted stairs in the back. The maker created it well. When it came together, it had strong materials. The wood was good. But years of water and things creeping in corrupted the wood and created rot. What do we have to do? We must remove the old rotted wood and add new wood to strengthen it.
In the same way, Christ takes out your old, rotted self. He wants to put in a new person if you trust him. Your authentic self needs a new heart. Believe in Jesus, and accept his cleansing.