Michael Johnston lived the homosexual lifestyle for several years before repenting and yielding control of his life to the Lord. However, during that time he contracted the AIDS virus. He is the founder and president of Kerusso Ministries, which is dedicated to declaring the biblical truth about homosexuality and opposing the cultural agenda of the homosexual movement.
SBC LIFE What should Christians know about witnessing to homosexuals?
Johnston Christians have to remember that there are two kinds of homosexuals out there. There are those who have never come to know the Lord, who are lost as they can be, and desperately need to hear the gospel. They can be saved. God's hand of grace will reach down into the farthest depths of the gutter.
There are also individuals who have a real faith but have gotten off the track. They've been deceived and need someone to share the Word of God with them so they might be convicted of their sin, repent of it, and come back to the Lord.
But we've got to reach out to both of those groups with humility and compassion, realizing that but by the grace of God, there go I. If we'll remember that, and that God's grace is sufficient to reach anyone, that will help us as we go out with the Great Commission to reach the entire world, to preach the gospel to every creature, including the one who's dealing with homosexuality.
When we reach out to them. It should not be with condemnation of homosexuality, but with the gospel of Christ because they must be born again before we can help them with their sin problem.
SBC LIFE From your testimony, you appear to see your experience as that of a prodigal who took the wrong path.
Johnston I admit that's a controversial position to take. There are scriptures that seem to support the position that one could not possibly be truly saved and be involved in homosexuality. However, Paul made it very clear that as Christians, we are going to struggle with temptations. And as Christians, unfortunately, sometimes we give in to temptations. The reason I look back on my experience and conclude that I did have a true faith, even as I was involved in homosexuality, was I remember very clearly responding to the gospel when I was ten years old. I understood, even at that young age, what the gospel meant. I understood that this was something God had to do in my heart.
Also, as I look back over the eleven years I was involved in homosexuality, I can see very clearly that the conviction in my life increased rather than decreased. That is not reflective of an unregenerate heart. As an unsaved person continues in sin, his conscience is seared, and ultimately he can lose the ability to even tell the difference between right and wrong. But one of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to sensitize a Christian's conscience to sin. A Christian cannot be living in sin and not be convicted of it. As I sinned, my conviction increased. I see that as evidence that the Holy Spirit was working on my conscience.
Also when I look back I see clearly the chastisement of God. The Scripture says that "those whom the father loves, he rebukes and chastens." I see that through circumstances, health problems, money problems, and relationship problems God was chastising me for not turning away from my sin.
We must realize that there are homosexuals with a saving faith who simply need someone to reach out to them to reinforce the conviction that they probably already feel, and to let them know that God is willing to forgive them and return them to a right relationship with Him.
SBC LIFE Isn't it inconsistent to hate the sinner and expect to have any impact helping him change his life?
Johnston Jesus said, "Love your enemy. Do good to those that despise you." If we perceive homosexuals as an enemy of the gospel, we're commanded to love them.
I understand the reluctance to love the homosexual. One of the reasons is the movement within the homosexual community focused on a social and political agenda that is very detrimental to society. It's detrimental to our children, it's detrimental to the church, and ultimately we understand that it's detrimental to the homosexuals themselves. But because they are so adamant, because they are so focused on turning society upside down, they are so focused on opposing the gospel, opposing the Word of God, it may be more difficult to love them.
I use this phrase: "We're on a level playing field here." We all came into this world falling short of God's grace and His perfect standard. There's only One Who stands higher, and that's the One Who stood on Calvary. His name is Jesus Christ. When we realize the depravity of our own hearts and the fact that it was only by God's grace that we have been saved, that makes it very difficult to look down on anybody else.
SBC LIFE Are there books, magazines, or other resources you would recommend for a pastor who is serious about reaching all the people in his community, including the homosexual community?
Johnston There is a book, and it just so happens to be the number one best seller. It's called the Word of God. People ask me all the time, "Michael, why don't you write a book?" I've thought about it, and I keep coming back to the same conclusion – the book has already been written.
I really believe that's the answer. Quite frankly, I am not aware of other books written from a solid biblical perspective on this issue. Unfortunately, most of the books out there have integrated a worldly psychological view into a Christian view. And without exception, the books I've read miss the mark on this issue.
SBC LIFE Is ministry to the homosexual person something for the specialist only?
Johnston Unfortunately, in the modern evangelical church, we have begun to believe that there are needs for special kinds of ministry. I think one of the reasons for this has been the integration of humanistic psychology into the church. This has led Christians to believe that to reach out to someone who is struggling with a particular sin, we need specialized training. This is completely contradictory to what the Word of God says. The Word of God is sufficient to deal with the issues of man.
When you get to the real root, the spiritual issues involved with an individual dealing with homosexuality, you find exactly the same spiritual issues as the fellow who's dealing with adultery, or pornography, or any other sin. That person needs to be discipled, the same way we disciple anyone else. They need to be counseled the same way we counsel anyone else. One of the dangers of going off into specialized ministry is that it isolates these folks from the ministry within the church and helps to bolster the aura that they have a special problem. If they go that route, they won't get the ministry from the pulpit or from the rest of the church that they need to overcome this particular brand of sin.
The answer for the homosexual is the same as it is for the drug user, the adulterer, the greedy, the liar, or even for the self-righteous Christian. The answer is found in the Word of God and nobody is better prepared to minister the Word of God than God's people within the body of Christ.
The Bible only gives one admonition as it relates to sexual temptation, and that is to flee. It doesn't say to sit around and talk about it. It doesn't say sit around and pray about it. It doesn't say sit around and analyze it. It says flee. Why? Because God knows we're sexual beings, we're tempted by sensuality. So we're not to focus on it. To get a bunch of fellows who are struggling with homosexuality together in a room to talk about it, is a lot like getting a bunch of drunks together to talk about the best way to make a martini. It's foolish. Not only is it illogical, it's not biblical. Philippians 4:8 tells us what we ought to be thinking about, and nowhere in that list, in fact nowhere in the Word of God, do I find the admonition that we ought to be sitting around talking or thinking about the sin that so easily entangles us. So the goal in counseling should be to get people focused on Christ, not on themselves. Sin is all about selfishness, self-centeredness. It's about pride. That's at the core of sin. So when we deal with homosexuality, when we minister to these men and women, we need to get their focus off their temptation, off the struggle, off themselves, and on Christ. As I focus on my relationship with Him, God begins to work in my life.
Jesus said, "If a man will come after me, he must deny himself, pick up his cross and follow me." And so much of what we have that's termed, "Christian counseling" in the church today has nothing to do with Christianity. It's all about selfishness. It's all about self-focus. It's about loving yourself more. It's about increasing self-esteem. That's all a bunch of baloney. If the Bible teaches us anything, it's that we love ourselves too much already. We esteem ourselves too highly already. That's not the answer. The answer is getting our eyes off ourselves and onto Christ. I know in my own experience, even today, 99.9 percent of the time when I'm struggling with sin, it's because I've gotten my focus off Christ and back onto myself. Go back to the Garden of Eden where sin first raised its ugly head, where Adam and Eve realized that they were naked and they were ashamed. God asked them, "Who told you you are naked?" That was obviously a rhetorical question. The point I believe God was making was, "Adam and Eve, I believe you have gotten your focus off Me and you have become self-centered in your thinking." That's the root of our sin. That's the root of homosexuality. That's the root of every other kind of sin issue. It is absolutely detrimental to overcoming any kind of sinful struggle to focus on the temptation or to focus on the struggle. Our focus must be on Christ because He's the answer.
SBC LIFE Do you think Christians generally lack confidence for this kind of ministry?
Johnston I think so. I think they look at the sin of homosexuality and say, "I don't understand this. I don't understand how anybody could ever deal with this." The reason is, they're focused on the specifics of homosexuality. When you break the issues of temptation and sin down, you realize at the root of this is lust. We can understand this. In fact I tell folks, particularly when I'm speaking at men's groups, "As a man in the body of Christ, you may not be able to comprehend having a homosexual desire, and I understand that. But if you're breathing, and you're walking, and you're a man, mark it down, I know you've struggled with lust. I know you have." The fellow in the church can sit down next to a repentant homosexual in the pew and they can minister one to the other because they both understand lust. That's the underlying spiritual issue they're dealing with. And when you approach it from that fundamental basis, that's where ministry can begin to happen. But as long as we believe this is a special problem that no one can understand, we're never going to be able to effectively minister to these men and women.
SBC LIFE What should a Christian parent say if a child comes in and says, "Mom, Dad, I'm a homosexual?"
Johnston That depends on whether the parents have followed through with their responsibility before God to lay a biblical foundation for their children. The number one preventive measure is to raise your children to love God and to fear His Word. Suppose your kid hits fourteen, fifteen, or sixteen years old and they get involved in something they shouldn't be involved in. If the only thing you can say to them is, "Don't go down this road because it's going to hurt you," or "Don't go down this road because we said so," you and your children are in a heap of trouble. Your children have got to understand that they may be able to get away with it now. They may be able to protect themselves from the consequences of sin now, but one day they are going to stand before a holy God. They are going to be held accountable for every thought they thought, every word they spoke, and everything they did. If your children don't understand that before they start to break away from your nest, then you have failed your children and they are probably going to learn their lessons the hard way.
On the other hand, if you are parents who have met their responsibility before God, then you need to let them know that you love them, that you care about them, and that you're concerned about what they're dealing with. You also need to be willing, and hopefully able, to sit down and talk with them about what they're going through and take them into the Word of God and help them to see it from God's perspective. Let them know what their options are before God, and then pray for them without ceasing and encourage them to make the right choice before God. Then it's between them and God. They're going to have to make those moral choices.
My response would be different for an adult child. If you have an adult child, then I would apply the admonition in 1 Corinthians (5:9-11). If a son or daughter who claims to be a Christian, who understands the gospel and has received Christ as Savior, who knows what the Bible says about human sexuality and homosexuality, comes back and says, "Yes, but I am going to continue to pursue this," then I believe that's the individual we should not even be eating with. And I don't find an exception for someone who is a blood relative. The Scripture simply says that if you have someone who claims to be a brother but continues in their sexual immorality, we're not even to eat with them. The problem with that admonition in today's reality is that the modern church has so failed to exercise biblical discipline that most Christians today would look at that admonition and action as unacceptable because they would see it as cruel. But as a counselor of the Word of God, I have to give them the counsel that I see in the Word of God. I have told parents, if they have an adult child who falls into this category, they can talk with them, but they're not to fellowship with them or bring them into their home. But they must do it with love, and explain to them why they're doing it in the hopes that they will see their error and repent of their sin.
SBC LIFE What would you say to the Christian young person who is being drawn to homosexual desire?
Johnston The first bridge you always have to cross is, do they know Jesus? It's a waste of time to deal with somebody about the issue of homosexuality if they've never come to know the Lord. You can talk about it in the context that this particular behavior may be evidence that they may need a relationship with God. Help them understand that you understand how we can be drawn away by our feelings. Help them understand that you're not completely naïve to the fact that there are things in this world that are very attractive, that for a short period of time can make us feel good. But you need to help them understand that they can't make their decisions based on their feelings. This is very important, particularly for adolescents, because adolescents are driven by their feelings. Their feelings will draw them away. Their decisions about who they spend their time with, what kinds of things they get involved in, and even how they view themselves in the world, must be based on their understanding of the Word of God, not how they feel at the moment. Again, the point is basic discipleship.