If the Bible calls the believer to change, what does change look like?
There is no place in Scripture where we see that God loves and bestows upon you the blessings of saving faith without rigorous change to the person crying out to God for salvation. That change is exacted at the cross of Christ and the redemption that flows from it, and not from behavior modification or moral improvement on some outside matters.
This is a contested issue. Advocates of gay affirming theology (Matthew Vines, James Brownson) tell us that it is the Bible and its teachings that must change to make room for the new religion of sexual orientation. But that is not the teaching of Scripture. Colossians 3:5 calls the believer to change not just outward behavior but the evil desires that fuel it. Genesis 6:5 and Mark 7:20-23 bring to light that the fall of mankind and the original sin it bequeathed drive corruption deep into the cavernous desires of our hearts. And Ephesians 4:22-24 calls for the transformation of our inner being to conform to Christ’s righteousness.
At the same time, the Bible compassionately reveals that all true Christians feel this inner war: “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Galatians 5:16). But sin no longer defines us: “Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus,” Paul reminds us (Romans 6:11). Our call is not to despair, but to hope in Christ and to drive a fresh nail into our choice sin every day (Colossians 3:1, 5). None of us is free from the seductions of our choice sin until glory.
This is the crossroad for the Christian who identifies as gay: Are homosexual desires, capacities, and practices expressions of illicit sin against which, with the power of the Holy Spirit, we need to wage an irreconcilable war, or are they merely diverse expressions of social good? The Bible issues a clear answer to this. And entrenched sins like sins of illicit sexual desires and practices and patterns easily become those indwelling sins that seem intractable. While we know that all things are possible with Christ, we also know that no one will be completely sanctified until glory. It is here that the words of Jonathan Edwards are a balm to our conscience:
Indeed, allowances must be made for the natural temper: conversion doesn’t entirely root out the natural temper: those sins which a man by his natural constitution was most inclined to before his conversion, he may be most apt to fall into still. But yet conversion will make a great alteration even with respect to these sins. Though grace, while imperfect, doesn’t root out an evil natural temper; yet it is of great power and efficacy with respect to it, to correct it….If a man before his conversion, was by his natural constitution, especially inclined to lasciviousness, or drunkenness, or maliciousness; converting grace will make a great alteration in him, with respect to these evil dispositions; so that however he may be still most in danger of these sins, yet they shall no longer have dominion over him; nor will they any more be properly his character.
—The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Vol. 2), Religious Affections, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven: Yale UP, 1959), 341-43. Quoted in The Gospel and Sexual Orientation (Crown & Covenant), 19.