Mike Johnston: Dancing with the Devil

By Ella Chan

It was the summer of 2003, and I had tickets for one of the hottest rock concerts of the season. Prior to the show, I was sitting in a local restaurant with a young man with whom I had been in a clandestine homosexual relationship for several months. 

He did not know my true identity. He could hardly have imagined that the man with whom he was involved was a prominent "pro-family" spokesperson promoting the Christian perspective on homosexuality and opposing the "gay" political movement. 

I had also neglected to inform him that I had been HIV positive since 1986. 

During dinner, our conversation unexpectedly shifted to what the Bible says about homosexuality. Despite the obvious hypocrisy, I didn't hesitate to tell him that the Bible clearly condemns homosexual acts. To that he responded, "Well, I don't believe everything in the Bible."

Without even flinching, I challenged his statement, "How then can you say you believe in Jesus, when everything you know of Him comes from the Bible?" His response was like a dagger piercing my heart, "What do YOU know about Jesus? Look how you're living YOUR life!" 

God was speaking to me through that young man. His declaration was a stinging rebuke of the woeful direction my life had taken. 

The events of that night also served as a harbinger of the public exposure and humiliation that awaited me. Within a month, his friends recognized me, and news of my double life quickly captivated the media. My days of public ministry were over. 

Almost a year passed before I started coming to terms with what had happened. Despite years of religious service and unfettered zeal for promoting morality, the way I was actually living my life testified to the fact that I knew very little of true religion or morality. The truth is, I was "dancing with the devil," adorned in a cloak of Christian garb that fooled most of the people, most of the time-even me. 

How could I have arrived at so desperate a spiritual condition?  

To be sure, my journey with the Lord didn't start out this way. After living in the "gay" community for over a decade and testing positive for HIV in 1986, I had gained some understanding of what the Bible means when it says, "...the way of the transgressor is hard." Proverbs 13:15b I finally walked away from the "gay" community in 1988 and made a conscious choice to seek and serve the Lord. 

I can see now what caused me to fall again back into sin. I can see now that I was not truly repentant. I can see now that my greatest obstacle to repentance was a lack of what the Bible describes as "poverty of spirit." 

Jesus teaches in the very first Beatitude, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3

Simply stated, poverty of spirit is agreement with what God has said to be true about our condition: that in us there is no good thing and that we do not have what we need for life and godliness in ourselves. 

The evidence of this lack emerged shortly after I made the choice to leave the "gay" community. In my mind, homosexuality was THE big sin separating me from God. The mistaken belief that God is only requiring us to clean up a few outward behaviors allowed me to mask all the corrupting motives and attitudes that still lurked in my heart. 

Jesus alluded to this error when he challenged the Pharisees, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisees! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean." Matthew 23:25-26

The work of the ministry and the public accolades that came with it exacerbated an already inflated view I had of myself. Rather than depending on His righteousness, I saw only my own goodness which I justified by my willingness to give up homosexuality and work tireless hours in ministry. 

It wasn't long before I found myself constantly looking down on others who either didn't agree with me or did not meet up to the high standards I thought I had attained. 

We can see an example of this attitude in the parable Jesus told about the Pharisee and tax collector who went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee thanked God that he wasn't like the "other men" and then went on to justify himself because of his religious activities. The tax collector stood at a distance, beat his breast and cried out, "God have mercy on me a sinner!" The tax collector, Jesus said, went away justified. 

In Matthew 7, Jesus gave one of the most sobering warnings in all of scripture. "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" Jesus  wasn't speaking of those who are outside the church but inside, whose hearts belong to another. 

If you had suggested to me then that Jesus could have been talking about me, I would have bristled at the thought. After all, I was fighting homosexual activists, I knew the Romans Road by heart, and said the sinner's prayer when I was ten...I believed in Jesus! 

This is not the kind of reaction you see in a man who is poor in spirit. Rather, it's the kind of reaction you see in a man full of self: self-righteousness, self-effort, and self-reliance. 

As my heart grew colder and I wearied of keeping up the Christian image, I began filling my soul once again with the things of this world. My heart was far from Christ as self always prefers "dancing with the devil." 

In the book of Hosea, God told the prophet to go and take an adulterous wife who would represent the condition of unfaithful Israel. Again and again, God blessed the people and repeatedly they became proud and turned from Him. 

We see God's heart again as Jesus wept over Jerusalem, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" Luke 13:34-35 

He weeps still for the countless souls who started out with a sincere desire to know Him, but who, along the way, turned to another. He longs for them to return. 

Some might say as I often did, "I have gone too far and my heart has grown too cold. He could not still love me." But, my friend, I can testify to you from my own life that He stands with an outstretched hand to those who will humble themselves and respond. 

With a lowliness and tenderness that astounds the adulterous heart, He asks, "May I have this dance?" 

 

Mike Johnston is the Director of Donor and Media Relations. He coordinates media relationships for the ministry and production of audio content including the podcast. 

 

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