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God’s Will Is for His People to be Holy

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”
(1 Thessalonians 4:3–8, ESV)

This is an admonition for us. Christians must be holy, and that is a process. In the sexually immoral culture of 1st century Rome it was necessary to emphasize that holiness includes sexual purity. So important was this issue that it was one of the few prohibitions contained in the circular letter from the Jerusalem Counsel, a formal meeting that was called to determine the relationship between Gentiles and the Mosaic Law.
“But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses. The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. (Acts 15:5-6, ESV)
James, the half-brother of Jesus and Pastor of the Jerusalem church, came up with the language in the brief circular letter of response.
“Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.” (Acts 15:19–20, ESV)
Here we find one prohibition to avoid offending primarily the Gentiles: “abstain from things polluted by idols.” Then there are two prohibitions against practices that would offend the Jews: “abstain from what has been strangled and from blood.” Finally, there is the prohibition against sexual sin, which was more prevalent among Gentiles, but equally relevant to Jews, and to us.

Learn to control your *vessel, which is to say your body, especially what we today would call your sexuality. We must control the body and the sexual urges of an old, fallen nature. If you belong to Jesus, then it is not your body any longer, even if you continue in management over it.
“The body must be treated as the Lord’s property and not used as a means of wanton self-indulgence.” (Bruce)

“not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God”

Those who pursue sexual immorality do so to the exclusion of knowing or experiencing God. Pursuing sexual passion is often the surrogate for the indwelling intimacy of knowing God, which is why it is common among those who don’t have a relationship with Christ. It is the highest form of pleasure that they know. Hedonism is the pursuit of pleasure, and many in the world are hedonists. Sexual desire consumes many people, so much so that they are willing to risk reputation, career, family and even their lives to pursue and fulfill it. Yet it is insatiable. It is never fulfilled. Only those with the Holy Spirit’s wisdom will be capable of accepting this truth and denying themselves in order to become what God wills them to be: pure and holy vessels, filled to overflow with God’s love and life.

So, how could someone who has experienced the power and presence of the Holy Spirit turn back to worthless desires when infinite joy is offered to them in Christ? As a pastor and a former youth pastor I’ve watched many young people trade their supposed commitment to Christ for sexual immorality. The result is a once spiritually sensitive and alive young person hardens their heart and becomes dead inside. They have little or no interest in Jesus. It’s all in what you choose to believe, or who you choose to believe in. Do you believe God’s word or your feelings? Do you believe in Jesus Christ or yourself?

“that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter”

We must not take advantage of another. In context this refers first to adultery, which is taking advantage of one or both partners in a marriage covenant. Let us say a man is having an affair with a willing woman. In so doing, he wrongs her husband. However, he also enables his illicit sexual partner to commit sin. A follower of Jesus encourages and empowers others to overcome sin; he is not a stumbling block into it.

Sexual morality distinguished the church from the Roman world.
“Christianity from the outset has sanctified sexual union within marriage (as in Judaism); outside marriage it was forbidden. This was a strange notion in the pagan society to which the gospel was first brought; there various forms of extramarital sexual union were tolerated and some were even encouraged.” (FF Bruce, Word Biblical Commentary)
Over time, Christians changed the sexual ethos in the Roman Empire, as they did in other important areas such as respect for life and protection of the weak. It was a common practice in Rome to simply leave a baby exposed to die if the parents didn’t want it.

In America and around the world today, it is acceptable to kill a baby in the womb. This is an extension of our value of personal freedom, pleasure and profit. I don’t want my freedom limited. I don’t want to take responsibility for the life I’ve pro-created. So, I terminate it. If Christians obey the commandment of God regarding sex, they will not find themselves in a situation where a sexual partner determines that the life of a baby must be taken in order to preserve their freedom or reputation.

We must not take on the sexual ethos of our dying culture. It has gone back, like a dog to it’s vomit, and like a pig to the mud-hole, to immoral practices, which Christian influence had brought into disfavor for nearly two millennia. Today, some churches are  embracing sexual immorality and gender confusion as a norm to be accepted, even blessed. Re-read the biblical text from 1st Thessalonians above. We are to be holy, separate, different than our culture. We follow the design of our Creator, which Jesus himself affirmed.
“He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”” (Matthew 19:4–6, ESV)

Therefore, sexual immorality is not God’s creation, and this includes homosexuality and manifold transgender identifications. That said, biblical Christians must be merciful, gentle and understanding when communicating, “speaking the truth in love” to those who identify or are struggling with issues of sexual confusion. Understanding and grace don’t  constitute a change in sexual ethics however. We have no right to reorder God’s design of male and female, marriage and sexual expression in order to make those who struggle feel better. When it concerns sexual practice, the follower of Jesus must stand out as an example of moral integrity and sexual purity.
“…that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” (Phil. 2:25, ESV)

“The Lord is the avenger”

Notice, there is a coming consequence for sexual immorality. Even those in the ancient world were wise enough to fear the consequences of adultery. Consider the cases of Abraham and his son Isaac. First, there was Abraham, who told the Egyptians that his wife was his sister to keep them from killing him and taking her. Pharaoh indeed took Sarah into his harem. In consequence, the people of Pharaoh’s house were subject to a plague. When the Egyptian ruler discovered that Sara was actually married to Abraham, he admonished the patriarch: “So Pharaoh called Abram and said, ‘What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.’” (Genesis 12:18–19, ESV)
Like father, like son. Years later Isaac pulled the same trick with another local king. This ruler feared God and admonished Isaac about the lie, then warned everyone to stay away from Rebecca under penalty of death (see Genesis 26:6-11).

The question is, why have we become so foolish? Why is adultery becoming increasingly acceptable with the advent of websites that promote it, so called open marriages and the like? The answer is simple, many in our world no longer fear God.

There are consequences for sexual immorality: sickness, disease, depression, spiritual insensitivity and a hardened heart towards God. These all come upon the sexual sinner. Then she must stand before God to give an answer, and that is what should truly inspire fear. Judgment Day is coming, and we must all give an answer for what we’ve done in the body, good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10, Rom. 14:10, Heb. 9:27). This fact alone should cause even the most sexually profligate, calloused person to fear God and apply self-control, regardless of feelings or identifications.

This applies all the more to those who would molest or take advantage of someone weaker, even if the weaker partner goes along with sexual activity. It is always wrong for an adult to be involved with a minor sexually. The teacher has power over the student, even if they are not that far apart in age. A 20-something has power over a teenager, even if she is 16 or 17. Willingness may quickly turn to disgust, shame and anger. Sex leaves a permanent mark, and this is especially true when the person exposed to it is young and inexperienced.

It is also wrong to take advantage of someone who is financially needy by offering money for sex. The person may go along, but the one paying or bribing them has the greater guilt, since he is also a stumbling block.
Jesus said, “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” (Matthew 18:6, ESV)

We each have pet sins. We have weaknesses. Sexual immorality is often that sin or weakness. However, as Christians we are called to represent Jesus. As the Apostle Paul states elsewhere, “Let not sexual immorality be named among you as is proper for God’s saints… or “don’t let a hint of immorality be seen among you” (see Eph. 5:3). Instead, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh” (Rom. 13:14).

“God has not called us to impurity but in sanctification”

A former member of this church made a confession on Facebook some time ago. He stated that he now wanted to pursue a sexually immoral lifestyle, even though continuing to identify himself as a follower of Christ. I responded that the two pursuits are mutually exclusive (to negative reactions from some of his friends). Here we have evidence of what I said: God has not called us to impurity. You may feel an urge to follow some desire, some lifestyle, but that urge is not God calling you. It is the flesh, the world and the enemy of our souls pulling you away from God and His purpose for you.

At its root, impurity is not just sexual in nature: it is a divided loyalty, a divided mind. God has not called anyone to be what he clearly prohibits in Scripture. We live in a fallen world. I have no doubt that someone may be deeply enthralled and inured by sexual immorality. Calling it a “sexual orientation” is a redefinition that makes it seem natural. Sex is a powerful motivator that reinforces behavior associated with it. Those who practice sexual immorality are shaped by the practice, even if that is private in nature. They bend their minds and emotions toward a delusion, then believe that it is real, normal and even created by God. God did not create, nor does he ordain what is perverse and inordinate according to his revealed will, and many times obvious in nature. God has not called you to commit adultery. God has not called you to follow homosexual desire, or to pursue a homosexual relationship. God has not called you to move in with your boyfriend or girlfriend and live as though you were married. He has called you to holiness, and that means you must be different than our dying, disordered, anti-Christ culture. You must be different than your friends and colleagues. You must be like Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will give you the conviction and the confidence to do so, unless you push him away…

“Whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”

The Spirit of God is holy, and those who belong to Christ are inhabited by God’s Holy Spirit. There is a fundamental incompatibility between pursuing sexual sin—of any kind: homosexual expression, adultery, fornication—and being led by the Holy Spirit. When you go on in sin–although our culture accepts and celebrates it–you grieve the Holy Spirit. You are hardening your heart against God and his leadership. This is a very dangerous game. The Holy Spirit gently convicts you of sin, but you harden yourself to this and excuse your behavior as being part of your nature, justify the sin as acceptable; in fact, you may even justify the desire or tendency as coming from God. God created me this way. No, friend. Now you’ve moved into the most dangerous territory, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, where you call right what the Bible teaches and the Spirit convicts is wrong.

I believe God is merciful. I don’t believe making mistakes, sexual or otherwise, disqualifies you from heaven. However, I read soberly passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 wherein the Apostle Paul clearly states that those who practice sin will not inherit heaven.
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”
(1 Corinthians 6:9–10, NKJV)

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The Cure for Moral Insanity

What can cure the moral insanity spreading through our world?

Planned Parenthood (what a misnomer) is the largest abortion provider in the nation. They promote themselves as advocates for women’s health. What they actually are is a consumer corporation profiting from women who are facing the challenge of an unwanted pregnancy. They receive half a billion dollars from our government. But that’s not enough money for this greedy corporation. They call the human being in the womb “products of conception,” and ironically, they sell body parts from aborted fetuses as products for experimentation. The Nazis also experimented on human beings for “medical purposes” and used body parts from the unwanted human beings they murdered. Why do so many continue to support this evil corporation? Supporters are people driven by emotional pleas and political correctness, voting a party line rather than admitting the truth, having compassion or being concerned about the dignity of human life. This is sick. Why aren’t the decision makers being prosecuted? The same US government that protects the egg of a bald eagle ensures permission for unborn humans to be ripped from the womb one body part at a time. This is moral insanity.

The U.S. created a power vacuum in the Middle East because of the 2003 Iraq invasion and the weary withdrawal of US troops after a decade of attempting to assist in creating a fair democracy. This vacuum is now being filled by the most evil men the world has seen since the days of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. Islamic extremists have yet to murder as many people as those dictators, but they possess the will to do so. ISIS is attempting to establish a Caliphate or religious government that wills to take over the world. They revel in spectacular executions, slavery of those who don’t believe their doctrine, rape as a form of worship and the destruction of ancient history. All of this evil is calculated to serve one goal: terrorize the world in an effort to subdue it. This is moral insanity.

ISIS butchers thousands of people, and the U.S. response has been timid and tepid. Christians are martyred like they were in the Roman Colosseum, but in place of thousands of spectators in the stands there are multiple millions of viewers on the internet. Why are their videos hosted? Why are they permitted to promote their evil? Social media giants like Facebook and Twitter could do more to shut these people out, but instead they tacitly support the evil they allow to be promoted via their networks. The news media covers ISIS in graphic detail because it draws more viewers. In so doing, CNN, MSNBC, FOX become the de facto PR team for ISIS. Terror is their tool, publicizing their activities, ideas and videos gives them the worldwide stage they desire to spread fear and horror. This is moral insanity.

The United States leads the world. The culture here is a powerful influence everywhere. Sexual immorality has become the norm in our culture. The family existed prior, not only to our government and our nation, but prior to civilization itself. It is the fundamental building block of civilization. Now that ancient institution is under sustained attack by a perverse and powerful lobby. What was once considered shameful has been institutionalized by the highest court in the land. Marriage has been universally understood to be the bond between one man and one woman. That five unelected judges changed the definition of a 5000 year old institution should be deeply disturbing to everyone. Every child needs a mother and a father. To establish a norm that deprives children of this is moral insanity. However, the problem of single parent homes did not originate within the LGBT community. In fact, fatherless homes may well be the most significant cause of the sexual confusion in which we find ourselves in today.

The ideal is that the marriage bond lasts for life. Divorce became more and more accepted in the mid 20th century. Now it is as common as marriage. The once expected standard of waiting to have sex until marriage has been replaced with rampant sexual promiscuity. Cohabitation is the norm. The internet has made pornography instantly accessible to almost anyone. It is not surprising that this fertile ground for sexual immorality has produced increased acceptance for inordinate and perverse forms of sex. Consider the popularity of the book series titled 50 Shades of Gray, wherein the rich misogynistic male protagonist gets off on treating his female partners like sex slaves, and the female protagonist enjoys such treatment. This is moral insanity.

Then there is the explosion of gun violence in the US. Why? Policy makers and politicians wring their hands, or point their fingers at one another, but fail to make any changes. The left sees this as a problem with the proliferation of guns, so they propose gun control laws. The right sees this as a problem solvable by the exercise of the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Their solution is to arm law abiding citizens. Guns merely make violence more convenient and more glamorous. I wonder how many of the same individuals who support gun control would oppose controlling the sale of violent video games to kids? Why do NRA and 2nd Amendment advocates oppose attempts to keep guns out of the hands of the untrained? Not everyone should have the right to carry a gun. The unfortunate problem is, those who choose to break the law are not going to train or get their guns registered. What we have is a social problem that is signified, and perhaps exacerbated, by guns, but not caused or resolved by guns or their removal from the hands of law abiding citizens.

The real issue was revealed by Jesus Christ when one of his disciples wanted to protect him from harm. On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemene praying when Judas Iscariot arrived with a crowd of men with swords and clubs. The traitor identified his former master with a kiss and the guards grabbed Jesus. Peter drew a sword and struck the high priest’s servant, severing his ear. Jesus healed the servant’s ear and admonished Peter saying, “Put your sword back in its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52, ESV). 

Guns are neither the problem nor the answer. The issue is in the heart of human beings, for evil comes out of the heart. In this case it is the evil of treating other persons as objects, obstacles that threaten us or stand in our way. Video games provide an apt example: when you encounter a person who threatens you or stands in the way of your progress, you typically just shoot them dead. But persons are created in God’s image. Why aren’t we bothered when human beings are treated with less respect than our pets?

This reveals an even deeper heart problem: the failure fear God, to believe in a just and loving God, who says, “Vengeance is mine. I will repay… For we must all stand before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (Romans 12:19b, 2 Corinthians 5:10).

In an unprincipled, increasingly lawless, population every person looks to himself to determine right and wrong.  The serpent promised self-determination to Eve in the Garden when he tempted her to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Eve and Adam gave in to the temptation and were cast out of God’s presence. Self-determination (apart from God) has continued as the norm of human nature throughout our history. It was exemplified during the period of Judges in Israel when the people did great evil. The explanation for that evil is found in the final verse of Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

When someone rejects God as their king, they do so in order to rule over their own conscience and life (see Psalm 10:4, 14:1). They become blind to sin and evil, following the dictates of their own godless heart. “Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his own sin” (Psalm 36:1-2).

The law is for the lawless. There is a God who has created the universe the people who live in it. The universe operates according to the constant and unchangeable laws of physics, and human beings are created to live within the parameters of the the moral law, which the Creator also established. This is obvious to anyone who would bother to pay attention and pursue the evidence instead of their own agenda. “For what may be known about God is evident within them for God has made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived through what has been made, so they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20). 

There are elementary moral principles present in everyone’s conscience. However, we live in a fallen world in active rebellion against those principles. This confuses people and distorts the subjective perception of truth in their consciences. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12). Therefore, God made the moral law objectively plain to his people Israel on Mount Sinai. Then he sent his Son to live out the truth and offer a way for everyone to receive and live eternal life. “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ… I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me” (John 1:17, 14:6).

The cure for moral insanity today is a King and a Law. “Where there is no vision the people are unrestrained. But happy is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29:18). For people who genuinely believe in and follow the God of the Bible, there is moral sanity. However, for those who do not live their lives surrendered to God, the Law is in place to teach them right from wrong and threaten punishment for violation.
“…understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, for the effeminate and homosexuals, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 9-10).

We must encourage and reintroduce the truth of the Bible to people, in order that many may return to faith, which at its basic level is reverence for God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). Next, there must be a fair and gracious application of God’s Law, which is objectively defined in the 10 Commandments. There must be legitimate and just authority in place to establish and enforce laws on this basis. These commandments teach and mandate respect for God and respect for other people.
1- You shall worship no other God, except me.
2-  You shall not make any idols.
3-  You shall not misuse my Name.
4-  Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy.
5-  Honor your father and mother.
6-  Do not murder.
7-  Do not commit adultery.
8-  Do not steal.
9-  Do not lie.
10- Do not covet.

The first four Commandments focus on God and should be left to God’s people to teach and enforce among themselves. Civil law and authorities should protect and ensure that expressions of faith in God are unhindered and unmolested, and that every person is free to worship God, or to refrain from worshipping, according to his or her conscience. Most importantly, there must be no law passed to prohibit the preaching and teaching of the Bible. That is where truth, freedom and salvation is found.

The last six commandments should form the basis for civil law. Society’s laws will need to expand upon, but should still find their basis in, these six basic commands.

Those of us who claim to believe in and follow Jesus Christ must lead the way. The following admonition reveals what will restore sanity to us.
“For the Lord has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, and love and a sound mind.”
(2 Timothy 1:7)
The word translated timidity is sometimes rendered as fear, but the lexicon helps us understand it further by defining it as: “a state of fear because of a lack of courage or moral strength” (Louw-Nida Greek lexicon). We who would claim Christ as our Lord must have the courage to live out our moral convictions. There must be no compromise with the godless values promoted and enshrined in our nation. “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). 

We must not be timid about taking a stand against the moral insanity spreading through our nation and the world, even as it becomes socially acceptable, even if we are castigated and persecuted for the stand we take. We must “speak the truth in love,” and “be ready always to give an answer for the hope that is within us, yet with gentleness and reverence” (Ephesians 4:15, 1 Peter 3:15). This is important if we ever expect to bring our nation back from the brink of moral breakdown, but it is even more important for each of us to have courage for the sake of our own moral sanity.

We do not do this alone. The Holy Spirit will fill us with courage, and will remind us of God’s words when the time comes to speak (see John 14:26 & Luke 12:11-12). So, rest; do not be anxious or afraid. Do the right thing always, and be ready to defend your moral choice by appealing to the Lord Jesus as your teacher. Do not be ashamed of the name of Jesus or of his Gospel. “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of salvation to all who believe, for the Jew first and also the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

Let us pray for nothing short of a Great Awakening in this formerly great nation.