Sexual Purity

March 26, 2017 / No. 3873

Dear Radio Friends,
We have been considering the Ten Commandments of the law of God as we find them in Exodus 20. Today we come to the seventh commandment, Exodus 20:14: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” This commandment concerns marriage and the family and human sexuality and homosexuality. We live in a society today that is saturated with sex. Adultery is the stuff of jokes and entertainment. Sex outside of and before marriage is accepted as the norm. Divorce and remarriage after divorce are assumed and accepted. Homosexuality is legalized. Industries make millions of dollars off sexual content, feeding a hungry lust in man through the eyes and the ears at every opportunity. Sexual content fills billboards and shopping malls, TV shows and advertisements, radio music, the sides of busses, and the sidebars of Internet web pages. Behind it is the sinister and dark side of the Internet and the pornography industry—the trafficking of sex slaves, the abortion of unwanted children, and secret online profiles and sexual encounters.
This commandment calls us to be counter-cultural—to recognize that God’s Word places demands on this aspect of our life. We do not have freedom of expression with regard to sexuality. The Scriptures are our guide, and we must be different, not only standing against sexual deviations—homosexuality—and in defense of marriage and the family, but also in our own entertainment, jokes, and humor, in our own desires and thoughts, striving for sexual purity because none of us is immune to the dangers and temptations of sexual immorality. We must be frank. This is a problem, a problem in Christian circles, and a problem particularly for Christian men.
We begin to look at this commandment by recognizing some important principles that stand behind it. These are truths from God’s Word that have to do with human sexuality.
In the gospel of Matthew, chapter 19, Jesus gives instruction concerning this commandment when He says: “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female?” (v. 4). God the Creator made us male and female. That is the first principle. God made the animals. He made them male and female after their kind. He brought them to Adam. Adam realized that he did not have a woman, and then God made a woman to complete the man, to be a help that was meet or suited to him. The woman was created different from the man, but she complemented him physically and emotionally and in every way. Every one of us needs to have a proper attitude towards our own human sexuality. You are either, by the creation of God, a male or, by the creation of God, a female. This is how God has made you. We must accept what God has made us biologically. This is part of obedience to this commandment.
Homosexuality is against God’s creation. God did not create a man to be with a man. And God did not create a woman to be with a woman physically. Romans 1 says that this is unnatural, that it is a change of the natural use. There is a natural use in the creation. So, sexual identity and sexual preference and sexual orientation and sexual expression fall under the commandment of God’s law here. This is not an area where we have a right to freedom of expression.
The second principle is that God created the gift and the privilege of sexual intimacy for marriage. What is marriage? Marriage is a lifelong union and bond between one man and one woman. Again Jesus teaches us this in Matthew, chapter 19, when He says: “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh. Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (vv. 5, 6). Jesus teaches us several important things there about marriage—not only that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that marriage is a lifelong institution. This is Jesus’ point here in Matthew 19. He goes on to say that whoever puts away his wife, except for fornication, commits adultery. And whoever marries her that has been put away or is divorced commits adultery. He teaches that there is only one ground for divorce and that is unfaithfulness, and that the one who is divorced may not remarry. This is the permanence of marriage and the Bible’s teaching on the permanence of marriage.
God created marriage for companionship. This is the idea of the two becoming one. One flesh means that they are one in every way. In the context of this unity God has given the gift of human sexuality to be expressed. So strong is this union that I Corinthians 7 tells us that in marriage a husband no longer has power over his own body and a wife no longer has power over her own body, and that they must willingly give themselves physically to the relationship. So, God established marriage as the place for the expression of human sexuality. And He says in I Corinthians 7 that, to avoid fornication, each should marry and have her own husband and his own wife. God has given this pleasure to marriage, and God has given it also with this purpose that, through this pleasure in marriage between a man and a woman, there will be a father and a mother, there will be the bringing forth of children. This is the responsibility that goes with the expression of sexuality in marriage.
What this commandment is teaching us is that any sexual expression outside of the bond of marriage is a violation of marriage. We must understand that there is no such thing as recreational or casual sex. In fact, the expression of sexuality does not work that way. It can only bring misery and brokenness and is a violation of self and of the other.
The third principle is this, that God created marriage—the marriage of a man and a woman—to be a reflection of His own relationship to His people. Throughout the Bible, God’s love for His church is described in terms of the love of marriage. God is committed to His church and lives closely with her as a husband and a wife are one in marriage.
Ephesians chapter 5 zooms in on this when it says that there is a mystery. The mystery is not just a mystery of marriage, but the mystery of Christ and the church. Christ loved and gave Himself for His bride, the church. And the church loves and submits to Christ her Head. This is the way it should be in marriage—husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved His bride—and wives are to submit to their husbands and love them as the church does Christ, her Redeemer. So, this wonderful, rich relationship, which comes in salvation between God and His bride the church, His saved people, is described as marriage. Our goal in marriage should be to reflect the joy of God’s relationship with His people in Jesus Christ.
There is one more important principle, and this applies to every one of us personally. It is this, that God has made us body and soul and that Jesus Christ, by His blood, has redeemed us body and soul to belong to Him. So, I Corinthians 6, speaking about human sexuality, says, in verse 15: “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.” And verses 19 and 20: “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” This passage is telling us that, in salvation, not only is our soul redeemed, but also our body is redeemed, and it belongs to the Lord, and so we are to glorify Him in body as well as soul. Sexual expression outside of the place that God has ordained for it in the bond of marriage is a sin against the salvation that we have in Jesus Christ.
For the remainder of the message, I want to apply this commandment regarding human sexuality. What is application? Application is asking, How does this matter for my life? Our tendency when it comes to application is to make the application to the lives of others. If we are parents, then we think of our children and the application of this commandment to our children. If we are married, we tend to think of how this applies to our wife. If we are Christians, we want to apply this to the culture and the world in which we live. If we are single, we think of the application of it to the married. If we are older, we think of how this applies to the young. But it is important for us to see, in this message today, how this Word of God applies to us as individuals. So, I have chosen to make the application of this sermon in three specific areas, three areas where we engage in the battle against this sin. These should cover all the different groups of people that there are. Because the battle is fierce, we need to be equipped with the Word of God, and so, as we make these applications, I want also to bring specifics of God’s Word, specific Bible passages, into the discussion. These are the tools to fight against the temptation.
The three areas of application are lust, faithfulness, and contentment.
What is lust? Lust is a sinful desire that controls you to the point that you are led into sin. The desire, sexual desire, in itself is not wrong. God has created us with a sexual appetite. But when we seek to fulfill that sexual desire outside of the God-ordained place of marriage, or when we fantasize constantly about sex, then we have fallen into sinful desire or lust.
James helps us to understand the danger of lust when he says in James 1 not only that when a person falls into sin he cannot blame God for being tempted. Rather, James says this: “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (vv. 14, 15). The point here is that if we give room for lust in our minds, it will conceive and bring forth sin in our lives. So, the battle for sexual purity begins in our minds. We do not keep this commandment simply by avoiding having sex outside of marriage, but obedience to this commandment begins with our thoughts. Jesus makes this very clear in Matthew 5 when He says that a man who looks on a woman to lust after her in his heart has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
It is essential that we realize this. Society today says that the problem is not pornography and the problem is not immodest dress and using sex for advertising, but, instead, the problem is men and that men objectify women and that this is male-oppression. But the problem is both. Yes, lust is a problem in the heart, but the feeding of that lust with immodesty and sexual content is also a problem. We cannot fill our minds, we cannot browse the Internet and pornography and think that this will not affect us. We have to understand that lust is like a beast. The more that we feed this beast, the stronger it becomes. When the mind is exposed to sexual content, it becomes perverted. And a person’s view of the beautiful gift of sex, which God has given for marriage, becomes warped. And all of this comes into marriage and into the bedroom, so that expectations in marriage with regard to sexuality become unreal. So, the Bible says that there is one way to deal with sexual sin and with lust, and that is to flee. I Corinthians 6: Flee fornication! We think of Joseph running from the house and refusing to be anywhere near Potiphar’s wife lest she seduce him. This young man, Joseph, knew the dangers and knew the power of sexual temptation. He knew himself. This is where the battle against sexual sin begins. Young people, do not feed the beast of lust. Flee fornication. Get away. Solomon warns his son not to pass by the way of the harlot, not to go anywhere near her because she will seduce you. She brings many strong men down into destruction.
We should realize that every sexual sin, even the ones that are committed in private, even the ones that are simply stimulating the mind and the eyes, have consequences. We have to fight for purity in our minds.
The second area of application has to do with faithfulness, faithfulness in marriage. Here I want to emphasize the positive requirement of this commandment. Not only is it true that adultery and fornication and sexual expression outside of marriage are forbidden in this commandment. But in this commandment, God is talking about marriage and about living in a positive way in marriage. A good marriage does not just happen. We are not keeping this commandment by simply having a correct teaching on marriage. Rather, there needs to be, in a marriage, on the part of the Christian who is married, a commitment, a love, and a faithfulness to the spouse. That is much more than simply refraining from physical relationships with someone else. Faithfulness in marriage means loving with a love that is patterned after God’s love for us; a love that is like the love of Jesus Christ, sacrificial; a love that, like God’s love, is forgiving; a love that is committed; a love that serves; a love that loves, not because of the worthiness of the object (the spouse), but out of love for God. Faithfulness means giving priority to your marriage relationship over everything else in this world.
In Proverbs 5:15, and then again in 18 and 19, Solomon writes this: “Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well…. Rejoice with the wife of thy youth…. Let her breasts satisfy thee at all things; and be thou ravished always with her love.” These verses describe a devotion to and a satisfaction in one person, the one person whom God has given to you as your spouse in marriage. The illustration used is one of drinking water out of your own well. You could do that and say, “But I think my neighbor’s water is colder. I think my neighbor’s water is sweeter.” Scripture is calling us here to focus on, to have a single eye in, marriage, not to look across the fence. God has given the delight and the intimacy of marriage as a weapon against the temptation. Drink waters out of thine own cistern.
This applies to much, much more than finding sexual satisfaction in the spouse that God has given. It refers also to finding emotional satisfaction and affection and friendship in your marriage. How many marriages begin the road to ruin and divorce with one or both of the couple becoming independent, not sharing their lives, looking for fulfillment somewhere else and in someone else than the spouse whom God has given! Drink waters out of thine own cistern.
God demands dedication, commitment, and faithfulness in marriage.
But someone may say, “You don’t have to live in my marriage. You don’t have to live with my husband or my wife.” As a pastor, I have heard that before. And that brings us to the third area of application, which is contentment. The application here is very broad. To the married and to the single. To the widowed and to those who have never married.
What is contentment? It is a state of mind, a state of peace in the mind, which is not dependent on external circumstances of life. It is a gift of God’s grace to those who have faith. With regard to marriage and the seventh commandment, it means that my personal happiness is not dependent on my marital status or on whether my marriage is a good and satisfying one or one that is demanding and not rewarding. Life for the child of God is not all about being married. Fulfillment for the Christian woman is neither in a career nor in childbearing. Happiness for the believing man is not bound up in having an adoring wife. Rather, the delight of the child of God is in his Lord. Our satisfaction is in the wellsprings of life and salvation that come through faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus says in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” We fight carnal desire with spiritual desire. Satan tempts us with carnal, earthly pleasures. But God holds before us an eternal and supreme joy that we shall see Him. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. We see here that the battle for purity and the battle for contentment is not only a matter of the mind, but it is a matter of faith. This is a spiritual warfare. In faith we need to think less of the delights of sin and of temporary pleasures and more of the delights of being with God and of seeing Him.
In Lamentations 3:25-27 we read this: “The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” Think of all the ways that faith is described here: as waiting on God; as seeking God; as hoping in Him; as quietly waiting; as even bearing a yoke.
Contentment. Contentment does not mean that I squash all my desires, but it means that the good desires I have, perhaps a good desire for marriage, for a spouse, these good desires do not consume me. I do not make an idol of something that I do not have. Rather, I rest in the Lord and I find fulfillment in Him. Our strength for doing this, our power to do this, to overcome sexual temptation and to find contentment and to be faithful in marriage, comes in James 4:6 in four simple words: He giveth more grace. God gives grace. He gives grace upon grace. He gives more grace so that we have power not only to resist temptation, to be faithful in marriage, but also to know that we are forgiven for whatever sins we have committed with regard to this commandment. God’s grace is stronger than any sin. God’s power is greater than any temptation. We must believe that. Then we have hope for overcoming and for victory in the end.
Let us pray.
Father, we give thanks for the gift of human sexuality, that Thou hast made us male and female and that through the rich relationships of marriage, husband and wife coming together, Thou dost give children, not only the responsibilities that come with them but also the joy that there is in family and home. We pray, Lord, for Thy blessing to be on Christian homes and Christian marriages, especially in a day when there is such great opposition to this in our world. We pray this also for the sake of our children and for them as they go forward in the future in this world in which we live. Give us strength in the face of temptation also and satisfaction in our situations in regard to marriage. We pray, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.