Leadership Magazine commissioned a poll of a thousand pastors. The pastors indicated that 12 percent of them had committed adultery while in the ministry – (one out of eight pastors) – and that 23 percent had done something they considered sexually inappropriate. Christianity Today surveyed a thousand of its subscribers who were not pastors and found the figure to be nearly double, with 23 percent saying they had had extramarital sex and 45 percent indicating they had done something they themselves deemed sexually inappropriate. So…one in four Christian men are unfaithful, and nearly one half have behaved in a sexually inappropriate way. Conclusion: (1) there are severe moral problems in this country; and (2) there’s a huge difference between what the church teaches and what its members actually think and do.  There is no crisis more pervasive in the world today than the crisis of sexual immorality. There is a moral revolt going on everywhere in the matter of sexual mores. 

 But no matter what the surveys reveal, from the time of Christ until now one thing has remained true: The sexual behavior of a man or woman who claims to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is a “dead give-away” to the depth of their commitment to the Lordship (management) of Jesus Christ in their life.  That’s a fact!

In Ephesians 5:3-14, the apostle Paul gives us five reasons why sexual immorality is incompatible with the Christian faith and lifestyle.[1]

In my last blog, we looked at the first two REASONS, found in vs. 3-4: “Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.”

We saw that sex outside of marriage hurts you. It’s harmful to your basic human make-up. It is debasing and defiling to our essential humanity. That’s what the words in the original language mean – debasing and defiling. It hurts you. Paul said that sexual “immorality” and “impurity” and “greed” affect us in a profoundly negative way.  

We also saw that sex outside of marriage is a waste of our time. In the NASB translation, Paul uses the phrase “not fitting” – which means “inappropriate” “wasteful” or “pointless.” He says that we don’t learn anything by engaging in sexual sin. When we personally investigate the wrong practices of sex and become involved in them, we learn nothing that we couldn’t have learned from studying the Bible.  Personal practice of sexual immorality is a waste of time – and it only causes the sexual crisis in your life to get worse. That’s why viewing pornography, and even serious studies of sexual immorality, are essentially an exercise in futility. Paul says they’re a waste of time, as far as curing the problem of sexual immorality is concerned. That’s the claim of the apostle Paul! And, if we’re honest about it, that’s what our own experience confirms as well.

Now, we’re going to learn about the last three of Paul’s five reasons why sexual immorality and Christianity are not for God’s people.

REASON # 3 is: Anybody who practices sexual immorality, impurity or “body-greed” will not have an “inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” “You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world” (vs. 5). Paul refers again to the same three categories of sexual sin that he mentioned in verse 3 and refers to them here again – “immorality”, “impurity” and “greed.” Greed here refers to greed for someone else’s body so that you can exploit it for your own sexual satisfaction. 

What that says to me is: If you take sexual sin lightly – then you’re not saved. He’s saying no one can be a truly regenerated Christian while knowingly and deliberately practicing (key word) sex outside of marriage – because one cancels out the other. It’s a “spiritual impossibility” to pursue sex outside of marriage and Jesus at the same time. Paul is saying here that if a person pursues and practices sexual immorality – then they have ultimately turned their back on Jesus. Sex has become more important to them than Jesus! 

So, Paul says, if you take sexual sin lightly – then you’re not saved. And that raises a really important question: “Can a Christian fall into sexual sin and still call themself a Christian?” The answer is “Yes, of course that’s true.” But that’s not really the issue here. Paul’s point is that you can’t practice sexual sin repeatedly, and defiantly, and shamelessly and really be a Christian.

A genuine follower of Jesus will struggle emotionally and spiritually with guilt and shame if they fall into sexual sin. A genuine follower of Jesus will immediately confess it to God and repent of it (“turn away from” it). They will run away from sexual sin and become accountable to someone who they know will hold their feet to the fire.  But a person who defends sexual immorality and justifies it and sins without guilt – Paul says, despite any profession of faith in Jesus, that they are not a Christian. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote: “You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.” He leaves no room for argument.    

NOTE: God’s grace is always reaching out to people who are practicing sexual sin. They’re always welcome to become a part of the kingdom of God. But Paul makes his point very clear: No one can profess to be a follower of Jesus Christ and continue to practice sexual sin without a deep inner spiritual struggle. Because if they can – then they’re denying their faith in Jesus Christ. Sex has become more important to them than Jesus. They’ve made an idol of sex.

REASON # 4 that sexual sin is not for God’s people is because…A Christian no longer has any excuse for practicing sexual sin. “Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall    on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.” (vs. 6-10)

The Bible says that if a person has been born-again by faith in Jesus Christ, then they have been taken out of the world of darkness (out from under the power of Satan) and into the kingdom of light (into the power of God). That’s the whole gospel message. And if that hasn’t happened to you – then you’re not a follower of Jesus Christ. But if it has, Paul says, then it’s unthinkable that you’d turn your back on God and go back and live in darkness again. Paul is saying that we don’t have to be deceived any longer – especially about sex. The world’s sex propaganda doesn’t have to work on us anymore, because we know better. It will try to convince us that we’re wrong, but we know better. That’s why Paul says, “Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins…”  They will try, but we don’t have to listen because we know better now. Sexual sin may be appealing – but it can be very deadly.

I read once about a policeman who was called out during a severe ice storm. The ice was a half-inch thick on every tree in the area. He was called to a site where the ice and falling branches had caused a power line to come down. His job was to keep people away from the area. There was a small tree near the fallen power line – the kind with a short trunk and lots of long thin branches. He noticed that while the fallen power line was crackling and popping with electricity, it was throwing out sparks through the branches of the small tree. And as the sparks reflected off the ice-covered branches it sent out a beautiful rainbow of colors. He said that as he stood there and watched – he wondered how anything so beautiful could be so deadly. That’s the power of sexual sin. We see something that seems beautiful, but when we reach out to touch it – it becomes death to us. Sexual sin is very sparkly and beautiful – but it’s also deadly!

 Paul’s warning is to not let anyone deceive you (including yourself) with empty words about the “joy” and the “naturalness” of sex outside of marriage. Because if we do, we will ultimately discover that the results are very painful!

There’s a phrase in verse 6 that tells us something important about this fourth reason. It says: “…for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him.” It’s sexual immorality in particular, that brings the “anger of God” upon our world. When we allow and encourage sexual immorality – we’re asking in particular for the anger or the wrath of God to be expressed. Why is that? I believe it’s because sexual sin is different than other sin – not necessarily worse – but different. The Bible makes it clear in numerous places that sex within the bounds of natural marriage is intended by God to be the perfect picture of His love for His Church – His Bride. And sexual sin badly mars that picture. And it deeply offends God. It invites his anger and his wrath in a particularly distinct way.

Most people misunderstand the wrath of God. It usually conjures up thoughts of lightning bolts from heaven and sudden catastrophes or a terrible judgment day that’s way off in the future somewhere. But Romans 1 tells us that the “wrath of God” is something happening right now – in the present.  It says: “God’s anger is shown from heaven against all the evil and wrong things people do. By their own evil lives they hide the truth… 24 Because they did these things, God left them and let them go their sinful way, wanting only to do evil. As a result, they became full of sexual sin, using their bodies wrongly with each other. 25 They traded the truth of God for a lie. They worshiped and served what had been created instead of the God who created those things, who should be praised forever. Amen” (Rom. 1:18-25). God says, Alright if you want to live this way – go ahead! But it will cost you. It will cost you in grief and pain and emotional sickness. It will cost you and your children and their children after them.

 The manifestations of the “wrath of God” are things like boredom, and restlessness, and despair and a sense of uselessness. It’s expressed in feelings of emptiness. It’s accompanied by neurotic phobias and unexplainable anxieties. It’s revealed in the spirit of death and violence that we see in American cities across our country right now. But God never intended for us to be neurotic, anxious, bundles of nerves. We were never meant to experience these things. Unfortunately, it’s the result of God’s “wrath” – when He withdraws and withholds His presence and His grace; when He gives people over to their sinful passions. It’s the result of sinful passions indulged to the hilt, and then God backing off to let the inevitable consequences take over.

That said – Paul’s point here is that…We followers of Christ have no excuse or reason to indulge in sexual sin any longer because now we are “children of light.” We don’t have to be deceived any longer about sexual sin and its consequences.

Which leads us to Paul’s last REASON why sexual sin is incompatible with the Christian life. Sexual immorality is incompatible with the Christian life because…As Christians we’re supposed to expose the true character of sexual sin – not indulge in it. Eph. 5: 11-14 reads: “Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. 12 It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. 13 But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, 14 for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

We can’t expose something as evil, and then indulge in it at the same time… and still be effective in our exposure. As followers of Jesus Christ our job is to graciously – but firmly – speak out against sexual sin. Our job is to reveal God’s truth about sex. “Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them…”

We have a commission from God: Tell the world the truth about sex! And that includes God’s hatred of ALL sexual sin…homosexuality, lesbianism, transgenderism, gay marriage, queer lifestyles, etc. Our job is to help people see that sexual fulfillment in marriage between a man and a woman is God’s purpose for them. Our job is to help people see that God’s heart is for us is to run away from sexual immorality and come back into wholeness and fullness and joy. Our job is to expose people to the truth about sex as often as we have the opportunity because (as vs.13 says) “…the light makes everything visible.”

Philippians 2:14-15 gives us a challenge. It says we are to “…Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.”  In a world of “crooks and perverts” (Amplified Version), we are to graciously and confidently tell the truth about sex to anyone who will listen. And we have to let our integrity and our faithfulness to God’s Word speak for us.

So, the five reasons why sexual immorality and the Christian life just don’t mix are…

(1)  Sex outside of marriage between a man and woman actually hurts us. It’s harmful to our basic human make-up.

(2)  When all is said and done, sex outside of marriage is a pointless waste of our time.

(3)  If we justify it we show that we were never “saved from sin” in the first place.

(4)  We don’t have an excuse to indulge in it anymore – we know better because we’re children of light.

(5)  Our job is to expose the lie that sexual immorality is harmless – by our words and by our behavior.

 Earlier, I mentioned that “sexual immorality” includes the four common sexual sins that many Christians have come to tolerate: adultery, “friends with benefits” (fornication), pornography and homosexuality. If you find yourself struggling with any of these sexual sins – I understand. I really do. I’ve struggled in the past with two of the four myself. And my purpose for saying what I have said today is not to condemn. My purpose is to remind all of us of the place in our culture that we are responsible to occupy. Because as followers of Jesus we have the privilege and the responsibility to set an example for the rest of the world – whether they follow it or not. Our job is to wake up – and stay awake – to sexual immorality. And to live as examples of what we say we believe.

 This passage ends with these words from the OT: “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” In the words of Dr. Phil: “You need to wake up! You need to wake up!” The reason WHY is because practicing sexual immorality in any form will put you to sleep spiritually. And the only way to begin the process of overcoming sexual immorality in your life is to wake up to the fact that it’s robbing you of the life that God intends for you. Wake up to your sin. Don’t let the glitz and glitter of sexual sin hypnotize you into sleepwalking through life.

But once you wake up you need to “Get dressed!”  Rom. 13:12 says: “The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” No one can live a sexually pure life unless they have been clothed in God’s righteousness. And that can never happen until you make a commitment to let Jesus Christ manage your life in general – and your sex life in particular. The phrase, “armor of light,” refers to the armor of God found in Eph. 6:10ff. And the first three pieces of armor are “truth,” “righteousness,” and “peace.” Each of them can only be yours when you give management of your life over to God and become clothed in His righteousness.

So…“Wake up” from your spiritual sleep…“Get dressed” in the truth, righteousness and peace of God… And then…Go to work!”

Rom.13:13-14 says: “Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.” 

In other words, start acting like a Christian again and stop feeding your “flesh.” Paul puts it like this: “…And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.” Stop feeding your sinful lusts! (e.g. – reading trashy novels, books or magazines, viewing movies that glorify sexual immorality, entertainment that encourages sexual immorality, being hooked on porn, etc.). And start filling your life with the work of God. We have to keep moving in God’s direction with our lives.

There is a wide, shallow river in Arizona, the Rio Puerco, that has this peculiarity to it – its bed is nearly all quick-sand on which you can travel safely – provided you keep moving. But the moment you stop, the sands begin to engulf you. That’s just like our lives in this world. God never intended that we get comfortable in the thinking and behavior of the world – especially in its sexual permissiveness. We have to keep moving in a godly direction or we’ll become sucked in by the “quicksand” that’s the philosophy of a fallen and morally bankrupt world-view.

Do you want to overcome sexual sin in your life? Then you’ve got to resolve that you will…“Wake up! you will “Get dressed!” and you will “Go to work!”

[1] This blog was inspired by Ray Stedman’s series on Ephesians: The Calling of the Saints //www.raystedman.orgnew-testament/ephesians

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