I distilled this from my sermon this morning, and I hope to have it printed in the local paper:
Christians may be better at identifying sexual sins than at communicating the beautiful design and purpose God has for human sexuality. For that reason, in discussing the Bible’s teaching on sexuality, we should first understand what God intended when he created us with a sexual nature.
God created Adam and Eve to enjoy sexual relations with one another (Genesis 2:23, 24). He made Adam to desire Eve physically, and Eve to have that same desire for Adam. Adam’s loneliness was only cured by the creation of Eve, with whom he became “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). And their sexual union and relationship was all part of what God called “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Sex is a gift from God – a good and precious gift from our Creator.
But God intended marriage to be the one place where a man and a woman could enjoy sexual relations with one another. In other words, by God’s design, sexual activity was never meant to take place outside of the life-long covenant bond of marriage. Within the bounds of marriage, sex is a blessing and a gift. But in our sin, we have sought the pleasures of sexual activity apart from marriage. We have torn asunder what God joined together.
Sexual immorality corrupts the God-given purpose of sex. Within marriage, sexual relations are (or at least, should be) an expression of the husband and the wife’s total giving of each to the other. They have pledged their lives to one another, to no longer live as two but as one, and therefore their sexual activity is inherently oriented towards the other. It is an expression of giving and love (as well as a source of mutual pleasure and delight). But seeking sexual gratification outside of marriage is inherently self-centered; it is about taking, not giving. An extreme example of this is the use of pornography: women become purely objects to gratify a man’s desire. He serves himself and he takes what he wills – at heart it is a form of self-worship. And the same goes for all sexual activity outside of marriage – whether it is adultery, cohabitation, pornography, or even simply lust in the heart (Matthew 5:28). At the root of sexual sin is pride and self-love, seeking to please oneself when God meant for us to use our bodies to please our husband or wife.
Sexual purity is a daunting challenge for the Christian today. We live in a culture that sanctions and encourages sexual immorality. Despite the fact that we are surrounded by the walking wounded, that is, those who have been hurt by sexual sins (whether by abuse, or unfaithfulness, or simply being used by others), as a society we hold fast to the idea that happiness is freedom from restraints on sexual conduct. But God calls Christians to “abstain from sexual immorality” and to learn how to control our bodies “in holiness and honor” (1Thessalonians 4:3, 4). And as believers seek to be faithful in this way in a world that does not know God nor his will for our sexual conduct (1 Thessalonians 4:5), we will be seen by many as odd, or even worse, as judgmental prudes (or worse still, in relation to certain sexual sins, hate-filled bigots). But a Christian must be ready to bear the reproach of the world for the sake of Christ.
Every honest Christian will readily admit the challenge of sexual purity isn’t just “out there” in the world, but it’s also present in the heart of the believer. Jesus taught, and our experience confirms, that “evil thoughts, sexual immorality…, adultery, sensuality” all come “from within, out of the heart of man” (Mark 7:21, 22). Sadly, some genuine Christians will commit grievous acts of sexual immorality (as David did). Many believers carry the baggage of their past sexual sins. And I believe all Christians struggle with sexual sin in the mind and heart, at least to some degree. So the challenge of sexual purity comes both from without and within.
Sexual sin is so endemic among men and women, and so deeply-rooted in the heart, that it paints a stark and sobering picture of just how profound our innate depravity is, and just how far we have fallen from that original righteousness in which Adam and Eve were created. But the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that the love and grace of God are sufficient not only to cover all our sexual sins (and all other sin), but also to begin a work of renewal in us as thoroughgoing as the corruption sin has wrought. If you are a Christian, take heart! God’s grace is greater even than your sin. Here are five ways that God gives you grace to meet the challenge of sexual purity.
1. God forgives your sins of sexual immorality. As the God-man, Jesus shared in the divine holiness that overwhelmed the prophet Isaiah in the temple (Isaiah 6:5). Yet Jesus allowed a sinful woman (likely a prostitute) to wipe his feet with her tears and hair (Luke 7:36-39). He did this not because he lowered his standard of holiness, but because he forgave her sin. And if you repent and come to Christ by faith, he will forgive your sexual sin, no matter how serious it is.
2. God cleanses your heart of sexual impurity. Sexual sin (as all sin) pollutes our hearts, leaving us feeling unclean and impure. But in Christ God washes away the stain of that sin so that, in the words of David, you “shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7).
3. God frees you from bondage to sexual sin. This kind of sin can be as addictive as alcohol or drugs. But if you belong to Christ by faith, sin’s reign over you has been broken by virtue of Christ’s resurrection from the dead (Romans 6:13, 14).
4. God heals you from damage caused by sexual sin. Like a poison, sexual sin can leave its toxin in your heart for a long time to come. But Jesus can heal your heart as completely as he healed the skin of lepers.
5. God empowers you to overcome habits of sexual sin. God’s grace not only brings forgiveness, cleansing, freedom, and healing, but also enables you to put to death sexual sin, that you may overcome it and begin to live a new life of sexual purity and holiness.
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