February 28, 2010
When Tolerance Becomes Intolerable – Part 6
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Revelation 2: 18-29

Purchase the CD of this sermon.


This series provides insight into Jesus' master plan for the church today. We cannot afford to ignore what Jesus thinks of the church. You've Got Mail will help deepen your understanding of the church and the essential elements necessary to remain healthy, holy, and faithful in today's society.

More From This Series


Let’s take our Bibles and turn to Revelation 2:18. We are in a series on the seven churches in the book of Revelation, and we’re in an extended study, almost a mini-series in the church at Thyatira. The series is called When Tolerance Becomes Intolerable, and we are reminding ourselves not to be seduced into sexual immorality.

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, These things says the son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire and his feet like fine brass. I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience, and as for your works, the last are more than the first. Nevertheless, I have a few things against you because you allow that woman, Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce my servants to commit sexual immorality. And eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality and she did not repent. Indeed, I will cast her into a sick bed, and those who commit adultery with her in the great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds, I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am he who searches the minds and hearts, and I will give to each one of you according to your works.
Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden, but hold fast what you have till I come. And he overcomes and keeps my works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations. He shall rule them with a rod of iron. They shall be dashed at pieces like the potter’s vessels. As I also have received from my father, I will also give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches.”
The little girl asked her grandma how old she was, and was rebutted with these words, “You shouldn’t ask people that question. Most grown-ups don’t like to tell their age.” The next day, the little girl came a second time and said, “Grandma, how much do you weigh?” Grandma replied, “You shouldn’t ask grown-ups how much they weigh, it isn’t polite.” The day after that, the little girl was back in the living room with her grandma, but this time a big smile on her face and she said, “Grandma, I know how old you are, you’re 62. And you weigh 140 pounds.” Grandma was surprised. She said, “My goodness, how did you learn all of that?” Well, she said, “Grandma, you left your driver’s license on the kitchen table and I read it.” But the little girl continued, “Grandma, I also saw on your driver’s license that you flunked sex.”
God doesn’t want us flunking sex. As we saw last time, sex was God’s idea, and it was designed for a man and a woman in an exclusive relationship for life. It was fashioned for marriage, it was intended for pleasure, it was created for procreation, it was granted for intimacy, and it was purposed for protection.
Sex is a gift from God, to be entered upon and enjoyed at the right time, with the right person, in the right context. If you and I are going to avoid a failing grade when it comes to sex, we had better study the textbook provided, namely the Bible. Scripture has a lot to say about sex, because scripture has a lot to say about everything. We believe here at Kindred Community Church in this efficiency of God’s word. We are with our Protestant forefathers in the belief of sola scriptura, that the Bible alone is the final rule in all matters of faith and practice. It speaks to the issues of the bedroom and the boardroom. It speaks to the issues of the sanctuary and the street. The Bible has a lot to say about sex because the Bible has a lot to say about everything.
We’re working our way through our studies of the seven churches in Asia, and we have come here to the church at Thyatira. We’ve been working our way through this letter, and we have slowed down to pick up the theme that the Lord Jesus Christ emphasizes here, namely that this church had allowed the world to encroach upon its life and its legacy.
Jesus’ concern and censorship focuses on a woman whom he calls Jezebel, probably because she reminds him of the Old Testament character who lived around the time of Elijah. This woman had led God’s people astray then, and there is a modern version of her who’s leading the people of God astray now. Jezebel had taught and suggested the servants of God into sexual immorality, and the Lord Jesus censors that. We’ve looked at the progression, we’ve looked at the transgression, and last week we started to look at the aggression. Jesus points to the future, and the smack down with a world gone wild. Jesus is going to reign in the rebellion of mankind, and so as the church exists in the world, he reminds them to control themselves, because someday they will control all things with him. They are not to give themselves to the passions and the lusts of the culture around them.
Jesus encourages them to hold fast until he comes, and we believe that that was a call to purity, because he notes that he is not going to lay any other burden on them. It seems to be a echo of Acts 15 and the burden that the apostles already led on the gentile churches, not to give themselves to a number of things too, being mentioned in this letter, sexual immorality and food sacrifice to idols. As they anticipate the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, the millennial kingdom and the rewards of the eternal state, which we’ll get to, Jesus encourages them to persevere in purity. We have taken a little bit of an excursion, and we’re trying to protect our own purity. We’re trying to encourage each of us to persevere in purity until Jesus comes or death calls. We want to be found blameless at his coming.
We want to continue this morning to block the tackle of sexual temptation. We noted two things last week, and there’s a number of others I’m going to try and cover this morning. In blocking the tackle of sexual immorality or sexual temptation, we encouraged ourselves, one, last week to be biblically balanced. The call to flee from sexual immorality is not a call to flee from sex. We try to recognize that sex is a good gift from a good God, and Christians have no right to be embarrassed when it comes to talking about sex or sexuality. An unhealthy reticence or embarrassment in our part is a form of disrespect to God’s creation. And we try to remind ourselves to be biblically balanced.
On the one hand, we want to guard ourselves against that which is a corrupting of that gift, but on the other side of that, we want to anticipate if we’re single, or enter upon if we’re married, the joy of that gift. We want to be biblically balanced. So, number one, be biblically balanced. Number two, love your spouse passionately and physically.
That took us to 1 Corinthians 7, and we reminded ourselves that sexual abstinence within marriage is a bad idea. Sex is a gift from God. It has many purposes, as we have noted. It was intended for intimacy, created for procreation, designed for pleasure, and we saw in 1 Corinthians 7, it was purposed for protection. If you and I are to guard ourselves against a corrupted form of sexual fulfillment, we need to fill ourselves with the joy of sex as God has purposed it and planned it within marriage.
Let’s pick up then, where we left off. Here’s number three. The last thought was directed towards the married of our congregation. This one’s directed towards the singles, for whom this is a tremendous struggle, no doubt. Number three, remember the wait is worth it. Remember the wait is worth it. Christ is worth your obedience in terms of purity, and the joy of sex within the will of God is worth your patience. Sex, at the right time, with the right person, in the right context, is a gift, and it is something to be enjoyed and embraced. God wants his best for those who are willing to leave the choice to him.
What singles need to remember is that the call to chastity is not God keeping sex from them, but for them. That’s Solomon’s encouragement, isn’t it, to his son? Go back to Proverbs 5, he’s having a talk about the birds and the bees, but it’s a little bit more explicit than that. In Proverbs 5:15, he anticipates the day when his son will marry and enter upon a covenant union with his wife. Look at verse 15 of Proverbs 5, “Drink water from your own cistern and running water from your own well. Should your fountains be dispersed abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be only your own, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain and be blessed and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving doe and graceful deer, and graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times and be enraptured with her love. For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman, and be embraced in the arms of a seductress?”
He’s saying, “Son, you have a choice. You can go from bed to bed, from woman to woman, and you’ll be left empty and spent. Or you can give yourself to marriage, to the wife of your youth over a lifetime, and drink water from your own well. Just you and her, with no baggage, no background to complicate or confuse. Keep yourself for that. I’m not trying to keep this from you, I’m trying to keep this for you.” The seductress is never as good as the wife of your youth, in covenant commitment. Remember, the wait is worth it. The best sex is biblical sex. God is not a spoiled sport because sin never delivers on its promise. It’s always better in prospect than it is in retrospect.
Listen to these words by Paul Powell, a southern Baptist. “Sin is only charming in the present or the immediate future. It has no charm in the past. How fascinating sin seems now it’s being committed. How absolutely necessary it seems to our happiness. But when it slips into the past, it loses its attractiveness. Its pearly teeth become ugly fangs, its shapely hands become unshapely claws. Its sunshine and song soon fade and we are left empty. The sin of the future seems as fair as an angel from heaven, but the sin of yesterday is as ugly as a fiend from hell.” That’s what Solomon, probably speaking out of experience, is commanding to his son. In Proverbs 5:4, “Speaking of the lips of the immoral woman that drip like honey, and how her mouth is smoother than oil,” but he says in verse four of chapter five, “but in the end, she’s bitter as wormwood.”
It’s not the same after the fact as before the fact, and Solomon wants to get that across. It’s the same in 9:13, “A foolish woman is glamorous. She is simple and knows nothing, for she sits at the door of her house on a seat by the highest places of the city, to call to those who pass by who go straight on their way. Whoever is simple, let them turn in here, and as for him who lacks understanding, she says to him, ‘Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.’ But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of hell.” The stolen water isn’t as sweet once you’ve drank it, as was promised before you touched it. It’s the same with sin in the realm of sex.
Think about it, young people. If God created sex and called it good, and he did, and in the resurrection of Jesus Christ that was reclaimed and redeemed, who would be foolish enough to ignore the wisdom and the will of the one who holds the pittance on sexual pleasure? God’s laws are not there to deprive us of some fun. They’re in there to ensure we have the most fun. God’s laws are there to protect and provide.
You and I need to grasp that reality. Listen to these words. “The pleasures and goodness of sex are heightened, not lessened by proper restraint. In the same way the Colorado River is made more powerful by the walls of the Grand Canyon, the very narrowness of the river’s channel there makes for a greater river. Further south, as the river flows through the deserts of California and Arizona, it is shallow, wide and muddy, even stinky in spots. Wider boundaries diminish the river. Sharper, stronger and narrower boundaries strengthen it. Less is more. The boundaries and prescriptions of sex in the Bible are there for the sake of sex. Less is more.”
If you and I will live within the bondings of God’s law, and his dictates to mankind regarding marriage and sex, being heterosexual and a lifelong commitment, you and I will enjoy much more. We’ve said it many times, we’ll say it again. Just like fire, sex must be enjoyed in its proper place, in the hearth, not outside the hearth. That’s why you and I, according to 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, need to possess our bodies in honor. Everybody’s talking about birth control, nobody’s talking about self-control. If you want it, take it. If it feels good, do it. That’s the cry of the culture, but the Christian’s body belongs to the Lord, and the will of the Lord is good, so the Christian takes possession of his body, and restrains his passions, and limits his desires until they can be fully expressed. The Christian does not ignite desires prematurely, so that he’s not tempted to fulfill them illegitimately.
The professional athlete takes charge of his body. He does that by self-will. The Christian takes charge of his body by the spirit’s power, and makes it a slave to Christ. And in slavery to Christ, finds true freedom. Be biblically balanced. If you’re married, love your spouse physically and passionately. If you’re single, remember the wait is worth it. Choose not to do one thing, that you might do another thing even better.
Number four, understand that sex is no small thing. Understand that sex is no small thing. Both in its purpose and in its pleasure, sex is no small thing. It ought to be handled with care and consideration. We touched on this as we went along, but I want to expand it a little. Think about its power in terms of its purpose. It has the power to issue life, create community, enhance love, give joy, deepen knowledge, express the image of God and man, and even the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sexual union impinges and infringes upon all those things. It’s no small thing. It’s profoundly powerful in its purpose, and it’s profoundly powerful in its pleasure. Sexual pleasure is one of the most intense experiences. At the height of physical intimacy, the nerve endings in our bodies release a chemical into the brain called opioid. Opioid. This speaks of something akin to opium, and points to the fact that few things will rival, physically speaking, the pleasure of sex.
Physical intimacy within a committed marriage, between a man and a woman, is a good gift from God, and that can become, and in some ways should become, an intoxicating thing. Is it not how Solomon described it to his son? Become enraptured. You may have a translation that puts it “intoxicated”. Love is intoxicating. Physical intimacy is, in some way, there’s a better way to put this, but there’s an addictive side to it. And to some degree, that’s meant to be the case. They shall cleave and become one. It has that purpose, it has that power, and therefore, you and I need to understand that it is no small thing. In its proper place, it’s a force for good.
But outside the will of God, outside the boundaries of his moral law, it has enormous power for ill. When sex is under the sway of the spirit and under the sway of the scripture, it achieves great good, but beyond those boundaries, it becomes enslaving, and addictive and destructive. That which is meant to bring people together ultimately pulls them apart. That was just meant to be enjoyed as a good gift from God, and therefore to reflect back to him and praise and worship, becomes a idol in itself, drawing us away from God. It takes on God-like qualities and becomes an idolatrous thing in our lives. That which is meant simply to be a means to an end becomes a dead end outside the will of God, leading to emptiness and despair. Be careful with sex, because it’s no small thing. It’s no small thing.
Maybe as a footnote, that should remind us not to give it an undue place of prominence in our lives. Our present day society, along with ancient cultures, has turned sex into a God. Unlike the God of the Bible, the ancient gods, the mythical gods of the pagans outside of Israel, or the Greeks around the time of the New Testament, their gods copulated, their gods were sensual and sexual. Therefore, sex became part of the worship regiment of ancients, and it was made into something other than it was, and could promise or produce.
Our culture is falling into that trap. Whether it’s the television or the silver screen, or books or magazines, or advertisements, everything’s being defined by sex. Have you noticed that? Almost every advert has a sensual twist to it, because it’s becoming everything. It’s becoming inordinate, it’s becoming something God never intended it to be. Our culture’s view of sex is pagan, not Christian. “It’s a good thing,” says the Christian. “It’s everything,” says the pagan. While it’s no small thing, it can be made into something much larger than it is, and we’ve got to strike that balance. From the soap we use, to the cars we drive, to the reasons we buff our bodies, sex is seen as the true elixir of life. It is what we live for, it is what we are.
We live in a culture of sexual hyperbole, but the Christian is not to be conformed to this world. We have have to renew our thinking about this. So when it comes to sex, we’ll keep a couple of things in mind. Number one, that sex is a good gift from a good God, but it is not a substitute for God. Secondly, sex is temporary. It’s not going to be part of the life to come, regardless of what the Mormons teach. According to Jesus in Mark 12:25, there will be no marriage in heaven. I think there’ll be a recognition of the special relationship between a husband and wife on this earth, but there’ll be no marriages, no families as we know them. Our families will be assumed into God’s family. It’s temporary. It’s a good gift, but it’s temporary. It mustn’t become an ordinate. It mustn’t become everything.
Remember how I finished last week, lying in my bed one night on a youth retreat, and a pastor was in the room with John Bernie, a dear friend of ours in Northern Ireland, and this issue of purity came around? It was half a dozen single, red-blooded young men in the room, and so we pounded this guy about our struggles and issues and questions. He was a married man, he had seven or eight children. He knew this was a good gift from God, but I remember a statement he said. He says, “Boys, sex is good, but it’s not everything.” Those were wise words from a pastor to young man. “It is good, it’s to be enjoyed, but put it in it’s place. God must always be at the center. And as you find your pleasure in him, you’ll find your pleasure in the things he has given and called good. You’ll find heightened and holy pleasure there. And remember boys, that sex is temporary. Live for the life to come. Remember, Jesus Christ is the ultimate life fulfilling reality.”
Number five, watch what you were. Watch what you were. It’s getting real quiet here this morning, I understand. Watch what you were. Go back to Proverbs 7:10, as Solomon tells us about an idiot, a young man, a simpleton. That’s what he’s called here. “And I saw among the simple.” That’s the morally naive. It’s not that he wasn’t doing well at school, he was morally naive. He was a simpleton. Chapter seven, verse seven, “I perceived among the youth a young man, devoid of understanding, passing along the street near her corner.” Whose corner? The seductress’ corner, the loose woman. “And in the twilight, in the evening in the black and dark night,” what was he doing out that late? Firsthand. “And there was a woman met him.” Did you notice the words, “With the attire of a harlot”? The New Living Translation puts that she was dressed seductively. As we talk about protecting ourselves and blocking the tackle of sexual temptation, we need to watch what we were.
Provocative clothing and sexual sin are linked together here in the Bible. In fact, there’s a link between this woman’s heart and the clothes she’s wearing. Look at the rest of the verse, verse 10. “And there was a woman, met him with the attire of a harlot and a crafty heart.” She was dressed seductively because she had a crafty heart. He would lust after her, but she wanted him to lust after her. We make a statement with our clothes, do you know that? We know that. We try to make a statement with our clothes, to some degree, and there can be a healthy and proper expression of that. The way we dress says something about us, and the occasion we’re in, or the time we’re in.
In relation to this matter under consideration, I think the way we dress speaks to our commitment to purity. It betrays our heart’s condition. We dress in a certain way to say a certain thing. Do you have a theology of clothes? You ever thought about why you wear clothes? Because of sin? Remember what we said, the Bible has a lot to say about sex, because the Bible has a lot to say about everything. We wear clothes because Adam and Eve fell and lost their innocence, and recognized their nakedness for the first time, and that wasn’t a good thing. It was God who clothed Adam and Eve after their sin, and it is only sin that leads men and women to undress themselves for purposes that do not glorify God. Clothing is a daily reminder of our sin, and if we’re not careful, it can become a daily occasion for sin. Write that down. You young people, write it down. Clothes are a daily reminder of our sin, and if we’re not careful, they can become a daily occasion for sin. Undue nakedness or the exposure of our flesh is a dangerous and defiling thing. Don’t take me as a prude. Don’t take me as someone who wants to repress. I’m just dealing with one of the outcomes and implications of the doctrine of sin. God clothed Adam and Eve, and God wants us clothed. Les, our clothes become an occasion for sin.
While this goes both ways, I do think I have to say, this is an issue particularly damaging and defiling to the men of our congregation, who largely get excited through the eye gate. Job 31:1, Job says, “I will make a covenant with my eyes not to look upon the young virgin.” He understands he’s got to watch what he watches, and he hopes the girls watch what they wear. Jesus says in Matthew 5:28-29, that, “If a man lusts after woman in his own mind, undresses her mentally as he looks upon her, he’s committed sin.” Therefore, I would ask the sisters of this fellowship to be on guard, for the sake of their brothers, by the way they dress.
Go to 1 Timothy 2, 1 Timothy, 2. Paul addresses the issue of clothing because he knows that is an issue, particular issue for women in general, not to create a stereotype. But 1 Timothy 2:9, “In like manner also, that the women adorned themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair, or gold, or perils, or costly clothing, but which is proper for women professing godliness with good works.” Now, there’s a thought. Ladies, when you put your clothes on in the morning, is that thought governing what you’re doing? “Today, I want to profess my godliness in a very tangible, practical way. I want to think theologically about the way I dress. I need to think about the doctrine of sin. I need to think about bringing attention to myself. I need to stop thinking about myself, I need to start thinking about the glory of God and the purity of my husband and my boys, and the man of our congregation.” It’s a challenge, isn’t it? You need to dress with your husband’s pleasure in mind, yes, but with your brother’s purity in mind.
Modesty is humility in dress. It’s a willingness to submit to God, and it’s to a willingness to serve your brothers. That means, if I can think out loud with you and for you, don’t trust the world to decide what’s fashionable. The world? How does John describe the world? He says the world is marked by the pride of life and the lust of the eyes. Now, if that philosophy carries into the fashion world, and the clothes and designers of them, the Christian’s got to be alert. Because they’re going to design clothes that are about pride and indulgence and displaying myself, and they’re going to design clothes that appeal to the eye, and be it the lust of the eye.
Be careful. I’m sure you have struggled with it. With three daughters, we have. Listen to these words by R. Kent Hughes in his book, Set Apart. “Today, Abercrombie and Fitch is the leader in marketing lewdness. At the heart of their marketing strategy is their quarterly catalog, for which the company charges customers and requires proof that the buyers are at least 18, a sure way to make young customers want to get it. Catalogs like Naughty and Nice are light on the nice, and suggestive poses, provocative group photos, and interviews with porn stars point to heavy on the naughty. And every year, the catalog sells out. Even sizing has become pernicious, so that what is now labeled ‘large’ is equivalent to what was once ‘small’. And no one wants to be large, do they?”
Somebody put an article on my desk, I meant to get it this morning, didn’t get to it, about a new line of clothes for young girls that are provocative and unbecoming, and causing young girls at age 10 to think in ways that’s beyond their ability to comprehend. It’s a set of clothes patterned after Miley Cyrus. That’s the culture. But we are not to be conformed to the world, we’re to be renewed in our mind. Today’s girls’ clothes are designed to provoke anything but virginal thoughts. And ladies, there’s a big difference between dressing attractively and dressing to attract. Plunging neck lines, tight-fitting clothes, short dresses, short shorts, or clothes and unduly expose the body is neither holy, healthy, Christ-honoring, or healthful to your brothers. So, watch what you wear.
Listen to these words by Carolyn Mahaney, wife of CJ Mahaney, in her book called Girl Talk, as she speaks to her daughters. Excellent tool for all families. “Modesty is the greatest importance because it honors God, but it also protects our brothers in Christ from sin. Women are sometimes ignorant of the effect of their bodies on the eyes and hearts of man. But for the most part, if we’re honest, we’ll admit that we know exactly what we’re doing. We enjoy the attention of guys. As a pastor friend of ours once remarked, ‘Guys lust and girls want to be lusted after.'”
Then she quotes the words of a young man in his daily fight for purity. This is a young man called Kevin. “Each and every day is a battle. A battle against my sin, a battle against temptation, a battle against my depraved mind. Every morning I have to cry out for mercy and strength, and a renewed conviction to flee youthful lusts. The spirit is faithful to bring me the renewal I need to prepare me to do war against my sin. Yet, the temptations still exists. Sometimes, when I see a girl provocatively dressed, I’ll say to myself, ‘She probably doesn’t even know that 101 guys are going to devour her in their minds today. But then again, maybe she does.’ To be honest, I don’t know the truth. The truth of why she chooses to dress the way she does. All I know is that the way she represents herself to the world is bait for my sinful mind to latch onto, and I need to avoid it at all costs.” That is very real. If men are tempted to give themselves to pornography, women are tempted to commit it by the way they act and by the way they dress. I know those are hard truths, but they are true truths. If we are going to block the tackle of sexual temptation, this is an area.
Number six, create a control zone. Create a control zone. Basically, what I’m talking about here is, don’t go walking heedlessly into sin. Let’s go back to Proverbs 5, 6, and 7, some of the most critical sections in God’s word regarding these issues. In 7:6, we have this picture painted. Solomon says, “For out the window of my house, I looked through my lattice and saw among the simples, I perceived among the youths, a young man devoid of understanding, passing along the street near her corner.” He goes on to describe how this young man walks straight into the buzz saw of sexual temptation and gets ripped up. In fact, later on he will talk about the fact that the young man went to his death like an ox to the slaughter. The death of his purity, the death of his testimony, the death of his integrity. Look at verse 22. “Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter.” What a graphic picture. Like a dumb ox going into the abattoir, not knowing that in a few minutes, the stun gun will bring it all to an end. And the young man walks heedlessly in the twilight, done in to the red district. He creates no control zone.
When I was growing up in Northern Ireland, and also as a police officer during the height of the troubles there, during the time when the IRA was bombing the city of Belfast, much of the city, at least the commercial side of the city, was control zones. You’d see these yellow signs, Control Zone, which meant you can’t leave your car unparked in that area. If you did, it would get blown up by the British army, or it would get towed away. We tried to put a distance, we tried to make it harder for the terrorists to bring in a bomb in a vehicle. There were control zones, there were spaces that no one should be in. You and I need to create those kind of control zones in our lives. Create hedges with the opposite sex, create hedges with corrupting friendships, create hedges with places we go to. Hedges with media, cable or the internet.
Lot created no hedges. I’d love to take you there, but time it’s not going to allow me, but I’ll give you the verses. Remember in 2 Peter, read about how Lot in Sodom, he was oppressed day by day, by what he saw and what he heard, and his soul was defiled, and God had to deliver the godly out of that situation. But you know what? Lot brought a lot of that on himself. If you go back to Genesis 13:10-13, Abraham and Lot are going to part company. There’s been some tension between their herdsmen, and Abraham, taking the high ground, says, “Lot, you take first pick.” He looks across the plains and he picks a spot. The spot he picks, it says it was like the very garden of God. In those verses, especially verses 12 and 13, you read that Lot pitched his tent. Listen to these words, straight from the word of God, “Lot pitched his dent towards Sodom.” And the Bible said that city was very wicked. This was before God visited that city, but Lot took his family and pitched his tent towards Sodom. By the time the story is finished, Lot is in Sodom and Sodom is in Lot. He put no hedges. But Abraham stayed in the land of Canaan, and put a distance between himself and the surrounding corrupting culture.
You and I need to make some strategic retreats so that we can keep advancing in our walk with God. We need to create some control zones. We can’t put ourself in the way of temptation, and then pray, “Lord, deliver me from evil.” That’s the very temptation, see it and put it before Jesus. “Hey, jump off the building, he’ll catch you.” Jesus said, “No, I’m not going to tempt the Lord in your temptation.” And we do that. We act naively. We miscalculate the allure of the world and the compromise of our own flesh, and we put ourselves in harm’s way. We become a simpleton, and then we ask the Lord to deliver us from that which we should never have got into in the first place. The Christians should not, must not invite or incite temptation, but look to the Lord, and put a distance between himself and the surrounding culture.
Here’s another point that you and I want to grasp. Number seven, do the math. Do the math. That is, count the cost of sexual compromise. As mentioned previously, “The sin of the future seems as fair as an angel from heaven, but the sin of yesterday is as ugly as a fiend from hell.” Sin always looks better in prospect than it does in retrospect. You and I need to grasp the fact that there are no basement-priced sins. None. No basement-priced sins. That’s especially true of sexual sin. The cost is horrendous, physically, emotionally, spiritually, testimonially. Go back to Proverbs 5:7. “Therefore, hear me now, my children, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. Remove your way far from her. That is the seductress, and do not go near the door of her house.” You’ve got that separation going on. “Lest you give your honor to others and your years to the cruel one. Lest aliens be filled with your wealth and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, and you mourn at last and your flesh and body are consumed.” “Do the math,” says Solomon to his son. The cost is horrendous. We get the same thing in 6:32. “Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding. He who does so destroys his own soul. Wounds and dishonor he will get, and his reproach will not be wiped away, for jealousy is a husband’s fury. Therefore, he will not spare in the day of vengeance. He will accept no recompense, nor will he be appeased, though you give him many gifts.”
It is a slippery slope. And there is a scrap yard of broken lives at the bottom of it. You and I need to waken up. Just look at the price tag of this sin. Rodney Alcorn, whose writings are a blessing to me, his daughter Karina came to our church for a while, and [inaudible 00:45:17] Karina, beautiful girl. He sat one day and wrote to himself, consequences of a moral tumble. These are just some of them. “I would grieve the Lord who redeemed me. I would drag his sacred name into the mud. I would reflect untold hurt on my wife Nancy, my best friend and loyal wife. I would lose Nancy’s respect and trust. I would hurt my beloved daughters, Karina and Angie. I would create a form of guilt awfully hard to shake. I would form memories and flashbacks that could plague future intimacy with my wife. I would undermine the faithful example and hard work of other Christians in our community. I would lose the respect of my fellow pastors and elders and bring shame upon them.” And he went on and on, that’s just a few. You and I need to look before we leap. We need to keep this in mind. We need to rehearse day by day, guys, and ladies, that whatever sin promises, it will never deliver. And there are no basement-priced sins.
Tell you a funny story. Some years ago when I was a single teenager, I was on a youth retreat in Castlewellan Castle in Northern Ireland. One of our friends had come up, just for the night on the Friday night, and he had just got engaged. A couple of us got out, side into the car lot of this beautiful castle, and we started messing around with his car with shaving form and all sorts of stuff. As we were in the middle of it, he comes out, finds us in the middle of the crime. Two of us were doing this, and so we take off and he starts changing us, and so we split. And he chose me to go after. He comes barreling after me, and he’s much bigger than me. I know I’m going to get pounding if he gets me.
We’re running around this gravel car lot for a little bit, and I noticed around the edges of the castle, this two, three foot wall. Stone, beautiful stone. In the midst of it all, I run towards this wall and decide to jump over it to get away, make my escape, and that’s what I do. On the other side of that three foot wall was a twenty foot drop. I felt like the coyote and the road runner for one minute. I was like, “Oops.” And in God’s goodness, I landed, sprained my ankle a little bit, but was wasn’t much worse for the wear.
I’ve often looked back on that as a reminder, always look before you leap. That which looks like three foot on this side is often twenty foot on the other. That little sin, or that indiscretion, or that thing you think, “okay, I can do that,” has hidden consequences and hidden costs that you learn too late to do anything about.
One more, one more piggybacking off that. Play for keeps. Play for keeps, because sin plays for keeps. You need to put your game face on. You need to keep the cost of sexual sin in mind. It’s enormous. The glory of Christ is everything, hell is forever, and you and I can’t play with this.
Jesus thought exactly, as we close and the team prepares to come up, Matthew 5:27, “Listen to the Lord Jesus Christ. You have heard that it has been said to those of old, you shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you, for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you, for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish than your whole body be cast into hell.” Those are mighty strong words, right? And Jesus is saying, “Hey, play for keeps. Get real and get radical about this temptation and this trap. The stakes are enormous. This kind of lifestyle, unrequited and unrepented of, leads to hell itself. Better to deal with this. Better to lose one eye, one hand than your whole body to go into hell.”
And you know that Jesus is talking in hyperbole, I hope. Some took this somewhat literally, some early fathers and those around the time just after the New Testament actually physically harmed themselves. Some castrated themselves in an act to protect them. This is a hard issue deal. Jesus wants us to be radical. You know if you cut out one eye, you’ve got the other to see with and lust with. It’s hyperbole. And it’s Jesus’ way of saying, “Whatever it takes, whatever the cost to respond to the onslaught of a seducing society, then do that thing. Pay that price.” Amputations are painful, but amputations must be thorough, and in the end, amputations are worthwhile because the cancer is removed and life is preserved.
There cannot be a tepid or timid response to sexual sin. We need to be ruthless. Is that your game face? Is that how you approach this culture on a weekly basis? That you go to bed on a Sunday night after the joy and sweetness of worship and fellowship with God’s people, your tank is full, you’ve enjoyed the worship, you’ve listened to the word, and then you go to bed, and you get up in the morning and you put your helmet on, your breastplate on, your belt of truth. You grab the sword of the spread, and you grab the shield of faith, and the breastplate of righteousness, because you know what? You’re going to end into a battlefield, and you’ve got your game face on. You’ve got your war paint on. Because that’s what’s at stake. We must not coddle our flesh and we must not play with sin.
We must not part with sin as with a friend. We must part with sin as an enemy that must be eliminated. Christ died for our sins and we must die to our sins. If we are not killing sin, as the old Puritan said, Richard Baxter, sin will be killing us. Listen to these words. “With sin, you must venture all on the first attempt. Don’t think that you can take sin on by half measures. When facing an enemy in combat, I’m told you don’t wait to see what kind of fire par he will hurl at you, you unload the magazine when he first rears his ugly head.”
Well, that’s the way it used to be. I feel for some of our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, because the modern soldier has to work today within rules of engagement, which are often very nebulous, are often written to guard the government, not to protect the soldier. In fact, that was one of the things that bothered me when I was in the police in Northern Ireland. The British army and ourselves operated under what was called a yellow card. If we would find ourselves in a situation we find threatening to our lives, there were certain conditions that had to be met under certain circumstances before we could open fire. How ridiculous. “Would you stop please, before I have to shoot you?” I know we laugh, but sometimes that’s how we treat sin. Jesus tells us to unload the magazine as soon as it rears its ugly head, because sin plays for keeps. If you’re not killing it, it will be killing you.
Let’s pray. Lord, we find ourselves again, to be honest, pummeled and battered by the word this morning, because we know our hearts all to well. This is one of those besetting sins. We live in a culture on the slide. We live in a culture of sexual hyperbole. When it has been made into something it’s not, and it defines everything. Lord, help us to renew our minds this morning. Help us to make some arguments from what we have learned this morning, for the protection of our purity. We thank you that we don’t fight this alone. We thank you for the indwelling spirit. We thank you for the presence of Christ in us, the hope of glory. Thank you for the part of your word, “Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world.” Therefore, help is to overcome.
We want to be an overcomer, as the book of Revelation’s been teaching us. “He that overcomes will eat of the tree of life. He that overcomes will reign with me as I sit on my father’s throne. He that overcomes will be given a white stone and a new name.” Lord, help us to overcome.
Lord, for those of us that have fallen and failed, we thank you if we confess our sin, Jesus is faithful, and just forgive us all sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Lord, we thank you there’s new beginnings in Christ, new chapters of obedience to be written. A testimony can be won back, a marriage can be salvaged, and love can be regained. God, help us to do that work, with your work in us. Lord, help us to play for keeps. Help us to put our game face on, help us as we’re about to sin. To take up our cross, to let the world scorn us about the way we dress, or our commitments to purity, or how we view dating. We don’t need to watch everything they watch. We don’t need to be part of every conversation at school. Lord, to help us to bear that reproach, help us to stand apart, help us to stand up for Jesus. Because we know that if we’ll control ourselves now, someday, we will control all things with you, that the meek shall inherit the earth. Help us not to live for that which is passing. Sex is passing. Help us to live for that which is permanent, relationships between each other in Christ and for Christ. And everybody said, Amen.