Background Scripture: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11-20
This lesson continues a series of lessons dealing with problems in our society. We have talked about injustice, poverty, self control and relationship restoration. In these final two lessons in this study, we will be looking at the issues related to sex and illness. We would like to think that we could live lives that are free of issues, but we all know better. When we encounter issues beyond our control, we need to seek Scripture to see how we should approach God's views. When we handle them to the 'best of our ability' or we react solely based on instinct, as we naturally would, we are often in opposition to what God calls us to do.
Berkley and I have both been reading the book "Soul Keeping" by John Ortberg. It offers some interesting ways to think about our souls. In short, he writes our four concentric circles. Our will is our inner circle, where we decide what we want to do (and don't want to do). Our mind is the next circle that encompasses the first and how it makes the decisions, sometimes with and sometimes against our will. In what I like to refer to as the Dr Seuss passage in Romans 7:15-20, Paul wrote "For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me". When we see this dilemma in our own selves, we see our mind waging war against our will. The next larger circle is our body, which is what we use to fulfill what our mind and will have decided to do. Our soul is what Dallas Willard calls the largest circle. When we are acting in accordance with what we will to do, we are integrating the soul. However, when we act against our wills, we are disintegrating our soul. For believers, our wills are to be based on what God would have us do, as we all strive to please and glorify God in the utmost being of ourselves.
Obviously, since we have the issues that we are studying in this and previous lessons, we all have problems integrating our soul with who we want to be. One of the areas of life that destroys many people is in the area of sex. There are so many different voices in our society that are trying to make an "anything goes" attitude regarding sex acceptable. Just this week, the 50 Shades of Grey movie came out with much fanfare. If it has done nothing else, it hopefully has helped raise concern based on the backlash that has been posted in many places, detailing the harm that this and other movies, along with the associated lifestyle they promote can do to people. Some say that open relationships are okay and that sexual relationships outside of marriage are beneficial in some (or, as they say, many) way(s). There are so many perverse attitudes about sex. We are told that it doesn't matter who we have sex with and we have become a society that has few boundaries as to what is and isn't acceptable in a sexual relationship. Let me be clear - we aren't promoting boring 'routine' sexual relationships within marriage - God doesn't do this in His own word - but there is a balance between being creative and abusive.
This issue has sadly impacted many families in many ways and has caused all sorts of mayhem. We have talked with people who think it's somehow ungodly if they enjoy a passionate, creative, fun and fulfilling sexual relationship with their spouse, which is in no way even biblical - extremely puritanical maybe - but not biblical. God created sex and he created a husband and wife to enjoy it - A LOT!!!! But as with everything God created for good, Satan has found a way to pervert. Sex has to be at the top of that list. We think that we are a depraved society, far worse than any before us. But as we look at some scriptures, we will see that there is truly nothing new under the sun. Sex has been perverted since the beginning and will continue to be. But you can make choices that keep you from stumbling and falling head first into areas of sexual sin than can harm you and those you love, and perhaps as you take a stand for your own life, you will impact someone around you to do the same.
Paul stated that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God. We often think of the kingdom of God as being heaven and eternal life. However, the kingdom of God exists in the heart of a believer. It is here and now and wherever you go, you take the kingdom of God with you. As believers, we have the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. Do we sometimes forget that we are taking Him with us in all that we say and do? What would it change in our lives if we realized that? When you are a child and as you grow, you know that there are things that you would not do if your mom or dad was around. You may realize that you could be punished or perhaps you were told that there are certain things your family would never do. Whenever you did them, you have a sense of remorse, but you likely would never have done them when a parent was present. Why is it that we give more credence to that than we do to the presence of the Holy Spirit?
Paul mentioned the sexually immoral and idolaters and adulterers and men who had sex with men and thieves and greedy and drunkards and slanderers and swindlers - all as examples of those who will not inherit the kingdom of God. We look at this list and some can say that they don't fall in one category or another. However, this list includes a wide range of sins, down to the level of slandering (lying). While many of these may not be descriptive of you, we all need to realize that there are bits and pieces of these things that are prevalent in many lives of believers, potentially impacting many people.
When we think of sin, especially in the realm of sexual sin, we have to ask why people (especially believers) continue reckless behavior. Many lives have been ruined in many ways - relationships damaged, diseases caught, characters ruined, and for many, guilty consciences that may take years to get over. I wonder if we took the time to look at the long term consequences that could potentially occur - would we change our behavior? Unfortunately, many people think themselves to be the exception and believe that nothing consequential will happen from their behavior. People risk much for short term rewards. A few months ago, Berkley and I watched a special on TV about the life of a hacker, found guilty of major identify theft. Over a number of years, he became very rich (on other people's money). From prison, he offered this advice to young people - go to school and make your money legally. However, do you really think that in his heyday he would have taken that advice from someone else? Probably not. He likely believed that he would not get caught.
As believers, we have been justified and freed from the penalty of sin. We have been given new life (and are sanctified) so that we should be freed from the practice of sin. As our pastor said a couple of weeks ago, as we mature in our faith, we should sin less and it should grieve us more. If we find that this is not the case in our lives, we need to take a step back and ask ourselves if we have truly made Jesus the Lord of our lives and not just our savior. It isn't until we die that we are glorified and freed from the power of sin. If someone tells you that you can attain perfection in this life, they are misled, but if you find that you are not maturing in this life, you need to ask some questions of yourself.
In Christ, we do have liberty, but only when we exercise constraints. Some people say that they don't want any constraints. We have constraints in almost every aspect of life. Those constraints aren't always a bad thing. When we drive our cars down the street, we are constrained by the traffic signals and stop signs. The speed limits are set (in most cases) to protect the drivers. Students in school are constrained by what they can and cannot do, often because of the good of the class. We plainly see the value in constraints, at least in some aspects of life.
Paul knew that full adherence to the Law was impossible, but the Law was still the standard. Even when we make mistakes in life, we need to remember that the standard stays the same. If you have participated in sinful behavior in the past, a larger problem occurs when we try to justify our behavior to somehow say that God is in favor of 'our sin', in 'our situation'. We must hold true to God's standard which doesn't change. Society will change. Culture will change. Things that were not accepted in the past will be acceptable, yet God's standard has not and will not change.
Paul said that everything is not beneficial. We know in our own lives that bad behavior often leads to bad habits and addictions. A smoker once said that they were not mastered by smoking. They could stop anytime that they wanted. In fact, they had done so hundreds of times. We are easily mastered by addictive behavior - why would we want to give it a foothold in our lives?
Paul went on to write that food and the things we eat are based on our appetites, which have been given by God. Some people may say that if they have any instinct, it must be God given, but we know that is not true. Some people have instincts to steal from others, which we know to be wrong behavior. Even with our instincts, we, as humans, are not to be driven by them. Animals certainly act out of instinct, because that is all that they can do, unless they are tamed and trained otherwise. We have been given power to resist our instinct, the ability to understand situations and the ability to make an inward change to help change our instinctive behavior.
Certainly, when we are hungry and have an appetite, we can go to the refrigerator or pantry and get most anything that we want. Some of the food we eat may not be good for us, or helpful for our diets. For some people, allergies and other diseases make the choice of food to be a life or death decision. However, most people can stomach a lot of things without short term problems. What is different in the area of sexual desires? Can you make the same case? Obviously, we know that it is wrong to fulfill your sexual urges any way you want, at any time and with anybody. Beyond the legal ramifications, we know that sexual relationships touch at a very deep level, pervading our body and soul. Remember that soul discussion, about how what we do either builds the will, mind and body or it disintegrates the same? Sexual sin disintegrates our soul, impacting our spirit and our social relationships.
When we think of our physical appetites and our bellies and food, we see that God has no permanent plan for such. However, our bodies are set apart. We talk of how our soul is with God eternally. The damage we do to our soul, while it can be overcome, will have an impact on our eternal relationship with our Lord. Additionally, as we engage in behavior that we know to be wrong, we are identifying Christ with that behavior. Do you stop and think that when you engage in gossip - Christ is sitting with you? When you look at pornography - the eyes of Christ are looking as well. When you engage in any sin - Christ is engaging in it with you. He lives in you and goes wherever you go. We don't pluck Him out of our heart and tell Him to stay home while we go sin. It doesn't work that way. We are told in scripture that when we are tempted, God provides a way out of that situation. For some who read this, sexual sin may be a problem. For others, it may be one of the other sins - but regardless of which sin we tend to struggle with - we ALL struggle with sin and we all have a way to deal with that 'issue'. Perhaps we need an accountability partner who will ask us the hard questions. Maybe we need to push the pause button and look into the future and what will happen if we go ahead with the sin before us. What will the face of your spouse look like when they learn of your infidelity? What will you feel like knowing you have caused pain that rips at the core of a person? There are other things we can do to keep ourselves from sin. Social media is ripe with opportunity to sin. If you are married, you should be VERY careful as to how you interact with people from your past and of the opposite sex. Cell phones can also be a hazard. If you think you are living a 'clean' life, yet you have your phone password protected, and your spouse doesn't know the password - you are not living clean. There should be no secrecy within a marriage. Berkley and I can look at each other's phones, FB, Instagram and even email anytime we wish. We have chosen to keep those areas free from secrecy. Not because we don't trust each other - but because we feel that keeping those things open sustains our trust with each other. Sin grows in darkness and secrecy - not in the light, where everyone can see it.
Other behaviors can also harm our bodies. Drunkenness, drug abuse and gluttony can cause many medical issues and impact lives in many ways. However, sexual sin impacts our bodies in many more aspects. I've read that sexual immorality has an immediate and profound but subtle effect upon the human psyche. It dehumanizes us. It animalizes us. It brutalizes us. Those who indulge in it grow continually coarser and less sensitive, showing less regard for the welfare of others. They tend to become more self-centered and more desirous of having only their own needs met. Would this be where we would want to end up? Would you want someone to describe you this way?
We are temples of the Holy Spirit and we are not our own. When we consider that the Holy Spirit goes with us, and we find that we are still held hostage by our sinful desires, have we forgotten that we were bought with a price? We need to be open to whatever God brings before us. However, when we allow these other behaviors to take residence in our bodies, are we truly open to His call?
Do we realize that we are in a spiritual war today? I believe that we often forget this and tell ourselves that our behavior really doesn't matter. At times, it seems as if we are playing some religious game. Yet when we understood the sinful things that we are doing, we begin to realize that we need to live our lives with more intent. A soldier would not go into a battlefield without being alert. You and I, as believers, need to be alert when we live our lives.
Is there any destructive behavior that is present in your life that you allow to take root and fester? I would imagine that if we dug deep enough, we'd all find something, but right now, the question is this - what do you know that you are doing that you should not be doing? Are you toeing the line and do you believe that you are capable of avoiding being caught? If there is something that comes to mind immediately, I believe that the Holy Spirit is trying to tell you something. The question is this - will you listen? Can you see far enough ahead to understand that this sin in your life could impact not only you, but the very people that you love? Are you really willing to take that risk?
Our prayer is that we all will seek God and listen to what He says to us. If there are safeguards that you need to put into your life to keep you from sexual immorality, what is holding you back? If there are relationships that you are involved in that you know are wrong, are you willing to put an end to those relationships? Satan will seek any and every way to trip you up. Let us be diligent so that we realize that trip wires are in our paths, and not allow ourselves to be blinded by sin in our lives. We pray for you and ask for your prayers for us.