Do you remember the scandal that involved President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky? He had a sexual relationship with a young intern in his office while he was serving as President. There was a lot of debate at the time.
It was interesting to note that when interviewed about the affair most people felt that this was a private matter and no one had the right to judge or comment. What people were really saying was that they didn't feel they had the right to make a moral judgment on the conduct of another.
This is because we have come to a point in our history where morality has become a "relative" thing and can no longer be judged objectively. In other words, I have my morality and you have yours, and what we aim to do is not find what is right but rather find out how to respect each other's morality and privacy. The worst sin is not adultery, it is intolerance of another's set of moral values. Of course, as Christians we have long held that there is an objective set of values and morals established by God that are recorded in the Bible.
It was upon these values and moral standards that the United States was first established, and later used as the foundation for all of our laws and social systems. Because nation has lived by these values for several centuries, it has become rich and powerful. And I dare say that undermining these core values will eventually lead to the loss of greatness and the weakening of our position in the world.
America will not be the first nation to lose its way because of the sexual sins of its leaders and lack of high morals in its laws. Ancient Greece and Rome suffered the loss of their empires largely due to the decrease of social morality. Even God's chosen people, the Jews, were destroyed as a nation largely due to their foray into pagan religions which often included forbidden sexual practices.
Our task as Christians is to do what we have always done, and that is to speak the truth in love in reminding our world that God's laws and God's value system never change. In this chapter, therefore, I'd like to talk about sexual immorality and what God's word says about today's attitude and practice in this area of human behavior.
Sexual Immorality is Now Acceptable in our Society
Recently I read an article stating that "adultery" was our culture's most acceptable sin. I believe the author was using the word adultery in the broad sense referring to all forms of sexual immorality, and not the more narrow biblical idea of sex outside of marriage.
In this sense it is easy to see that our culture really does overlook and excuse sexual sin.
A. Sex is exploited through pornography and other forms of media. We are truly becoming what Peter described as a people "having eyes full of adultery," II Peter 2:14. We've become desensitized to nudity, public intercourse and sexual activity on TV, in books, etc.
B. Extra marital affairs are no longer seen as a terrible sin but rather a transitional experience. And yet the Bible says that, "adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of heaven." Galatians 5:19-21.
C. Premarital sex is no longer considered as fornication (I Thessalonians 4:3-5) and condemned as wrong (I Corinthians 6:9). Today the effort is to promote "safe" premarital sex, not abstinence from premarital sex. Christians have known for a long time that the safest sex is that which is practiced by life partners in a committed relationship of marriage.
D. And what about marriage? Today we see nothing wrong with couples living together without the commitment of marriage vows. When questioned, they say that their relationship is as good as, and the same as marriage. However, they quickly concede that if they get tired of their partner it is a lot easier to leave because they don't have to deal with a divorce since they are not united legally. These people want it both ways. They want the benefits that come with a secure life commitment, but refuse to take the step to actually make a commitment in a legal marriage vow.
E. There are so many other examples of the lowering of sexual morals that we don't have time to cover:
- Domestic sexual abuse and abuse of children sexually.
- Homosexuality as an acceptable, even as a desirable lifestyle.
- Abortion, prostitution, and so on and so forth.
In every area of sexual immorality the effort is to lower the biblical standard or do away with it all together. We are entering an age where there is sexual anarchy and, unfortunately, our society will pay a heavy price for this.
Sexual Immorality is the Most Unhealthy Sin in Today's Culture
Solomon understood this when he wrote:
The one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense;
He who would destroy himself does it.
- Proverbs 6:32
Witness the destruction of Mr. Clinton's Presidency, his honor as a man, the ties of his family and his place in history, all for a few moments of sexual pleasure. Adultery is unhealthy to the body. Those with AIDS and venereal diseases can tell of the suffering their improper sexual relations have caused them.
Look at our inner cities and we will see that at the root of many problems are the unwanted babies being cared for by unmarried women who were not able to put off their sexual activity until marriage. Observe the many broken homes in every community and note that families are destroyed because one partner searches for sexual adventure outside their home and marriage.
So much of the guilt, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression suffered by so many in our society today can be traced back to improper sexual activity regretted by those who suffer emotionally long after the sexual encounters are gone. We are still suffering from the problems caused by the so called sexual revolution of the 60's and 70's, and we are paying the price for breaking down the walls that protected us from the ravages of sexual sin.
Sexual Immorality is the Most Unforgiven Sin in Today's Culture
The problem that occurs when you have relative morality is that you cannot objectively determine what is truly and universally right or wrong. The net result is that you cancel out the notion that real sin exists. It follows that if there is no real sin (only relative sin) then there is no need for a real savior, real forgiveness or personal redemption.
In our society, Jesus becomes a kind of benign spiritual teacher and cheerleader to help us be our best selves and live happily in this world; not our crucified Savior. In this kind of environment:
- People refuse to acknowledge adultery or sexual sin as any kind of wrong.
- Sexual sin becomes a weakness, a mistake, a bad judgment, a lifestyle choice or none of your business, but it is never a damnable sin! Never a destructive act!
The problem here is that sin is sin whether a person acknowledges it or not, and sin has its effects whether a person realizes it or not. For example, let's say that a two year old boy playing "Superman" decides to jump from a balcony on the second floor of his house thinking that since he is wearing the red Superman cape he will take to the air like his hero in the movies. The little boy does not understand the principle of gravity; all he knows is that he is wearing the cape, and like Superman, he should be able to fly. Of course, we know what will happen. Even though he is ignorant of the law of gravity, this ignorance will not protect him. If he jumps he will fall because the law of gravity works whether people acknowledge it or not.
It is the same with sexual or any other kind of sin. There is a universal and absolute law regarding sin, "The wage of sin is death" (Romans 6:23a). In other words, if you sin (disobey God's commands), not only will you suffer physical death, as all do eventually, but you will also be subject to spiritual death because you will be judged and condemned as a guilty sinner. Everyone is subject to God's spiritual laws in the same way that we are all subject to physical laws, whether we know them or agree with them, or not.
In today's culture, people are suffering from the ravages of sexual sins. Disease, depression, shame, broken lives and families. But because they refuse to see these as sin, they also refuse to look for and find the solution for their ailment which is forgiveness from God. That same verse, Romans 6:23 contains the answer to all who are suffering from the results of sin: "..but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
God extends forgiveness and eternal life to all who come to Christ in faith, but that faith requires us to acknowledge that our problem is sin .
There is no forgiveness without repentance, and there can be no repentance unless we recognize and acknowledge that we have broken God's laws. You can't have the liberating experience of total forgiveness without the conscious confession of real sin. One is impossible without the other.
Dealing with the Temptation of Sexual Sin
1. Recognize that you are being tempted
6Then the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it."
- Genesis 4:6-7
When sexual sin tempts you, realize that it's not just:
- A phase
- How I feel
- Who I am
- What I need
- No big deal
It is sin, and will have physical, psychological and especially spiritual consequences (I Corinthians 6:18). Sexual sin is always wrapped up in a very attractive package so you will feel that it is somehow acceptable, even desirable; but make no mistake, a sin is a sin no matter how it's presented.
Essentially, the temptation is to step beyond the boundaries that God has established in the matter of human sexuality (sexual intimacy within marriage only). There are a variety of sexual sins, but in the end they are all the same: disobeying God's commands regarding human sexuality. So when sexual situations occur, know what is really happening: you are being tempted to disobey God.
2. Remember who you are
If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.
- I Corinthians 3:17
Everyone is tempted to disobey God in the matter of sex. Christians, however, deal with this matter differently because they are motivated by the desire to be "holy," and not just the desire to be gratified sexually. Sex is part of our lives but must take its proper place within our lives so that we can maintain our holiness. God has created us as sexual beings and this element in our nature serves our emotional, physical and spiritual wellness.
We need to remember, however, that our primary goal is to be holy, not sexually fulfilled. When these two needs collide, the need to be holy should take precedence. For example, you are single, you have sexual needs. What are your options?
- You have sex with a boyfriend/girlfriend?
- You consume porn?
- You abstain?
The last option is the best because it will give you what the first two won't: peace of mind, obedience to God, spiritual power, a clear conscience and freedom in prayer. Someone will say, but what about sexual satisfaction? The problem here is that sexual satisfaction obtained through activity that disobeys God's commands is temporary and, especially for the Christian, not worth the loss of joy and peace that come with it. Everyone who experiences sexual feelings must choose holiness as his/her best option.
Being holy before God is much more satisfying over a much longer period with much greater rewards than the fleeting pleasure of sex obtained in a sinful way (see Hebrews 11:25).
3. Look for the way out
12Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 13No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
- I Corinthians 10:12-13
God understands that we are subject to sexual temptation; this is nothing new. Note that Paul says that when we are tempted, we should look for the way God provides that will enable us to endure. When we are tempted in anything, including sexual temptation, God is there to guide us through, showing us the way out without falling. He does not remove the temptation, He guides us through the danger.
Most times, however, we are not listening or just doing what we want to do. But if we call out to God, He will show us a way out that may include:
- The remembrance of His word
- The encouragement of a friend
- Inner strength to say no
- The ability to stand still and let the wave of temptation wash over us without taking us along
Whatever and whenever it comes, temptation to sin cannot overpower us if we look for the way out that God provides.
Sexual immorality is a temptation for both those who are married and single. For singles who need intimacy and seek partners, the temptation to easy or casual sex is great in our sexually immoral society; but casual sex is not a good way to find serious partners.
For marrieds who may be bored or in conflict with their spouse, sexual adventure outside of marriage or divorce may seem attractive. We should realize, however, that disobeying God in sexual matters is sin, and God warns us that all sins will be punished. With sexual sins the negative results often start here and then finish with the loss of our souls. Obeying God, on the other hand, brings the great reward of salvation and eternal life. Paul summarizes the issue in I Corinthians in a most practical way.
1Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. 3The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6But this I say by way of concession, not of command. 7Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.
8But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. 9But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
- I Corinthians 7:1-9
Here Paul lays out the basics for sexual satisfaction within a Christian context.
- Most people cannot remain single because of their sexual needs. (vs. 7-8)
- Marriage is a refuge from this and other temptations. (vs. 2)
- Both men and women have sexual needs (which are different) and it is the responsibility of each spouse to know and satisfy the needs of the other. (vs. 3-6)
- Unmarried people (widows, divorcees, singles) should be married to fulfill, among other things, their sexual needs. (vs. 9)
In closing, let me say that I encourage both married and single people to strive for holiness when tempted, and allow God to guide you during these times. I also hope that single people will not be discouraged but rather continue praying that God will guide you to a happy and holy marriage.