Mark 7:20-23; Genesis 2:24-25
Imagine you are in Toyko right now. 24 million people – up to 6 hours each day with no electricity – that means no lights, music, TV, heat, cooling, fresh air, cooking or elevator since you are probably in a high rise. Can’t reliably travel to other areas because the mass transit system is slowed down and you don’t know if the other area is in a black-out.
Then this week you get the news - your drinking water is no longer safe for infants – too much radioactive iodine for a baby. You quickly head out to get bottled water, but it is all sold out within 5 minutes of the government announcement – and that with a gallon limit per person. How do you feel? Even if the stores could somehow get enough pure water for people, you’ll have to go out once or twice a day to get your ration of pure water. This contamination – this impurity – makes so many areas of your life harder & more painful. It’s pretty discouraging!
Contrast that with the water in our state. A couple months ago I met someone who wanted to visit Vermont. As I was describing fun things to do here, I mentioned fishing. “Do you have trout?” “Lots of trout in Vermont.” “Do you have to travel a long ways to get to them?” “No, I can generally find a place to fish trout within 10 minutes, anywhere in the state except Burlington.” They looked at me with the most stunned look, so I explained, “Around 93% of all of our brooks, streams and rivers are clean enough for trout.” Trout need very clean water to live so back in the 1960’s, only 60% of Vermont’s brooks, rivers and streams were clean enough for trout to live in. Today it is more than 90%. Purity brings special blessings, benefits and enhanced life.
That is what we want to talk about today as we tackle the question someone submitted: “Preach about sexual purity both in and out of Christian marriage.” There is a great benefit to sexual purity – just like pure water. Let’s start at the beginning.
PROPOSITION: Sexual purity brings blessing, inner peace, life and strength to relationships while sexual immorality brings God’s judgment, guilt, turmoil, pain and loss.
I. God created sexual relations Genesis 2:24-25
READ Gen 2:24-25. (“they will have sexual relations”). This is the first mention of sexual relations.
A. God created sex to be pleasurable
Usually when Americans speak about God and sex they immediately picture God as some kind of cosmic killjoy. They think He is against any fun. But notice here that it is God who created sex. It is God who specifically designed sex to be pleasurable. What God made is good – very good!
B. God created sex to bind two different people together (Gen 1:27)
Not only did God create sexual relations to be very pleasurable, but God also created sex to bind two different people together. In v 24, these two young people were to be united and “they became one flesh.” God designed the sexual union to bind two people together as if they were one body. Back in Gen 1:27, God created humans in two distinct and separate genders – men & women. Men and women think differently, they feel differently, they approach life differently – just look at us, we look different. So it is going to take something very strong to unite these differences for a lifetime. One of the designed in purposes of sex is to create these strong bonds – it involves the joining of our souls in a way that cannot be easily discarded. You can forget lots of things in life – but almost everyone can remember their first time.
C. God created sex to produce children (Mal 2:15; Gen 4:1)
Another reason that God created sex is to produce children. Referring to becoming one flesh here, Malachi 2:15 says “Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are His. And why one? Because He (the Lord) was seeking godly offspring.” Sex is meant to produce children – a generation that is moral and spiritually on track.
D. God created sex to be done within marriage.
Finally we see here in v 24 that God created sex to be done within marriage. READ v 24. That is why sex is also called “the marriage bed” and “marital relations.” And what is the result of sex done God’s way? READ v 25. There is a purity, a naturalness, a comfort in being together to share each others’ body in marriage. Purity, in the sexual area, is very important to God. It is what makes marriages last. It is what helps godly children develop. It strengthens society and reflects God’s goodness and pleasure.
That picture seems very different from what we see in media and culture around us. Our nation has polluted sex – it has contaminated God’s plan. What was good & glorious has been made filthy and profane. We have traded the purity of water in Vermont for the nuclear contamination Japan is facing. Our culture has reduced sex to something of FAR smaller value then God originally made it.
But we can make a difference – we can chose to be counter-cultural – we can again put a value on purity in the sexual area whether we are married or single. We can glorify God by our attitudes and actions. In your hands is a heart. This represents your heart – originally pure & uncontaminated in the sexual area. This is one of the greatest gifts you can give your spouse or your future spouse. It is a gift that shows them they are the most important person to you out of the 7 billion on earth. A sexually pure heart is something you can only give to one person. No wonder God’s warnings against sex outside of marriage are so strong in the Bible. He wants us to use that gift in the most beneficial way possible!
II. God warns against sex outside of marriage
Turn to Mark 7:20. We read this passage together earlier. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day stressed the importance of God’s cleanliness – unfortunately they stressed physical rituals like ceremonially washing one’s hands. God is far more interested in a clean, or pure, heart. The disciples asked Jesus to explain.
A. Jesus Mark 7:20-23 (7:14-23)
READ v 20-23. Notice that in this short list, there are three different words that speak about sexual purity – “Sexual immorality” in v 21, “adultery” in v 21, and “lewdness”in v 22. These things are evil in Jesus’ sight.
“Adultery” is the easiest to define. Adultery happens anytime a married person has sensual relations with anyone other than their spouse. It can be an office affair, a dalliance with an old flame, or a one-night stand. Elsewhere, Jesus warns us that adultery starts in our mind – pornography, bodice-ripping romance novels, all that rampant sexual immorality portrayed as good in media. This is awful pollution far worse than the radioactive elements leaking in Japan. These things pollute what God means to be good and pure. Don’t do it – but adultery is like taking this heart God made as one and ripping it to little pieces. Adultery so damages the good God wants that there is little left of the heart.
“Sexual immorality” refers to the way we sex that is NOT God’s plan. Since we have already mentioned adultery, this primarily focuses on those who are not married. There are right, or pure, ways to use God’s awesome gift of sex and there are wrong, or contaminated, ways to use sex. Wrong ways are called evil in v 23 – they destroy God’s plan for peace, joy, love, fun, justice and honor just as much as lying, cheating, stealing and murder does. So how do we know what Jesus considered immoral sexually? By looking into the Bible He used – our Old Testament.
B. Old Testament law (first 5 books)
(Adultery (Exod. 20:14, Lev. 18:20, Deut. 5:18); Sex before marriage (Exod. 22:16−17); Prostitution (Heb. zānāh; Lev. 19:29, Deut. 23:18); Shrine-prostitution (Heb. qādēš,qedēšāh; Deut. 23:17); Transvestism (Deut. 22:5); Homosexual acts (Lev. 18:22); Incest (Lev. 18:6−18; Deut. 22:30; 27:20, 22−23); Bestiality (Lev. 18:23, Deut. 27:21); Rape(Deut. 22:25−29) )
In II. B. on your outline I listed what the first 5 books of the Bible say is immoral. (READ). It is a pretty comprehensive list. When we have sexual relations with someone else it is like taking our pure heart (lift up) and tearing a piece off. Let’s see how this might look to God. In this condition, God is pleased and glorified. Now let’s say you have sex at your prom (tear a piece off). Now let’s say you mess around that summer (tear a piece off). Now let’s say you start playing around with pornography or reading/watching those graphic romance novels (crinkle up your heart). College dorms are becoming like brothels today with coed dorms and even coed rooms (rip off a couple areas). Movies are big at encouraging you to lose your virginity and live together outside of marriage so rip off another piece and really crinkle it all up. NOW how does that look to God? Like you wasted His gift! Like you took the most valuable painting in the world are ruined it. YOU MEET YOUR LIFETIME SOUL MATE and want to get married – what do you have to give to them? It is embarrassing if we were honest. Americans have messed up God’s world badly with their sexual freedom.
Don’t believe me, listen to the words in a news article this week written by Jennifer Moses who is Jewish, liberal & feminist. The article is subtitled “Women of a liberated generation wrestle with their eager-to-grow-up daughters – and their own pasts.” I’m focusing just on her generation’s reaction to their participation in the sexual revolution.
- She says that the women of her generation regret the ways they acted sexually. They were freed by the pill not to worry about pregnancy, freed by society not to be thought of as a whore and told by the media to find their womanhood in the bedroom. What are their conclusions?
- Her friend said “If I could do it again, I wouldn’t even have slept with my own husband before marriage. Sex is the most powerful thing there is.” That power for good was wasted.
- Moses said that in her circle of girlfriends there is not a single one that doesn’t have feelings of lingering discomfort about their sexual past. They ALL feel guilty – in fact she says she PERSONALLY has never met a woman who said she wished she would have ‘experimented’ more.
Moses also says, “now, with the exception of some Mormons, evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, scads of us don’t know how to teach our own sons and daughters not to give away their bodies so readily.” I didn’t make this up – I didn’t save this from some obscure voice in the past – it was in this week’s paper. Imagine being a parent & regretting your sexual past then seeing only 3 groups in our country who even have a clue on how to help the next generation go a better way – a pure and positive way!
What a call of affirmation that we are going the right way when we proclaim that God made sex to be pleasurable, powerfully uniting and the foundation for the next generation BUT ONLY IF we save it for that one person of the opposite sex in marriage.
Back to Mark 7! The final word Jesus uses to describe what pollutes our hearts sexually, disgusts God, and harms relationships is “lewdness.” Lewdness describes someone who is obscene, indecent and preoccupied with sex. If you have a different English translation, you’ll have a different word here because the Greek is hard to translate with just one word. It refers to shameless, open and perverse sexual immorality. It is those things I don’t care to mention but are readily found on the internet. Other English words used to translate it are lasciviousness, moral debauchery, shameful ways, sensuality, and lasciviousness. In Mark 7, Jesus is very comprehensive about all the different immoral sexual activity that is wrong.
C. New Testament (examples just from one book – I Cor 5:1-5, 9-11; 6:9-11, 13-16, 18; 7:2-7, 9, 36; 10:8)
I found a list of three questions secular reporters have used to explore the differences between what they call “competing versions of Christianity.” It’s called the Tmatt trio.
- Are the biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus accurate? Did this event really happen?
- Is salvation found through Jesus Christ, alone? Was Jesus being literal when he said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)?
- Is sex outside of marriage a sin?
That purity thing sets us apart from the hundreds of false claims around us including those from some churches. And it applies to every one of us here …If we are married, sexual relations are just for our spouse – any other thought is damaging to us, our family, this church and our world. If we are single, we want to save sex until marriage. It is the only way to avoid the regret most are living with in our culture. If you are single, you have something special for your future spouse that is more valuable than all the money in the world. And if you are married, you have something special for your relationship. And if you so choose to remain single all your life, you are most blessed of all. For those who dedicate their sexuality to Jesus & serve God first and foremost, you honor Jesus in the most incredible way. Your purity is a daily gift and worship of God which He will bless abundantly. The question before all of us is the same – are we going to choose to follow God in these things or our culture, ourselves & the demonic?
III. Problems (besides guilt, judgment & loss of God’s blessings)
When we are sexually immoral, God withholds blessing from us, we struggle with guilt, there are bad natural consequence and God judges our sin. This is true of any major sin. What I want to briefly add is some of the other practical reasons we should all strive for sexual purity from this moment onward.
A. Sex before marriage stifles development of other intimacy/hurts trust
Every person who marries wants to develop an intimacy or relational closeness to the other person. We want a soul mate. It is what movies & novels are all about. Human intimacy has many parts including our emotions, mind, interests, etc. Because God made sex so powerful in this area, it needs to be the last one we do or it stifles the development of all other intimacy aspects. That is why young people who have sex feel so close to each other at the moment, but 2 years later feel like the other person is a stranger. It takes time without sex to develop important aspects of intimacy. That is one reason God told us not to have sex until marriage.
B. Living together before marriage weakens God’s intended bond
Currently most couples in our area live together first as a sort of trial marriage. That is the dumbest thing anyone can do to “live happily ever after.” Living together before marriage almost doubles the divorce rate, if you get that far. We are putting the cart before the horse – while it makes human sense it actually weakens God’s future marriage bond because it puts each person in the couple on a performance basis in the relationship. You “perform” or I walk out. That’s not good for many reasons. Pure marriage iscovenant based – for better or worse – and we better get to know that other person well enough and long enough without the muddiness of pre-mature sex so everyone around can see objectively we can both commit for a lifetime. God knew what He was doing when He said marriage comes before sex.
C. Multiple sex partners put people on a performance basis
Talking about performance basis – if you or your spouse has had multiple sex partners in the past, you are at a disadvantage. Most people are insecure about their body or performance abilities. That’s not a problem if we follow God’s plan. Most men are more visually oriented - God made it so that even the gal who feels ugly is freed to be her husband’s delight in their bedroom because she is the only one he has ever experienced that wonderful gift of sex with. Most men are self-conscious and want to succeed – God made a plan so that the most self-conscious man will be the best his lifetime wife lovingly experiences. That is also why it is so devastating when people watch a lot of TV and movies which are so saturated with visual sex. No one can “compete” with that air-brushed beauty and multiply filmed fake action.
D. Having “sex for sex sake” hardens the heart
The latest trend in our society is “anonymous sex” now called hook-ups, strip clubs, lap dances, prostitutes or friends with benefits. They try to get the pleasure of sex without any commitment or relational feelings. But that can’t happen without hardening people’s hearts. Several years ago, the Times Argus quoted a strip joint owner who admitted the dancers in that business are not emotionally stable. God made sex to hold two people together. Exposing your body to others is not maturity but emotional suicide.
E. Adultery breaks important relationships
Adultery breaks up far more important relationships than just a marriage. God meant for the extended family to care for each other, especially when we get older. But if you commit adultery – if you hurt my little girl – you are not just going to lose out on any help in the future, but I’m going to be your enemy.
F. Sex outside of monogamous marriage brings physical disease.
Boy time is going fast and I didn’t even have time to show how God’s plan stops so much physical disease. We now have 30 different sexually transmitted diseases that are totally unnecessary and you never have to worry about if you and your spouse do sex morally. Just one fact - 3.6 million teenagers get infected with a sexually transmitted disease every year – that is more than all the teens affected by drugs, alcohol and auto accidents. That is a lot of unnecessary pain.
G. All wrongful sex violates God’s plan for good
IV. Freedom in Jesus – what if I have messed up before?
That is a great goal Pastor Neal and I do want to be pure sexually for here on, but what do I do if I messed up before?
A. Repent – admit it is wrong
Restoration always starts with repentance – You have to tell God you were wrong. You hurt Him, His plan and the people around you. Without this you will never be free. The ladies in the article I mentioned were torn because they wanted to have some standards for their daughters but they felt like hypocrites if they said anything. That is because they never repented. Regret is not repentance although it can lead to repentance. Until we clearly tell God we were very wrong to do what we did, we can not be freed. Praise God that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty of our wrong. It is through the cross that Jesus forgives and cleanses us.
B. Turn from that sin now
Second, take an action to show that you have truly chosen to make God first in your life and you want to pursue purity starting right now. That is what Jesus told the woman caught in adultery – go and sin no more. That means go and break off that wrong relationship right now. If you are living with someone, time to move out (and an aside, the church will help you). If you are having sexual relations as a single – back off. If they give you trouble, that’s not love. This what we call secondary virginity. And when we do this – that crumpled, ripped heart starts to heal some. We have something more pure that pleases God and is special to our future spouse.
C. Put up personal boundaries
Third, put up some personal boundaries in your life. As Malachi 2:16 says “Guard yourself in your spirit”. Cut down time in front of the boob-tube. Watch your alcohol use which is a huge factor in immoral sexual activity. Put the computer out in a public place. No one can keep sexually pure in our sex-saturated culture without boundaries.
D. Encourage one another and yourself
Finally encourage one another. Our culture has made this one of our toughest battles. And then young people are asked to remain pure for much longer times than in the past because marriage is delayed. We need to get back to make God first in this area of sexual purity. If we are making excuses, looking for loopholes, following our feelings, then we have not yet chosen God to be first. But when we do make Jesus Lord, purity in the sexual area is a no-brainer. Don’t blame anything in the past, but start today and God’s blessings will start flowing your way.