Category: Christianity

Sexual Immorality

The seventh commandment of God’s law given to Moses states “Thou shalt not commit adultery”. At first glance it seems simple and self explanatory, but there’s far more to it than one might think. The majority of Christians would bring to mind the infidelity of a spouse and think of course, such a breach of a covenant bond and trust ought to be warned against and forbidden by God. Still, there is much more that is included in the seventh commandment.

“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”

Hebrews 13:4

According to the Westminster Larger Catechism the answer to the question (Q138) “What are the duties required in the seventh commandment?” goes like this: “The duties required in the seventh commandment are, chastity in body, mind, affections,[ I Thess. 4:4Job 31:1I Cor. 7:34 ] words,[ Col. 4:6 ] and behavior;[ I Peter 2:3 ] and the preservation of it in ourselves and others;[ I Cor. 7:235-36 ] watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses;[ Job 31:1 ] temperance,[ Acts 24:24 ] keeping of chaste company,[ Prov. 2:16-20 ] modesty in apparel;[ I Tim. 2:9 ] marriage by those that have not the gift of continency,[ I Cor. 7:29 ] conjugal love,[ Prov. 5:19-20 ] and cohabitation;[ I Peter 3:7 ] diligent labor in our callings;[ Prov. 31:1127-28 ] shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations thereunto [ Prov. 5:8Gen. 39:8-10 ]”.

As you can see there are a lot of topics that fall into the category of adultery, but for the sake of brevity I’d like to focus on the issues of sexual immorality. As Christians we are not under the dominion of sin, yet a remnant of sin remains within the converted in the form of lust. Paul talks about his own struggle with the sinful desires of the heart in Romans 7, and we too are to be intimately aware of the besetting sins of our own lusts. Sexual lust is a major topic that is not often dealt with properly. This is evident in the failures exposed in today’s congregations, so often a church leader is caught in fornication or using pornography. In our generation the temptations are everywhere, in movies, songs, clothing etc. Too easily have Christians not only succumb to the lustful temptations but in some cases they’ve celebrated it; the most notable one in our day being homosexuality.

Homosexuality is a violation of the seventh commandment and anyone who succumbs to such lust must repent and mortify the flesh against further stumbling. Those who refuse to repent, encourage it, and celebrate it are acting as enemies of God [ 1 Corinthians 6:18 ]. The same should be said of any sexually immoral sin; how long before incest or bestiality are encouraged and/or celebrated? Why do we voraciously address certain versions of sexual immorality like infidelity or pornography but ignore homosexuality, polyamory, premarital sex, etc.? We must show no partiality in this regard simply because the culture of this present world has shifted it’s view on marriage and of sexuality. We must foster a culture in the Christian community of chastity, sexual purity, and we must do so gracefully without unnecessary burdening legalism. Individually we must develop habits that will guard the heart, and as a community we must hold each other accountable with discipleship and discipline.

One of the liberating insights of the Reformation is that sex in marriage is not simply for procreation, but also for pleasure and a God-given protection against unlawful lusts. Sex belongs in marriage, a union between one man and one woman. Anything outside of that are heinous sinful crimes against God’s law. Leviticus 20:10-21 gives some of the clearest examples of such crimes: incest, bestiality, sodomy, homosexuality, etc. Some of these sins, of all others, fools who think themselves wise (to the world) are most apt to make a mockery of or reject as invalid; but God has good reason to put these down in Scripture. It is God’s will that every man should possess his vessel in sanctification and in honor [ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ].

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Genesis 2:24

Holiness is the goal of our calling and therefore we must set our sights upon what it means to be Holy according to God’s standard. He didn’t pluck us out of the wickedness of our former life to continue to pollute our minds and body with unrighteousness. Scripture tells us to live as citizens of Jerusalem, not Sodom and Gomorra. The philosophers of this world would encourage us to live according to nature, to do that which makes us feel good, and not allow any restrictions to be placed upon us in order to tame our lustful hearts. But I say that if we do not manifest ourselves as being sons and daughters of the Father who sent us in accordance with the laws that have been written on our hearts, then we have spit in His face and shown ourselves to be ungrateful children [ Ephesians 5:1 ].

The American Church

The American church in the 21st century is rife with many problems; morally, theologically, etc. Although I am no church historian or even a lifelong Christian I have seen, in just a few short years, the downward spiral that seems all too familiar with issues of the past. It seems almost cyclical, like the stories in Judges, where God’s people tend to fall away from His teachings, His commands, and His desires for how we should live. The invisible church of God shall never perish, but it is the visible church in America that I write about and pray for today.

If you look across the mainstream denominations and/or para-church organizations in America you’ll see that it is absolutely bent on placing people at the center, or the core, of all matters concerning the Christian life. Christianity has become a “self-help” guide to a better and more prosperous life, while ridiculing and attempting to shed the fundamentalism of previous generations. Granted our forefathers, having the same imperfect sin-riddled disposition as all of us, have made devastating errors in their efforts to react biblically to given situations and in turn have left many hurt, ashamed, and/or disenfranchised about the church.

With the continued rise of victim advocacy in modern culture there are many amplified and celebrated voices who oppose the fundamental systems of thought or fundamental groups that have directly or indirectly caused or allowed people harm. There are many modern churches, denominations, and Christian groups in America, in an effort to seek justice or increase membership etc., that appeal to those who have been victimized and appeal to the modern liberal view of Christian morality. There are many preachers and teachers who could fall into this category; such as Adam Stanley, Tim Keller, Rachel Hollis, T.D. Jakes, Steven Furtick, Paul White, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Tony Evans, Joyce Meyer, John Pavlovitz, Jonathan Merritt, etc. (the list is endless). These individuals tend to swing against fundamentalist/conservative views and teach polar opposite, often unbiblical, ideologies.

While some of these ideas, such as the views concerning sexuality, are relatively new the appeal of man-centered teaching is nothing new at all. The traditional orthodoxy of the Puritans may have once dominated the Christian worldview during the early settling of the New World, but it was quickly replaced with deism, pantheism, and arminianism due to the rise of the “common man”. The Reformed Christian worldview of the early settlers was replaced with what was most compatible with the ‘American Dream’. Many scholars of those days attempted to replace God’s sovereignty and authority with a humanistic “social contract”, making men responsible to men rather than to God. With the rise in reliance of human reason to discover the truth, one’s own happiness became the focus rather than the glorification and enjoyment of God.

Out of this period in American history many ideas arose (a resurgence in most cases) of Universalism, Eternal Subordination of Christ, and a denial of: the deity of Christ, the Trinity and repentance. What had become the focus of Christianity was merely the moral and ethical teachings of Jesus and a salvation that was based on works. The individual had become the ultimate authority and judge of what was true or false/right or wrong, the “Human Experience” became the authoritative doctrine of truth, instead of the Bible. Does any of this sound familiar in today’s modern views and where we’re headed?

This downward spiral inevitably led to the Great Awakening(s) where great men like Jonathan Edwards attempted to swing the pendulum towards Orthodoxy. While a great many were pulled back during these periods, the damage of liberalism had already been done. One of the most well-known preachers of the 2nd GA, Charles Finney, was a major proponent of liberal Christianity. He denied such things as Original Sin and Substitutionary Atonement. He was also an advocate for Christian Perfectionism; the idea that men can become sinless in this life. His preaching style and “crisis conversions” drastically changed the methods of evangelicalism in America. Because of his incredible oratory abilities and his work concerning social issues of his day, his influence on modern Christianity is still evident today.

So we have in our day the current swing of the pendulum towards liberalism as we attempt to correct the errors within the church. Just as in the past, it has become commonplace for individuals to use experience, along with the heavy influence of culture in the information age, as the lens in which we view the world over and above Scripture. We have these shared similarities of the past, such as the deconstructionist attitude toward traditional orthodoxy, but in many cases we’re creating and addressing new problems as we push mankind’s progression forward towards “perfection” in this life. While it is good and proper that we address the failings of the present and past, we must do so by the authority of God’s Word, not by mankind’s flawed sense of right/wrong in a modern cultural setting.

I believe that in our day we have some of the most biblically illiterate people of any generation (excluding those who hadn’t received it, or it was withheld from them). What is common among the modern American Christian, in my opinion, is that what most understand to be the truth about God and man is what they are taught in their mainstream church and they go to that particular church for entirely the wrong reasons. What is being fed to the Body is not of spirit and truth, but the same feel-good self-centered works-based humanistic garbage of the past. We have modern day sermons that focus on elevating the externals, the material, and the perishable, while skipping over the hard and much needed truths. We have books and articles that focus on addressing the modern “Human Experience”, while ignoring what God says about such things.

People are demanding ‘feel good’ worship services that are both entertaining and non-confrontational. The mainstream church, with its focus on success, gives them what they want and these churches seem to be flourishing. Messages about sin, damnation, apostasy, wrath, and Hell are not so popular and often are not preached out of fear of losing potential growth. To take it a step further, some are even preaching social and cultural agendas that would have traditionally been considered unbiblical or even unheard of from the pulpit. This routine of catering to cultural norms and/or sin is not only dangerous, but it breeds ignorant groups of people whose theme is “Judge not the sinner or the sin and do what feels right!”.

If we understand who we are and who God is we know that we deserve nothing less than death. We understand that our only hope is in Him and the work finished at the Cross. As Christians we do our best to love God and neighbor, seeking holiness but understanding there are no perfect people and there is no perfect justice in this life. God has used fallen nature and fallen men to grow His church, infallible as we might be. We aim to fix what can and do what’s right by God’s standards while we’re here, but we realize that the root cause of our failures is not eradicated until death. But while we still draw breath we must mourn the loss of loved ones, sympathize with those who suffer, and praise God for giving us such hope in a broken world. We must restore the American church to the glorification and enjoyment of God, to give people a joy that doesn’t come at the cost of truth. May God bring another Great Awakening, and bold men to lead us towards Orthodoxy once again.

Religion

What exactly is religion? It can be defined as an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to the supernatural. You could say that religion is simply good advice on how to live a life in order to gain the favor of a deity. Most religions have a set of religious standards, traditions, and practices that a believer has to follow in order to connect to their god. These religions are based on what you have to do in order to be ‘saved’. I used to think that all religions were the same and for most of my life I denied any particular belief system. Christianity, as I’ve come to understand it, is based on what has already been done because no man can achieve perfection which a holy God would demand. Though the believer strives to live holy and righteous, this is not the focus of the Christian faith. “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

In religious practices one is working to prove themselves, to a god and to others that they would be considered good people. If we do something unselfish for someone for the sake of ourselves, isn’t that still selfish? If someone is ‘perfect’ for a time, but then makes a mistake what then? How can an individual ever become worthy of any favor on their own merit? We can’t, according to God’s Word this is impossible! Christians who understand the doctrine of Original Sin hold that people are not inherently ‘good’ (in the sense of righteousness towards God) from the moment of birth, and the only ‘good’ within people is Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit. This is another distinction Christianity has among other world religions. Other religions are based on ‘if I perform and obey, then I am accepted’, Christians, however, are accepted despite performance. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)

Though we may admit that we are not good, and totally unworthy of God’s grace, we should not continue to live a life of sin and evil. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17) With this knowledge of our salvation, let us not become so arrogant that we lose sight of what God has commanded. With Jesus we do not need to be perfectly righteous, only perfectly in need of Him and to love God and our brothers. There is no standard, tradition or practice that can substitute for this. You need only admit that you can’t do it alone and you need God’s help. When Jesus said “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” in Luke 5:32, he meant those who humbly admit to needing Him. We must strive to live our life like Christ; not for ourselves, but for His glory in all that we do. I pray that others would come to this understanding.