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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:Chastity is God's good will for our lives
Text:LD 41 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 7th Commandment (Adultery)
 
Preached:2015
Added:2016-07-06
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 4

Psalm 85

Psalm 119:34-36

Hymn 1

Psalm 81:1-3

Scripture reading: 1 Thessalonians 4

Catechism lesson:  Lord's Day 41

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Saviour Jesus,

None of the commandments are easy, but the world in which we live takes special delight in breaking the Seventh Commandment and that makes it all the more difficult for us to keep it.  We look around us and we see so much immorality and it’s not merely tolerated, but it’s celebrated.  The world makes entertainment of it and glories in it.  It’s virtually impossible to escape it. 

The reality is that we’re not immune to the temptations to break this commandment.  We’re sinful human beings like all the rest.  We feel the powerful draw this sin exerts.  Sadly, if we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit that sometimes we haven’t resisted the temptation to sin against God’s commandment, “You shall not commit adultery.”  Oh, perhaps we didn’t cheat on a spouse, but there have been lustful thoughts.  Jesus says in Matthew 5 that lustful thoughts break the Seventh Commandment.  Along with lustful thoughts often come lustful actions.  Some of us might look back on our youth and recall the times when we went too far in a physical relationship before we were married.  There too we’re reminded that the Seventh Commandment is not easy to keep.  The pull is strong to break it and we haven’t always resisted that pull. 

For all breakers of the Seventh Commandment, there is good news.  There is good news if you look at that sin and hate it because it offends and displeases the God who loves you.  If you look at that sin and cast contempt on it, spit on it, and turn away from it.  There is good news for you if you then turn to the only Saviour Jesus, resting and trusting in what he has done for you.  As you look at him in true faith, you see a godly and pure man who always walked in God’s ways.  He owned the Seventh Commandment like no one else ever has.  He never had sinful thoughts, or desires, much less actions.  He never lusted after a woman, let alone do anything sinful with a woman.  Moreover, our Saviour has always been a faithful husband to his bride, the church.  No one has ever been a better husband, a more completely perfect husband.   His love for his bride is pristine and it leads to exactly the right actions.  Loved ones, you need to remember that he did all this not merely to be an example for us, and not merely to qualify himself as the perfect sacrifice on the cross, but he did it in our place.  As the Belgic Confession says in article 23, “His obedience is ours when we believe in him.”  When we are in Christ by faith, we have perfect obedience to this commandment credited to our accounts before God.  Through the lens of Christ, God looks and sees his children as perfect law-keepers.

Moreover, when that obedient Saviour went to the cross, your sins were laid on him.  All of those times you’ve broken the Seventh Commandment, it was put on Jesus at Golgotha.  You’re worried that you can’t be forgiven for what you did?  Never underestimate the sufficiency of Christ’s suffering and death.  He suffered and died in your place – he took your hell.  The hell that you deserve for your disobedience – he took it on his shoulders.  Jesus loved you so much that he took God’s wrath against your breaking of this commandment and all the others.  Result?  You’re completely forgiven.  You cannot be any more forgiven than you are.  You must believe this. 

As you do believe this good news, it puts the Seventh Commandment in a different light.  This is no longer God’s law to condemn us, but God’s law to guide us in his ways.  It is God’s law to shape the expression of our love and gratitude to the God who has saved us by his grace.

The essence of this commandment is caught up in a word that appears several times in Lord’s Day 41.  It appears in different forms, negative and positive.  The word is “chastity.”  We are called to “chaste and disciplined lives both within and outside of holy marriage.”  All forms of unchastity are forbidden, as is anything that may lead us to unchastity.  We’re going to learn this afternoon about how this commandment teaches us that chastity is God’s good will for our lives.  I’ll first briefly explain the general meaning of this and then we’ll look at how this bears on us at different stages and stations in life.

Let’s begin with what we read from 1 Thessalonians 4.  Paul writes in verse 2 of how he had given the Thessalonians instructions.  Then he lays out the will of God for them for their sanctification.  Sanctification is the process of becoming holy, become more like our Saviour.  Interestingly, the very first thing he mentions has to do with the Seventh Commandment.  Why?  Because the world in which these Thessalonians lived was highly sexualized and delighting in breaking this commandment just like our world does today.  We sometimes think that this must be the worst and most immoral period in the history of the world.  But the ancients knew how to be just as immoral and wicked.  That’s why verse 5 says that the Gentiles live in the passion of lust.  That was their world.  It tempted Christians.  The world was calling out to them and enticing them back to wickedness.  In the face of that, Paul gives this instruction to the Thessalonian believers:  abstain from sexual immorality and control your body in holiness and honour.  That’s the essence of the Seventh Commandment right there.  This is what chastity looks like.  Chastity means that you refuse to engage in any form of sexual immorality.  You refuse to do that before marriage or apart from marriage.  You also refuse to do that within marriage.  Chastity also has a positive side:  you control your body in holiness and honour.  You have self-control.  You recognize what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6.  Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  He dwells within you and you honour him with self-control when it comes to sexual matters.

Paul is clear that this is God’s will and God’s will is good for us.  From the beginning, God created the good institution of marriage.  It was his design for man and woman to live together for his glory.  Keeping within that framework would be a blessing for husband and wife.  They could encourage and enrich one another.  When the fall into sin happened, this also completely fell apart.  Life became messy and foul.  Marriage relationships broke down and people abused the gift of sex and turned it into an idol.  They became slaves to sexual sin.  Worshipping idols will destroy us.  Slavery is ugly and hurts us.  God wants better for his creatures and that’s why he gave the Seventh Commandment.  He wants wholeness in our marriages.  He wants us to enjoy and use his gifts rightly, including the gift of sex.  He wants us to be free from slavery to sin.  He wants the idols to be seen for the dead end that they are.  Chastity is indeed God’s good will for our lives.  Brothers and sisters, it’s good for us to listen to his will.

Let’s now consider how this bears on us as a congregation, on each of us in whatever stage of life we are, or whatever station or status.  There’ll be overlap as we go through each of these, so I trust that you can take what’s applicable from another stage of life and apply it to yourself as necessary. 

Let’s begin with our children.  You might think, “What does the Seventh Commandment have to do with our children?  Our children are too young to think about these things.”  Brothers and sisters, we have to be realistic about the world in which we live.  Have you seen the statistics for when people are first exposed to pornography?  It usually starts as a child, often before the age of 10.  It often hooks them not long afterwards.  They become slaves.  You think it’s not going to happen to your child?  You say you’ve got proper filters installed on your computer and you monitor your child’s computer usage.  That’s great, everybody should have that and do that.  If you love your children, you need to do that.  But here’s the thing:  children of increasingly younger ages are walking around with mobile devices that have unfettered Internet access.  Maybe your child doesn’t have one, but some friends at school might.  Don’t tell yourself, “It’s a Christian school -- that would never happen.”  Please don’t be naïve.  It’s sad to say it, but for some of us, some of our first exposure to pornography was at a Christian school.  It’s happened in the past, you can be sure it’ll still happen today and in the future.  What can you do?    

Many Christians who keep an eye on these things say it’s not a matter of whether your children will be exposed to this, but when and how they will react.  How will they respond?  Loved ones, the world in which we live is a dangerous place and our children can get ensnared in this sin so easily.  We need to be proactive.  As Christian parents who love our covenant children, we need to disciple them so that when they’re exposed to filth, they’ll conscientiously do the right thing and walk away. 

Let me give a concrete suggestion in that regard.  We have a passage in Scripture which speaks directly to this very sort of thing.  There’s a passage in Scripture where a parent is discipling a child about the Seventh Commandment and the grave dangers of breaking it.  That passage is Proverbs 7.  Moms and dads, read that passage with your children and warn them with it.  Warn them that this sin is life-threatening.  Think about it this way:  I imagine you would warn your kids not to smoke.  We’ve all seen how smoking can and does kill.  It can lead to cancer and all kinds of other problems.  So we warn our kids:  don’t do it, don’t even try it.  You try it once or twice and you could get hooked and enslaved.   Why would you not also warn your children and teach them to avoid pornography, something just as enslaving as smoking and just as, if not more, dangerous?  Proverbs 7, brothers and sisters.  It’s all there in black and white, God’s Word waiting for you to use to disciple your precious children.  Maybe read it with them later this evening.  We have to be thinking about these things and doing what we can to protect our little lambs from the wolves. 

The same thing can be said for our young people.  Parents also need to be discipling their teens in these matters.  But here I want to address our young people directly about the Seventh Commandment.  Everything I’ve been saying so far has been for your benefit too, but I want to go in a different direction. 

We confess that the Seventh Commandment teaches us to live chaste and disciplined lives not only within, but also outside of holy marriage.  Some of you are in relationships with a boyfriend or girlfriend.  God’s good will is for you to be chaste in those relationships.  You are to keep yourself pure and holy.  That means you have to draw a definite line when it comes to physical intimacy before marriage.  You have to draw a line that excludes all forms of sexual contact.  Then you have to do whatever you can to stay on the right side of that line.  If you do not, if you play fast and loose with physical intimacy, there will be consequences down the line.  There will be guilt and resentment and other baggage you don’t need or want.  So just don’t go there. 

To be chaste before marriage is not easy, but God gives the means to help us.  One of the most powerful ways to guard your purity is to build your relationship on the right foundation.  You need to be reading the Bible together, discussing it together, and praying together.  Proverbs 3:6, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” – that’s also true when it comes to relationships.  You need to take God into account from beginning to end in every area of life.  Spiritual unity in a relationship before marriage will go a long way to protecting what should be only enjoyed and experienced within marriage.  And if you can’t pray together, then perhaps this relationship isn’t heading in the right direction and needs the brakes put on it. 

That leads me to one last word to our young people.  Some of you are not yet in a relationship.  You’re too young yet, or you’ve got other priorities at the moment.  But for many of you the time will come.  You need to remember what God’s Word says about this.  In particular, you cannot be married to an unbeliever.  God’s Word is clear about that in places like 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.”  Unbelievers are off limits.  It doesn’t matter whether they’re members of the church or not.  Sometimes there are unbelievers even in the church – we confess that in article 29 of the Belgic Confession.  There can be and often are unbelievers and hypocrites in the church.  They might camouflage themselves quite well, they’re hypocrites and put on a mask for most people.  But if you get close and discover that there’s no fruit of holiness in that person’s life and no real love for the Lord, you need to break it off.  Mere church membership is not the defining and ultimate condition for marriage.  It’s whether the person is a Christian, fully resting and trusting in Jesus Christ alone with a genuine faith.  This is important when it comes to the Seventh Commandment, not only because it has to do with marriage, but also because of what comes before.  Unbelievers don’t care about God’s law and they’re not going to care about the Seventh Commandment either.  Unbelievers will pressure you into having a physical intimate relationship before marriage because they’re part of the world and this is what the world does.  They will expect you to go along with them.  If you mention God’s good will in this commandment, they won’t care.  Young brothers and sisters, since you want to be chaste and follow God’s good will, also follow his Word about staying clear of intimate relationships with unbelievers.  You need to take this seriously and trust God’s wisdom on it.

Now what does the Seventh Commandment have to say to you when you’re still single and getting older?  You’re not a teenager anymore.  Maybe you’re getting into your late twenties or thirties.  Perhaps you want to get married.  Then what I just said certainly applies to you as well.  Pray for a life partner who sincerely loves the Lord and look for such a partner.  But perhaps there are also those who are content to remain single.  That’s fine.  Marriage is a good institution, but it’s not for everyone.  The apostle Paul was never married and there was nothing wrong with that.  In fact, he even said that there were some advantages to remaining single.    

The Seventh Commandment instructs such people that they also are called to a chaste and disciplined life.  There is no room for self-indulgence in regards to our sexuality.  There are no exemptions made for Christians who stay single.  All unchaste acts, thoughts and desires are out of place in the life of a believer, no matter their marital status.

People remain single for different reasons.  Sometimes one of those reasons can be same-sex attraction.  We need to be clear about what God’s Word says about homosexuality.  Those who engage in homosexual relationships and live unrepentantly in a homosexual lifestyle are under God’s curse.  Leviticus 18 says that if a person lies with someone of the same sex, it is an abomination in the sight of God.  The Seventh Commandment forbids not only homosexual behaviours, but also desires.  If a man lusts after a woman not his wife, it is sinful.  Jesus told us that in the Sermon on the Mount.  If a man lusts after a man or a woman after a woman, is it suddenly okay?  No, of course not!   Well then, can regenerated Christians experience same-sex attraction?  Can sincere believers feel tempted to this sin?  Yes, it can happen, just the same as a true Christian can feel attracted to any sin.  But here’s the difference:  a regenerated and sincere believer hates sin and fights against it, including this one.  A true Christian will not live in this sin, parade it in front of the world to celebrate it, and wave it like a flag.  They will recognize these attractions are part of a broken world under the curse.  They are not good attractions, but evil.  They need to be resisted and killed.  You see, Christians are not sinless people – we are sinners, we are forgiven our sins through Christ, and now we hate our sin and fight against it.  So also those who experience same-sex attraction have to detest this sin from the heart and live chaste and disciplined lives.

Finally, this Commandment obviously also speaks to those who are married among us.  To husbands and wives, God says:  live chaste and disciplined lives within your marriage.  Do not do anything which would threaten or endanger this relationship.  God has given you this precious gift of marriage to bless you.  He wants you to enjoy it, but you’re also called to treasure it and guard it carefully.  You’re called to honour marriage – God says in Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

The Catechism says that we are forbidden whatever may entice us to unchastity.  When it comes to marriage, there are a few things we can do that open ourselves up to enticements to unchastity.  These are things that people do and they usually don’t even think about what might happen as a result.  But we need to think.  Imagine a man going to work every day.  At his workplace, there’s a friendly and attractive young lady.  She’s single and he’s married.  Every day during coffee break, they talk.  Almost every day the same thing happens:  he complains about his wife to his female co-worker.  All the woes and troubles of their marriage come out at coffee break.  The two co-workers begin spending more time together.  They go out for lunch.  They go out for drinks after work.  The man never has a good word about his wife.  He ends up in an affair with his co-worker.  Would you be surprised?  Now what if the man had gone to work each day and spoken highly of his wife, how much he loves and admires her.  What if he had said how thankful he is that God has given him this beautiful woman?  What if he had made it clear that she’s the best wife he could have hoped for and the best mother for his children?  Would he end up in an affair with a co-worker?  Not likely.  She would have got the message.  The marriage would have been protected and honoured.  You see loved ones, when you go to work or anywhere else and whine and complain about your spouse, you are opening yourself up to grave danger, especially when people of the opposite sex are involved.  You’re sending a signal that you’re unhappy and a potential adulterer.  You’re making yourself an easy mark for someone on the prowl.  You don’t want to do that.  Hebrews 13:4 says your marriage must be honoured.  That means that you don’t vent and groan when things are going badly at home with your spouse.  You have to protect this marriage relationship – it’s holy and given to you by God himself.

Brothers and sisters, this commandment is hard, especially in our day.  It is hard to be diligent and conscientious about this when the world is so cavalier and carefree.  It may be difficult, but God tells us two things to motivate us:  First, his will is best for us.  His will is designed for our benefit and blessing.  The wise understand this.  The wise perceive that God is good and his Word is both good in itself and good for us.  Second, he graciously gives help in carrying out his will.  Left to ourselves, we would flail and undoubtedly be carried away with the world.  But he has not left us alone.  He has given us helps.  He has given the Holy Spirit to strengthen us in our fight against sin.  He has given us his Word as a weapon.  The battle for chastity needs to be fought with an open Bible.  And then also have a prayerful heart.  We have to constantly call out to God for his help and strength.  When we do that, he will help all of us to grow in holiness, also when it comes to the Seventh Commandment.  AMEN.           

PRAYER:

Our gracious Father,

Your Word is the lamp for our feet.  We love its wisdom and direction.  Father, because you have delivered us through Jesus, we want to obey your will.  When it comes to the Seventh Commandment, we want to be chaste, for we know that this is good for us and it pleases you.  Father, please help us all to live chaste and disciplined lives.  We pray for our children that they would be protected from the snares of this evil and sinful world.  Please help parents to disciple them so that when temptations appear, they would resist and run away.  We pray for our young people.  Father, let them find godly life partners.  Let them be diligent about keeping pure before marriage.  Give them strength to do that.  We pray for our older singles.  We pray for those who are content to be in that state – please continue to give them grace.  We pray also for those would still love to find a life partner.  Please bring that special person across their path.  We also pray for any among us who may be struggling with same-sex attraction.  Father, here too the temptation is great to give into the world’s thinking on this.  Please give more grace with your Spirit so that sin is hated and fought against, rather than coddled and allowed to fester.  Father, we pray for the husbands and wives among us.  We pray that the marriages here in our church would be strong and healthy.  Help us to treasure the gift of marriage and to protect our marriage relationships.  Father, please give all of us the grace we need to live in purity and holiness before you.  Of ourselves, we can’t fight.  We’re weak and we depend entirely on you.  Please look upon us with steadfast love and favour.                                                                      




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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