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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:Believers are led to a thankful and loving life of chastity in Christ
Text:LD 41 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 7th Commandment (Adultery)
 
Preached:2011
Added:2011-06-09
Updated:2012-08-07
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note:  all songs from the 2011 Book of Praise

Psalm 124
Psalm 45:1,4,5
Psalm 119:34-36
Hymn 1
Hymn 9

Readings:  Proverbs 7, 1 Thessalonians 4
Text: 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 Lord Jesus,

How do you begin a sermon on the seventh commandment without stating the obvious?  We live in a sex-obsessed culture.  Sexual immorality is all around us.  The world is especially adept at twisting and perverting everything related to sex.  Not only sex, but also marriage, which is the context where sex was designed to be enjoyed.  Marriage has been cheapened.  The only people who seem to place public value on marriage are those who can use it for their social and political agenda.  Homosexuals demand marriage rights so they can advance the acceptance of their lifestyle.  But it’s not highly valued by many others in our world.  All of this is obvious. 

It’s also obvious that some of this has seeped into the church.  Not the demand for same-sex marriage, but the cheapening of marriage and of sex.  It’s true that divorce rates in our Reformed churches are still quite low when you look at the national average and consider it on a per capita basis.  But it still happens.  Yet, far more prevalent is the way in which the world’s view of sexuality so readily infects us.  And this inevitably affects marriages and other relationships.  When it comes to the seventh commandment, we’re faced with some serious challenges.  We can be glad that the Word of God gives us help in dealing with these challenges.

The Bible starts us off by exposing our sin, giving us a reality check.  The law of God is like a mirror where we see our ugliness.  Our disobedience in thought, word and deed is surgically exposed by the Ten Commandments.  The seventh commandment also reveals us to be sinners.  God is holy, a consuming fire, and his justice requires the punishment of sin.  As sinners, we are in deep trouble if left to ourselves.   

So we can be encouraged that we’re not left to ourselves.  The Bible goes on to give us a word of grace in the gospel.  You have sinned against the seventh commandment.  God says, “Here is my Son who paid the penalty for you on the cross.”  You say, “Yes, Lord, I trust him and I thank you.”  You have never kept the seventh commandment perfectly.  God says, “Here is my Son, he lived a perfect life of obedience for you.  He has always loved his bride perfectly.  His obedience is yours.”  You say, “Yes, Father, I believe that and I love you for your grace to me.”

And where do thankful believers go to find the way to express their gratitude?  Where do believers who love God for his grace in Christ go to find out how to live a life of love to God?  We go back to the law of God, which is the rule and guide for our thankfulness.  There we learn what it means to live in Christ, to live out of union with him.  This afternoon we’ll be considering how that works out in relation to the seventh commandment.  We’ll see that believers are led to a thankful and loving life of chastity in Christ.  We’ll consider what the seventh commandment:

1.      Teaches

2.      Forbids

3.      Protects

We sometimes think that we’re the first ones in history to live in a hyper-sexualized culture.  But if we carefully read the New Testament, we find that believers in the Roman empire were faced with some serious challenges in this area too.  The evidence is there in what we read from 1 Thessalonians 4.  Paul writes of how the heathens live, those who do not know God.  He characterizes their lives with those two words, “passionate lust.”  Their desires are what drives them.  They are slaves to their lusts.  And in this context in 1 Thessalonians 4, we know that those lusts are sexual in nature. 

That was the world in which those Thessalonians lived.  It was a corrupt world where sex was cheap and easy.  Marriage was not taken seriously as an institution of God.  Even the Greek and Roman gods were believed to be promiscuous.  And sometimes, in some places, these attitudes were brought into religious worship.  Heathen temples would sometimes employ prostitutes.  We often think that things couldn’t get any worse than they are in our world.  But the historical reality is something different.  I tell you this because that helps you to see that the words of Paul here are just as applicable today.  Paul knew something of the challenges that we face.  Of course, so does the Holy Spirit who inspired him and the words he wrote.

Verse 3 says that we should be sanctified.  What does that mean?  It means being holy, being set apart, being different.  It means respecting the antithesis, the great dividing wall between the children of God and the children of Satan.  And what does that look like?  It means avoiding sexual immorality.  The Greek word is porneia.  That’s where we get the word “pornography.”  Porneia is a broad term referring to all sorts of sexual sins.  It includes adultery, having sex with someone you’re not married to.  It includes prostitution.  It includes fornication, having sexual intimacy outside of marriage. 

Instead of sexual immorality, Paul says that we should learn to control our bodies in a holy and honourable way.  We are to live holy lives.  Our bodies do not belong to ourselves, but to God who bought them with the precious blood of Christ.  Our bodies are united to Christ, so what happens with them should reflect that fact.  Self-control is something the world laughs at, but the Bible teaches us to make this our way of life.  Just losing control and impulsively doing whatever you want with your body is not God’s will for us.  We have been redeemed through Christ and so we are his, and we live like we are his because we love him and want to thank him.   Moreover, we live out of our union with him, constantly aware of the fact that we are joined to him as an engrafted branch is to a vine.   

Paul was working with the basic biblical foundations found in the seventh commandment.  The seventh commandment says, “You shall not commit adultery.”  Literally that means: you shall not break the marriage relationship with infidelity.  The seventh commandment teaches us that God values marriage.  But it also teaches us that God values what goes along with marriage:  our sexuality.  Our sexuality is not something to be cheaply tossed around.  It needs to be respected and kept in its proper place and context.  We need to have a proper attitude and proper actions when it comes to our sexuality.

So the Catechism says that the seventh commandment teaches that all unchastity is cursed by God.  What is unchastity?  Well, it’s exactly the same thing as that Greek word from 1 Thessalonians 4, porneia.  Unchastity covers a wide range of sexual sins.  Basically it is anything which goes against God’s will for our sexuality.  Adultery is covered there, so is fornication, so is pornography, and so on.  All unchastity is cursed by God.  He hates it.  We should hate it too.  Those who don’t hate it will share in the curse that it bears.

We are to live chaste and disciplined lives both inside and outside of holy marriage.  We’re to be careful and circumspect in how we conduct ourselves with regard to our sexuality.  The seventh commandment teaches that thoughtless and impulsive behaviour may be the world’s way, but it cannot and must not be the way of a child of God who is united to Christ. 

That brings us to what this commandment forbids.  We are temples of the Holy Spirit.  God’s Word tells us that in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20.  Let’s look that up together and read it.  Individual Christian believers are temples of the Holy Spirit.  He dwells in us.  That makes up the first reason that Paul says what he does here.  The second reason is what I mentioned a moment ago, that we are not our own, but belong to Christ with body and soul.  But the first reason has to do with the Spirit.  He lives with us in our bodies and souls.  Since that is true, we have to flee from sexual immorality (again the word is porneia).  We are to keep ourselves pure and holy.

So, in the light of that, the Catechism tells us what the Bible says about what is forbidden.  Unchaste acts.  That covers a wide range of activities.  Let me mention just two common ones. 

Self-pleasure, since it is usually accompanied by lustful thoughts or images, is not in accordance with the will of God.  At the very least, it is virtually always a behaviour that leads to or involves sin against the seventh commandment and for that reason should be avoided. 

Here’s the second one.  It has to do with unmarried couples, boyfriends and girlfriends.  You know that it is wrong to have sex before marriage.  But how often doesn’t it happen that we fudge on the meaning of the word “sex”?  We’re not having sex, we’re just...  Brothers and sisters, this is a rationalization.  It’s snake-think.  The seventh commandment means that we keep ourselves pure before marriage.  I want to say it to you as clearly as possible:  if you want to have a healthy marriage later, now is the time to say “no” to all forms of sexual intimacy.  All forms – not just the one form that might result in pregnancy.  You need to set up proper boundaries and restrictions in your relationship that will protect you from the harm that comes from compromising your purity. 

Then the Catechism mentions unchaste gestures.  I don’t think it’s necessary to go into detail on that one.  Needless to say it is possible to make lewd gestures with your hands.  Words too.  Dirty talk, obscene jokes, all of these things are out of place for Christians.   Then there are thoughts and desires.  This is the most difficult area.  Just when you thought you could have everything under control, our Lord Jesus comes along and says in Matthew 5 that even looking at a woman with lust in your heart is the same thing as committing adultery with her.  Lustful thoughts and desires break the seventh commandment.  They are forbidden by God and we need to struggle against them.  Likewise anything that entices us to sexual immorality.

The next big question is how?  It’s easy to say, but it’s much more difficult in practice.  John Piper has written something helpful about this.  Piper gave the ANTHEM strategy for warring against wrong desires.  ANTHEM is an acronym.  Let me summarize it for you. 

A – AVOID as much as possible and reasonable the sights and situations that arouse unfitting desires.  Some exposure is inevitable, but there are situations where you do have some control.  Avoiding is a biblical strategy.  2 Timothy 2:22, “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness.”

N – NO.  Say “NO” to every lustful thought within five seconds.  John Owen said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”  Strike fast and hard.  James 4:7, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

T – TURN the mind forcefully toward Christ as someone better and more satisfying.  Attack the promises of sin with the promises of Christ.  Right after saying “No,” we need to stock our minds with the superior promises and pleasures of Jesus. 

H – HOLD the promise and the pleasure of Christ firmly in your mind until it pushes the other images out.  Hebrews 3:1, “Fix your eyes on Jesus.”  Hold the promise of Christ before your eyes.  Piper says, “How long?  As long as it takes.  Fight!... Fight till you win!  If an electric garage door were about to crush your child you would hold it up with all your might and holler for help, and hold it and hold it and hold it and hold it.”

E – ENJOY a superior satisfaction.  Cultivate the ability to find your pleasure in Christ rather than in earthly vain, sinful things.  Piper says again, “One reason lust reigns in so many is that Christ has so little appeal.  We default to deceit because we have little delight in Christ...You were created to treasure Christ with all your heart, more than you treasure sex or sugar.  If you have little taste for Jesus, competing pleasures will triumph.”  Plead with God to give you this satisfaction and delight in your Saviour. 

M – MOVE into a useful activity away from idleness and other vulnerable behaviours.  Lust grows fast in the garden of leisure.  My dad used to say that boredom is the devil’s playground.  He was right.  Find something good and wholesome to do and do it with all your might.

So, ANTHEM – AVOID, say NO, TURN, HOLD, ENJOY, and MOVE.  This is a good biblical strategy for steering clear of the lustful thoughts and desires that war against God’s seventh commandment. 

That seventh commandments teaches, it forbids, but it also protects.  And to see how, let’s look briefly at Proverbs 7.  Here we find a wisdom story.  The author was Solomon.  Solomon surely knew the story of how his older brother died shortly after birth.  Solomon surely knew how his father David had committed sexual sin with Bathsheba and then tried to cover it up with murder.  Solomon himself had difficulties in this area.  He had numerous wives, some of whom were foreigners and who led him astray from God.  Solomon knew from experience that sex was a powerful force.  It is not to be trifled with. 

So he tells this story of a young man.  The young man lacks maturity and good judgment.  He “just happens” to end up in the wrong part of town.  He was near “her corner.”  Hoping, thinking that possibly he could get some.  He was out there at dark, at a time where nothing good happens.  As the dark of night set in, the adulteress found him and entrapped him.  It’s not that he needed entrapping or that he was resistant.  He was all too willing to go with her.  She was dressed like a prostitute and she had one thing on her mind.  She flattered him.  “It was you I was looking for, you’re the one!”  She told him that he wouldn’t have to worry about her husband.  He was gone on a business trip and wouldn’t be back for some time.  She invited him back to her place and he was seduced by her. 

Then in verse 22 and following we get the post-mortem from Solomon.  This adultery was fun, but this loose woman shot an arrow into the young man’s liver.  It would cost him his life.  In other words, her husband found out.  He went after the young man and killed him.  The way of the wicked is hard. 

Solomon warns all of us:  don’t listen to this woman.  Don’t go looking for her.  Stay as far away from her as you possibly can.  She’s taken down throngs of men.  The Bible has several examples and history has millions more.  Her house is the highway to hell. 

Proverbs 7 tells us that the seventh commandment is there to protect your very life.  When you ignore God’s Word, bad stuff happens.  When you ignore the seventh commandment, you could very well die physically and your soul could very well end up in hell after you die.  Unchastity has physical consequences in the here and now.  Sexually transmitted diseases are common, and some of them are deadly.  Unchastity also kills your soul, deadens you inside, and makes you feel distant from God – and if you continue in it without turning or repenting, you will be distant from God’s goodness and blessing.  You will only have God near as a judge about to bring down the gavel.          

Scripture also tells us that the seventh commandment was given by God to protect the good and holy institution of marriage.  Living out of Christ and following this commandment will allow marriages to flourish.  You say you’re not married?  You say you’re 14 or 15 years old and marriage is not in the picture yet?   Trust me, the decisions you make about the seventh commandment at your age will affect your marriage in the future.  God has given us this commandment so that we could have healthy marriages that work the way they were designed to.  If you ignore it, there will be consequences later on. 

Before I finish, there is one more thing that I would like to mention.  Perhaps you’ve heard of the statistics about Christian men and pornography.  The statistics vary.  Focus on the Family did one survey some years ago and found that 47% of Christian homes had some kind of problem with pornography.  I am not naive and none of us should be.  Undoubtedly there are men, women and young people in our congregation for whom this is a real problem.  I am speaking to you.  Speaking to you as an ambassador of Christ, but also as a fellow sinner.  Christ wants us to fight and to fight seriously.  There are several components to an effective fight.  One is to make sure that you have a filter on your computer.  Every Christian home with Internet access needs to have a filter.  It’s foolish not to.  Then that filter also needs to be configured properly to address your situation.  Second is to use accountability software.  You need to find someone to whom you can be accountable for your Internet use and then follow through on it.  You can’t do this on your own.  Third is to do a serious study of what the Bible says about this problem and then apply what you learn.  For that, there’s a helpful program called Setting Captives Free.  It’s a free online Bible study with mentoring.  You can find it at www.settingcaptivesfree.com .  It’s helped many people to learn how to apply biblical teachings to the fight against pornography.  Brothers and sisters, be killing sin or it will be killing you.  That’s especially true when it comes to pornography.  By the grace of God and the power of his Spirit, you need to fight. 

Loved ones, so much grief has been caused by the failure to respect this commandment.  We expect that in the world, but the church sometimes presents a dark tragedy.  How do we avoid that?  It starts with Christ and us looking to him in faith and taking delight in his person and work.  It continues with us, having been filled with his Spirit, living out of our union with him and delighting in his commandments.  It continues with us recognizing that God’s law is designed for our good and our good will tend to his glory.  So, brothers and sisters, this afternoon let’s again commit ourselves to living chaste and disciplined lives so that our God receives our love and gratitude for what he’s done in Christ.  AMEN.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

How glad we are to have Christ as our Saviour!  We’re glad for all his redemptive work in our place.  Father, please continue working in us with your Spirit so that our lives reflect the love and gratitude we have towards you.  We want to live chaste and disciplined lives.  We want to embrace your will for us.  Please help us to do that.  Help us also to hate sin and to fight against it with all our strength.  May your power be always undergirding us so that we don’t give up and surrender, but that we always want to put to death the old nature.  Father, we also pray you would give us healthy marriages.  Help husbands to love their wives and to cherish them as Christ does the church.  Help wives to submit to their husbands and to follow them in a godly and loving way.  We pray for the young couples in our congregation.  We ask that you would help them to remain pure in their relationships.  Help them to be committed to chastity before their wedding day.  Father, for all of us, we pray that you would keep us from temptation and deliver us from the evil one, also when it comes to sexual impurity in all its different forms.    




* 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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