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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:Purity and holiness are God's will for us
Text:LD 41 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 7th Commandment (Adultery)
 
Preached:2012
Added:2012-08-13
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

NOTE:  all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Hymn 81
Psalm 25:1-4
Psalm 119:34-36
Hymn 1
Hymn 37

Readings:  Proverbs 5, 1 Corinthians 6
Catechism lesson:  Lord's Day 41

If you're reading this sermon, this should be included in your bulletin:

Two Resources for the Battle Against Pornography
 
If you are enslaved to pornography, you need help.  One of the best places to find help is at Setting Captives Free, www.settingcaptivesfree.com    The Way of Purity is a free on-line course that is Bible-based, Christ-centered, and gospel-oriented.  Highly recommended!
 
Every Christian home with Internet access must have a filter.  This cannot be emphasized enough.  There are a number of filters available.  K9 (www.k9webprotection.com) is one of the best.  It is free and it includes options to restrict web access with regards to time, key words, websites, etc.   
* 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 Christ our Lord,

This afternoon we’re dealing with a sensitive, yet crucially important subject.  It’s sensitive because inevitably we have to speak about matters relating to our sexuality.  It’s important because this is an area where Christian principles are constantly under attack in our culture.   Thus we’re faced with a challenge.  The challenge is to speak clearly about what the Bible teaches without crossing the line into “too much information.”  The challenge is to address the lies pushed at us by our society without stooping to their level.  We want to exalt marriage, we want to maintain a holy view of sexuality, we want to have our children and young people have a godly and dignified view of these subjects.  Yet, we also want them and all of us to be equipped with a clear understanding of how sexuality and marriage are perverted in the world.  These are the challenges we face this afternoon. 

There are different ways that we can approach the Seventh Commandment.  This afternoon, we will consider how purity and holiness are God’s will for us as believers bought with the blood of Christ.  The gospel proclaims that we have been redeemed through our Saviour.  Through Jesus there is forgiveness for every sin.  Because of him we are right with God and receive assurance of eternal life.  Our salvation in Christ goes further with our sanctification, the process of becoming who we are in Christ.  Sanctification is the expression of our thankfulness for our redemption in Christ.  You may remember that back in Lord’s Day 33 we confess that sanctification consists of two elements.  On the one hand, there is the dying of the old nature.  This is grieving with heartfelt sorrow that we have offended God with our sin.  In the dying of the old nature we learn to hate our sin and flee from it.  On the other hand, we have the coming to life of the new nature.  This is about living in Christ.  It is a love and delight to live in a way that follows God’s will.  Now as we learn about the Seventh Commandment and our sanctification, we can use this structure as a guide.  So I preach to you God’s Word:

The Seventh Commandment teaches us that purity and holiness are God’s will for us

We’ll consider how this involves:

1.      The dying of the old nature

2.      The coming to life of the new nature.      

In order to grieve over sin, to hate sin, and to flee from it, we have to first identify it.  We have to be specific about what this sin is.  When it comes to the Seventh Commandment, we have to think about what it is exactly that we are to die to.  The Seventh Commandment says, “You shall not commit adultery.”  Adultery is breaking the marriage relationship through unfaithfulness.  In its most basic sense, that’s what we have to die to with this commandment.  We have to hate marital infidelity, flee from it, and grieve over it if we have committed it. 

However, like all the others, this commandment does have a broader scope.  The Seventh Commandment is about protecting the institution of marriage and everything associated with it.  God instituted marriage at the beginning – marriage is his idea and his design.  The Seventh Commandment is about guarding that.  It does so by also drawing our attention to the fact that all unchastity is cursed by God.  Unchastity includes all forms of sexual sin.  God forbids unchastity in terms of acts, gestures, thoughts, words, desires – and anything that may lead us in the direction of sexual sin. 

In 1 Corinthians 6, the apostle Paul mentions some of these forms of unchastity.  He speaks about some of these things that have to be detested by Christians and put to death in our lives.  In verses 9 and 10, he speaks about those who will not inherit the kingdom of God.  They live in certain sins and do not repent.  It is striking that about half of the sins mentioned here are sexual in nature.  This reflects the world in which Paul and the Corinthians lived.  Like us, they lived in a hyper-sexualized culture.  Sexual immorality surrounded them and confronted them almost everywhere they looked.  It was difficult to avoid.  That’s why the apostle Paul gave them these powerful words of warning. 

He says that the sexually immoral and idolaters will not inherit the kingdom of God.  If anyone lives in these sins, they will not be saved.  With their lifestyle, they show that they have not truly repented and believed in Christ.  If they loved Christ, they would want to obey his commandments.  But living in sexual immorality and idolatry reveals that there is a different love at work in their lives, the love of pleasure and the love of self. 

Today sexual immorality and idolatry go hand in hand in one of the greatest challenges facing the church of Jesus Christ.  Though it is a great challenge, we are reluctant to speak openly about it.  We would rather think that it didn’t exist.  We’d like to believe that there are only a handful of people in the church who are enslaved to this.  But the reality is different.  Surveys and statistics repeatedly reveal that pornography is a huge problem amongst Christians, and we would be deceiving ourselves if we thought that Canadian Reformed people are immune to it or that the statistics don’t apply to us.

Loved ones, one of the keys to a biblical approach to pornography is to understand its spiritual nature.  This is not merely about biology, this is about worship.  People engaged in pornography are worshipping.  They are worshipping images.  At the moment, those pictures have become your god, the place you are going for happiness and satisfaction.  Those pictures have replaced the true God in your life.  Thus, pornography is not just a breach of the Seventh Commandment, it also involves sin against the First Commandment.  Pornography is sexual immorality tied to idolatry.  And it will kill you.  If you do not hate it and flee from it, if you do not grieve from the heart your offense to God, you will not inherit the kingdom of God.  It affects your eternal destiny, but it also impacts the here and now.  If you’re married, you are destroying your marriage with your electronic infidelity.  If you’re single, you’re turning yourself into a lousy potential spouse for someone.  Pornography is a destroyer.  It lies to you and tells you that will find happiness and pleasure, but in the end it turns against you to consume you. 

It’s like what Proverbs 5 says about the adulteress who tries to seduce a young man.  Her lips drip honey and her speech is smooth like oil.  But in the end, there’s bitterness.  In the end, she’s carrying a sword.  “Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.”  You’d think that these words had been written directly with pornography in mind.  This is exactly what happens.        

Brothers and sisters, I have mentioned a couple of resources in the bulletin.  If you’re viewing pornography, you need help to fight.  These resources will put you on the right track.  And moms and dads, I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to have a filter installed on every computer in your household.  If you really love your children, you must do this.  You must protect them.  I beg you to take this seriously.  There are lots of options available.  Find one that works for you and stick with it.  Moms and dads, you have to protect your family from Satan’s schemes.  He prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, and one of the ways he’ll do it is through unfiltered web access.  Put up a fence to keep the lion out.  Get a web filter.  If you don’t have one, do it today.  Do it as soon as you come home from church.  This is that important.             

But Paul mentions more in 1 Corinthians 6.  He also speaks about homosexuality.  Here I want to refer to the way the ESV translates verse 9, since I think it’s more accurate than we what we have in the NIV.  The ESV speaks of “men who practice homosexuality.”  In a footnote, the translators explain further, “The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts.”  In other words, Paul is speaking about all homosexual activity.  He says that those who engage in such things without repenting will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

As you know, the Bible says more about homosexuality.  It is clear from Scripture that God regards homosexual behaviour as a perversion and abomination of his plan for human sexuality.  Yes, heterosexual fornication and adultery is also perverse and is also abominable in the sight of God.  We easily forget that.  But it cannot be doubted that homosexual acts take perversion down to a different level.  This is clear from Romans 1.   And we all know how our society is trying to move us towards tolerating and condoning this behaviour, approving of it. 

The Bible leads us to think differently about homosexuality.  We are called to recognize what the Holy Spirit says about it both in Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6.  We must affirm those clear biblical teachings and hold on to them.  But we must go further.  We must go further to verse 11 of 1 Corinthians 6.  Paul says, “And that is what some of you were…”  In other words, some of the Corinthian believers had been homosexual fornicators.  But through the gospel, their lives were changed.  They were transformed through Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Drunkards don’t have to remain as drunkards, slanderers don’t have to stay slanderers, and those who practice homosexuality don’t have to keep on practicing homosexuality.  There is forgiveness for all in Christ – there is freedom from all these things in Christ.    

Here something has to be said about the way we speak about homosexuality in the church.  Sometimes it seems that our problem with homosexuality is more about what we’ll call the ick factor than what God says about it.  We’re grossed out by it and that’s why we find it disdainful.  That’s perhaps why we sometimes say the nasty things we do about people who practice homosexuality as a lifestyle.  But don’t we want to win our homosexual neighbours for Christ?  Don’t they also need salvation and life in Jesus?  Of course they do.  Our calling is still to love our neighbour as ourselves, including our homosexual neighbours.  Love is the way to win people over.  They should never be able to say with any credibility that we hate them.         

And there are people in our churches who do genuinely struggle with homosexual desires.  They need to be encouraged to remain chaste and to resist temptation.  They need to hate and flee these homosexual lusts and behaviours.  They need to understand that Christ is their Saviour too, and we’re called to be compassionate and gracious with those who struggle in this way.  We’ve been shown so much grace by our God, we ought in turn to be gracious with other sinners.  We will never condone sin; we will never say that it’s okay for someone to engage in homosexual activity or even to indulge in homosexual thoughts and desires.  But that’s not any different than what we do with extra-marital heterosexual activities, thoughts, and desires.  We’re all called to chastity.    

That’s where I want to finish off this point.  The Seventh Commandment calls us as Christians to live chaste lives to protect the institution of marriage.  For those of us who are married, our marriages are vitally important.  Instituted by God at creation, marriage is God’s plan to advance the human race and preserve and increase the church.  Marriage can also be a delightful and joyful relationship – that’s how it should be.  Moreover, it is designed to speak to us of the relationship between Christ and his church.  Marriage speaks about the gospel, about commitment and love, about self-less sacrifice.

Therefore, as thankful Christians filled with love for Christ, putting to death the old nature here means that we stay clear of anything at all that will endanger or harm our marriages.  We will flee from anything that threatens our marriage.  Let me mention just one example here.  If your best friend is not your husband or your wife, that could be a major danger sign.  If your best friend is someone of the opposite sex who is not your husband or your wife, that could be an even bigger danger sign.  God’s design for marriage is intimacy, an intimacy that no other human relationship can take precedent over.  That addresses the physical aspect – we should certainly not invest ourselves physically into a relationship outside our marriage.  But it also addresses the emotional aspect – we should certainly also steer clear of investing ourselves emotionally into others besides our husband or wife.  And, don’t kid yourself, one does often have the habit of leading to the other.  The emotional often does lead to the physical – ask any pastor with any amount of experience in the ministry and he can testify to having observed this.  This is why Genesis 2:24 speaks of husband and wife being one flesh.  Nothing and no one should come between them.  So, married brothers and sisters, we have to resist the temptation to develop closer relationships with others besides our spouse.  This is part of how we protect the institution of marriage in our lives.

We must hate and flee anything that would compromise our purity and holiness.  Now what about the coming to life of the new nature as we pursue purity and holiness?  What does it look like to live in Christ as we want to keep this commandment? 

Let’s take our starting point in the summary of Scripture in the Catechism.  It says that we must “live chaste and disciplined lives both within and outside of holy marriage.”  We must be serious about pursuing self-control, and about being pure and holy in every aspect of our lives.

Proverbs 5 has some wisdom for us as we learn about what this means.  After advising his son to stay away from the adulteress who would destroy him, the author then gives some positive teaching as well.  He writes about what has to be avoided, but also about what ought to be pursued.

He says in verse 15, “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well.”  A cistern is a giant storage tank for water.  Water is needed for life.  Solomon is saying that the young man should look to his wife for what he needs.  Forget about others.  God has given you this woman.  Learn to find contentment with her.  He says, “May you rejoice in the wife of your youth.”  He wants his son to find joy with his wife and her only.  Living a chaste and disciplined life inside of marriage starts with getting our hearts pointed in the right direction, in the direction of our spouse.  Doing that will guard and protect the marriage relationship.

Scripture says more on this point.  We can think about the biblical teachings of headship and submission in Paul’s letters.  For instance, in Colossians 3:18-19, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.  Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.”  Or Ephesians 5:22-23, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church…”  The world and worldly people laugh at these things.  They think they’re silly, outdated, and sexist.  But as Christians who have a new nature coming to life in Christ, we need to take these teachings seriously.  We must.  This is God’s Word.  This is God’s will for believers who have been saved by grace.  This is part of how marriage is protected and how marriages flourish.  When we follow God’s Word on this, there are blessings and it’s good for us.  So let me briefly unpack what this all means. 

Let’s start with husbands.  According to Scripture, husbands are to relate to their wives as Christ relates to the church.  Christ is the bridegroom and the church is the bride.  What has Christ done for his bride?  In his love, he laid down his life for her.  His headship was demonstrated with loving self-sacrifice.  He gave himself for his bride.  The headship of a husband is not about dictatorship.  To be sure, it does include authority.  After all, Christ is the head of the church and that definitely includes an element of authority.  But headship also involves service.  It means looking out, not for your own interests, but for the interests of the other.  Husbands, you exercise your headship to build up and serve the interest of your wife.  Just like Christ does with the church.

As for wives, they are to relate to their husbands as the church relates to Christ.  Their calling is submission.  Very unpopular, I know.  I know there are all sorts of efforts to try and strip this word of its biblical meaning.  But there is no getting around it and I make no apologies for it.  This is the Word of God.  It means to yield to the will of another.  Just as the church follows the will of Christ and puts his will first, so wives are called to yield to the will of their husbands.  Of course, there are limits to that – if a husband’s will contradicts the teaching of Scripture, then a wife must follow God rather than her husband.  But otherwise, we have the teaching of Paul in Eph. 4:24, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”

The coming to life of the new nature means that we learn to love to live according to the will of God, also in these things.  And this has a bearing also on you young people in the congregation.  While you’re young now, marriage may not be all that far off.  You need to be thinking about these things now already.  What is important in a spouse?  Let’s even back up from there and talk about boyfriends and girlfriends.  What are you thinking about as you get into such relationships?  Is it even marriage?  It should be.  The world looks at dating as recreation, partly also because the world throws sexual contact into the mix.  But as Christians, we must look at these things differently.  We should be thinking about marriage.  Is this young man going to be a godly husband?  Does this boy actually care about what the Bible teaches?  Does he listen in church or does he fall asleep and show no interest?  Can I have a conversation with him about spiritual things or does he think that’s too much like a holy roller?  If he and I were to get married, would he be a godly father who would teach our kids about Jesus?  Those are questions you young sisters need to be thinking about.  Listen, if you can’t answer those questions positively with any confidence, stay clear of such a guy.  Find a Christian young man in whom you can see Christ at work.  

And you, young brothers:  You too need to be thinking about marriage.  You need to be thinking beyond a girl’s looks and how “fun” she might be.  You need to ask more important questions like is this young girl going to be a godly wife?  Does she really love Christ?  Does she really care about what the Bible says?  Is she going to be a good mother who will teach your children about the Saviour and support your efforts to do that?  Brothers, find a good Christian girl in whom Christ is clearly working.  Don’t settle for less.

All of you young people, I urge you to pay attention to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?”  Now often those words are applied to having relationships with unbelievers outside the church.  The Bible is clear about that.  If you’re a Christian, you can’t get into a romantic relationship with a non-Christian.  Period.  But I would ask you to keep in mind that this not only applies to those outside the church.  Also inside the church there are hypocrites.  Inside the church, there are people who pretend to be Christians while they really are not.  With these too, you may not be joined romantically.  If you discover that a boy or a girl in the church is a hypocrite, living like an unbeliever, you cannot pursue a romantic relationship with such a person.  It is unbiblical to do so; it is against the will of God.  And whether inside or outside the church, forget about the strategy of “flirt and convert.”  It very seldom works and it is directly contrary to what the Bible teaches.  Pursuing holiness here means following God’s Word.  Brothers and sisters, young and old, take your Father seriously.  He knows what he is talking about and it is for your good.

There’s no doubt that marriage is a foundational institution.  There are many challenges to marriage today.  There are many ways in which the devil and his forces are seeking to destroy marriage so that they can destroy God’s work in this world.  There is a battle taking place.  We are in the midst of this battle.  For us, it is a battle for purity and holiness.  Brothers and sisters, as we continue looking to Christ, let us fight the good fight.  Let us put off every form of evil, also when it comes to sexual sin, and let us love the good law of our God and seek to live according to it.  AMEN. 

Prayer:

Holy Father in heaven,

Our Saviour loved us and gave himself for us.  We thank you for that gospel message.  Because of that gospel message we want to live for you.  We want to give our thank offerings with lives dedicated to you in love.  Please help us with your Spirit as we seek to live in obedience to the Seventh Commandment.  Help us to die to our old nature and its lusts and desires.  We pray for assistance in fighting every evil sexual desire in our hearts.  We also ask for your grace in living out of our new nature in Christ.  For those of us who are husbands, please help us to reflect Christ as we show headship in our homes.  For those who are wives, please help us to submit as godly women in the past have done.  Father, we also pray to you for our young people.  We ask that you would help them in their relationships.  Help them to pursue potential marriage partners who are godly, who love you, who love Christ, who love the gospel.  We pray that we may see all our children united in marriages that are glorifying to you.  Father, help us all as we wrestle and struggle with this messed up world.  Give us strength to resist temptation and to live according to your commandments. 




* 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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