We are constantly bombarded with images of sexual promiscuity in our modern culture and they come under the title, "sexual expression." But the Bible is clear that sexual sin carries a high price. "Flee youthful lusts," it says . . . and that literally means, "Run for your life!"
“CAGING THE BEAST WITHIN”
Take your Bibles, please, and turn with me to the book of Proverbs, chapter 29. Proverbs, chapter 29. I want to introduce our sermon, this morning, by a verse of scripture that is often misunderstood. In fact, it was brought again to my attention just recently. Proverbs, chapter 29, verse 18. It deals with the authority of scripture and, although it does, it’s easy to overlook that fact. Verse 18 says this, “Where there is no vision, the people perish”. The word for “vision,” I have often heard that used in reference to goals. A church should have goals, if a church is to have vision. People are to have goals and objectives, if they are a people that have vision. We are to have personal and corporate goals for our church and our things(?). And yet, that is not the word. In fact, the word is “hazon,” which, literally, means “revelation from God.” Now let’s read it again. “Where there is no” - “revelation from God” - “the people perish”. And that “perish,” could be translated as well, if you have a New American Standard, “the people are”- “without restraint.” That’s a powerful thought. If you take from a congregation, if you take from a society the authority of declared revelation, if you rob a country of declared truth, people are without restraint, people do anything, WE do anything we care to or desire. It’s interesting, as we discover ten commands that God has chosen to give to us, by way of revelation, you take out, you suck out of our society those ten commandments and you will have a people and a church without restraint.
And under attack, in our society and this little town, is an attack on the authority of scripture. There are four fronts on which this battle is fought. They’re not in your notes, if you’re following along, but maybe you should jot them in. Four ways the authority of scripture is attacked. The first is, simple and obviously, by public opinion. Public opinion will attack the authority of scripture because, being without it, they can do what they want to do. It’s interesting, I read a survey recently that 700 people, only 700 people, produce 75% of everything on television, which is where the public espouses it’s views. Seven hundred people produce 75%. And these people, by a national organization, were surveyed. And they came up with some rather startling facts. If you’ve wondered why television is what it is, here’s why. Eighty-four percent of them never attend a church or a synagogue or very seldom do. In other words, they are without a revelation from God because they are apart from that propositional truth that is, or should be, declared. Eighty-four percent say that government should have no laws regarding moral behavior. Fifty-five percent say that adultery is perfectly moral. Ninety-five percent say that homosexuality is not wrong. You remove, from public opinion, the authority of this book, upon which our authority hangs, and people become without restraint.
There’s another attack, however, it isn’t just public opinion. It’s accommodating theology. There’s not just confusion out in our society, there is confusion in the pulpit. There is confusion among people who say that they believe the words of scripture or believe in God. But, my friend, if you say you believe in God and do not believe in the authority of this book then you are, and I am, confused. There are people who stand today, this morning, across this county and around the world, who have cut from the heart of this book certain passages and declared them fables and myths. They have taken other passages from this book and declared them not to be from God, we can excise them from scripture. And I would declare the words of John to them, as he wrote in the final chapter of this book, “if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from” - eternal life. “If anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues”. That’s pretty strong words. God doesn’t want His authority tampered with. Public opinion, accommodating theology. Confusion in the pulpit and, as a result, confusion in the pew.
There’s another, Christian opinion often attacks the authority of scripture. In fact, you just talk to enough Christians and you’ll find enough to disagree about. In fact, I’ve got a plaque hanging in my study, I love it, it’s kind of stuffed over in the corner so you don’t see it when you first walk in. But it reminds me, as I look from my desk to that wall, it says, “Where two or three are gathered . . . in My name,” - “there will be disagreement as to what the Bible teaches.” There’s a lot of truth to that. And yet, opinion is not our basis for life. It is revelation. We are to pursue the teachings of scripture. To discern those teachings and then live by them. Else we live confused. In fact, this isn’t new, you go all the way back to Corinth, in that first church in Corinth, and they were divided right down the middle because they had a man who had married his mother. Right in the middle of the church there was an incestuous relationship going on. And they weren’t excising that person, they weren’t asking them to either repent or leave. And Paul has to write, in chapter 5, and say, “What is this I hear reported among you? Something that should not be named, even among the Gentiles.” Confused opinion because there is no authority of scripture.
Fourth, delayed consequences. Ecclesiastes, chapter 8, verse 11, says, “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, . . . the hearts of . . . men . . . are given full to . . . evil.” We can fool ourselves and our society can be fooled into thinking, that because God’s judgment does not fall (snap fingers), then there must not be a judgement at all. Like Robert Ingersoll, a man who used to stand before thousands of people on a stage and take his watch off. And he would hold it in the air and say, “If there is a God, let him strike me dead in thirty seconds.” And then he’d count the time down, “Twenty-nine, twenty-eight, twenty-seven . . .” And the crowd would gasp. And he would get down to, “Ten, nine, eight, seven, . . . three, two, one. See, there is no God.” It is the delay of consequence that fools people into thinking there is no penalty for sin. And, “If I violate this book and something doesn’t happen to me, it must be alright to violate it.” And so that opinion, as well, attacks the authority of scripture.
So, what do we have today, men and women? We have what one man writes about in a fantastic little book called, The Integrity Crises, Warren Wiersbe. He says, “For 1,900 years, the church has been telling our world to repent of it’s sins and to live pure. Today, 1,900 years later, the world is looking at the church and saying, ‘Repent of your sins and live pure.’” For 1,900 years, the message has been suspect. Today, men and women, the messenger is suspect. Why? Because there is no longer an authority of scripture in the home, in the church, in society. I never thought I would be put into such a boiling cauldron as I have been since starting the Ten Commandments, going through the book of Exodus. And yet, I have discovered that the writings of scripture deal with every aspect of life. God has spoken directly to such things as moral purity. In fact, He selected ten commands, as we have been studying in Exodus, chapter 20. And one of those ten commands is very specific, verse 14, “You shall not commit adultery.” Period, not a question mark but, a period.
Now that’s expanded in the New Testament with other words used in the original language. I’ve given you there, for the purpose of your notes, that Old Testament word and then the New Testament counterpart. “Moichos,” for “adultery;” that is, illicit relationships between those who are married. And then “fornication,” as he will tell us in the New Testament in Ephesians and Galatians, to flee these works. And he puts side-by-side another word, “porneia,” from which we get our word “pornography.” It is the Greek word that means, or can be translated “fornication.” That is immorality among unmarried people. So all the way back in the beginning of revelation from God, or at least written revelation, we have a declaration toward moral purity. “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
Now what I want to do this morning is several things. I want us to discover how it invades our lives. And let me say, right off the bat, that we are all impacted by this potential sin. In fact, according to the New Testament, Jesus Christ says, “If one merely” - “looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery . . . already in his heart.” James even expands it further, in chapter 4, verse 4, where he says, “You adulteresses,” - and adulterers - “do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?” In other words, adultery covers a wide spectrum. We’re going to deal primarily with a moral spectrum but it knocks on the door of everyone here this morning. I realize the gravity of this kind of sermon and how it may impact my own life.
Let me talk, first of all, about how it invades our lives. First, it is the ever present capability in a person’s flesh. Galatians, chapter 5, verse 19, talks about “adultery” and “fornication” being - “the works of the flesh”. What I want to do, first of all, is just lay the simple foundation that we recognize, within us lies a beast. It is unwise to call it anything less. The apostle Paul said, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” - this beast within. There is the capability in all of us, ladies and gentlemen, to do heinous crimes against our God. And it is the ever present capability in all of our flesh. So let’s call it what it is. Let’s just call it “beast.” Let’s call ourselves, “dormant beasts.” Okay? There’s no pride here. Let’s call it what it is. In fact, I read a story this past week that was rather interesting. Dr. Howard, a great expositor in Australia, was preaching at his church. And it was his typical approach to call sin, “sin.” We need more of that today. And an officer of the church approached him and he said, “Dr. Howard, don’t you understand that, by being so specific, you could cause problems. In fact, let’s suggest that you call things, not necessarily ‘sin,’ refer to them as ‘mistakes.’” And Dr. Howard got up from behind his desk and he said, “Follow me, Sir.” And he went down into the basement of his church and into a utility room and pulled off a shelf a bottle. And he wiped the dust off it and he showed the man the label. And he said, “The label reads, obviously, here, ‘Rat Poison.’” Dr. Howard said, “What you are suggesting is, we take this label off and we replace it with one that reads ‘Peppermint Candy.’” The point was made. To call it anything other than it is actually makes it more dangerous. So let’s begin with ourselves and call ourselves what we are in our flesh. “The works of the flesh” - are - “adultery” - and - “fornication”. There is a beast within all of us that must be caged. We’re going to work toward that end.
The second point, it is an evil creation in a person’s mind. Of course, Jesus Christ cleared that up in Matthew, chapter 5, where He says it doesn’t necessarily have to be an act, it can be a thought. It can be a creation in the mind. It can be a silent secret thing that no one else knows about except you and your thoughts. And what is capability then becomes a creation in the mind, where it begins.
That which is capability, then turns to creation, then finds culmination, number three, it is the erotic culmination in a person’s senses. The beginning of David’s decline is a verse of scripture that says, “and . . . he saw”. The first word recorded from Samson’s mouth, in Judges, chapter 14 to 17, were the words, “I saw a woman”. We need to be very careful, men and women, what we see, what we hear, what we allow to influence us, especially on the basis of that interview and that survey, what we allow to invade our living rooms, what we will listen to. Why? Because, in the pathway that leads to destruction, there is the sensual, the senses that find their culmination in those evil deeds. So beware of what we see and hear. When we see something or listen to something that does not honor God, take the advise of the apostle Paul, who said, “Flee fornication.” Run. High-tail it out of there. Get moving. Don’t flirt with it. Don’t cuddle it. Move! Run! Very clear.
Because if that culmination then finds activity, number four, it is the enveloping control of a person’s future. Be careful. Be careful what you allow to invade your senses. Psalm, chapter 101, David says, in later years of his life, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes”. One of the things that irritated the daylights out of my brothers and I is, we got a television, I was twelve years old when we got our first television, before we ever turned it on, my father wrote out on a piece of paper, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes”, and he taped it right on the screen. That ruined a lot of programs. He was trying to instill in us the necessity of discernment. To make that kind of commitment. Because, ultimately, if we allowed it to invade our lives, it will control our lives, as we’re going to see in a moment in Proverbs. And it is a battle. If you feel like you’re the only one here, this morning, who faces that battle, you’re wrong. It is a battle in the life of every believer who pursues Jesus Christ. Take heart.
I’ll never forget sitting in the office of one of the most godly professors that I had had in my seminary experience. He was a man in his mid-sixties, approaching seventy. He impacted my life like no other. And we were sitting in there and the news had just erupted of a man, in spiritual leadership, who had fallen morally. And he was exhorting me, as I viewed the ministry of moral purity. And I kind of chuckled and I said to him, “Boy it’ll be sure nice to turn seventy.” And we laughed, he didn’t flunk me, he laughed. And then he looked at me, straight in the eye, and he said, “The older I get, the more difficult the battle becomes.” I said, “Thanks a lot!” That’s the truth. Why? Because the flesh is not laid off at sixty or seventy or eighty, we take it to the grave. And while we’re on the process through life, we cage it, we discipline it, we guard it, we watch it, lest it control our lives.
If we allow it into our lives, what are the results? Turn to Proverbs, chapter 5. Let’s take a look at one who fell. What are the results? How does it impact a life that is given to it’s control. I’m going to give you three clear points. First of all, immorality defrauds your husband or your wife. And I will add to that, your future husband, your future wife. It is a thief. It steals the delight of discovery from that one you will marry. It takes from that one you are married to and it gives, in a defrauding way, to someone else. God never intended that. Let’s take a look at what the scripture says. Chapter 5, verse 7, “Now then, my sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. Keep your way far from her,” - he is talking about the seductress - “and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your vigor to others, and your years to the cruel one; lest strangers be filled with your strength, and your hard-earned goods go to the house of an alien;” - you see what a thief immorality is? - “and you groan at your latter end, when your flesh and your body are consumed; and you say, ‘How I have hated instruction! And my heart spurned reproof! And I have not listened to the voice of my teachers, nor inclined my ear to my instructors! I was almost in utter ruin in the midst of the assembly and congregation.’ Drink water from your own cistern, and fresh water from your own well. Should your springs be dispersed abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be yours alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth.” Don’t take from that spouse what is theirs. Don’t allow someone to steal. Don’t give it away. F. B. Meyer, a great teacher of scripture, said that for a man to be involved with another woman, or a woman to be involved in the life of another man, is like a bank robber coming and robbing a bank. It is money that does not belong to him. But in the confines of arrangement that God has designed by His delight and for our delight, it is like putting deposits into a bank, making investments in a relationship that will last for life. Immorality defrauds. It steals.
Secondly, immorality deceives your intellect. And I’ll refer to this, not just in adultery alone but, anything that is immoral. Any activity that violates the authority of God’s scripture. Anything that is sin according to His book. It deceives. You could add the word into your notes, it depreciates your intellect. The most classic illustration of this is the life of Samson. Just listen a moment. Here is Samson, involved in the life, immorally, of Delilah. Delilah is on the payroll of the Philistines. And she has been promised something like 11,000 shekels of silver if she can discover his source of strength. And so, she comes to Samson and she says, “Samson, what is the source of your power and your strength?” Samson toys with her and he says, “Well, if you bind me with seven fresh ropes, my strength will be gone.” So the next morning, he is awakened by Delilah who says, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And Samson says, “What’s this? Seven fresh cords about me.” And he snaps them and he takes the lives of the Philistines. Now, here’s Samson, what do you do? Huh? You wring her neck! She has tried to take your life. I mean, whew, think! So what does he do though? The scriptures tell us that she comes to him at a later time and says, “Samson, you didn’t tell me the truth. Tell me now what will take your strength.” And he again toys with her and he says, “Well, if you weave my hair into seven braids and pin it, that will do it.” The next morning, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” “Say, what is this? Seven braids of hair with a pin.” Now you’re Samson. Now what do you do? I mean, it’s a cut and dry situation. Case closed. She’s history. No. What’s the problem? I’ll tell you this because you and I can get involved in the same thing. Immorality robs a person of the ability to discern. Have you ever considered the thought that personal purity provides a foundation for right decisions? You think, “How in the WORLD could that man do something like that? Did you read the newspapers? How could somebody be so STUPID?” I’ll tell you how. They are involved in things that have entrapped their intellect and it is depreciating the ability to discern right from wrong, what is dangerous and what is safe. One of the greatest reasons to live a pure life is to be able to make decisions that honor God and protect our lives.
Let me show you what Proverbs says, along that line, in chapter 6, verse 32,“The one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense”. Look at chapter 7, verse 7, “And I saw among the naive, I discerned among the youths, a young man lacking sense” - there it is. It isn’t until you and I repent of immorality and sin and come back into fellowship with Jesus Christ that we are given again that foundation for making decisions that will honor Him. But let me warn you that are involved, if possible, when you are in that situation, you may make grave errors of judgment because the foundation for judgment, in part, is personal purity.
As a young boy, my brother and I, before our youngest brother was born. Tim, who sang a week ago, was in the crib. And my brother was old enough to get on the counter in the bathroom. I wasn’t yet tall enough for that so he handled the job. Do you remember those aspirin that tasted delicious? I can’t remember the name of them, they had a unique little name and they were orange, just like candy. We would fake headaches, you know, to get that kind of stuff. Well, one night my brother and I slipped out of bed. I’m sure it was his idea! He climbed up the counter and got a brand new bottle of aspirin and pulled it down and we opened it and we ate it all. We went back to bed. My mother woke, some time later. We’re not even sure how long but some time later went into the bathroom and saw the empty bottle lying in the sink. She came rushing into our room and my brother and I were fast asleep. The next thing I remember is laying on my side staring at the waist of the biggest nurse I have ever seen in my life as she pumped my stomach. You see, for me, that sleep could have led to death. I don’t know, it could have been disastrous. I desperately needed intervention. That’s the point. For some of us involved in immorality, doing things that do not honor God, there may need be intervention. It may be this sermon. It may be a close friend who is warning you. But for some, the only thing that may ever wake them up is something hardly less than disaster. The best way to learn not to eat more than two aspirin, is not by experience, it is by instruction. The best way for you and I to learn that immorality defeats, defrauds, deceives, is not by experience, it is by instruction.
Let me give you a third. It defrauds, it deceives, and it destroys your character. And I’m referring here to an unrepentant person who refuses to give it up, whatever it might be. It destroys your character. Listen to these words. Chapter 7, verse 24, “Now therefore, my sons, listen to me, and pay attention to the words of my mouth. Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her paths. For many are the” - and I’ve inserted the word “moral” - “For many are the” - moral - “victims she has cast down, and numerous are all her slain. Her house is the way to Sheol,” - or the grave - “descending to the chambers of death.” And let me say this, he is referring this in light of a woman but we can take anything that is immoral and, if we pursue it, it’s steps lead to death. The death of what? The death of our character. The engagement of immorality may take our character unless we come to Jesus Christ and repent.
Call it sin. And I want to stop right here, before we get into the solutions, and just say this, there is a word in scripture that is beautiful. It is the word, “forgiveness.” Isaiah writes, “Says the Lord,” . . . “Come now, and let us reason together” - literally, “Come, let’s talk together” - “Though your sins” - have left a deep - “scarlet” - stain, I can wash it - “as white as snow”. I John, chapter 1, as you well know, says, “If we confess” - if I admit it’s sinful, if I confess my sin, - “He is faithful and just to forgive” - my sin - “and to cleanse” - me - “from all” - all, ALL - “unrighteousness.” But we begin by calling it sin. Admitting, before God, that we have violated His command.
What would you think of a doctor who found a tumor within your body and said, “Take two aspirin and come back next week”? That wouldn’t be an appropriate response to what he found. What would you think of a fireman responding to a three-alarm blaze by saying, “Well, Ma’am, it’ll probably burn itself out soon enough. Just wait.” Or a policeman who arrives on the scene of a bank robbery and says, “Well, boys will be boys.” That’s inappropriate response to what’s happened. Just last week, my children found some paint that we had not stored high enough. I should have learned from the aspirin! And I wasn’t there when my wife discovered the three little Michelangelos out in the garage but I felt the earth move beneath my feet in my office! There was an appropriate response!
You know, that’s what God wants from us. Let’s just take a look at what this stuff is. And let’s call it what it is and admit it. And that opens the way, by His forgiveness, to do three things. Victory precedes all three. Let me give them to you. Victory over this sin begins with a determination to abstain. Put it down. It isn’t going to be a picnic. It means a persuasion in our soul that we will NOT violate, by the grace of God, His command. It begins with a determination, a commitment. It means simply saying, “God, I’m not going to make any excuses about my sin. No excuses. I’ll obey You. I’ll call it what it is without any excuse and, by Your grace, never do it again.”
You may have heard these before but one of the most hilarious things I have ever read were people who were involved in an accident. Have you ever heard that? And they wrote their insurance company trying to talk their way out of paying the claim. You may have heard these but let me give you these. These are classic. Some guy writes, “An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my car and vanished.” I’m sure they believed that one downtown! Listen to this, “I have been driving my car for forty years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had the accident.” It’s about time he pulled over! Number three, listen to this guy, “The pedestrian had no idea which direction to go, so I ran over him.” Four, “Suddenly a tree was there where no tree had been before.” Number five is the one that I love the most, “I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and headed over the embankment.” (laughter) Excuses, man! Aren’t we good at that? We can really go to God and say, “Oh, listen, I’m sorry I made a mistake. I flubbed up.” No excuses. Victory begins with a determination to abstain.
Secondly, victory is strengthened by discipline. David writes, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart” - I have treasured it up - “that I might not sin against Thee.” That’s discipline. Have you ever found it easy to sit down and memorize a verse of scripture? Absolutely not. I’ve never talked to anyone who said that was easy but that is part of the discipline. And David understood the value of it. It is a discipline, like David, who said, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes” - I will watch what I see, I will be careful what I allow in to my life. And let me say a word to every Mom and Dad here, especially of our young people. At this point in their lives, be careful that you help discipline, that you help them create a sense of what’s right and wrong. Be aware of what they face. They’re not in the same world you were in. They face incredible temptation. It’s changed even from my day. “My Heart Beats for You, Betty Lou” isn’t on the top ten anymore. It is, “Tonight’s the Night.” That’s the theme. Teen-agers were surveyed and they came up with what has been a mind-blower. As a youth pastor, in a former church, this has just grabbed me. Thirty-six percent of all the teen-agers interviewed could not say with any sense of authority that immorality or relations outside of marriage were wrong. And is it any wonder that the next statistic is true? Forty-six percent of “churched” teen-agers have given away their purity. I challenge every father to get involved. Every mother to be aware they are facing incredible pressure.
One more, victory is assured by dependence. Galatians, chapter 5, verse 16, says, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” That isn’t, “get five minutes of the Spirit,” “get a taste of the Spirit.” He is saying to, “WALK by the Spirit”, “peripateo,” which means “all that surrounds my life, as I go through my life, will be depending on the Spirit of God.” And it is that kind of life that will protect me from fulfilling the lusts and the desires of the flesh.
Men and women, let’s apply that verse of scripture. This holiness will never sneak into your life. Moral purity is NOT a coincidence. It is a pursuit. Have you ever asked yourself, “How can I be seen as distinctively different in the world today?” This is probably one of the greatest emerging ways, moral purity. “How can I, as a Christian, shine like a light at that job and in that neighborhood?” I can tell you, this is one of the greatest ways, that is becoming more apparent of our relationship with God than ever before, and that is, “I will live a pure life to the glory of God.” And I, collectively with you, will live lives so clean that the world looks at us and says, “There is something different. There is hope for me.” Let’s pray together.