Fools For Christ – July 22, 2018

We are a nation of passions. Researchers list the top three we struggle with are; the desire for wealth, over indulgence in food and strong sexual desires. We are a nation of consumers. Few countries advertise like we do. But we are also a nation that is obsessed with sex and sexuality. We went from Puritan roots – to almost anything goes today.

It is easy to look back and see that sex or at least the suggestion of sex has always been a part of our culture. But the current attitude is no longer shock, it is acceptance.

Now, some people have the mistaken Idea that God and Christians are anti-sex, but that is far from the truth. God created our passions, and he created our sexuality. He knows how powerful and wonderful they are.

The problem develops, when they are taken ‘out of the proper context’. God’s design for sex is meant to be bonded with love, not lust. When it is taken ‘out of the proper context’, sex becomes degrading, shameful, hurtful and leaves us with an abundance of pain and guilt.

No one understood this better than the Apostle Paul who was preaching in the early church. He addressed it over and over again; specifically to the Church in Corinth and in his letter to the Romans.

In Corinth, a Roman community, the people worshiped many gods. One of them was Aphrodite (or Venus), the goddess of love and fertility. The temple they built ‘in her honor’, had 1000 prostitutes, but ‘they called them’ sacred priestesses.

The city of Rome was also known for its promiscuous ways. They were proud to say that ‘anything goes’. Many of the people who came to Christ had long histories in the temple with the prostitutes – and they didn’t want to give it up. Paul understood that it was a powerful addiction.

The problem was; Paul saw how this was destroying marriages and leaving families in ruins.

In his letter to the Corinthians, he states this clearly when he writes, “Do you not know ‘that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body?’ For it was said, the two shall become one, in flesh.” 1 Corinthians 6:16

The Corinthians and Romans believed that they could separate their physical actions – from their spiritual lives but they were wrong. If nothing else, history has shown us that when sexual relationships are taken out of ‘the Godly context’ (which is marriage), – then bad things usually happen. Sexual promiscuity destroys relationships, families, as well as, the body and the soul.

In 2008, the National Center for Disease Control released a study on sexually transmitted diseases. The results then were shocking. The total number of sexually transmitted infections in the United States in 2008 – was ‘over 110 million’ – and costs to the American people toped 16 Billion dollars.

Guess what, in 2016, when the last study was released, those numbers shot up to 357 million diseases spread. That number is ever more mind boggling because there were only 206.5 million people between 15 and 64 in the US.

Their study also showed that, in the 1970’s, – less than 2% of the population ‘lived together’ before marriage. According to current estimates, nearly 60% of couples do it now; with the elderly being a growing population for living together.

As one young lady wrote on the internet, “Before we plunk down our hard-earned money, we consumers like to know we will be happy with our purchases. Few people buy clothes or shoes without trying them on. And you would never expect us to buy a car ‘without a test drive’. Grocery stores offer samples, to get us to try new products, and electronic stores let us play with phones, cameras, and video games – so we know what we are getting for our money”.

She continued, “I feel, that ‘we are justified in trying out marriage’ before we commit. After all, if we are not compatible and it isn’t a marriage made in heaven, why spend ‘all that money’ for the wedding and the inevitable divorce?”  

The National Center for Healthy Living shared these statistics also from 2008. They reported that at that time, 48% of young adults were living together – with the expectation of being married within 5 years. They revisited those couples in 2016, and here are the current facts; Only 1/4th are married. 1/4th are still living together and nearly half have split up. And those that did marry have a higher rate of divorce.

Harvard University professors also did a study on ‘how casual sex affects us’. It is chronicled in the book, “Hooked; New Science on How Casual Sex is affecting our Children.” Drs. Freda Bush and Joe McIlhaney recorded how sex acts affect the mind of youth and young adults.

They write; participation in sex acts ‘during the early years’ changes brain function. It interrupts the normal production of chemicals in the mind. These chemicals, when properly released, create the “monogamy syndrome” in that moment, bonding two people to one another.

But when people have ‘casual sex’, the level of conviction, trust and devotion drops dramatically. Those who have sex outside marriage are more prone to suspicion, obsession over other partners previous sex lives and lack of real trust. They call it ‘Psychological baggage’.

Now, I have to be honest, I have witnessed ‘this first hand’ on many accounts. I cannot tell you the number of people who come in for marriage counseling, – who are dealing with these latent issues. Trust, respect, honesty, shame, compassion and personal self worth – are vital to strong marriages. Many of these things are already in jeopardy when they have been breached early on in the marriage.

Let me just remind you, God does forgives all our sin, when we bring it to him in repentance. Sexual sin isn’t an unforgivable act. Although the consequences can be hard to live with, we can learn to love and trust again.

In the best seller “Not even a Hint”, Joshua Harris writes, “I’ve come to believe that lust – may be the defining struggle for our generation. Youth and young adults’ cannot avoid it, – it is everywhere. We have immediate access on our i-phones and computers.”

His conclusion, – Take Ephesians 5:3 seriously; “But among you, there ‘must not be even a hint’ of sexual immorality…”

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:18; “Flee from sexual immorality.” Don’t try to control it or ask how much can you get away with. Don’t try to analyze it or understand it – just flee. Get out of any place that could draw you in. Put down the phone, leave the computer, put down the magazines, shut off the television program, or leave the person who is tempting you. Run!

One of the most memorable talks I ever heard ‘on this passage’ happened at a ‘Promise Keeper’s Rally’ in Indianapolis. The speaker was a Christian Counselor speaking on lust and sexual promiscuity. He talked about those who came to him from the age of 12 through 80.

At one point, he began to cry and his voice cracked, “Don’t think you can handle it. Don’t be the guy who thinks ‘you are in charge’. Just run!” he said this with tears streaming down his cheeks.

 There is a wonderful illustration I think Paul was alluding to, in our Bible. ‘It comes to us’ from Genesis Chapter 39. Potipher’s wife tries to lure Joseph into an illicit affair. Joseph was a slave in their home and he had no recourse. Yet when ‘this wife’ grabbed his robe and asked Joseph to come to bed with her, “He left his cloak in her hand and ran from the house.”

Others like King David, Samson and Solomon should have turned away or passed up opportunities, but they didn’t. And Scripture tells us of ‘the tragic falls they had’ because they didn’t take heed.

Listen, I know how hard it is to avoid everything sexual the world throws at us. But I also know that people of faith and Christian leaders are to be held to a higher standard. We are to model Godly behavior and I have to say, it really scares me. In fact, it scares me right into the arms of Jesus.

We cannot win this fight alone. We need friends that will help ‘keep us honest’, families and wives that ‘we can trust and confide in’ and churches that teach about sexual purity. No one else in the world is going to care or hold us accountable.

It is kind of funny – in a sad way, because we have become such a health conscious society. We worry about what we eat, our exercise, looking younger and our mental well being yet we fail to stop the one thing that causes some of the most devastation.

Most of us never consider that the actions of our sex life could kill our hope, spirit, health and soul; destroy our families and impact generations to come. But there is hope. We can address this problem and we can stand firm in Christ and even run when necessary. We just have to have our eyes open and not be proud.

1 Corinthians 6:19 reminds us that ‘our bodies are not our own’, once we invite Christ into our lives. ‘What we do’ also affects the Spirit living within us.

I want to end with this final illustration: One of the greatest examples of a man of purity and conviction is former NBA player A.C. Green. At 6’9” – 224 pounds, Green was the epitome of strength and stamina.

He holds the NBA record for consecutive games played. He is an “iron man.” More importantly, Green was ‘an iron man in his sexual purity’. He accepted Jesus in High School and made a vow to remain a virgin until he married.

During his rookie year with the Los Angeles Lakers, A.C.’s teammates said he’d never be able to keep his vow to save sex for marriage. “We’re going to give you six weeks,” they told A.C., according to a Sports Illustrated article.

They actually sent beautiful women ‘his way’ just to tempt him. Women even came into the locker room while he was changing. He said ‘it was embarrassing’ and he kept thinking, “What would God want me to do?” When he married at the age of 38, he was still a virgin. In the fast and loose world of the NBA, where gorgeous young women are a constant temptation, that’s a remarkable record.

“Abstinence before marriage is something I very much believe in,” A.C. said. “Responsibility is the main issue, being responsible for the decisions that you make, and realizing that every decision has consequences.”

“It wasn’t a popular decision then, just like it can be an unpopular decision now. It didn’t always make me more friends. But the friends I have were ‘true friends’. True to themselves and true to me. We know ‘each other’s goals and dreams’ and we encourage each other to achieve them.

“It wasn’t easy. But every single day I say ‘yes’ to abstinence, it became that much easier. If you make a decision, and you practice it, that practice turns into a habit and the habit becomes a lifestyle.” 

Today, Green has ‘his own ministry’ that teaches abstinence in the public schools. He also is a sought after speaker for men’s groups on living faithfully and on protecting your marriage. If A.C. Green can be sexually pure living life as an NBA player, by God’s grace, we can remain pure and keep our lives pure also.

It should call ‘us to stop and reflect’ on this question, “What lives are we living while we believe no one is looking?” Then we need to remember that God is always watching – and so are others.

Your assignment…is too live out a life of honor and respect for the Lord.

I pray it may be so for all of us.