Stay Away/Abstain

// February 24th, 2019 // Sermons

This entry is part 9 of 15 in the series Last Days Christianity

I don’t know how familiar you are…  You can listen online or download it and listen later…Stay Away/Abstain…with our text for this morning…but, with what we are dealing with, you might blush, you might get a bit defensive, and hopefully you will be willing to repent and come close to Jesus.

And, because this passage and its teaching is so relevant for our youth and because they face many of these challenges every day of their lives, we have planned for them to stay here with us for this sermon.

  1. 3 is very clear – “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality.” The NLT reads like this: God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin.”

There are not many things from which the Bible tells us to absolutely abstain.  The word itself is used only 7 times in the NT—3 times in the book of Acts, once in 1 Timothy, and once in 1 Peter.  The other two times are found in 1 Thessalonians.

Whenever we see the word “abstain” in the Bible, we know two things for certain:

  • First, it is a command of God, and…
  • It is absolutely prohibited.

Whenever we find a command to abstain in the Bible, we ought to take it very seriously.  In our text today, it is so simple and clear that there can be no debate about it.  God commands believers to abstain from sexual immorality!  Period!  End of story!  We may debate the application, but the command is crystal-clear.

When considering these words, several things come to mind:  First, this is a “No duh!” command – why did Paul feel the need to mention it? Second, this is not a popular doctrine.  In the course of your life, you will not hear many sermons on the dangers of sexual immorality.  Such sermons are not easy to preach nor are they easy to hear.

Our greatest danger may simply be that we do not take these words seriously.  Either we think we’ve heard it all before, or we’d rather not hear it at all, or we think this passage is for the pedophile and the rapist.

Have we lost the ability to blush?  I personally think a message on this passage is desperately needed in the evangelical church today.  Billy Graham used to comment that we routinely laugh at things that used to make us blush a generation ago.  And, I think that is true even inside the church.

Does anything make us blush today?  We have seen so much, heard so much, and experienced so much that nothing seems to surprise us anymore.

The sexual revolution has liberated us from old-fashioned standards, and with the changing times blushing has almost vanished.  This is not a good thing!  But it is the reality of our day.

We need to face the facts honestly.

Fact—Hard core pornography has come out of the closet and onto the street.  In the old days, you had to go to the local convenience store where you could find it under the counter.  Today pornography comes into our homes through TV, music, computers and cellphones.

Fact—Through the Internet the vilest forms of pornography are now available to children and people of all ages.  Statistics say that, by the age of 11, the majority of children have seen more than most of us had by age 25.  They’ve seen it all.

Fact—Homosexuality is now seen as an acceptable lifestyle that non-homosexuals are to applaud and champion.

Fact—Most mainline denominations now have openly gay clergy and support gay weddings.

Fact—We routinely see things on television that would have shocked us 25 years ago.  I recently commented about an ad for women’s hygiene that would have given my grandma a heart attack.

Fact—Nothing surprises us anymore.  We’ve seen it all . . . and seen it so often that we’ve lost our ability to be shocked.  Adultery. premarital sex, group sex, wife swapping, transgendered celebrities, transgendered pastors, X-rated movies on TV, sexting, hookup apps, easy divorce, multiple marriages, incest, child porn, bestiality, polyamory, gay churches, born again pornographers, radical sex education – which is part of what the One Accord Movement is all about.

What has happened to society?  When did we lose our collective sense of modesty?  Somewhere in the last generation morality died, public opinion eroded, and the law therefore no longer interferes.

Are you ready….it’s time we look at our text – first, we need:

  1. Clarification on Two Words
  • First, the word abstain means “to hold off from, to distance oneself from, to have nothing to do with.” You abstain from something when you separate yourself from it completely.  Imagine a pit containing all the evils I just mentioned.  That pit seethes and bubbles with every sort of foul sexual sin and every form of sexual perversion.  It is deep and dangerous.

To “abstain” means you don’t dabble in that pit.  You don’t dip your toe into it or stand on the edge and take pictures of the pit.  When you see the pit of sexual sin, abstaining means you get as far away from it as you can.

  • Second, the phrase “sexual immorality” comes from the Greek word porneia, which is a very broad word encompassing every kind of sexual activity outside of a God-ordained marriage relationship between one man and one woman.

It covers sins of the mind, body, eyes, ears and lips.  It includes premarital sex, extra-marital sex, every form of homosexuality, adultery, and every form of pornography.  Paul is telling us that Christians must abstain from a pornographic lifestyle in the broadest sense of that word.

This means there can be no “moderate immorality” and no “social adultery” and no “victimless pornography.”  We are not to dabble in sexual sin in any of its various forms.  We are to have nothing to do with it.

In Canada today the most radical thing a person can do is to be the husband of one wife or the wife of one husband.

Paul doesn’t spell out every detail of sexual immorality.  He doesn’t have to because the detailed expression of sin will change depending on time and place and cultural factors.  The command stands but the application changes.

In a world of impurity Christians are to be different.  That’s what the word “sanctification” means.  A sanctified person is a Christian whose life is “distinctively different” because it is set apart for God.

Secondly, Paul admonishes…

  1. Obedience to Two Commands

In v. 4-6 we find 2 commands – one positive and one negative.  We must take both to heart if we are going to be clean in a very dirty world.

# 1: Control your own body 

We all need to learn to control our own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God (v. 4-5).

  1. 4 in the KJV reads – each man is to “possess his vessel.” In this context it means to control his own body. To possess is to control in the sense of mastering the inner impulse to sin.

By the way, don’t blush because you have a sex drive…your sex drive is a good thing!  Don’t be ashamed of the sexual urges you feel.  God put those urges in you.  The desire to know and love another person and to express yourself physically is not wrong, and you don’t need to be ashamed of those kinds of feelings; it’s part of being male and female made in God’s image.

  • Your body is good.
  • Your hormones are good.
  • Your urge for intimacy is good.
  • Your sex drive is good and not evil.

It’s what you do with those urges that matters.  The world tells to go ahead and indulge yourself; throw off all restraints and follow your passions.  The desire to express yourself sexually is not evil.  But, it is like a fire – it can either warm us or destroy us:

  • Fire in the fireplace—that is good! It’s warmth fills the room.
  • Fire on the living room floor—that’s danger! Soon the whole house will be engulfed.

A God-empowered man controls his own body, and a God-empowered woman controls her own body.  When God is not in control, the body controls the man or the woman.

In v. 5, Paul explains his meaning – he mentions the “passionate lust” of the heathen/the Gentile.  This is what is all over social media, the internet and even in text messaging.

Paul says the reason is, the heathen “do not know God.”  That is the root cause of all the pain, misery, sin and debauchery in the world today.  Men and women do not know God and therefore they indulge their worst impulses.

When people turn away from God, anything is possible!  There is no limit to how deep we can go when we do not know God.  There are depths of shame, cesspools of life, that people live in for years because they do not know God.  Because there is nothing safety net on their desires, and so they commit unspeakable sin.

But we know God . . . and that makes all the difference!  Command #2:

# 2: Don’t wrong a Christian brother/sister  

The KJV uses the word “defraud” in v. 6.  Other translations use words like “exploit”, “harm” or “cheat.”  It means, “Don’t take from another man or woman what is not yours to take.”  The meaning implies:

  • Don’t cheat your brother by sleeping with his wife.
  • Don’t cheat your wife by dreaming of other women.
  • Don’t cheat your boyfriend or girlfriend by leading them on.
  • Don’t cheat your future husband or wife by giving away your purity.
  • Don’t cheat your friends by acting like a hypocrite.
  • Don’t cheat your family by sneaking around behind their backs, playing in playgrounds you have no business playing in.

Immorality is like that.  It always cheats someone else, usually someone you love very much.  Just ask any wife whose husband left her, or any parent whose child got into a sin trap; or any church member who saw their pastor fall into sexual sin.

And, the saddest thing about lust?  It never satisfies.  Someone has said that lust is “the craving for salt by a man dying of thirst.”  It promises everything and delivers nothing.  No lasting satisfaction.  You always have to go back for more.  Lust forces you to keep coming back.

This command is so important so Paul gives us…

III. Three Facts God Wants You to Know – They are easily applied today:

#1: The Lord is an avenger! – v. 6b

The most terrifying thing I know about God’s judgment is that He will allow us to run headlong to our own destruction.  When we sin, we tend to think, “If I go too far God will send down lightning from heaven.”  He certainly can do that and He might.  But, most of the time God’s judgment is simply to do nothing to stop men and women in their rush to destroy themselves.

Sometimes God punishes the body, sometimes the mind, sometimes our speech, our eyes, often our health, and almost always our memories.  Lust produces that inward deadening that is both unexpected and inevitable.  Research confirms that porn “rewires” the brain by changing the neural pathways.  That’s why it’s so hard for people hooked on porn to be set free.  John Michael Cusick wrote, “Porn becomes the path of least resistance in the brain.”  And this also is the judgment of God.  A deadened conscience no longer cares about sin.

#2: God has called us to purity

  1. 7 reads, God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives.

Christianity is the champion of purity.  When Jesus comes in to a life, He cleans house.

The Christian faith spread across the Roman Empire because it offered moral purity that became a light in the prevailing darkness.  The same thing happens today whenever we dare to live by God’s standards.  If you profess to be a Christian, even the unbelievers expect a higher standard.

#3: Rejecting purity means rejecting God

  1. 8 – Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. To “disregard” means to treat with utter contempt, making God’s instruction null and void. Brothers and sisters, you can’t have it both ways…either you live pure, or stop calling yourself a Christian!

We all need this message.  No one is exempt—not the Pastor, nor the Elders or Leadership, nor the people in the pew.  This is God’s Word for all of us.

Now it is time for some Good News!  Look at the last phrase of v. 8: God “…gives you his Holy Spirit.”  The word “gives” is present tense.  It means that God gives and keeps on giving the Spirit to you.  If you are a Bible Christian, you have the Holy Spirit living in you.  When God commands you to abstain, He also gives you the power to obey!

  • There is no other power that can sanctify you.
  • There is no other hope but us to be cleansed from sin.

You and I…we are not in this battle alone.  Our weakness is His strength. Need help?  You’ve got it!

In 1763 Augustus Toplady wrote a hymn called Rock of Ages.  Let’s read the first verse together – pay close attention to the last line:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee;

Let the water and the blood, from thy wounded side which flowed,

Be of sin the double cure; save from wrath and make me pure.

  • No one has to give in.
  • No one has to yield to sin.
  • No one has to live in constant defeat.

“Save from wrath and make me pure.”  The power to change is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  If we try to change ourselves, we will fail because we don’t have what it takes.  Our hope is in the Lord.

Imagine that you have a big jar filled with dirt, grime, and every sort of filth.  How will you ever get rid of all that filthy stuff?  Well, you can roll up your sleeves and plunge your hands deep into the foul-smelling, sticky mess.  As you scoop it out, the slimy stuff gets on your arms and your clothes, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t get it all out.

But a high-pressure washer would use clean water and force out all the filth, because filth can’t stay where the clean water enters.  Eventually the water does what you could never do on your own.  The filth is gone and the jar is clean.

This is a like the Christian life.  We are all like jars of filthy, muddy water when we come to Christ.  All of us are unclean and that’s why we are so attracted to Christ.  Jesus uses all the experiences of life to replace the muddy water of our sinful inclinations with the pure water of God’s holy character.  This is the only answer to our entrenched bitterness, lust, greed, hate, envy, impatience, dishonesty, and unfaithfulness.

  • Lord, may Your love come into me and drive out my anger.
  • Lord, may Your holiness enter and drive out my greed.
  • May Your purity enter and drive out my lust.
  • May Your mercy fill my soul and wash away my envy.
  • When Your patience comes in, my impatience will vanish.
  • When Your grace fills me, I can forgive.
  • Lord, all that You are, with all Your shining beauty, come and fill me.

Remember who you are in Christ. You are a child of God, a totally new creation, you are saved, redeemed, justified, forgiven, regenerated, and seated with Christ in heavenly places. All the promises of God now belong to you. You bear the name of your Heavenly Father. You are called to live for his glory.

You were made for better things!  You were not made to live in sin.

So, how can you please God?  What is His will for your life?  V. 3 is so clear – God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin.”  We are to abstain from sexual immorality!

There are some of you who are probably feeling totally defeated right now.  Maybe you have already blown it so badly that you feel there is no hope for you.  Maybe you sowed too much wild oats when you were younger.  Whatever you have done, or are still doing – the truth is, we have all failed – we have all sinned!  None of us have a perfect record.

Do you feel defeated?  Hopeless?  Trapped by your past?

We are surrounded by a pit of moral filth.  We’re all closer to that pit than we realize.  So close that we there are times we are tempted to stick a toe in.  Or maybe you have dipped your hands in and now your hands are stained and you can’t get them clean.  Or, you were standing close to the pit and you have had people come to grab you and try to pull you in.

Jesus proclaims to every broken sinner, “Go and sin no more.”  You can’t undo your past, but you can do something about your future.  By God’s grace you can be clean and you can be pure, you can be holy… from this day forward.  Like Peter & John told the man in the book of Acts, “In the name of Jesus, rise and walk!”

I came across the statement: “The key to a better future is to stop trying to have a better past.”  You can’t go back to change the past, and you can’t stay where you are because life is a river that flows ever onward, but by God’s grace you can decide to serve Jesus Christ from this day forward.

I believe God wants to raise up a generation of Christians who will walk in purity.  Nothing will prove more convincing to the watching world than believers in Jesus who manage to be pure – to be like Jesus – in this corrupt and dirty world.

Like a hospital in the middle of sickness, God desires His church – His people to be like an island of hope/refuge in a sea of despair.

When we walk in purity, the world notices because people are looking for hope.  When we dare to obey God, broken people will come out of the darkness to seek after the light of the gospel of Christ.  If we do our part, God will do the rest.

Are you committed to doing God’s will by abstaining from sexual immorality?

Have you made the intentional choice to live close enough to Jesus so that, even though you live in this world, you will look more like Jesus than the world?

Have you asked Jesus to change you…from the inside?

Let’s pray…

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