Last week we heard God’s call to RETURN to Him – to return to the God who really, really, really loves you! This week we’re taking it a step farther and we’re going to hear God’s call to return to HIS way. Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The 4th Century B.C. Israelite Way
The text for today is an Old Testament lesson coming from 2 Kings 22. 2 Kings is a history book. It goes together with 1st kings. Both books detail the history of the kings among the Israelite nation. 1st Kings is the 1st book about the history of kings in the Israelite nations. And 2nd Kings is…wait for it…the 2nd book about the history of kings in the Israelite nation.
If you follow the history throughout these books, the kingship starts in 1st Kings 1 with King David. He’s fairly well known and a king that was well connected to God. He built God’s temple, wrote hundreds of Psalms about God and led the nation in worshipping the true God. King David reigns in about 1025 BC. That means about 400 years of time take place before we get to chapter 22 of 2nd Kings.
The king at the end of those 400 years is a guy by the name of Manasseh. He is THE reason that there aren’t a lot of kids named Manasseh. As opposed to King David who 400 years earlier set up a temple and temple worship for the One True God, King Manasseh…well...ruled much differently:
Manasseh did evil in the eyes of the Lord. (2 Kings 21:2)
He increased the number of statues and worship centers to gods like Baal and Asherah – made up gods who weren’t really gods at all (21:3)
He set up some of those statues to other gods in the temple of the true GOD, the LORD himself. (21:4)
He sought advice from sorcery and Satanic rituals (v.5)
Ponder for those things for a minute:
It’d be as if all of our mission money went to handing out pamphlets about how we needed to worship Poseidon in order to stop hurricane Florence from hitting us.
It’d be as if one Sunday you came to worship and underneath the cross up front was a big statue of Buddha – with portraits of a Hindu elephant God hanging on the banners.
It’d be as if instead of having you all to open up your Bibles, I asked you to open up your Ouija boards.
Manasseh was bad. But…even if you don’t think so yet…one more thing Scripture included to help us understand just how bad he was:
Manasseh sacrificed his own children in the fire. (2 Chronicles 33:6)
If that is the morality of the leader of Israel, where do you think the rest of the nation was at?
Enter chapter 22. In chapter 22, Manasseh’s grandson Josiah becomes king. Manasseh died. His son was killed, and Josiah becomes king at 8 years old.
Now, an 8-year-old king might not sound like the greatest idea. I imagine there’d be some good things: Free Twizzlers for everyone! A public transit system of piggy back rides. The police officers would literally be PAW PATROL! Yet…you could make a good argument that it isn’t the wisest to elect a kid to be in charge of the government.
Yet, in spite of that solid opinion and logic:
God’s Word says that Manasseh did evil in the eyes of the Lord. (2 Kings 21:2)
Josiah did good in the eyes of the Lord (2 Kings 22:2)
God preferred a God loving 8-year-old boy to a Satanic, child-sacrificing adult.
But as Josiah grew up, governing with the aid of officials and other governors, he was still governing in a mostly godless nation. Since his grandpa didn’t care about God’s way, he also didn’t teach Josiah God’s way and since Josiah didn’t know what God’s way, he could not lead his people in God’s way.
Then, one day - when Josiah is 18…
Temple maintenance was up for the month on Josiah’s kingly task list. Maybe some of the paint was chipping or some of the stone was cracking, I don’t know. But King Josiah sent his servants to the temple to obtain money from the treasury so that they might begin a temple repair project.
When the servants returned, they didn’t just bring the bags of money.
They brought a really old book that the priest had called “the Book of the Law.”
The Book of the Law is a reference to the books written by Moses.
Moses wrote Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Number and Deuteronomy – the first five books of the Bible – the same first five books that you and I have today.
When Josiah’s servants found that book, it was the very first time that Josiah had ever seen it! Maybe it was locked up. Maybe it was hidden. Maybe it was on some back shelf in the storage room of the temple, collecting dust and housing spiders.
Josiah reads the book for the very first time in his life and…
He isn’t excited.
He isn’t intrigued.
He is absolutely terrified:
Josiah said, “Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.” (v.13)
Because Josiah read the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods,” and looked around at his own temple with statues of other gods for worshipping.
He read the sixth commandment: “You shall not commit adultery,” and looked out at the red light district nearby where people could pay cheap for a night with a prostitute!
He read the fifth commandment: “You shall not commit murder,” and he remember his own uncle who had been killed at the age of 3 at the hands of his own grandfather.
He read all of this and he read that God brings punishment against those who do evil.
And Josiah tore his clothing.
And Josiah was cut to the heart.
And Josiah was grief stricken.
Josiah started the day wanting to repair the temple – but now he realized the repairs were beyond what a tube of caulk could fix.
The people needed to RETURN.
They needed to RETURN from their own way.
They needed to RETURN to God’s Way.
II. The Problem with Human Ways
One of Josiah’s first actions after reading the book of the Law is to inquire of a prophet. The prophet gives this message from God: “These people have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.” (v.16-17)
Which maybe that seems a bit harsh.
Why is God’s anger burning? Why is He so wrathful?
That doesn’t seem like something a good God would do.
Sometimes preschool kids hit each other. It happens. What’s interesting is that if one of the kids is mean to another kid and leaves a mark, the parents want to know (1) Is my child ok? (2) What are you doing to ensure that kid is properly punished?
And fair enough. Parents need to know that we are not supporting and encouraging violent and wrong behavior.
Can you imagine if we did? Can you imagine if some little kid pushed another down and I ran up to him and said, “KID! That was awesome. Give me a high five.”
That doesn’t go so well, does it?
Or even if I did nothing and simply said, “Meh! No big deal?”
That doesn’t go well either.
There needs to be justice.
There needs to be a reaction against wrong doing.
A good teacher needs to react against wrong doing.
And a good God will always react against wrong doing.
He doesn’t react because He is wrong.
He reacts because He is Good.
If he didn’t react to Manasseh leading thousands astray into the worship of pieces of wood…
If he didn’t react to Manasseh calling to Satan for help…
If he didn’t react to Manasseh sacrificing his own children in the fire…
Then, he wouldn’t be a Good God.
He would be an Evil God.
Yet when we hear about God’s wrathful reaction against wrongdoing, it can still seem harsh. Many people don’t like reading the Old Testament and they sometimes treat the Old Testament God like a supervillain! He’s Thanos from Infinity War.
I think what’s helpful in this is to look at how God reacted to the reigns of Manasseh and Josiah respectively:
Manasseh did evil in the eyes of the Lord. (2 Kings 21:2)
Josiah did good in the eyes of the Lord (2 Kings 22:2)
“In the eyes of the Lord.” That’s seems to be an important phrase. Because I don’t imagine that Manasseh said to himself, “I can’t wait to do evil today. I can’t wait to do wrong. I think it’s the best part of my week.”
I imagine that he thought he was doing good:
“I’ll set up statues to other gods just in case there are other gods. That’ll be a good thing.”
“I’ll go inquire of the devil in case he gives me an insight that I can’t get anywhere else. That’s a good thing.”
“I’ll go ahead and sacrifice my children to this Molech guy because if he is real, he’ll be flattered by such an action that he’ll probably give me a good luck – which is a good thing.”
Manasseh’s actions were good in his own eyes.
But they were evil in the eyes of the Lord.
Do you see the rub then?
When God is wrathful, the problem is not an evil God…
The problem is an evil people.
And when we get angry with God because His Word clearly claims wrath against one of our own actions…
The problem isn’t with God.
It’s with us.
Think of it logically:
If a good God calls an action evil, it’s evil.
If a sinful human calls an action good, it might not be good at all. (He has sinful, imperfect reasoning which prevents him from accurately labelling the action).
If a good God calls something evil, but a sinful human calls the same action good, then…
God’s right. The human is wrong. End of story.
If you think sleeping with you boyfriend before marriage is good because it feels good, but God calls it wrong. It’s wrong.
It you think stealing that money at work is good because your boss deserves it, but God calls it wrong. It’s wrong.
If you think gossiping about that person is good because it makes you look better, but God calls it wrong. It’s wrong.
If you think not helping the poor is good because you are teaching them a lesson, but God calls it wrong. It’s wrong.
If you think racism is ok because those people have brought it on themselves, but God calls it wrong. It’s wrong.
If you think homosexuality is right because ‘love is love’, but God calls it wrong. It’s wrong.
And if you keep following your sinful ways, they will lead you where you don’t want to go:
They will lead you against a good God.
They will lead you into his wrath.
Return to God’s Way!
Return because…God’s Ways are Beyond Good.
III. God’s Ways are BEYOND Good
Look at God’s response to Josiah. He says this:
“Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.” (v.19-20)
This is amazing!
Josiah sees the problem his people are in.
He realizes it is beyond what a sinful human can fix.
Josiah simply turns to the only one with the inherent good to fix it all -
And when Josiah turns to God, God offers him peace.
Keep in mind! Josiah hasn’t even done anything to course correct yet.
He hasn’t fixed any of the problem in Israel.
He hasn’t destroyed any statues.
He hasn’t given any money.
He hasn’t DONE anything but turned to God for mercy.
And God’s ways are so beyond good—that God is merciful to Josiah.
It is that same merciful God who hears your cry.
It is that same merciful God who heard your cry 2000 years in advance and went to the cross to achieve peace for you.
Romans 5:1 says this:
Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Because, as we mentioned before, God is so good – he needed to pour out wrath for our sins.
And God is so beyond Good – He didn’t want to pour out that wrath against you!
And so, in a way that can only be described as God’s own, incredible, beyond good Way:
God suffered his own wrath against our sins to save us from wrath and bring us peace.
This is truth.
Jesus died to bring you peace.
It means no matter what sin you have done.
No matter how wrong you have been.
No matter how far off from following God’s ways you have gone – even if you’ve gone so far as to think you’re way is right and His way is wrong – God’s way is so incredibly Good that when you return He says the same thing to YOU that he did to Josiah:
IV. What Now?
Our WHAT NOW is similar to last week’s WHAT NOW? Return to God. Return to His Way. Return to God because He is good. Return to His way because it is good.
But more specifically – how do we respond to his grace and follow his ways? A few clues from the text:
1) Read God’s Law
Take note that in verse 16 God mentions that the people had gone against “Everything written in the book of the Law” and his wrathful reaction would happen “according to the book of the Law.”
In other words – God’s ways are NOT a surprise.
They aren’t a mystery.
They aren’t hidden.
He wrote them down clearly. They’re only a mystery to us when we don’t study them.
Read God’s Word. Study God’s Word. Learn God’s Word.
Read it if you don’t know what God’s way is.
Read it if you think you do.
Because REMEMBER: There is a big difference between what God wants me to do and what I want God to want me to do.
Reading what God wants from his clear Word helps to set you straight.
2) Use your Influence
Because when Josiah saw that 6th Century B.C. Israelite society was far from God’s ways – he used his influence on their behalf.
He went up to the temple of the Lord with the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets—all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord. (23:2)
There is no doubt that modern American society is far from God’s ways, too.
But unfortunately, none of us have the influence that King Josiah did to influence the whole nation.
Use the influence you do have:
Share His Word with your kids. Teach them the Ten Commandments.
Make Bible stories a part of your daily time with your family.
Memorize Bible Verses with your spouse.
Don’t be afraid to speak up for God’s way with friends and coworkers.
Use your influence to teach God’s way just like Josiah did.
3) Repair the Temple
This was Josiah’s original goal. But instead of spending money on caulk and fresh paint, he ends up buying sledge hammers and crow bars.
The king removed from the temple of the Lord all the articles made for the false gods.
He burned their statues.
He did away with the fake priests.
He took the Asherah pole from the temple of the Lord, ground it to powder and scattered the dust. (23:4-6)
Where in your life have you been following your own ways?
Where in your life have you been moving away from God?
Ask God to reveal it to you and then…
Repair the temple.
Repair YOUR temple.
Clean up the filth.
Take a sledge hammer to the wrong.
Throw away the evil.
God will help you do this! God is good AND He has declared you good because of what Jesus did for you!
That good God – who is excellent at destroying evil – even destroying evil on the cross – will fight beside you.
2 Kings 23:25 says that King Josiah “turned to the Lord with all his heart.”
Not some of his heart.
Not a bit of his heart.
Not most of his heart.
All of his heart.
Friends, it is my prayer that God inspires our hearts to turn as well.
And I know God will work to do this…
Because God has already turned all of His heart to you. Amen.
I don’t know if you saw it in the hallway, but the blueprint for the new school is up. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. It’s looks very cool.
But I’d be lying if I told you it was the first blueprint. There have been quite a few others. This is like draft 12. Walls have been added, windows widened, mini gyms made larger.
Honestly, it probably will change a few more times before all is said and done. Because times changes, thoughts changes, and needs change. Blueprints change.
But what about the family blueprint? For millennia, the family has been focused around marriage.
Should that change?
Today we’re going to examine that very question. In order to do that we’re going to need to take a look at the original blueprint found in God’s Word. Take a look at Genesis 2.
I. Where is the Original Blueprint from?
A long time ago, there was a man. He was a healthy man. He had toned muscles. A solid bone structure. He had a keen amount of self-awareness and an incredible occupation as a gardener.
He was also only one day old.
Hours earlier Adam had been created by God. God had used his hands to pile up some dust. Form together some feet. Carefully shape the abdominals. Pinch out some arms; add a head; place the appendix in the perfect spot and carefully define his eyebrows.
Then, God smiled and breathed. When God breathed, he breathed a breath that only God, the Creator can breathe. He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.
Suddenly, the clay figurine was alive. Alive and human. He quickly became aware of his surroundings. He noticed the beautiful hanging leaves of the weeping willow. He smelled the beautiful aroma of the daffodils. He saw the gleaming red of cardinals darting from branch to branch. He investigated the little creatures that were crawling beneath a log. He looked up at the giant, glowing ball in the sky and thought, “How wonderful this world was."
It was an incredible, wonderful, big world for him to explore...
God had an idea. He would parade being after being, animal after animal in front of the man. The man would give the animals names and, if he found one of special importance, he would select that being as his partner in this world.
The man agreed and suddenly the very first parade in the history of the world was in action. (Only without the giant SpongeBob balloon). In walked alligators and aardvarks, zebra and wombats. Adam looked at swarms of bees, packs of piranha’s and a pride of lions. He rode on the horse, threw a ball for the dog, and avoided the house cat.
The man gave them all names. Sea horse for the horse that lived in the sea, flying squirrel for the squirrel that flew, and hippopotamus – for that big old creature that kind of looked like it “potamus”sed when it walked.
But, of all the animals that he saw that day and all the names that he came up with, there was one name that the man never used:
The Creator knew this. He had known the whole time. Now the man knew too. He was missing the perfect partner. A being to challenge him. A being to intelligently talk with him. A being to share the adventure of life with him.
So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then, the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man. (Genesis 2:21-22)
God brought the woman to the man. The grand finale. As Adam woke up from the divine dose of anesthesia, he blinked.
What was that beautiful creature in front of him? Her eyes were more beautiful than the flowers. Her smile radiated more beautifully than that giant orange orb thingy.
The man spoke, the very first love poem ever spoken:
“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.” (Genesis 2:23) Look at the end of this love story. “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
Marriage. It’s the original blueprint.
But you might be thinking: “Pastor, c’mon. This is a myth. This isn’t real. It’s a made up story like Dr. Seuss or something.”
Look at what Jesus thought about this. “Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.’” (Matthew 19:4-5)
Does that sound like he treated it as a myth to you?
In fact, he’s using that verse of the Old Testament – that verse from Genesis 2:24 – to argue with the religious leaders of his time what God’s original design for marriage is.
And if you are thinking, “But why should I trust Jesus?” Allow me to give you his credentials. He knew how to bend the elements and walk on water. He knew how to control the weather and stop storms. He knew how to reduplicate matter at an alarming rate by feeding over 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread and two fish. He knew how to cure the deadliest of diseases simply by speaking. He knew how to cure the most handicapping of paralyses simply by touching. He cured death when no one else ever has. He promised his disciples that he would die and come back to life…and he did.
I know many of you trust him for salvation. Do you trust him for the marriage blueprint?
Because if Jesus is right, then marriage is not just some evolved social contract that slowly came into being over time. Nope.
Marriage was invented by God.
That’s important to remember. Because Americans bristle at the sound of marriage.
It’s the Ball and Chain.
It’s a prison.
It’s signing your death certificate.
But...that can’t be true. Not if God invented it. Because we’re talking about God here. Not just God – but the name used to define God here is very specific. It’s YAHWEH. That’s important, because it’s the name of the covenant God. It’s the name of the God who promised to send a Savior. It’s the God who kept his promise and sent a Savior. It’s the name of the God who loved his beings so much that he would never, ever give them anything bad.
A while back the preschoolers were in charge of drawing a picture of a house. Let me tell you, as nice as those pictures were, if you followed those blueprints – the house would be a disasters. Windows as big as each room. A room made of squiggles. No door to be found anyway. Sitting on top of what appeared to be a jagged cliff.
God’s not a preschooler. His marriage blueprint comes form a loving heart and an all knowing mind.
II. Examining the Blueprint
Keep that in mind. Let’s look at that blueprint. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.”
Now if you have been paying attention to life within the last couples hundred years, you’d notice that society has kind of reinvented that. They’ve kind of written that statement. In a three different ways.
This is the easiest one. God said that marriage is for “a man and his wife.” How many people is that? Simple math says two. One man and one wife.
Take Sister Wives. Have you ever seen it? It’s a reality show all about the Browns – Kody, the husband, and Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn. His four wives. Guess what? It doesn’t always go well. There’s a lot of jealousy between wives. They all vie for his attention and fight for time with him. Go figure, huh!?! Julianna thinks it’s hard enough to get my attention when a Packer game is on.
Having more than one spouse or polygamy is not godly. It’s simply not a part of God’s blueprint.
And…I don’t think that any of you are struggling with that. You only have one spouse – and most of society agrees there is only two names on the marriage certificate.
But this also means that there should be only two names enjoying the perks of marriage. There’s only one other name that you sleep with, one name that you flirt with, one name you are intimate with. There’s only one other person you should be staring at without clothes on!
Don’t let society fool you. The blueprint needs to remain the same to be a godly marriage. Marriage and all of its perks need to be between two people.
Now that’s the least touchy. Let’s jump to the most touchy.
“A man…will be united to his wife.” Wife is a Hebrew word that refers to the female person in a spousal relationship. It means a woman.
And notice that it stopped there. There aren’t any other caveats. No footnotes. No other options. It doesn’t say “A woman …will be united to her wife,” nor does it say, “a man will be united to his husband.” That’s not a part of God’s original blueprint.
Still the Supreme Court has now ruled that it is legal for same sex couples to get married in America. State governments are not allowed to withhold that social contract from them. Fair enough.
But if the government has changed the definition of marriage, does that mean God’s definition has?
In fact, remember that passage from Matthew? Jesus affirmed marriage to be between two different genders. That’s huge! Because he’s the one who rose from the dead. He’s the one who promises us forgiveness of sins. He’s the one who we believe will take us to eternal life.
Shouldn’t we also believe him on marriage?
In light of recent horrible, tragic events in Orlando, please allow a caveat.I am not telling you to shoot people who disagree. I’m not telling you to attack them. I’m not telling you to bomb them, hurt them, harm them, or even call them names. I am not advocating violence in anyway – nor is Jesus.
But I am saying that God hasn’t changed the blueprint.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” It doesn’t specifically state a length of time. But because it doesn’t specifically state a length of time, the implication is that there isn’t set period of time.
Jesus himself affirms this in Matthew. He says, “Two become one flesh. One God has joined together let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:6)
In fact, that’s the very reason the Pharisees were talking to Jesus in the first place. They wanted to know if God was cool with them separating from one another for any and every reason. “Because I’m bored.” “Because it’s not as romantic as it used to be.” “Because I like someone else.” “Because we grew apart.”
Jesus’ answer? No. Unless it’s because of (1) sexual unfaithfulness – which is basically divorce or (2) abandonment – because if the person just gets up and leaves you, it’s kinda hard to stay married to him – unless your marriage has already been physically broken up, then Jesus isn’t cool with divorce.
You might be asking Why?
I went to kindergarten in Minnesota. In kindergarten, we had one hour recesses. I remember spending an hour making a snow fort. It had tunnels. It had windows. It had a kitchen and a video game room. It was good work.
Then, the bell rang. The class bully immediately started trashing it!
I was upset. He destroyed my work.
If you break apart your marriage, God will be upset. You destroyed his work. Unlike me as a kindergartner, God doesn’t do meh work. God’s work is wonderful. You’ll have destroyed his wonderful work.
It'll hurt much more than God. In fact, God isn’t issuing this command to stay married because he wants you to suffer. No way. He is issuing this command because he doesn’t want you to suffer. He wants you remain one flesh – not to rip apart and cause all kinds of spiritual and emotional bleeding.
That's why he put this blueprint into his Word. Because The Word of God endures forever! (1 Peter)
And thank God it does.
Because we’re human. We’ve completely messed this up. God gave us a blueprint – he asked us to follow it – we’ve messed it up. No one has a perfect marriage – and because of that – you’ve probably seen the results of messing this up:
Tears. Wall of tension. Kids locking themselves in their room. Trust evaporated.
Is there any help?
Check out Ephesians 5:31-32 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
How cool is that? Jesus says that he is the groom and you are his bride. A bride he was willing to do anything for in order to keep you married to him.
And I do mean anything. Things like:
Jesus died to make you one with Him – you and Him – completely together in righteousness.
Jesus’ resurrection was your wedding day – the day he took you, his beautifully robed bride to be his forever.
Jesus made that promise to you – intimately – to make his love for you and no one else.
Jesus promises to be with you forever and let nothing get in the way.
It means He forgives you.
Knowing that Jesus has made us his forever and living in His forgiveness for messing up the blueprint…what now? Two things:
But our love is strong.
That’s not love! Love is an action. God is love. Love is following God’s will for marriage. Love is doing what God does and being faith forever.
Instead of discouraging, encourage. Encourage friends to be married. Listen to their struggles; offer Godly advice. Recommend a good book. Pray for them. Give them an anniversary card.
Model a good marriage.
Because we need it. There’s enough Kim Kardashians in this world. Young married couples need good role models to follow. In fact, if you’d be willing to help us out here at Gethsemane – mark it on the connection cards. We’re starting up a new marriage mentors program. If you’ve been married for 10 plus years – write your name down and I’ll get into contact with you to serve as mentors for some younger married couples. They need help in this sin-filled world.
2. Focus on your Own Marriage
This is key. Too many Americans focus on so many other things first. Money. Fame. Their career. Even their kids. Marriage is one of the last things.
In fact, there was a recent study in which over 65% of millennials (I just fit into this category) stated that Marriage is not as important as other things.
Don’t listen to that message. If you are married, your spouse is the number #1 non-God thing that is in your wife. Put it on your To-Do-List. I know fixing the sink, getting little Johnny to karate, and working is important but if “Strengthen my marriage” isn’t on your list, you’re aiming to fail. You’re forgetting the most important thing.
Don’t forget. Because God didn’t forget you. In his marriage to you he put repairing your relationship with Him as number 1. He lived for you. He died for you. He rose for you.
He made you a part of his blueprint. Make him a part of your family blueprint. Amen.
It happened not that long ago in Philadelphia. March 26th the newspaper headlines were “4 people, 1 Dog Killed in Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.” Apparently, a gas pipe had broken up and the gas made its way up into the apartment overnight and silently took their lives.
The people didn’t see the gas because it’s colorless. They didn’t smell it because it’s odorless.
In other words – while it seemed completely tame, the air was deathly toxic.
Today we are continuing our series called BREATHE. We’ve been talking about how breathing in the truth of Jesus’ resurrection gives us peace when we are afraid and lifts us out of grief and sadness. But today we’re heading in a different direction.
As positive as breathing in Jesus’ resurrection is – God’s Word also warns us about the spiritual equivalents to carbon monoxide. Some things that appear fine, but are deadly toxic to our souls.
I. Spiritual Toxins
This message is found in the book of Ephesians. That’s a letter written by one of Jesus’ disciples named Paul to a group of Christians that lived in a place called Ephesus. Listen to what he tells us brothers and sisters. He says we are to “Follow God’s example and walk in the way of love.”
That sounds nice, doesn’t it? In fact, I don’t know of any Christian who wouldn’t agree with those two statements. They sound so nice in that positive sense. But when you reverse it and put it in its negative form, it immediately becomes a lot more difficult to hear.
Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking which are out of place.
I have a friend who is allergic to gluten. She was gluten free long before gluten free was cool. She is allergic. Gluten would make her so sick that just a hint of it would make her stomach sick for a whole day. One time we went out to McDonald's and she ordered very specifically, “I need to have a hamburger patty, but only a patty please. No bun.” So that’s what they gave her – by simply taking it off of a bun. No more than an hour later, her body reacted violently to the hint of gluten – the few crumbs left on the patty had made her very sick.
This is how much of sin makes God sick. His Being can’t stand even a hint of it. It’s also how toxic sin is to his people. Even a hint of it, can infect us – and put us in grave spiritual danger. This is true of all sin, but in this section he gets very specific about a few sins.
(1) ….of Sexual Immorality.
What’s sexual immorality? In order to define it, we first have to define sexual morality.
That takes us back to the Creation of the World. God had just finished creating human beings. He loved them. He created them and He wanted more of them so he gave them the ability to reproduce. Then, God did something really clever. He wanted them to actually fill the earth, so God made human beings attracted to one another. He created a very special, a very intimate act that two people share with one another – sexual intimacy.
Take a look at this passage from Genesis. It says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two, the husband and wife, will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
Think of it this way: How many people have you high fived in your life? Quite a few, I imagine. It’s a nice gesture, but it’s not all that intimate. We high five friends, associates, coworkers, even a random stranger at the bar after your favorite basketball team makes the winning shot.
But sexual intimacy? God meant that to be between two people and only two people. He wanted it to be a special connection between a husband and a wife that only the husband and the wife shared with one another and no one else.
Sin? Sin poisons it. Sin takes the gift of intimacy and ruins it. It links you to a third person, a fourth person, someone who isn’t your spouse. It divides. It conquers. It leaves one feeling guilty, heartbroken, and defeated.
If you’ve ever sinned in this way, you probably know what I’m talking about. Sexual immorality poisons relationships.
Back to our Ephesians passages. God tells us to avoid the poison of sin by avoiding sexual immorality. If sexual morality is “Sexual intimacy between a man and a woman in a marriage covenant,” immorality is intimacy in anything else.
Some of you are thinking, “Aha! Homosexuality is wrong then.” You’d be right. That’s not compatible with God’s definition of marriage. But understand this – God is not just talking about that.
He’s says, "Not even a hint..."
…if you are heterosexual, but you aren’t married to the person you’re sleeping with, that needs to stop.
…it means if you are dating a girl, you aren’t plotting ways to touch things that are reserved for the marriage bed.
…it means you aren’t flirting with that guy at work who is married to someone else, while you are married to someone else.
…it means you aren’t just glancing through the Victoria’s Secret website in your spare time.
…it means if that one show on HBO gets you thinking thoughts that should be reserved for your wife, about someone who isn’t, stop watching it!
God says not even a hint, because even these "smaller sexual immoralities” are poison. They hurt your relationships with others. They hurt your own perspective. They hurt your relationships with God. Every time.
(2) Not Even a Hint of Greed.
The second toxic sin – is fairly similar. Greed. It’s similar because both greed and sexual immorality are extremely selfish. One says “Give me my sexual desire, I want it! ” the other says, “Give me that money, thing, stuff, because I want it.”
Greed just like sexual immorality poisons relationships.
I was in the preschool this past week. One of the kids was having their very last day. So she brought in some treats. Little cookies for the others to eat. I was in there celebrating because – cookies are great – and one of the little kids started complaining – “Where are the sprinkles? This one should have sprinkles. I’m mad this doesn’t have sprinkles.” She started crying. The kid who brought them heard her making fun of the sprinkle-less cookies and she started crying too. They didn’t get along very well for that five minutes.
Greed poisons relationships.
A lot of you are thinking, Great! I love this message. Let’s go storm Wall Street right now! Don’t get me wrong. I am sure that Wall Street has greed on it. Absolutely it does.
Not even a hint means more than just “Let’s get Wall Street.”
…it means you aren’t adding a few extra miles to your mileage reimbursement on your taxes because “I really want those extra $10.”
…It means you aren’t refusing to buy your wife a vase of flowers because I really want that bag of Doritos.
…It means you aren’t holding back on your offering to church because they aren’t doing the things in church that I want them to.
…it means you aren’t arguing with your spouse over the budget because “I want to spend the money this way.”
Even these seemingly smaller greeds are poison. It poisons relationships. They poison relationships with others. They poison your own way of thinking. They poison your relationship with God.
(3) …Sinful Talk.
One more toxin: There shouldn’t be any coarse joking, foolish talk or obscenity.” It’s a couple of different sins, all wrapped up in one phrase: “Sinful Talk.”
There’s an old saying that the tongue is the most powerful muscle in your body. That doesn’t mean that the tongue will literally what wins the next World’s Strongest Man competition. Far from it. It’s a reference to just how much poison the tongue can inflict. James 3:8 say this, “The tongue is a restless evil, it is full of deadly poison.”
Maybe you’ve experienced this.
Raise your hand. Have you ever heard anyone say that they hate you? How’d that feel? Not good?
Ever heard anyone use a racial slur against you? How’d that feel? Not good?
Ever heard anyone refer to you as a four letter word? How’d that feel? Awful?
Ever heard anyone whispering about what you did at church? How’d that feel? Terrible? Me too.
The phrase is “Stick & stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” That’s a nice sentiment – it’s just not very true. It does not give us the right to verbally assault one another.
Sinful talk is poison. It will poisons your work environment. It will poison your relationships. It will even poison a church!!! We’re getting very close to embarking on some very awesome ministry together. One of the biggest things that can halt us in our tracks? It isn’t money. It isn’t architectural plans. It isn’t even bad weather.
It’s sinful talk. Even small, seemingly insignificant sinful talk – a little bit of gossip here – some grumbling and complaining there – that can poison a church. It can poison God’s kingdom.
And here’s the thing about God’s kingdom.
Do you remember a few years ago when you could smoke a cigarette in just about any bar and restaurant? Recently, just about everywhere is now a SMOKE FREE ZONE. What’s that mean? It means that cigarettes were deemed toxic -- even as second hand smoke. Therefore, these areas were to remains completely free of the toxins.
This is how God feels about sins. He wants his Kingdom to be a sin free zone. He wants his people to actively seek to destroy it. Eventually…eventually he plans on doing it himself.
"Of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of God and of Christ. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.”
II. The SIN Antioxidant
Wow. God’s really serious about sin? If you’re like me, you’re feeling pretty low right now. I’ve let all of those things into my life. Sexual immorality, greed and foolish talk – they have all infected me. What hope is there for me? In fact, sometimes these things infect me so much that I struggle to stop myself from continually hurting others.
I’m poisoned. I need help.
Read verse 8.
You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.
Light versus darkness is an age old story. In Star Wars there’s the light side and the dark side of the force. In Harry Potter, there’s light magic versus dark magic. But here’s something for thought – all of these dark versus light battles come from the language found in the Bible. Language right here. Language that says “Darkness is bad. Darkness is what we were. The Lord made us light.”
Think about it: You can’t fix darkness with more darkness. Try it. Next time you fall asleep, wear black sweatpants and a black sweatshirt to bed. When you wake up at 1am because you’re sweating hot, notice how it is completely dark in the room.
Darkness plus darkness leads to more darkness.
Sinful humans trying to correct sinful human tendencies leads only to more sin.
But Jesus? Jesus is the light of the world. He is completely devoid of all the dark poisons we have been talking about.
Sexual Immorality? No way. Yet he came to this world and made a more intimate connection to you and me than anyone ever had or will – he took our sinful dark, disgusting moments to the cross. He linked himself to you and died for you.
Greedy? He was greedy for only one thing – you! He gave up the divine glory of heaven, exchanged it for a crown of thorns, your sins, and a painful death on the cross.
Sinful words? Sure – he hates sin. But he had no such harmful words to speak to you. In fact the only words He speaks in Scripture are, “I love you. I died for you. You are forgiven.”
This then is what this passage means. “You are light in the Lord.”
It means – the poison of sin is not fateful.
It means Jesus is the antidote.
It means by faith in Him you are now saved.
III. What Now?
(1) Get rid of the Poison.
We were talking about carbon monoxide earlier. One of the ways we fight carbon monoxide poisoning is to get a carbon monoxide detector. But when the detector goes off – beeps really loudly – it does no good to sit on the couch and say, “After this episode of House of Cards is over!” You have to do something. Get out of the house. Call 911. Get the leak fixed.
We just learned how poisonous even the ‘seemingly small’ sins are. It will do no good if you go back home and make no change in your life.
Instead, get rid of the poison. Put a filter on your Internet. Stop watching that TV show. Get rid of that friend on Facebook. Don’t talk about that one person. Increase your giving at Gethsemane. Do whatever it takes to make sure that not even a hint of sexual immorality, greed or sinful talk is found in your life.
(2) Evaluate Relationships.
This one is hard. Because sometimes the poison – is your friends. Yes. God does say “be in the world.” He says that we aren’t to be hermits. We need to be in and among unbelievers in order to share the message of Jesus.
But when spending time with your friends starts to lead to sin…when you find yourself saying, “I have to sleep with that girl in order to convert her to Christianity…” Stop. You aren’t converting them. They are infecting you.
Take a break. Recharge. Reconnect with God. Reinvest in Bible Study and reinforce your spiritual armor before you return to these people.
After all, we are light in the Lord. Therefore, shine! Shine where it’s needed most.
I’ll tell you what. It’s so easy to feel like shining here at church. You can sing really loudly. You can say a prayer with a crowd of Christians. You can down talk all these sinful things as sinful.
But it’s already pretty bright in here. You need to shine where it’s darkest. Out there. In the world.
When you are breathing the fresh air of Jesus’ resurrection, the pure teachings of his Word and you aren’t breathing in the poison of sin, you will be shining at your brightest. May God enable us to do so. Amen.
She was beautiful.
He wasn’t really sure what she was, but whatever she was, she was beautiful.
Then, God explained: “I knew that you were lonely. Even though I had made this beautiful garden for you and filled with fish, birds, and animals, with gorgeous flowers and breathtaking sunrises…I knew it was only good. Not “very good.” I knew you needed someone to share this garden with. Someone like you. Someone of you.”
“So when you were sleeping, I took a part of you. I molded. I formed. I created another just like you. Another to complement you. Another to make you complete.
I call her “from man.” You call her “woman.”
Adam had a tear of joy in his eyes. As the robins chirped in perfect harmony with the blue jays and the hummingbirds hummed an accompaniment, while butterflies floated over their heads. Adam grabbed this “woman” by the hands. He took advantage of this romantic moment. He squeezed her tightly. He spoke quietly and beautifully – the first ever love poem: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because shew was taken out of man.”
Fast forward with me.
Now the garden was gone. Now the sound of the robins was replaced by the angry cawing of the buzzards. The green canopy had been replayed with a dead tree. Weeds, thistles, and thorns covered the scenery as the two sat down for a few measly turnips – all that had grown in this season. Adam was tired and covered in sweat. Eve was tired and covered in sweat. Their kids, Cain and Abel, were fighting in the background over who had to feed their pet pig.
The scene had changed. Gone was the perfect paradise, replaced by a shell of the garden – in their new real sinful world.
I’m sure they were tempted. Tempted to blame each other.
Everytime Eve slaved over a hot stove to make the exact same onion stew she always made, I imagine she longed for the ease of picking ready made strawberries, tangerines, and other citrus in the 70 degree temps of Eden. Then she thought of Adam – how he hadn’t been a good leader. How this was all his fault.
Meanwhile Adam washed up for dinner and picked at the thorns in his forefingers in order being careful not to touch the tender boils on his skin. I imagine he longed for Eden – when he lay on a palm branch hammock and asked the monkey to deliver him the best banana cocktail he could find. Then, he thought of Eve—how she had been tricked. How this was all her fault.
This scene was less romantic.
Maybe you hope for a marriage like Adam and Eve in the garden. If you are engaged, perhaps you think that’s exactly how it will be. If you’ve been married for a while perhaps you realize that married can look a lot more like the second scene. Maybe you don’t get married because you are sure your marriage will be like the second scene.
Today we’re taking a look at marriage. Marriage in a post Eden world. How do you make it work – in the future or right now? When should you call it quits? When is it just too hard?
I. The World’s Definition
Did you know that according to recent marriage trends it is likely that 44% of the couples that got married in 2014 will end in divorce? This isn't surprising news. Our world treats divorce as if it is no big deal.
Case and point: Kim Kardashian. Specifically her second marriage to the NBA star Kris Humphries. They built up the planning for this wedding for months on her reality TV show. Then, by the time the wedding aired, she was almost divorced. Their marriage lasted for 72 days.
When you watch the TV show, she brings up the same theme for divorce again and again, "I'm just not feeling in love anymore."
The world's definition of marriage is based on love, the feeling.
This perspective on marriage really affects the divorce question.
ABC’s popular reality show The Bachelor encompasses this. The man searching for his true wife slowly narrows it down to his true love as he sorts it out through romantic boat rides in remote lagoons, balloon rides over the setting sun, and private dances in a Cinderella like castle with special guest Bruno Mars performing live just for them. Finally the Bachelor decides that he feels in love. He feels like she will be the perfect wife. He gets dows on his knee and asks one of the women to marry him.
Trivia fact – Less than 10% of all bachelor relationships are still together.
And our world says, “That’s ok. If you don’t feel love anymore, how can you be expected to remain married?”
II. The Divorce Question
Based on our world's definition of marriage, you can understand the Pharisee’ question. Take a look at Matthew 19:1. They asked Jesus, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” What’s interesting is the implication. They seem to have some kind of moral compass. They seem to think that there are some good reasons and some not so good reasons.
Judging by the fact that they are humans – I imagine they judge good reasons – as their own; and bad reasons – as the reasons of others. “It’s ok. We’re getting divorced because she doesn’t make a casserole like my mom does.” “Tabitha and I have decided to part because things aren’t as romantic as they used to be.” “I’m getting my divorce papers tomorrow – because there’s another woman at the marketplace that I have taken a fancy too. Sorry. The heart wants what the heart wants!”
No wonder those who put their faith in human definitions of marriage often result in divorce.
Do you think similarly? Do you look for someone to marry based on how they make you feel? Do you remain married because you feel like you are in a Disney palace? Is real marriage really defined by the way that you felt?
But listen to what Jesus has to say: 4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
And the Pharisees get indignant. 7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. – In other words, you were so angry, sinful, and bitter that civically speaking, the government had to give you a divorce – or you’d be doing income taxes for the three wives you left and remarried within the past year. But it was not this way from the beginning. It is not this way in God’s neck of the wood. It isn’t this way in God’s definition. Jesus continues. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."
In other words – If you get legally divorced, unless the other person ends the marriage first by having intimate relations with someone else OR abandoning the marriage, then you are sinning.
Why? Why is God so harsh? Could it be that’s God’s definition of marriage is about way more than simply – feelings?
Here are three things that prove it:
1) God made them males and female. The implication? God made men and women with the desire that they get married. He desired for them to connect with one another. He desired that they complement one another.
But what if I would rather marry a guy? What if I have romantic feelings for someone of the same sex?
Look very carefully at Jesus’ words. They are pretty clear. God made them “male and female…with the purpose of the man leaving his father and mother and being united to his wife…”
But this is more than just a proof passage for the traditional formula of marriage. It is proof that marriage is about more than what you feel. It is proof that love is about more than what you feel.
Otherwise Jesus would have said, “Haven’t you read…that they were made male and female – but I don’t care. Do what you want.”
He didn’t say that, because he did care. In Jesus’ definition, marriage is about more than feelings.
2) “Two become one flesh.”
In fact, look at how he continues: “For this reason a man will be united to his wife…and the two will become one flesh.”
What a beautiful illustration this is too. Remember Adam and Eve. Eve literally came form Adam. There was one body and then there were two.
But, when they were married, though they weren’t joined together as literal Siamese twins, these two, who were one, became one again. This connects the two that are married in an intense soul bond. It’s beyond emotions. It’s a commitment bond. A choice. A loving decision to stay connected for each other...for kids.
3) “What God has joined together, let no one separate.”
When two become one, then suddenly you can’t just throw up your hands, give up, and move to Kentucky because “I don’t feel in love with him anymore.” You can’t do that, because you’ll be tearing apart a special bond. You’ll be causing pain, sadness, and intense emotional bleeding.
Jesus doesn’t stand for that, because when you do that – you’re causing all kinds of pain and sadness to one of his own children!
But most importantly, you’ll be breaking apart God’s own work.
One thing I’ve learned about spending time in Precious Lambs is to keep your hands off of anything that looks remotely like it might be “In Progress.” A few days ago I went in during a break and saw some blocks on the floor. I thought, “I'll help. I’ll pick them up.” Just then, the little boy who had placed those blocks there came in with his eyes bawling in tears: “That’s my castle. You’re destroying my castle. How could you!?! You broke what I put together."
If you decide to give up on your marriage because it’s too hard…if you consistently look at porn in your marriage because you don’t feel it from her…if you love tempting a married man…if you enjoy flirting with married women…if you cheat on your spouse…if you tell your friend “Hey, I think you should give up, you tried hard.” Understand this: You are doing way more than simply divorcing…
…You are destroying God’s work.
III. God’s Definition
What is God’s definition of marriage then? If it isn’t about love feelings – what is it about?
Head with me to 1 Corinthians 13. These are some beautiful words that are commonly spoken at a wedding. Listen to how the Bible defines love.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
Notice what it does not say, “Love is that little spark you have when you look at someone.” Note that it doesn’t say, “Love is the twist in your gut that you get when your crush looks at you.” Nowhere is there mention of “the fireworks that go off metaphorically as ABC production’s fireworks go off literally."
Everyone of those words involves an action. Love acts patient– when its recipient is repeatedly late for the time you are leaving. Love acts kind…doing the dishes when it feels like lounging on the couch. Love does not envy…it celebrates the accomplishments of those around it. Love does not act proud…It admits its faults, even when it hurts. Love does not dishonor others…even if it might make it feel pretty good to do so. Love is not self seeking – which will naturally lead one’s self to feel bad. Love is not easily angered – even when it feels wronged and hurt, it chooses to respond with kindness. Love keeps not record of wrongs – even though the record might be rather long, love actively chooses not to take it into consideration. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects actively keeping it’s love safe even when it doesn’t want to. It always trusts thoroughly believing that the two of you will make it, even when both of you feel like you are not going to. Love always hopes. It always perseveres. It NEVER fails.
There is no greater example of this than Jesus Christ himself. Check out the Scripture from 1 John. It says, “This is how we know what love is: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Jesus took action. He took action and actively bore your sins. He actively walked to the cross. He went through the agony of a crucifixion for you.
Jesus did this while we were sinners! He did do this because there was some kind of romantic spark between you and Him. He did it even when you were in the worst of your sins. He did it when there was nothing loveable about you at all. He did it even though you have repeatedly time and time gone against him. Which means that if you have broken your marriage vows, if you have been actively harming your spouse, if you have been involved in ruining someone else’s marriage, if you have been divorced and are seeking God again – then God’s message for you today is this: You are forgiven! You are forgiven and Jesus loves you.
That’s the message of Hosea. Do you know about Hosea? Hosea was a prophet whom God told to go and marry a prostitute. Sound like a good idea? It wasn’t. Hosea’s wife repeatedly cheated on him. Hosea would head downtown and literally pull her out of the bedroom from another drug induced coma with another man and bring her home, nurse her to health, and call her “sweetie” in the morning.
How could Hosea do that? Easy. It’s what God had done to him.
It’s also what God has done to us. We have repeatedly, over and over again been unfaithful to Him –and He has repeatedly – shown us love. He will not give up on you.
Because that’s God’s definition of marriage. His definition is not based on feeling love. His definition is based on action love. Underserved, gracious, passionate, all the time, action love.
God says you are his bride,. You are the object of his affection.
Since you know God’s love, won’t you show that same kind of love in your marriage too?
Head back with me to the Adam and Eve scene. Is it really so loveless? The two of them had legitimate gripes against the other one. They had caused sin to come into the world. They had forfeited perfection and now lived together in all of their day to day imperfection…
..but they stayed together. They forgave. They loved. They hugged. Their love didn’t fail because they had seen God’s love which never fails.
Brothers & sisters, may you find such a love and may you grow in such love. May you be filled with God’s action love. Amen.
WORTHY OF JUDGMENT.
They were right. She felt the shame. She had been feeling it for months now. Secret rendezvous. Hidden moments. Lies. To her husband. To his wife. To her own children.
Now it was at the forefront. She’d been caught. The secret she had worked to protect was now public knowledge. What would everyone think of her? What would her husband think? What would his wife think? What would her own children think? She wanted to die.
Then, there was a commotion. The men were distracted. Someone was joining the mob.
It was Jesus.
The mob was excited, “Join us! This woman is guilty of adultery. Join us! Let’s give her what the Law deserves. Let’s rid the earth of her.”
The woman shed another tear.
Jesus responded calmly. “OK – why doesn’t the person without any sin, throw the first stone.”
It was quiet. The men looked at one another. They looked at the woman. They looked at Jesus. Then someone threw the first stone…on the ground.
Today we’re going to continue our series on Counter Culture by talking about Purity. The heart of purity is found in the Sixth Commandment. Anyone? “You shall not commit adultery.” Some might call it a no fun commandment. Or that God is a prude.
But God made us sexual beings. God made us to reproduce. God gave us the gift of sex as a special blessing to connect to human beings together in a special way that they won’t connected with anyone else. It’s a lot different than a handshake. It was aimed to seal and connect you intimately to your spouse.
But the greater the blessing, the greater the pain when it is abused. There is pain, hurt feelings, guilt, and shame. (They are a lot worse than when you steal someone’s pencil when they aren’t looking).
And unlike many other sins – this one affects your own body. It changes the chemical reactions in the brain. It reprograms you to have a connection with someone you aren’t married to. It confuses you. It makes you feel icky. It makes you avoid contact with someone else because they make you feel guilty.
God didn’t want you to have any of that. So God made this command for your good. God wanted to protect your purity. I guess you could say, "You shall not cause yourself and your neighbor all kinds of pain, shame, and terrible heartache."
What then does it take to be pure? Let’s discuss definitions.
I. Defining Purity
1) The World’s Definition
When I first started working on this sermon, I thought the best way to define the world’s definition of purity might be: “Do whatever you want.” That’s what we tell each other. It’s what the media preaches. It’s what the Facebook videos with the sappy music teaches us. Just let people feel, love, and do what they want.
Then, a certain Vanity Fair magazine cover came out.
And people had opinions. People like Chris brown. Chris Brown who, in his music, proclaims to have slept with hundreds of women and in his Instagram photos is grinding and twisting against all kinds of scantily clad women, tweeted very negatively about Jenner. In his mind, Jenner was the definition of sexually impure.
Then, Chris went right back to rapping and partying and sleeping around.
Chris Brown embodies the world’s definition of purity. It’s the definition that the Pharisees had. Sexual purity is “not doing the sexual sins that I don’t do.” If that’s the definition of purity, guess what? You’ll always pass! Because you’ll always have not done the sins you have not done.
Be careful that you don’t fall for the world’s definition of purity. It can happen while you watch TV. Suddenly, the TV portrays a homosexual encounter. You look away “That’s sinful! I can’t believe they show that on TV.” Then, you change the channel and settle on the TV show where the nice young detective is falling in love with the burly cop. They aren’t married, but it’s ok...who hasn’t done that?
TIME OUT! Where’s the outrage? That’s a sin too!
But maybe we don’t have the same outrage, because if we did, we’d have to outrage our own sins.
And we don't want to.
So we fall into the trap of defining purity by the world's standards.
2) God’s Definition
Brace yourself for moment. Then, when you're ready take a look at God’s definition of purity in Ephesians 5:3. “Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality…”
Listen again and write it down. God’s definition of purity means not even a hint of impurity. Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or greed -- because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking which are out of place!”
If purity were food, God wants his wholly organic! He doesn’t want even an ounce of a contaminate in his selections. He doesn’t want anything, not even a modified Food Starch here OR a bug repellant there to have ever touched his tomatoes.
God doesn’t want any kind of sexual immorality to ever touch his children.
When you compare your life to that definition, how does it match up? Can you really tell God that you haven’t ever had an action, a motive, a word, or a thought that is impure?
If you can’t, if even an ounce of impurity has ever touched you then…you are impure! Remember God's a stickler so even a 1 night stand or 1 explicit lyrics rap song or 1 inappropriate website on your browser history ruins the whole shebang!
Maybe you now understand what the woman was feeling a little better.
She was bracing herself with her eyes closed because she knew her punishment was coming. She knew she was about to face her Maker in all of her sin!
She closed her eyes and waited.
Then she opened her eyes. The crowd was gone. The only thing remaining was a pile of stones and Jesus.
“Did no one condemn you?” he said. “No one sir,” she breathed.
“Then, neither do I condemn you. Go and leave your life of sin.”
If you have left an impure life in the past and are seeking his forgiveness, then hear Jesus’ words to you. God’s Word says to you, “Neither do I condemn you.”
How does that work? All who have hope in Jesus purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 Jn. 3:3) It’s just like that children’s lesson we did. God’s power is like Clorox bleach. It destroys and rids our souls of all impurities from before God. It’s God’s promise in Baptism. In your Baptism. Baptism is like God’s permanent divine Clorox bleach that remains running throughout the soul veins of your body. It purifies you from all sin!
Do you believe this? Then you are pure…Live in purity.
II. Why Live in Purity
But you might be wondering – what’s the point? Our world is so sexually driven – it’s everywhere. You get very little judgment for sexual escapades. Guys get a high five and women get a giggle from a friend. Why should we strive for this “not even a hint” definition of purity!?! It’s darn near impossible!
Here are 5 reasons to strive for purity from Ephesians 5.
1) You are God’s Child
Check out verse 1. It says, “Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children.”
Did you ever want to be like your parents? I think that’s pretty natural for children. Girls want to wear dresses like their moms. Boys want to throw the baseball like their dads. One of the reasons I became a pastor was to be like my dad.
Spiritually speaking, God is your dad. He’s an awesome role model. He’s holy. He’s good. He’s never evil.
Do you want a good role model? Don’t make it some reality TV star who gets a bunch of girls or that woman from 50 Shades of Grey. Make it your heavenly dad and don’t let even a Hint of Impurity be in your life!
2) Christ Loves You
Verse 2 says this, “Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…”
Did you hear how much Christ loved you? He was willing to give himself up for you. He suffered extreme pain on the cross so that you won’t have to suffer any pain in eternity.
Porn -- doesn’t love you. That steamy romance author? Just wants your money. That television show? Just wants ratings. Your boyfriend…may love you…but not selflessly…in the moment…he may just want to use you.
Jesus always loves you and has your best interest in mind. Follow him and his direction. Don’t let even a hint of impurity be apart of your life.
3) Lust is Idolatry.
Check out verse 5. “An immoral, impure person…such a man is an idolater.”
Idolatry is a first commandment issue. In it’s simplest form, it refers to worshipping a small statue as a god.
But it doesn’t have to be a small statue. If you run to the internet for relief...if you run to the sights of the gym for enjoyment…if you study your romance novel more than God’s Word – who is really your God?
Don’t worship your own sinful desires. Worship God. Don’t let even a hint of impurity be a part of your life.
4) There’s No Impurity in Heaven
This is probably the scariest and most difficult reason for a pastor to relay to his people. But it’s also the most obvious reason and I’d be a pretty terrible interpreter of the God’s Word, if I failed to mention this one. Read verse 5 in its entirety: “Of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”
You’re welcome to object. “No way that’s true.” But verse 6 continues, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such impure things, God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.”
Brothers and sisters, I want you in heaven. God wants you in heaven. Don’t let even a hint of impurity be a part of your life.
5) You are Light.
As scary as verse 6 is, verse 8 is filled with comfort. It says this, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” In other words, you were once surrounded by the darkness of sinful lusts. Your lives were filled with erasing your internet browser, sneaking to hotels, making sure no one saw you looking at that magazine in the magazine aisle, and hoping no one noticed that you slept over at your boyfriend's house last night.
But now you know Jesus. Now you know the light. Now you are surrounded by the light of His presence. Now you are forgiven. Now you live for God.
Don’t let even a hint of impurity be a part of your life….Live as children of the light.
III. How to Live in Purity
So…how do you do it?
In America, we often approach these issues in the same way: “OK God…How far can I go?” How far is too far with my boyfriend? How long is too long for me to stare at the woman on the side of the road? How short is too short for this sexy shirt I’m wearing? How steamy is too steamy for this television scene I’m watching?
Stop asking how far you can go from God, but how far you can go in serving Him.
How can I stay pure as I go about dating? How can I serve my boyfriend with the way I dress? How can I serve my girlfriend with where I spend the night? How can I serve my spouse with the way I look at the internet? How can I serve my husband with my reading choices? How can I serve my children with the televisions shows that I choose to watch in their presence?
In short – Start asking how can I rid my life of impurity? Ephesians gives us three guidelines to keep in mind:
1) Come into the Light.
Look at what Ephesians says next, “Live as children of light…Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness…Expose these dark deeds. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.”
Isn’t it true that these kinds of sins often take place in the dark? Or at least when others are in the dark about that? Behind closed doors, when others are away, when the kids are in bed.
Jesus is saying here – stop hiding your struggle. Share it with a friend.
Yes – it’s a scary thought to ask another Christian for help. It’s humbling. But it’s also freeing. Ask someone for help. Ask an elder here. Ask me! Ask for help and---if someone asks you for help, don’t hold their struggle against them. Don’t be the Pharisee – “Ugh, Ugh, you struggle with that?” Don’t belittle them. They are coming to you for help – so praise God they are struggling and help them!
2) Be Wise.
In the book of Proverbs, King Solomon talks about a time he looked out his window and saw a young man walking down the street. As he was walking down the street, he saw a prostitute waiting for him. King Solomon thought, “Walk on the other side of the street. Get away from her! You’ll be safer away from the temptation.”
Instead, the young man walked right by her. She seduced him. He went with her.
Ephesians 5:15 says, “Be careful, then, how you live—not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
If this is a struggle for you, don’t be foolish. Use common sense. If you struggle when you’re alone, make sure you aren’t alone. If you struggle when you go to the gym, don’t go to the gym. If you struggle with a certain kind of book, don’t get that book at the library. If you struggle with a certain kind of television show, don’t watch that. If you struggle with a certain kind of website, don’t go there. In fact, block it! Use internet software to police yourself. If you are more prone to struggle with all of this when you’re drunk, don’t get drunk. Don’t spend the night alone with your girlfriend if you can’t control yourself.
Be wise and God will bless you with victory after victory.
3) Be Filled with the Spirit.
All of this serving God and struggling against sin takes energy. It's like a battle. An athletic context of divine proportions.
That means you're going to need to replenish your spiritual electrolytes. Therefore, you need to keep yourself hydrated with the time tested, proven, spiritually reenergizing Gatorade:
"Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
If you want to live a pure life, you need to be filled with the pure Word of God. You need to be filled with his pure law for guidance. You need to be filled with His pure Gospel for the pure comfort of having a Savior who purified you from all sins.
Come back to our Gospel scene one more time that woman had heard Jesus’ precious words of forgiveness. She was filled with the Spirit as Jesus spoke words of forgiveness. She knew of God’s love when she didn’t deserve it.
Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and leave your life of sin.”
You are not your sin. You are not an adulteress. You are my child.
Jesus changed her identity with one awesome sentence of Gospel.
Hear the same thing that God is speaking to you: You are not perpetually stuck in sin. You are not a sex addict. You are not disgusting. You are not a pornographer. You are not a homosexual. You are not an adulteress.
You are not your sin.
You are God's child. You are loved. You are forgiven.
You are PURE.
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. 2 As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.
7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
--1 Peter 4:1-11
“You need an attitude adjustment mister!”
Ever heard that before? Maybe you were a young kid grumbling as you cleaned up your toys because you weren’t ready for bed yet. Maybe you were a teenager grumbling when your mom was upset that everyday you only told her that your day was “FINE!” Maybe you were a coworker who hadn’t had coffee yet and were just a bit difficult to work with. Maybe you were a spouse who came home at the end of a long day and weren’t remotely ready to converse!
Last week we heard the wonderful reminder that through faith in Jesus we are saved! This week we’re going to talk about what kind of an attitude “the saved” should have. As you read, pay close attention, consider your life prayerfully and answer whether or not you need an ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT.
1. Attitude or Baditude?
Take a look first of all at the right attitude. The Godly attitude -- Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. 2 As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.
Jesus our Lord is the perfect example of the attitude God wants us to have. For Jesus, following God was more important than any kind of bodily desires. Following God was the most important thing! He did not lust when he saw women. He did not hoard money to himself to fill himself up with plenty of food. He did not let out his rage and start calling his enemies all kinds of nasty names. Jesus always served God first and his body second.
In fact, Jesus didn’t even refuse God’s directive to die on the cross. As painful as that was to his body, he still went ahead and did it. Following God was more important to him than his own bodily welfare.
God wants us to have the same attitude. In fact, God’s Word says, “Arm yourselves with the same attitude.” We might say: “Gear up!” Like the many NFL players who put on their cleats, knee pads, thigh pads, shoulder pads, and cool looking wrist bands, we too need to gear up with this “God-first” attitude each day.
And it needs to be in every aspect of life. Again, if the football players forgets his helmet then he hasn’t totally geared up. If we don’t put God first in a few, hidden aspects of our lives, then we aren’t fully geared up!
Deuteronomy 6 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” This is a godly attitude to have at home, at work, at play, at school, with relatives, with friends, with coworkers, with people who really aren’t all that nice! Have this attitude all the time.
Of course, this godly attitude is totally different the attitude of this world. The world says:
“Do what you want.”
“Do what feels right.”
“Who cares about anyone else, as long as you're happy.”
What would life be like if we all lived by that creed? Would any of us be happy?
Brother and sisters, you are not to be like that. Peter writes in verses 3-4, "…you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.”
The wrong attitude occurs when you care more about your physical life than your spiritual life. Then, it leads to wrong actions.
That’s really what it is isn’t it? Caring more aobut your body than God is idolatry. You serve you. Not God!
But this isn’t unlike the world. The world says, “We are only an accidental victor in evolution. We are the greatest animal. Who cares about anyone else? Do what makes you better than others?!?”
Should we be surprised then that they are surprised when they see any attitude that is completely different Peter says, “4 They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you."
It looks like this:
It’s strange to follow God over and above your own physical desires!
So…what about you? Are you strange?
I don’t mean to ask if you spent yesterday walking about the mall like a duck shouting “Here comes the money!” at everyone who passed you by.
I mean “Do you put God first so obviously in your life, that people take notice? Do they find your perspective on life strange? Do they find your love and righteousness so different than the rest of the world that they’d call you…different. Strange?"
If the answer is, no…then “Why not?”
I suppose it could be because you have nice, Christian friends. Friends who live like you do and appreciate your Christian perspective on life.
But maybe it’s because you aren’t living all that strange. Maybe your attitude isn’t about serving God first and your body later. Maybe your coworkers can’t tell you’re a Christian…OR…if you’ve told them you are…they can’t tell that there’s any difference. You swear like them, lust like them, lie like them. You watch the same raunchy movies, you say the same raunchy jokes.
Brothers and sisters, if God couldn’t pick you out of a lineup of unbelievers by looking at your lifestyle, this is not good! You need a spiritual attitude adjustment!
2. The Spiritual Attitude Adjustment
Let Peter tell you why. Verse 5 says, “But they, these people who care more about their bodies than serving God, will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”
Yes, Peter is talking about those debaucherous pagans here, but isn’t this meant for us too? We, too, will have to give an account for our actions to the Almighty God.
And if your report is indistinguishable from the report of the unbelieving pagan next to you, then…what explanation will you offer?
God doesn’t do cool. Not when it comes to sin. When it comes to sin, his feelings are very hot. His anger burns against it and he sends sinners to hell.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Read verse 6, “For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit."
The Gospel! That means good news. The good news is what we heard about in last week’s sermon: In spite of our sins, in spite of our terrible atttitudes, in spite of our selfishness, Jesus died to save us:
He saved us with his perfect life, innocent death, and glorious resurrection. He saved us from sin, death, and hell! He saved us to heaven!
This means that by trusting in Jesus Christ as your Savior, you will be forgiven all of your sinful, selfish attitudes. By abandoning your sinful lifestyles and turning to God for grace, you will be saved from God’s wrath!
Because it doesn’t matter what humans say to you. It doesn’t matter if they think of you as a cool mom or a trendy hipster or a enlightened sauvant! It matters what God says to you. And thanks to Jesus: God says you will live!
This glorious news changes our attitude. When you see your Savior suffering for your salvation, it changes your attitude. No longer is “the way you feel” most important, but what pleases God!
The Gospel leads us to suffer in the body for the sake of following our Lord Jesus. It leads us to say “I care more about my Lord than my own body, because he cared more about me than his own body!” The Gospel leads us to hate sin. The Gospel leads us to go against the world. The Gospel leads us to have a different attitude. A better attitude.
A strange attitude.
3. Your New Strange Attitude
Peter now starts listing attributes. Actions taken as a result of this new, strange attitude. Listen: “ 7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen."
*We are clear minded. Verse 7 says it, “7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” Literally the word means “Sober.” Of course, we think of what happens when people have too much alcohol. They can’t think clear. They can’t walk in a straight line. They make cloudy decisions.
But alcohol isn’t the only thing that can make us drunk: Money. Status. Lust. Things of this world can cloud our decision making and get in the way of following Jesus.
So sober up! Drink the clean water of God’s Word. Flush out the false pretenses of this world. Focus in on Jesus and make following His will your number one goal!
To God, not so much.
*We love deeply. This is not what the world says to do. The world says, “Get revenge! Repeay evil for evil.” In fact, Betrayal and Revenge are two of the most popular TV shows on Primetime. (Does that say anything about the state of our nation by the way?)
God’s Word is different. It says repay evil with love. Love covers up a multitude of sins.
And do you want motivation? Consider this: God didn’t repay your evil with more evil. He sent his Son Jesus. Jesus died for sins. He showed love. His love covered up a multitude of sins:
Make your love the same. A love so strong that it’s strange.
* We are hospitable. We’ve been talking about that a lot when it comes to welcoming visitors to church. Think about what it means. It means we don’t worry about ourselves “I’m tired. I haven’t had coffee. I just want to sit in church and be served.” Instead we think about others, “They might be tired. They might need a coffee. I want to get up, even though I’m tired, and serve them!”
Where’s the line? When might I be too hospitable? Offering a ride home. Spending my time talking to a visitor. Asking a guest at our church to my house?
Be so hospitable that it’s strange! After all, we have a Gospel of hospitality – one who suffered God’s wrath and crucifixion to be hospitable and save us from sin!
Make your hospitality extreme. So extreme it’s different. As Chrysostom the church father once said, “Preach the Gospel. When necessary, use words!”
*We serve. Verse 10 says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides…"
We’re reminded that God has blessed the church with many different skills, abilities, and treasures. But we aren’t to use those to seek our own glory. It isn’t about who is the best. It isn’t about getting the best status. It isn’t even about being the best church goer. (We don’t go to church to see who is being the best Christian this week!)
Rather we work together. Different talents; same attitude: “Serve Jesus!”
Serve him with art. Serve him with prayer. Serve him with encouragement. Serve him with outreach. Serve him by counting numbers. Serve him by maintaining his house. Serve him by getting communion ready. Serve him by cleaning up the pews. Serve him by serving coffee.
Serve God by serving others! A strange concept to the world.
I believe that we now have a new attitude. And may I propose a new motto to live by. Each day ask yourself, “How can I be strange today? How can I live differently? How can I love Jesus profoundly? How can I make it clear that I am serving God this day and everyday!"
Brothers and sisters, have a strange attitude. Live a strange life. Do strange things.
It’s like that song, “This little Gospel light of mine.” Only instead of a little Gospel light, the encouragement this week is to go out and buy a 9000 watt Gospel spotlight!
And don’t do it just so that you can walk about and say, “I’m pretty good at being STRANGE for Jesus.” That’s not the goal.
Just like the spotlight’s goal isn’t to shine light on itself. The spotlight focuses others on something. It points people in direction
Our spotlight? Our life? It shines on Christ: As Peter ends it…so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.