Ephesians 5:3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; (NKJV)
(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)
The problem of lust, impurity and immorality is a major issue with both genders today. Our society is plagued with sexual immorality and the church is no less affected. From our main Bible verse (Ephesians 5.3), notice the breakdown of the words in Greek:
- “immorality” (porneia) – illicit sex, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, all forms of deviant sexual activity, sex with a divorced man or woman
- “any” (pas) – all things, every, whosoever, everyone, whole, all manner of, every thing, whatsoever, always
- “impurity” (akatharsia) – uncleanness; lustful, luxurious, profligate living; impure motives
- “named” (onomazo) – call, to utter, to make mention of
Studying the original meaning helps us to understand how deep and encompassing this imperative from Paul is. He is saying, “let NO form of sexual impurity or lust or uncleanness be mentioned, uttered or named about any person who calls themselves ‘Christian'”.
There is an analogy I have used over the years that especially applies to moral sin, in particular sexual immorality. It has to do with the degree of consequences that come with certain sins. On the one hand, yes, all sin is “equal” in that it just takes one to condemn us as unworthy to be in God’s presence. But, it is hardly arguable that there are different degrees of physical and emotional consequences that come with various sins – there is a much greater temporal consequence for murdering someone than there is for slandering them. There is a much greater earthly price to pay for cocaine addiction than there is for getting drunk one time.
I liken the sins of great human consequence to falling off a cliff and those of lesser severity to something akin to tripping, stumbling or bruising yourself. (Again, I am talking about the physical and relationship consequences, not the spiritual aspect). Adultery would be falling off the cliff. Flirting with the office secretary would be a stumble. Sneaking a look at the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue would be like getting “tripped” while pornography addiction would be plunging off the cliff. Sneaking into a strip club would be a bruising, while engaging the services of a prostitute is a leap off the edge.
Every analogy will break down if you overanalyze it, so just take it for what it’s worth. What’s the point?
When you are struggling with sexual immorality,
STAY AS FAR AWAY FROM THE CLIFF AS POSSIBLE
if you want to avoid falling off.
This is just good common sense – practical advice. No deep spiritual revelations or amazing Biblical insights. Just old fashioned good sense.
I tell my kids – if you don’t want to end up having sex before marriage (fornication; falling off the cliff) then stay as far away from the edge of the cliff as possible; which means being careful about things that lead to the cliff’s edge: holding hands, body contact, lustful eyes, immodest clothing, making out, petting and overtly sexual behavior. There is a trend today with kids that EVERYTHING except actual intercourse is not actually having sex and somehow that makes it okay (perhaps we can thank a certain ex-president for helping to clarify that for our kids).
I go on to explain to them, “If you aren’t CLOSE to the cliff, a stumble or a gust of wind won’t blow you over the edge.” If you stay a safe distance away from the cliff, then you have margin, you have room for error, you have a buffer zone for mistakes or failures. I tell them over and over that you cannot be shocked and surprised to lose your virginity when you have spent several weeks progressing the amount and intensity of physical contact to the point of finding yourself alone, in the dark, unsupervised, clothes off, doing “everything” physically possible except intercourse. At that point you are teetering on the edge of the cliff, balancing on one leg, with a hurricane force wind blowing behind you. Don’t act shocked when you get blown off.
The farther you stay away from the cliff’s edge,
the more room you have to deal with stumbles, mistakes
and gusts of wind that blow you off course.
There are thousands of men (and many women) who are reading this sentence right now who are caught up in pornography, adultery, lust and various forms of sexual impurity. What each of you needs to understand (as well as those who are discipling them) is that we don’t just wake up one day and decide to be sexually immoral. The process occurs step-by-step, bad-choice-by-bad-choice, heading for the cliff little by little. Follow the progression:
The man allows a few extra looks at the short skirt (a stumbling step towards the cliff). Then he indulges in a little flirting and “innocent” fun talk with her (step). That soon turns into “sharing emotions” because “she admires me” (step). Not too much time goes by before he justifies lunches with her and then an occasional dinner under the guise of “work” or “helping” her ( big step). Soon, the physical contact starts. At first, it is light touches, a shoulder rub – then comes the first guilty kiss that he promises “will never happen again” (step). When the adultery finally happens, he is “shocked” that it has come to this (off the cliff!).
If our guy would have turned around and headed the other direction (away from the cliff) at the first stumble, he would have had plenty of margin and time to avoid the eventual fall.
A woman feels unsatisfied at home and begins to imagine life with her friend’s husband who is “so sweet” (stumble). Knowing that he is not “available”, she justifies beginning to “talk” in chat rooms on the Internet for the emotional support she needs (step). Maybe she begins to romanticize about an old relationship and how wonderful it used to be (step). Not long after the “innocent chat” becomes emotionally intense and personal; or she happens to hear that the old boyfriend is recently divorced and it would be nice of her to call and comfort him (step). Time passes and now a meeting is arranged since she has become “such good friends” with her online chat partner (step) or a “safe” lunch is arranged with the old boyfriend (step). You know the rest. No matter how many steps it takes, unless the direction is changed, the result will be a fall into sexual sin.
The young married man doesn’t see the big deal in looking at the beautiful, barely-covered athletic women in the nutrional magazine that just came in the mail (step). The Sports Illustrated Issue comes out and he sneaks a look at work in the break room when no one is looking (stumble). At his desk, he hears about some movie star who posed nude and he gets a look on the Internet (step). A year later, he’s getting divorced and has quit church because he is consumed with pornography and spends hours a day scouring the Internet for younger girls and more perverse sexual images.
Far fetched? Hardly. This has become COMMON, even for Christian men. Pornography addiction (and women are not immune) is the “secret epidemic” of the American church and it is just starting to come to light as to how serious and widespread the problem is. A popular Christian men’s gathering of tens of thousands of males found in a survey that HALF of the attendees had viewed pornography the previous week.
People don’t wake up one day and decide to be sexually immoral.
It happens a little at a time.
We make our way to the edge of the cliff, step by step, making bad choices and excuses that gradually decrease our margin for error or handling temptation.
1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. (NKJV)
God never tells us to stand up and fight immorality. We are to flee from it. Run away. Get as far away from it as possible. The alcoholic doesn’t go into the bar to show how he can fight his drinking temptations. The man caught in pornography shouldn’t stay up late at night, alone on the computer, to show how he can resist logging on and viewing smut. The woman engulfed in adultery doesn’t go on a date with the man she is sinning with so that she can “prove” she won’t fall again.
No. We don’t stand up and test our strength against impurity. We RUN from it. Flee. Turn around and get away as fast as possible. Move away from the edge of the cliff. Leave yourself room for dealing with temptations and failures.
This lesson is so basic, that I’m often tempted not to “insult” people by delivering it. What I have found however, is that this is all too often “news” to many people who are not exposed to good, basic Bible teaching. Also, you have that group of people who are conveniently ignoring this truth because they want to be “surprised” (and therefore somehow innocent) when they finally fall off the cliff.
Moral purity involves awareness of where you are spiritually. Purposely stay as far away from the cliff as possible. Start by making the right decision when the first temptation occurs, when the first look at a bikini clad women in a magazine happens, when the first signs of discontent with your husband arise, when the first physical contact occurs with your new girlfriend.
Our Heavenly Father, Help us to see the cliff and stay far away from it. Give us wisdom to discern the potential for immorality, and the power to flee from it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Contemplation: Have you ever been “shocked” at something sexually immoral you engaged in? Can you look back now and see the steps it took to get to that point? Are you currently taking steps toward the cliff? How close are you to the edge? How close would a good and Godly friend say that you are?
Application: Falls into sexual immorality occur after many steps have been taken to get you there. If you can learn to recognize the steps and turn around to flee, you can have success in this area..
- If you are having trouble with immorality and the Internet, Covenant Eyes is my recommended service for helping you in this area. This service tracks your activity, and send a report or the accountability partner(s) you choose. Find out more here: http://www.seriousfaith.com/accountability.asp
- If you need to monitor and record the activity on a computer including email and instant messaging, my recommended program is “I Am Big Brother”. It cannot be uninstalled without security privileges and can run secretly in the background. Find out more here: http://www.seriousfaith.com/accountability.asp
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?