But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
— Ephesians 5:3-5
We live in a hyper-sexualized culture. What used to be fringe is now mainstream. What used to be shameful is now celebrated. Americans are the frog in the kettle, and the waters of sexual immorality have been getting hotter and hotter for decades.
Sexual immorality in America has risen as Christianity has fallen. The “sexual revolution” began in the 1960s and the decline of American Christianity started in the 1970s. Such an inverted relationship between the two should not come as a surprise. The salt of the earth has been removed and the light of the earth has dimmed; it’s only natural for sin to grow in such an environment.
But we also must remind ourselves what the first chapter of Romans teaches us about the increase of sexual sin. When we see more sexual immorality, it is a sign of the judgment of God.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:24-27; cf. Romans 1:18)
Our culture celebrates sexual immorality as an expression of personal freedom. We must remind ourselves that that is a lie. Sexual sin is a bondage that comes on people from God’s wrath. Paul offers no hope for those who will not repent of sexual sin: “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:5).
Sexuality is part of our God-given human constitution. It is natural for us to desire the intimacy and pleasure of sex. But we must be very careful to limit sexual activity to the context of marriage between a husband and wife. Any sexual activity outside of the marriage covenant meets the biblical definition of sexual immorality.
The goal for God’s people is not merely sex within marriage, but also sexual purity of heart and mind. Paul writes that “all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Ephesians 5:3). Paul’s words line up with Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).
The call for us to guard our hearts from sexual impurity and covetousness also protects us from outright sexual sin. Outward sins, including sexually immoral acts, come from the unchecked, unrepented evil desires and fantasies of our hearts and minds.
The pull of natural sexual desire is strong and our pervasive hyper-sexualized culture makes purity much harder. But the power of the Spirit is in us and He gives us self-control. Part of our daily discipleship involves denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Jesus and His ways. In Him, we have the power to repent, to break the grip of sexual sin, and to walk in the victory and freedom of God.
Our Father, we repent for accommodating Your standards to our culture’s and for making light of sexual immorality, sexual impurity, and covetousness. You have promised to give us Your Spirit’s power to enable us to walk in Your ways and keep Your commands. We receive Your forgiveness and renewal as we repent in Jesus’ name, amen.
Chuck Hetzler, PhD
Director, Christian Union Day and Night
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