Eddie Chapman was a British citizen in the early 1900s. He lived a life of low-level crime. During one of his stints in prison, he met two German men who convinced him to join the cause of the Nazis during WWII. Here he was Eddie Chapman, a British citizen, traveling to Germany to join the German cause. He was trained by the Germans to be a spy, to infiltrate Britain. His first mission was to go back to Britain to hijack and destroy an airplane factory. They sent him on a plane and he parachuted out into the countryside. As he began to work his way to his target, he was picked up by the British intelligence services. They knew about Eddie Chapman. They knew what he was doing. We would think they would stick him in some dark hole and leave him there, at least until the war had ended, but, instead, they turned Eddie Chapman. A British citizen, who was a German spy, now became a British spy. He was a double agent, and so they pretended that he had destroyed the airplane factory that he was supposed to destroy, and they sent him back to Germany. As he learned a number of important things about German warfare, about their plans, about their weapons, he would sneak back into Britain and give them the information. He continued to do this throughout the war.
I can't imagine being in that position of being a double agent, having to pretend that you're working both sides in a conflict, but the passage today asks us a question similar to what Eddie Chapman must have asked himself, "Who am I ultimately serving? Who is my ultimate authority? Who am I living for? Who am I seeking to please?" We have to ask ourselves that question everyday, "Who am I living for?" We have to make a choice. Am I living for God or am I living for myself? Am I living for eternity or am I living for today?
We have called this series, "End Time People." God calls us to be people who live in light of eternity … who live in light of Christ's return. As we look at this passage we need to ask ourselves, "Who am I living to please?" This passage will instruct us to please God in every area of our lives, and specifically today we will focus on our sexuality. Are we living to please God in the area of sex?
Living to please someone else
As Paul begins this passage, he gives us three big ideas of what he is talking about and we see that in vs. 1-3:
As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instruct you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God's will that you should be sanctified.
Paul is writing to remind the church what he already had taught them. He uses the word, "instruction." ("That which I had already instructed you about.") This language for instruction is the same word that's used in Greek for a military commander giving orders to those under his authority. When a commander speaks, it's not a suggestion. It's not a hint. It's not an optional activity. It's a mandate. "This is what you will do." As Paul is writing, he is writing to tell us how we ought to live if we are truly followers of Christ. Again, what Paul is going to describe here are not optional things. They are not things that super-Christians do. It's what true followers of Christ live. They live, as we're told here, to please God. It means that God's interests become our primary ambition. I'm no longer living to please myself. I am living to please God.
This is highly relational language—the idea of living to please someone else. I think for those of us who are married, it's similar to what we committed to when we got married. We are no longer living for ourselves. We are living to please and serve our spouse. Hopefully, we are asking the question, "How can I put a smile on my spouse's face today? How do I live to please them? How do I live to serve them? How do I put their need above my own?" We are to ask that question in this passage of God. Am I living to please him? Am I living to put a smile on God's face? It is relational language, and we see that because Paul says that we should live to please God more and more. It would be fool-hearty if our relationships were marked by one act of service, one commitment a week. For instance, if you bought a present for your spouse and then thought, "They know that I love them. I've done something for them. I'm just going to hit cruise control and make it through at least another month." Instead, what Paul has here is not that "Oh, I went to church on Sunday. I'm good. I pleased God. I gave some money in the offering. I'm good. I pleased God." Instead, we should consider our whole lives, asking ourselves in every way, "How can I put a smile on God's face more and more every day?" We are to live to please him. This is the big idea of what Paul is talking about here: Are we living to please God?
The second idea in vs. 3 is that we should do God's will. God's will is a clear command. He speaks to every area of our lives. Today we are going to talk about our sexuality. We need to step back and ask ourselves, "Does God truly have the right to speak into every area of our lives or are there certain areas where he is not permitted to speak?" In our culture, this is the way we typically think. When it comes to murder or stealing, we think, "Sure, God can tell me what to do." But when it comes to sex, we think, "This is something I do in private, God doesn't have the right to tell me what to do. We're consenting adults. God doesn't care about that."
He is able to do this because of who he is. He is our Heavenly Father. As our Father, he has the right to speak into every area of our lives. I'm an earthly father to my children, Zeke and Mercy, and as a father I have the right and the mandate to speak into every area of their lives. If I didn't, my son would never go to sleep. Every night, no matter what time it is, he always thinks that there is something else he needs to do—he needs a snack, he needs to play, or watch a movie. I'm his father and I know it's healthy for him to go to sleep and so I have to tell him, "Zeke, we can play tomorrow. Right now, it's time for bed." I have the right and mandate to speak into his life. Our Heavenly Father, in the same way, has the right to speak into every area of our lives.
Further, he's the Creator and Designer, and he knows what's best for us.
The third big idea that Paul has here is to be sanctified, which means, "to be set apart." Every area of our lives should be set apart for God's purposes—at home, at work, our sexuality. We have to step back and ask ourselves, "Are we living to do God's will or our will? Are we living to be set apart for God's purposes or our own?" Those questions are true of every area of our lives, but this morning we are going to focus on vs. 3-8, concerning our sexuality.
Pleasing God with our sexual obedience
We see what this looks like in the second half of vs. 3 and vs. 6:
It is God's will that you should avoid sexual immorality. That each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable. Not in passionate lust, like the pagans who do not know God and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother and sister.
Michael Systma is the head of an organization called, Building Intimate Marriages. He said if we want to understand God's view of sexuality, there are three things we have to understand:
Sex is a gift from God.
God has clear boundaries for sex.
There is hope and healing for sexual sin.
We see these develop in this passage. First, sex is a gift from God. We see this in verse 4. God said there is a way we can have sex that is holy and honorable. In the proper confines of marriage, sex can be holy and pleasing to God. In Genesis, sex was given as a gift. It's a gift for two reasons.
1) It's a gift, because it's pleasurable. God could have made life boring, but instead he chose to make life, particularly sex, pleasurable, so that when a husband and wife are joined together, it's something beautiful and pleasurable. It is a gift to be enjoyed between husband and wife. Sex in some ways is an act of worship between a husband and wife, thanking God for what he has given.
2) It's a gift from God, because it teaches us how to serve. Tim Keller says it this way, "Sex is for whole life self-giving." Sex teaches us how to be a servant. Paul picks this up further in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5:
The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you might devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again, so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
The imagery Paul is using here is that of sex—of how to give yourself to your spouse. It teaches us how to serve our spouse and, ultimately, to be like Christ. Not that he was ever married or ever had sex, but because he came to serve. It's a unique tool from God to learn how to be selfless. If you want to think more about this, I encourage you to read Tim Keller's book, The Meaning of Marriage.
We need to take a step back. Sex is a gift from God, but some of you will never unwrap this gift. Some of you will never be married. You may not enter into the proper context of marriage. So, it's a gift from God, but nothing is lacking in your life if you are not married and not having sex. Christ lived an abundant life without sex or marriage. The same can be true for you, as well. You can find fulfillment and satisfaction in Christ, which is where we all need to find our satisfaction ultimately.
Secondly, God has clear boundaries for sex. We see this in vs. 5-6. We are told in vs. 5 that we are not to have sex in passionate lust like the pagans. We shouldn't just use sex as a purely biological act. It's not something to be done like animals. It is to be an act of worship. Because it's so powerful, we need to learn how to control it.
When I was 16, I got my license. I was excited. All my friends were older than me, so they all had their license. The first time I asked my dad for the keys to the car, I drove to a fast-food restaurant. As I drove up, I realized that I had never been through a drive-through, so I parked the car and went inside. I got my food and came out. I got back into the car and began to pull out of my spot and … CRASH! I hit the parked car next to me! I pulled back into my parking spot and thought, "What just happened?" The first time driving by myself, and I smash my dad's car. I looked at the car I hit. There was no damage there, but the headlight of my dad's car was shattered. I was thinking, What was I going to tell dad? I realized very quickly that cars are powerful. I needed to learn how to control this thing if I wanted to drive well. Same is true with sex. It's a powerful gift from God that we have to learn to control. There are proper boundaries for sex.
Further, we need to understand the consequences of sexual sin in vs. 6. The language behind the word "wrong" is literally the word "trespass." Sexual sin is a form of trespass. We have gone somewhere that we shouldn't have gone. There are clear boundaries that God has given us. John Chrysostom, one of the early church fathers in the 300s, said this, speaking of God:
He has set boundaries on nature and limits sexual intercourse to one person only. Therefore, intercourse with more than one person is transgression and taking more than belongs to one, and robbery.
Sexual sin is a form of theft. Any form of sexual sin is a form of theft. In premarital sin, we are taking sex from someone who doesn't have the right to give us sex. Pornography is theft. We are taking sex in a way that was not meant to be taken. In adultery, we are stealing from our current spouse or someone else's spouse. Sexual sin is theft at its core. All sin ripples out beyond us, especially sexual sin. In marriages. In future marriages.
Third, there is hope and healing for sexual sin. Regardless of what you have done or thought of doing there is hope, because there is forgiveness. Jesus died on the cross. He took all of our sins upon himself and he was raised from the dead to express his victory over that sin and death. When we place our faith in Christ, we can find forgiveness. That guilt and shame can be removed from us and we can enter into a right relationship with God. There is healing. It doesn't mean there won't be consequences here and now, but there can be healing today from bondage, through the work of Christ in our lives. We need accountability and community in the church to find freedom from sexual sin of all types. I love the way that Paul describes this in 1 Cor. 6:9-11:
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed. You were sanctified. You were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
It's not about what you have done. It's about who Christ can make you. The language there is that he can wash you of your sins. You can have a right relationship with God. There is hope and healing in Christ for our sexual sin. What we often do in our culture is say, "Maybe God doesn't have the right to speak into that area of my life—It's a personal thing between consenting adults." We rationalize it and think it's not that big of a deal. It's just lustful thoughts. It's just one act of adultery. God wants us to understand that sexual sin is serious. It's grave and it must be dealt with. We see this in vs. 6-8:
The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being, but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.
The seriousness of sexual sin
There are three things that Paul wants us to understand about why sexual sin is so serious.
It's serious because verse 6 says that God will punish all sexual sins. For all of our sins that we have not confessed, we will receive punishment. I'm not sure exactly what form this will take, but God throughout his ministry talked about eternal rewards. On Judgment Day we will stand before Christ and be rewarded for what we have done. I assume that part of the punishment is a lack of rewards. I think that punishment could come, as well through real, tangible, earthly consequences (STD, broken families, etc.). We can find forgiveness. If we confess our sin and profess Christ as Savior and Lord, we can find forgiveness. We can walk in a new way.
It's serious because of what we are missing out on in vs. 7. "Christ did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life." What Christ is offering us is the abundant life now—to experience the fruit of the Spirit as a daily reality. He wants us to walk in freedom. When we choose sexual or any other sin, and choose to remain there, we are missing out on the life that Christ offers to us. There are spiritual benefits to pleasing God. There are also earthly benefits to pleasing God. There was a study done recently of 1000s of married couples. They asked couples whether or not they had sex before marriage. Then, they looked at the satisfaction of both sex and satisfaction of relationship. And what they found is that those who waited to have sex had happier sex within marriage and more stable and happier marriages, in general. If we please God, we reap tangible benefits. If we choose to remain in darkness, we will miss out on those.
It's serious because if we choose to remain in our sexual sin, we are rejecting God (see vs. 8). It's black and white. Either we accept all of God's will or we are rejecting him. God is not a buffet line. We don't get to pick the things we want. We either take it all or reject it. For some of us, we have to decide: "Do I want to live to please myself or do I want to live to please God? Do I think I can save myself or do I need Christ because of my brokenness?" If you have acknowledged Christ as your Savior and Lord, you still have to decide daily, "Am I going to allow him to speak to every area of my life?" Rejecting God is scary, because it removes us from the abundant life God wants for us. It removes us from fellowship with him.
God is not looking for perfection. He is looking for us to please him, to confess our sin, acknowledge our failure, and get back into fellowship with him. Our only hope for freedom is God. Our only hope for holiness is through the Spirit that indwells us. Life abundant comes only when we walk with Christ every day. Let us all choose to please God in every area of our lives. Let us live to put a smile on his face.