October 28, 2007 South City Church sermon
Ephesians series: Grieving the Spirit: Sexual Immorality
by: Jay Simmons
Note: The first part of this sermon was not recorded due to technical difficulties. Please see the comment added for the manuscript of the beginning.
It always hurts a little. Every single morning it hurts when I turn on that first light over the kitchen sink. It marks the beginning of a new day – the end of sleepfulness and the beginning of wakefulness. The end of dark and the beginning of light. But it’s always a little painful. Some days it seems much easier to go back to sleep – not to endure that little painful light.
It’s this sort of transition from darkness into lightness that we have been studying for the last 5 weeks now as we have looked at what it means to grieve the Spirit of God who lives within we who believe. Paul has urged us – in light of the grace of God – to walk in a manner worthy of that grace. To put off specific Old Man vices and to put on New Man virtues. And, as we have seen, this often hurts a little – it’s often unnatural and difficult. And this week is no different. In fact, this might be the most difficult and painful week of all.
Let’s look at Ephesians 5:3-14…
Text: 5:3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 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.
6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
That’s God’s Word…Let’s Pray…
Intro: Do you have a junk drawer at home? Perhaps a box where all the stuff that doesn’t seem to belong anywhere ends up? That’s what basements are for, right? A place where we can throw the stuff that we don’t know what to do with – the stuff we don’t want company to see – the stuff we don’t want to deal with. We all have these places in our hearts – dark places where we throw dark things that we don’t know what to do with – or don’t want company to see. Dark places where we hide dark things – secret sins – shameful things.
And often, they are of a sexual nature. This is what Paul is talking about in our verses: Sexual sin that lurks in the Old Man heart. Paul makes a big deal about it because he knows the Ephesians struggle with it in profound ways – ways that they may want to deny – ways that they may want to avoid – ways that they may want to keep in the dark.
And it’s not just the overt sins he’s addressing here – it’s not just adultery and pornography and rape – it’s all sexual immorality and all impurity and all filthiness of heart. Things like lust and misplaced attractions to people of the same sex. It’s sin of the heart – of coveting another woman’s man, dreaming about a knight in shining armor or indulging yourself in the fantasy of a romance novel or a chick flick.
It’s pursuing a 2nd look or gratifying oneself or imagining passion with that other one. Paul even lumps crude jokes or a flippant attitude about sex in there as well. The net he casts to include Old Man sexual vice is large, including all dark acts and thoughts and feelings and impulses.
Dark things that all of us deal with. But dark things that our culture has completely embraced. There’s a new book out by Peter Sagal called “The Book of Vice” where he satirizes and explores the dark world of sexual immorality.
He was on NPR the other day explaining that the book was begun out of a sense of curiosity and a desire to peek into these sexual realms. To gain access, he said, “to these places where the rules are finally released and to experience our hedonistic selves and reveal ourselves to be the fabulous, Roman-level connoisseurs of pleasure that we’re dying to be if only we could be allowed to be.”
And the book is climbing up the best seller list. Our culture has become completely numb – desensitized – to sexual morality. It has lost even the slightest perception that things like pre-marital sex and pornography and same sex attraction are the least bit sinful, Old Man vices. It embraces sexual vice now as the norm – as completely acceptable – as a virtue, in fact.
Anyone who freely indulges themselves or can dress promiscuously without blushing or who is sexually adventuresome is considered to have achieved a new level of enlightenment – they are to be admired and revered as tapping into the true freedom we all crave. They are just courageous enough to get rid of the old straight-jackets of yesterday’s prudish rigidity. They are rich in the virtue of passion and authentic sensuality.
And those who struggle with the vice of rigid sexual morality and strict chastity are old-fashioned fuddy-duddies who are unrealistic and dishonest and even ignorant.
Stand up for monogamous committed relationships and you are living in the dark ages. Wait until you are married to have sex and you are scorned – what is that about? Push away temptation to pornography or racy TV shows and you are a bore. Don’t be ashamed of sexuality! Be free!
If anyone is to be ashamed, let it be those who are self-deceived into thinking that there needs to be restraint on sexuality! The goody-two-shoes, the conservative, the chaste.
But, I believe that the culture is pushing that shame because of the shame it feels in its own heart. Because of its inability to deal with the pain of the shame of its promiscuous actions, and it’s transferring that shame onto those who still hold fast to the sacredness and the beauty of sexual purity. Perhaps we understand why the culture would do that, if we’re honest about our own promiscuous actions.