THE IDENTITY THIEF
In order to understand and confront the issue of sexual immorality on biblical terms, I want to first point out the real enemy, the source of all evil and the father of all lies, called the Devil. The most devastating weapon that Satan has used against us is his tongue, for with it he has deceived countless victims with savory lies sprinkled with truth. From the beginning, that serpent has sought to exploit the greatest identity crisis humanity has ever known, which led to the invasion of sin into God’s good created order. The slippery tongue of this cunning foe in combination with the free will of man became the recipe for wickedness to abound, but God still had a plan.
“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.” (Gen. 3:1)
Definition: Cunning – to have skill in achieving one’s ends by deceit.
“So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Rev. 12:9)
“You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (Jn. 8:44)
Many of us know the Genesis story, but still we have been blinded from some simple truths by the god of this age. Notice that the serpent’s primary tactic was to cause the woman to have doubts about her identity, telling her that if she ate the fruit she would be “like God” while shrouding the fact that God already said she was made in His image, “according to His likeness” (Gen. 1:26-27; 3:5). Ever since that day, there has always been this cunning voice throughout society pressing women and men alike to look, speak and act a certain way, so we could obtain and maintain an acceptable image, while the Word of God says we have already been given an image that, as a result, should determine how we see ourselves/others as well as how we speak and act. After Adam and Eve had sinned, the first thing that happened was that their vision changed (Gen. 3:7). They no longer saw themselves as the image-bearers of God who were fully confident in His love, but they became ashamed outsiders who needed a cover up. They forgot who they were.
God called for Adam saying, “Where are you?” I believe He said this not because He didn’t know where Adam was but because ADAM didn’t know where Adam was (Gen. 3:9). Sin causes us to forget who we are and where our identity comes from, thus our natural response is to hide and cover ourselves with an identity we sew together with our own hands using our surroundings. Many of those who are reading this have a social media profile of some sort, and it has become a part of our nature to piece together an image of ourselves that we want everyone else to accept or esteem. Think about it, everyone likes to have “likes.” As we grow through life, we deeply attach ourselves to all these things that make up our sin-shaped identity, so when anyone or anything disapproves, we are painfully offended. What we don’t understand is that the very behaviors, tendencies, and lifestyles we are attaching to our image are killing us. God’s plan of redemption is not to change us into someone that we are not, but to restore us back into the someone we were created to be all along. When we expect the Church of Jesus Christ to accept us for who we are, we are asking them to participate in this restoration process, calling us to look like Him, and rejecting everything that makes us who we are not.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Rom. 8:28-29)
“…put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created Him (Col. 3:10, NKJV) // Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.” (Col. 3:10, NLT)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17)
BROUGHT FORTH IN INIQUITY
One of the lies spewed from hell that has been most tolerated in our generation is this: “If I was born this way, then God must have wanted me this way.” Following that logic, I could have used that excuse quite often growing up when I got in trouble for beating up my younger siblings. “Mom, I was born this way, so that makes my outburst of rage okay.” The doctrine of humanity’s sinful depravity is one that has slowly whittled away from the language of most Sunday morning sermons in America. In our modern thinking we say, “nobody is perfect, so as long as I’m better than the person next to me, I’m okay.” Our casual view of sin is the reason we have casualties in the Church. God doesn’t grade on a curve. He has a standard that He can’t change or He wouldn’t be a good and holy God of love.
As a consequence of the genetic disease of sin passed down through Adam and Eve, we are all born with its tentacles wrapped around the code of our DNA. You will never have to teach your child how to sin. Just refrain from teaching them right and punishing them for doing wrong, put them in the correct environment, continually expose them to the perverse nature of our world, and that sin will grow. Do you ever wonder how Satan goes from a slithering serpent in Genesis to a great dragon by the time he gets to Revelation? Somebody fed him! We can either feed the sin in our hearts or we can starve it out through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The point is, we still have a choice. Jesus had this conversation with a religious man named Nicodemus telling him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). We might be born that way, but we can’t be born again that way. At our new birth in Christ, we are literally given a new nature, with new desires, new purpose, privileges and authority as children of God, but we still have to CHOOSE to walk according to this restored image that has been so freely given to us. Look at it like this: The human mind is like a complex computer program that has been distorted from the moment it was developed by the sin virus, but we’ve been given a completely new and clean set of code that has already been written out perfectly by the Master Programmer according to His original program. It’s not enough just to have the code, but God wants us to interact with Him and replace the distorted code with His code, called His Word. It is through this process that our image is fully restored.
Let me make something else very clear, there is a difference between our personality (what God made) and our sinful nature (what we are born with). God has created us all gloriously unique with beautiful features, talents and personality traits, and this is something to celebrate. We can also develop certain attitudes and virtues, which we also call “character” traits (i.e. love, joy, patience, integrity, gentleness, meekness, kindness, self-control, loyalty, purity, honesty, etc.), that God desires for us to grow in throughout our life. God did NOT create our sinful nature, and our sinful desires are NOT apart of our personality. This came as a consequence of the fallen world we live in, and this is why we must be born again by His Spirit.
“‘But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day’, says the LORD. ‘I will put My instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.’” (Jer. 31:33, NLT)
“For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.” (Ps. 51:5, NLT)
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Rom. 3:23, NLT)
“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb…Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps. 139:13-14; 23-24)
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find…O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ!” (Rom. 7:18-25)
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor. 3:18)
EXTRACTING THE POISON & GROWING IN LOVE
As many of us well know, the poison of sin’s sting is still corrupting the DNA of humanity. The great dragon, who is the author of confusion, is sinking his teeth deeper into the moral fabric of society than ever before; therefore, it is crucial that the eyesight of the Body of Christ be flooded with the light of His gospel, lest we be swept away in the same flurry of confusion. The gospel is the ONLY antidote for sin’s sting (1 Cor. 15:55-57), and as we come to understand it with the help of His Spirit, we will be equipped to discern and remove the poison from our bloodstream in the appropriate way that won’t stunt our growth in love (Eph. 4:11-16). The proper extraction of the poison from our own heart as well as the Church’s requires vigorous spirituality, biblical community and deep partnership with the surgical hand of the Lord if we are to be successful. At the end of the day, we can’t afford to settle for managing the symptoms of sin. We must seek to remove it completely. I believe God is looking for a people in the earth today who would work with Him in love, boldness and meekness to deal with the sin in the camp to the end that He can come home to a pure and spotless bride full of His glory (Eph. 5:26-27; Rev. 21-22).
“And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.” (Gen. 1:4)
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light…And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Eph. 5:8-11)
With that being said, I bring up the issue of sexual immorality, which I believe the Bible clearly defines as all sexual activity that takes place outside the God ordained marriage covenant between one man and one woman (Gen. 1:24; Matt. 19:4-6; Eph. 5:22-23; Heb. 13:4). Sexual immorality is more than homosexuality, but it also involves fornication (sex outside of marriage), lust, adultery, divorce, remarriage, and more issues of that nature. I feel that the reason this issue needs to be pointed out besides the fact that the Bible pointedly condemns it is:
- It is easily spread and deceptively destructive
- It is a direct assault on God’s original design
- It is openly tolerated and even celebrated in our society which creates confusion
“I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you – something that even pagans don’t do.” (1 Cor. 5:1)
“Don’t you realize that this sin is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough?” (1 Cor. 5:6)
“But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies.” (1 Cor. 6:13)
As we confront this issue, we must see the fine line between tolerance and mercy. In Jesus’ first sermon, He made one thing very clear: sin is serious, and it should never be tolerated (Matt. 5:29-30). He advised that we should go to the extremes to prevent that which causes us to sin from destroying us completely. If we tolerate it in an attempt to save that which is precious to us (i.e. relationships, reputation, etc), then we are in danger of hell fire. The theme of tolerance is one that is tossed around in much of the same-sex marriage debate, and I feel that it is one that has been dangerously skewed. Let me make this statement, Christian intolerance does not mean we are to violently oppose anyone who disagrees with our moral convictions, but it does mean that we are to boldly stand for biblical righteousness in our speech and actions when those basic convictions are assaulted ESPECIALLY in the Church. These are issues that need to be addressed with boldness, clarity and tenderness for the sake of redeeming love. I’m okay with moving passed harmless disagreements about peripheral issues that have no eternal significance, but I can’t be okay with allowing sexual immorality to be redefined as the “new normal” throughout the Body of Christ. I’d rather be called a bigot by society than live my life tolerating the fact that my brother is drinking poison in plain sight, and I’m doing nothing about it. The first wave of persecution that I believe we experience before it increases is the temptation to draw back from our convictions and compromise spiritually. Remember who the real enemy is in all of this. Rather than fighting for tolerance, which implies that we accept the sin along with the sinner, we need to learn how to show mercy, which implies that we REJECT the sin and RECEIVE the sinner who is seeking freedom. Again, we must understand the difference between humanity’s person-hood and humanity’s sinful nature. The moment we allow immoral sexual behavior to hide behind the guise of humanity’s person-hood, the more it will seem right to avoid prejudices related to one’s sexual orientation. Fornicators, homosexuals, transgenders and the like should not be terms to describe alternate races people, because the more we buy in to that, the less we will see the need for healing. These are real people, and like everyone else, they were formed by God, deformed by sin, but they can also be transformed by HIM! Nobody needs salvation from their skin, but everyone needs salvation from their sin! It was never God’s desire to send people to hell because He made hell for sin and the fallen angels, but if we aren’t willing to divorce ourselves from our sin by the blood of Jesus, then we will ride our sin to hell (Matt. 25:41).
“And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy still to others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.” (Jude 1:22-23)
“Who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” (Rom. 1:32)
GOD HAS GIVEN US A MORAL STANDARD
One common excuse or defense of sexual immorality is expressed by the statement, “That is old law, which we are not bound by anymore.” Though this sounds valid, it is only partially right. There are three primary types of law in the Bible:
- Civil Law
- Ceremonial Law
- Moral Law
It is true that we are not bound by the civil law which was given specifically to Israel to help govern their national affairs (economical policies, legal procedures, capital punishment, authority structure, etc) nor are we bound by the ceremonial law which was given to the Levitical priesthood to help steward the worship of God and point out how sin must be paid for with sacrifice in order for God to come near. This ceremonial law (which includes the animal sacrifices and rituals) was fulfilled once and for all by Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross. Yet, immorality is still wrong. God’s moral law (which includes the Ten Commandments // don’t murder, steal, commit adultery, etc) is still in effect, thank the Lord! Only now, after Christ came, He took it further than the mere outward list of do’s and don’ts. He brought it to the heart, wherein lies our deepest and darkest thoughts and motives. Jesus revealed the true purpose of the law, to expose and extract sin while teaching us to love.
Christ ascended back into heaven so He could send us the HELPER, also called the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t expect us to fix ourselves before He comes, in fact, He wants us to invite Him right into the midst of our mess so He can help us renovate. If you’ve ever seen footage of a burning building, you may notice that several people would rather jump out of the building than stay and be burned alive. Jesus wants to baptize us with FIRE, so that our old man (sinful nature) jumps out of our building. He loves us in our sin, but He loves us too much to leave us in our sin. We don’t have to hide behind fig leaves anymore, we can wear the covering provided by our Messiah’s sacrifice on the cross; therefore, when God looks at us, He actually sees and relates to us just-as-if we’ve never sinned (justification — free from the penalty of sin) which is why He can come near to help us as we choose to walk with Him (sanctification — free from the power of sin) until the day He gives us a completely restored body (glorification — free from the presence of sin).
Now as we come into agreement with the biblical definitions for sin, it is our RESPONSIBILITY to confront it within the Church, while faithfully witnessing to the world around us by standing on these God-established convictions through our speech and lifestyle choices. We have to be sincerely walking with the Lord in the secret place of prayer if we want to develop the perspective and meekness necessary to confront these issues with love and be an effective witness. Don’t forget, to the world, sin IS normal. Notice how Jesus used the analogy of finding a speck in our brother’s eye, implying that in order for us to help others, we have to (1) deal with our own plank first and (2) be close enough in relationship to that person to call something out (Matt. 7:3-5). As Christians, we must bear the standard of the Word of God in our homes and churches, we must lead by example, we must not be fearful of confronting these issues, but we must do so with the tenderness and humility of Christ.
“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Col. 4:6)
“It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.” (1 Cor. 5:12)
We must be able to make a distinction between those who are STRUGGLING with sin and those who are SETTLING in sin. The Apostle Paul tells us not to even sit with someone who calls them self a believer, yet they live in open, unrepentant sin because they need to experience the shame of their blatant iniquity that they might repent (1 Cor. 6:9-11). On the other side of the coin, Paul also said about the believers that they “regard no one according to the flesh” or you could say they sought to have the perspective of Christ when they looked at those who were sincerely pressing upward with a willingness to fully obey the Lord (2 Cor. 5:16). To speak the truth in love means to tenderly yet boldly speak the Word of God to the end that the hearers would find everlasting life and freedom and Christ would receive the reward of His suffering. If our motive behind speaking truth is more about proving how right we are than it is about wanting people to experience the unhindered love of God, then our message becomes a hard clanging cymbal that makes it nearly impossible to hear the truth being spoken.
At the end of the day, the Word of God is double-edged, meaning it has both positive and negative effects depending on the spiritual condition of the hearer, which we must not be afraid to talk about. We can’t keep trying to deal with fruit issues without confronting the root issues. One of the best ways to end abortion is to confront the root issue of embracing sex outside of marriage, which is sexual immorality. We don’t need more sex ed classes or more birth control methods, we need self-control, which is part of the fruit of the Spirit! Lord, would you fill your Church once again, and awaken us with light!
I’m all for moving forward as a Church in terms of fulfilling the Great Commission and maturing as followers of Christ, but if being progressive means moving away from God’s clear moral standards to “reach” more people in the name of “love,” then I want nothing to do with it.
“Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people – none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. BUT you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-11)
“They traded the truth about God for a lie…Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.” (Rom. 1:25-27)
“Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” (1 Cor. 6:18-19)
EYES OF FIRE AND FEET OF FINE BRASS
To conclude this article, I want to point out a biblical description of Jesus that much of the Church seems to avoid. In Revelation 2, we have these scenes where Jesus is walking in the midst of His different churches, and He points out both the positive and the negative attitudes and activities going on in each of them. As a God of love, He faithfully confronts His people. He comes to the church in Thyatira as the Son of God who has eyes of fire and feet of brass, and He specifically confronts them for tolerating teachings that actually give the believers confidence to live in sexual immorality.
“Write these things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass…” (Rev. 2:18)
“Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality…” (Rev. 2:20)
His fiery eyes speak of His heart-piercing vision that sees perfectly the wickedness of our sinful nature and our willful choices that follow suit, yet it simultaneously speaks of His loving desire for us. He also sees the true us whom He has fashioned and formed in His own image. His polished brass feet speak of the righteousness and purity of His authority to judge sin and those attached to it. There will be no one who can manipulate or intimidate Him from withholding the wrath humanity has stored up for itself, and everything He does to confront their darkness will be absolutely fair. The judgments He releases will be perfectly just yet also perfectly merciful. If those within the Church refuse to accept God’s stance on immorality now, then how much more will we be offended when He returns. If our generation can’t stand in allegiance to Him now on such basic issues, then I fear for the generation who faces the Day of the Lord. Take heart, God’s delay in judgment is not His wink of approval, it is His hand of mercy giving us time to repent.
“And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.” (Rev. 2:21)
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promises, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9)
“And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other.” (Matt. 24:10)
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor…” (1 Thess. 4:3-4)
How should we respond to the Lord, how should we handle sexual immorality, and how do we prepare for the days ahead? Remember who you are! Become fascinated with our holy God of mercy, love His truth and set your heart to obey Him fully. The only safe place is to stay in the battle. Don’t tolerate sin to protect your relevance, reputation or relationships, but take a stand. Overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of your testimony, and Christ will reward you with life, authority and satisfaction in Him. He wants to be our bright and morning star which speaks of the restoration of a new day that brings new hope, purpose and direction to our lives (Rev. 22:16). If you are currently struggling with any of these issues related to sexual immorality, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual, there is hope! Come out of the closet before the Lord, and let Him heal and restore you. Find a community of believers who will come alongside you. God wants to remind you who you are!
“And he who overcomes, and keeps my works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations…and I will give him the morning star.” (Rev. 2:26-28)
*Note: This article is intended specifically for Christians.