Moral Earthquakes & Secret Faults: Fight and flight - Part 5

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.  - 1 Cor. 6:18

1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Theoretically, an earthquake can happen almost anywhere. Although this statement seems to defy what we know about plate tectonics, it is true. The facts speak for themselves. In 1818, a violent quake shook Missouri. In 1886, another struck South Carolina. In 1988, another ripped through Australia’s Northern Territory; and in 1990, one hit Britain. As far as geophysicists can tell, there are no active plate boundaries in any of these areas. They theorize that instability well below the top layer of the earth’s crust—undetectable faults far deeper than the plate boundaries—may be the cause of this rare form of subduction.

The one solace of such phenomena is that they are, after all, rare. Even though it is possible for an earthquake to occur anywhere, it is far from probable. In fact, the vast majority of earthquakes occur along predictable fault lines along plate boundaries. They always have and they always will.

Moral earthquakes follow a similar pattern. Though it is possible for a moral earthquake to be caused by the most inconsequential moral faults, it is more likely to be caused by more predictable faultlines. In fact, the vast majority of moral earthquakes are caused by greed, avarice, bitterness, and, of course, sexual promiscuity.

Sex. We are consumed by it. We are immersed in it. We can hardly escape its smothering influences. Our entire pop culture seems to revolve around it. Yet our obsession has hardly brought us satisfaction. On the contrary, it has brought untold suffering and destruction.

It is ironic that our sophisticated society cannot see that sexual immorality has devastated our culture. The evidence is glaring: millions of illegitimate births, the highest divorce rate in the world, rampant sexually transmitted diseases—including AIDS—not to mention an unchecked abortion industry that not only victimizes preborn children, it haunts millions of women with the plague of post-abortion syndrome.

Yet we are continually bombarded with sex, sex, and more sex. We can’t pick up a newspaper, a magazine, turn on a television set, go to a movie, or see an advertisement without salvos of innuendo, bravado, and libido. Sex sells in America. It sells blue jeans. It sells music. It sells mouthwash. It sells everything: cars, computers, and cameras. As a result, yesterday’s shocking behavior is quite commonplace today.

To make matters worse, we’ve raised a generation of young people, by and large, with no moral absolutes and no spiritual leadership at home or in the church. Almost everyone talks to them about sex—except moms and dads and pastors. Consequently, a generation of kids have learned about it from Madonna and the media, from public education and the Dr. Ruths of this world who fill their young minds with misinformation and half-truths.

In the church, these young people have stood by and watched as we steadfastly avoided addressing the most critical issues of our day. At the same time, however, they observed all too many high-profile leaders of the church fall into sexual sins.

Is it any wonder that so many young people succumb to these sexual pressures and temptations when the home, the church, and the nation fail to give them the moral support they need? We’ve raised a generation without moral absolutes because in school, at home, and in the church our young people are not hearing the whole story. There’s only one way to have safe sex: the Bible way.

America is in the midst of moral collapse and we’re asking, “What should we do about it?” Many say, “More education. Distribute condoms. Find a cure.” However, what we really ought to be asking is why? Why are we standing idly by watching our culture fall into decay and disintegration?

The apostle Paul confronted this issue head-on when he wrote to a church of men and women living in a society in every way as perverted as ours. He didn’t back away from this indelicate subject—because he knew how important it was. He said, “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:18–20).

There are four things Paul lays out in this passage. There is an admonition: the faithful must flee from sexual immorality. There is an addition: sexual sin directly alters our lives. There is an admission: we are not our own. And finally, there is an ambition: we are therefore to glorify God in our bodies.

Admonition

Notice the force and urgency of Paul’s exhortation, his admonition. He states very plainly, “Flee sexual immorality.”

Don’t misunderstand what he is saying here. He is not saying to flee sex. Some people think to even mention the word is ugly and naughty. On the contrary, within the marriage relationship sex is beautiful, pure, and good. The Bible is absolutely clear on this point. It is a magnificent and joyous experience when placed within the boundaries God affords. Only when we wrench sex out of its God-ordained parameters does it become evil, perverted, and divisive.

For the Christian the issue is not sex per se. It is sex outside God’s design. The apostle does not say, “Flee sex”; he says, “Flee sexual immorality.” Christians are not antisex. We simply have a higher view of it than mere animal instinct.

The real issue here is immorality. The Greek word for “immorality” is porneia, the same root from which we get the word pornography. Porneia appears a dozen times in the New Testament, and in each instance it refers to illicit sexual encounters outside a husband-wife relationship. Sometimes that illicit activity is fornication. Sometimes it is adultery. Sometimes it is homosexuality. Interestingly, no distinction is made among these perversions—one is not somehow worse than another. Any illicit sexual activity outside the sacred marital bed of a husband and wife is a perversion of God’s perfect plan and providence.

Therefore the apostle asserts that whenever temptations in this arena present themselves, we are to flee. In the original Greek text, there is a present imperative in this admonition. It means we shouldn’t weigh our options or consider alternatives. In the face of sexual temptation, we are to flee. Literally, we are to run rapidly away—without hesitation, without consideration, without consultation. We are simply to flee. The same word is used in Matthew’s account of the infancy of Christ when Mary and Joseph took the baby and fled down to Egypt. They ran away when Herod decreed that all the babies in Bethlehem two years of age and younger would be killed. The same word is found later when Christ’s followers ran away in fear following His arrest: “All the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Matt. 26:56). In its every occurrence, the word means immediate departure, flight, a quick escape.

So Paul’s admonition is not simply to avoid sexual sin. We are to consciously, purposely, and perpetually run away from it. Get away. Run. Flee. Don’t even get in a situation where sexual impropriety is possible. Flee.

Some of us try to fight this kind of temptation. We try to resist it thinking, Oh, I’m strong. I can handle this situation. I’ve never fallen yet. I can fight these temptations. To this, the apostle Paul simply says, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

He doesn’t say, “Fight sexual immorality.” Nor does he say, “Muster your faith in the face of sexual temptation.” We might think, Well, I’m a Christian; I know the Bible; I’ve lived a life of faith. I’ll just exercise my faith here.

Sadly, I’ve watched several friends in the ministry stumble into sexual immorality, and I’ve seen the catastrophic results in both their personal and professional lives. Invariably, they were men who thought they had the faith to avoid such a moral earthquake.

That is why Paul is entirely unambiguous here. He does not say to “faith it.” His admonition is crystal clear: “Flee sexual immorality.” Get out of there. Run. Don’t hesitate. Don’t weigh the situation. Don’t stop to consider your options. Don’t even pause to pray about it. Just get out of there. Flee.

Now when temptations come in the realm of the spirit, that is when we are supposed to use faith. (Read Ephesians.) That’s when we faith it. When temptations come in the realm of the soul, that is when we fight it. But when temptations come in the realm of the flesh, we are not to muster our faith or fight the good fight. We are supposed to flee. When you feel the temptations of the flesh, get out of there!

Addition

The reason we are to flee is simple: sexual immorality brings devastation to all three types of relationships in life—with others, with ourselves, and with God. Sexual immorality affects your worth, your witness, and your worship. It adds an unnecessary dimension of tragedy and destruction to our lives.

Men and women often have different reasons for engaging in illicit sexuality. By and large, women give sex to get love. Many young ladies have never known a father’s love. Their souls cry out for someone to love them. So they give their bodies away looking for love.

Men do the opposite. They give love to get sex. To satisfy themselves, they say, “I love you.” Yet what they are often saying is, “I love me,” and consequently, “I want you to satisfy me.” It just comes out “I love you.”

Tragically, many teenagers have never witnessed the loving relationship of a husband and wife. They have never seen firsthand a marriage that defies worldly logic. They have never seen a man love his wife like Christ loved the church, nor known a woman willing to love and submit to her husband. The end result is that both men and women feel brutally betrayed and utterly unsatisfied in their most intimate relations.

All too often the church is quick to say, “Don’t do it. Just say no. Flee sexual immorality,” yet we neglect to tell kids and adults why they should abstain from sex until marriage. Well, the apostle Paul was not that inconsistent. He said, “Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body” (v. 18).

Sexual sin is unlike other sins because it adds consequences to life that other sins don’t. Sexual sin marks us and masters us. This type of sin defines us and dominates us. It takes over our minds.

Other kinds of sin make us unclean externally, but sexual sin pollutes us internally. It adds a dimension of destructiveness to our lives—and thus inevitably heralds moral earthquakes like no other sins possibly could.

Admission

The apostle Paul does not stop with an admonition and an addition. He next proffers an admission: “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price” (vv. 19–20).

In the New Testament, there are two different words that we translate “temple.” The first refers to the entire temple complex in Jerusalem—the temple mount, the court of the Gentiles, Solomon’s portico, the colonnades, and all the inner courts. The other word is used exclusively for the sacred space just behind the altar and beyond the veil in the inner court—the Holy of Holies.

When Paul says, “Your body is the temple,” he uses that second word. He asserts that a believer’s body is the most holy place, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. It is God’s Holy of Holies.

In the Old Testament, God came to the temple and dwelt in that holy place. The shakinah glory of God inhabited that space between the cherubim over the mercy seat of the ark in the Holy of Holies. Now, in this dispensation, He says that the believer’s body is that sacred place.

Even if we should ever become involved in illicit sexual sin, most of us would never think of committing it in a holy place. We would never think of desecrating a church, for instance. We would never flaunt our brazenness so profligately. Nor would we ever think of going into a beautiful cathedral or a great sanctuary in Bethlehem and committing sexual sin there. In a much more vivid and biblical way, we should recoil at the thought of committing such sin at all, regardless of the place or the geography. God doesn’t inhabit a building or a plot of ground or a historic site. He inhabits His temple, and the believer’s body is that temple.

We shouldn’t anymore think about sexual sin outside the parameters of God’s Word in our body than we would in any holy place. Our bodies are, in fact, the only genuinely holy places in the created order.

The truth is, our bodies are not our own, and we have no right to injure property that does not belong to us. God bought us with a price. We were purchased out of the slavemarket of sin by Jesus Christ Himself—at great price. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).

Ambition

Finally, the apostle Paul portrays an appropriate ambition for our lives: “Therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (v. 20).

What should be our ambition in life? Should it be to satisfy our own personal whims, our own personal desires, our own personal expectations? Or should it be to glorify Jesus Christ?

Paul makes the case clearly: We ought to glorify God in all that we are and all that we do. He states this mandate in the strongest possible language. This sentence is even cast in the imperative mood. This is not an option for the believer. We are to radiate the life of Christ and His ownership of us with our whole being—including our bodies. In every way, in every matter, in every manner, we are to glorify God.

Yet how can we glorify God in our bodies? When we come face-to-face with temptation, there are three questions we should ask. When I was seventeen years old, I wrote these three questions in the flyleaf of my Bible. I’ve written them in every Bible I’ve owned since.

The first question is “Can I thank God for it?” The Bible says, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18). At every temptation, I ask myself, “If I go ahead and do this, can I look back after it’s done and thank God for it?” If not, then I need to flee. I need to get out of there.

The second question is this: “Can I do it in Jesus’ name?” The Bible says, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:17). I ask myself, “If I go ahead and do this, will I actually be able to do it in Jesus’ name.” If not, then I need to flee. I need to get out of there.

The third and final question is “Can I do it for God’s glory?” The Bible says, “Therefore whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). I ask myself, “Can I possibly do this for God’s glory?” If not, then I need to flee. I need to get out of there.

God calls us to purity of mind, morals, motives, and marriages. Paul’s words of admonition, addition, admission, and ambition offer us a glorious hope—and a way to avoid the devastation of the innumerable moral earthquakes of our time.

Moral Soundings

  • Have you ever faced sexual temptation and tried to fight, resist, or muster faith against it?
  • Have you therefore made victory over sexual temptation practically impossible?
  • Have you ever consciously fled from temptation?
  • Have you ever fully made the admission that you are not your own?
  • Can you honestly say that in all of your relationships God receives the glory He is due?
ON A PERSONAL NOTE:

Be sure to follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Learn more about Mission:Dignity.