A Holy Gift from God

Ex. 20:14

Exodus 20:14 ESV

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

Dear Friends in Christ,

   Just when you think you’ve heard it all, something comes along that lets you know you haven’t.  That happened to me recently when I read an article about an online dating service that caters – are you ready for this – to married people.  It’s called AshleyMadison.com.   Now lest you I’m making this up or find such a dating service for married people too hard to believe, I checked it out, not to get a date but to see whether it really was true, and guess what?  It is true.  This web site had the following eye-catching headings on it:  “Life is short.  Have an affair;” “Millions of people just like you are looking for a discreet connection;” and “It only takes a moment.  Find your moment at Ashley Madison.”  Started by a fellow named Noel Biderman in 2001, this service now boasts more than 34 million members in 45 countries worldwide.    

   All of which is a very good reason why we need to spend some time examining the 6th Commandment as part of my “Fundamentals of Our Faith” sermon series that I started back in June.  Currently we’re studying the 10 Commandments under the sub-theme of “Straight Talk for Crooked Lives” and after the opening that I just shared with you, I think we would all agree that there are a lot of crooked lives out there today that need some straight talk when it comes to the area of sex.  And I’m going to be honest with you, my friends.  I wish I was not the one who had to give you that straight talk because this is a subject that I really don’t enjoy speaking about from the pulpit.  But in the Bible we pastors are called to preach “the whole counsel of God” and since this is a part of the whole counsel of God, I will do it.  I promise to be as discreet as possible because of the delicate nature of this topic, but I also want to do my very best to convey and communicate to you what God has to say about it in his Word.

   And the first thing I want to say is what my dad said to me many years ago when he sat me down in our living room to give me “the talk.”  You know what I mean by that, don’t you?  What we used to refer to as the facts of life, the talk about the birds and the bees.  Though there is much about that evening that I don’t remember, I have never forgotten his opening statement.  He said, “Doug, sex is a holy gift from God.”  By that he simply meant that it was special, unique, a gift unlike any other gift.  And because it comes from God, it is to be used the way God intended.  It is to be held in high esteem.  It is to be respected, treasured, appreciated.

   Which takes us to the 2nd point I want to talk about and that is that God has placed boundaries around this holy gift.  And those boundaries are not hard to figure out.  They’re not hard to understand.  He established them back in the very beginning when he performed the first wedding ceremony between our first parents Adam and Eve.  In Gen. 2:24 he said: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”  While there is much more to this one flesh relationship besides sex, sex is definitely a part of it.  So the boundary that God has placed around this holy gift is the marriage relationship – and by definition that would be a marriage relationship between a man and a woman.  Anything outside of that boundary is wrong.  It is sin.  It is placing yourself outside of God’s will.  Now if you have problems with that, as many people do today, don’t get upset with me.  I’m just sharing with you what God makes very clear in his Word.    

   I love the analogy that I heard one pastor make on a CD I was listening to some time ago.  He said that God makes it very clear to us that sex belongs inside the fireplace.  He went on to explain that if you were to take some of the fire out of a fireplace and put it on the living room floor, what would happen?  The house would burn down, right?  But if you keep that fire within the boundary of the fireplace, then it brings warmth and light and beauty to that home.

   The same thing holds true with the sexual relationship.  Once you take it outside the fireplace, once you start using it outside the boundary of marriage, you’re getting into dangerous territory and you and others can easily get burned.

   And that leads right in to a 3rd point I want to talk about and that is the cost that occurs when we fail to keep this holy gift within the boundaries God has established.  Some of you older folks here today will be able to recall the sexual revolution that took place in our country back in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s with the whole hippy movement and Woodstock that brought with it the idea of free love and free sex, that you can have sex with anyone you want anytime you want anywhere you want and suffer no consequences.  Well, we’ve learned since then that that kind of free sex is anything but free, for it carries with it a very high price tag.  Billions of dollars are spent worldwide each year on research and treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.  Millions of lives have been lost worldwide because of the AIDS epidemic.  40% of babies born in America today are born out of wedlock.  And many of these single moms and their children end up on the welfare rolls because they’re not able to support themselves since the fathers have long since abandoned them.  Then we have to add to all those costs the psychological and emotional price tags that attend the free sex way of thinking.  Some time ago I read a book written by a college student named Abby Nye entitled Fish Out of Water and subtitled Surviving and Thriving as a Christian on a Secular Campus.  I would highly recommend this book for any parents whose teens are currently attending a secular university.  And I would recommend it for the teens as well.  But in one chapter entitled “The Party Scene,” the author describes what has come to be known as the “Walk of Shame.”  She says (p. 136) …

   So there is a physical cost to the idea of free sex.  There is a financial cost.  There is a psychological and emotional cost.  And there is also a spiritual cost.  When Christians who know better and who have been taught differently take this holy gift outside of God’s well-defined boundaries, all of a sudden they find themselves in a real battle with their conscience that on an even grander scale is an all out tug-of-war between God and Satan over their heart and their very soul.  That battle may lead to unbearable guilt and shame that will hopefully lead them to repentance because that is the job of the conscience.  But please understand, my friends, that the conscience can be blunted.  It can be de-sensitized.  It can be deadened to the point that it no longer functions the way God intended it to.  And this especially happens when you willfully and consistently ignore it and fail to heed its warnings, in which case the spiritual toll becomes even greater because then the sin that has become commonplace in your life becomes a wall, a barrier between you and God.  Often in situations like this, one’s church attendance, prayer life, and devotional time greatly diminish or cease altogether because deep down in their hearts they know that God is not pleased with them.  They know they are living outside of his will but they’re hooked and they aren’t ready, willing, or even able to give up what has come to mean so much to them.

   Then a 4th point I want to make today is that cheaters never win.  In the light of all that I’ve said so far, it is possible that some of you here today are sitting there thinking to yourself, “Pastor, you can’t be serious about all this.  Have you forgotten that this is the 21st century?  I mean, I’m single and from what I hear and from what I observe, everyone else is having sex, so why shouldn’t I?”  I have actually had Christian people say that to me over the years, telling me that it is next to impossible to keep oneself pure in this sex-saturated, sex-obsessed culture that we find ourselves living in.  I understand that.  I understand how tough it is today because we are constantly bombarded and surrounded by it.

   But that still doesn’t do away with the fact that it’s wrong, that cheaters never win.  Adultery and other types of sexual immorality cause pain.  Proverbs 6:32-33 puts it this way: “But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself.  Blows and disgrace are his lot, and his shame will never be wiped away.”  A few verses before that it says: “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?  Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife.”  Make no mistake about it, my friends, stepping outside of God’s boundaries brings pain in some form or another sooner or later.  Of course that’s not what you’re going to see on TV or in the movies or read in those steamy romance novels where it’s been documented that 80% of couples who are having all that great passionate exciting sex are not married.  And that gets people to thinking that maybe they’re missing something.  But I contend that the only thing they’re missing out on is the pain and problems, the heartache and hurt that go along with living outside of God’s will.  Put simply, God’s ways are always the best ways.

   Well, there is much more that we need to talk about in connection with the 6th Commandment as I feel I have only scratched the surface this morning.  So just to give you an idea of what else we’re going to be looking at, the next time I preach 2 weeks from today we’ll begin by looking at how we often fall into sexual temptation without even realizing it.  We’ll look beyond the letter of this law to the spirit of the law and examine some of the common ways in which this commandment is violated today.  We’ll look at ways we can stay pure in our thoughts, words, and deeds.  I also want to talk about marriage and the key ingredients that make for a strong and healthy marriage and how young Christians should prepare themselves for marriage.  There is so much to this commandment that it cannot be covered in just one or two sermons so I hope you’ll be back to hear the whole counsel of God on this subject.

   But before I close, I know that sermons like this have a way of stirring up some strong feelings of guilt from times past and maybe even times present when you have violated this commandment.  If so, that can be a good thing because ideally those feelings of guilt are designed by God to cause you to flee to the arms of a loving and forgiving Savior named Jesus who long ago died for those very sins so that you could be set free from the guilt and shame that they bring with them.  He died so that you would no longer be held captive by a life lived outside of God’s will.  He died so that that dividing wall of sin that may have been separating you from your Lord can be broken down and there can be peace and fellowship with him instead.  I pray that as you contemplate and hopefully repent of your sins in regard to this commandment, you will receive all that God offers you through Jesus and that it will give you victory in this area of your life so that you might always look upon and treat the sexual relationship for what it is and that is a holy gift from God.  Amen.