Considering the spotlight that homosexuality, transgenderism and various sexual deviancies have demanded, we must engage in a conversation about the ramifications such activity—in the church.
Unfortunately, immorality has always infected the church. In the book of Revelation we see a severe example of this, and an equally severe reaction by God:
“‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. Revelation 2:19-23
The church in Thyatira was on God’s radar for their works, love and faith, but also for tolerating sexual immorality in the church.
So many have fallen for an unbiblical definition of true love that is devoid of correction or standards. It feels more like warm, fuzzy, emotional highs and affirmation of people regardless of their lifestyle, which is not biblical love. Love can feel quite repulsive and alienating at times. God is love. He can’t avoid it! This God of love, in the above passage, refused to play games with the issue of sexual immorality in the church. His response? Repent or be thrown into great tribulation!
Consider this question: “If you were a pastor and someone who identified as a ‘gay Christian’ started attending your church, or someone didn’t feel it was sinful to have sex with their boyfriend or girlfriend outside of marriage, what would you do?”
People most always respond by saying, “Love them.”
Okay, but what does that look like? Again, most would say that we should encourage, share the truth with them and pray that they would stay connected in church and eventually see the error of their ways.
This counsel is in contradiction with the Word of God. I asked this question on Facebook just a moment ago, and I’m so proud of my son Skylar who, on a lunch break at work at Silver Dollar City here in Branson, Missouri, responded by typing in: 1 Corinthians 5. He’s right:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 5:1-5
This passage also uses a form of the word “tolerate.” Sexual immorality is not to be tolerated. Jezebel and the sexual perversion she promotes is not to be tolerated. The demand in today’s culture is for tolerance in the midst of sexual perversion. This has crept into the culture of the church and it is time to act.
God is not tolerant. His is longsuffering, but certainly not tolerant of perversion—especially within the church. This is his bride!
What is the loving reaction that leaders must have when unrepentant sexual immorality is discovered in the church? That person is to be removed. He is to be delivered to Satan for the destruction of their flesh—so that his spirit may be saved!
This is love!
Of course, there are significant differences between someone who is struggling with, for example, pornography and someone who indulges in it freely without repentance or any plan to change.
There is also a difference between a professing Christian who refuses to repent of sexual sin and a heathen who refuses to repent. The former is to be removed from the church while the latter should be welcomed with open arms in hopes that they are radically, gloriously saved! And, yes, at that time they will be held to an entirely different standard.
The passage in 1 Corinthians 5 continues:
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:6-13
If one who calls themselves a brother or sister in Christ are sexually immoral, greedy, idolatrous, a reviler, drunkard or swindler—we can’t even sit down at Starbucks with them! We can’t invite them over for a barbeque on the Forth of July!
This is love!
If we don’t take swift action the entire church will become infected. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Ephesians 5:3
No Naked People—You can be FREE from the power of sexual lust!
Listen to this teaching delivered at a men's meeting in Prince Albert, Canada:
No naked people. That concept seems nearly ridiculous in today’s sexually driven culture.
Sexual images are flashing before our eyes from every angle through media, marketing, video games and other invasive sources.
I’ve actually had Christians challenge me by saying it’s not possible for a man to avoid lust, as if it’s an expected part of our make up! I heard about another who said that the Bible doesn’t forbid lust, only lusting about married women! The culture is causing many hopeless and some defiant Christians to believe that freedom from sexual fantasy is not possible, or even necessary. God help this nation.
My wife, two daughters and I were walking through a mall in Wisconsin recently. We were stopped in our tracks right by the food court where families with impressionable children were scattered all around. There was a massive mural that stretched from floor to ceiling of a nearly naked woman. My wife immediately said, “I’m going in there to complain to the manager.” So, into Victoria’s Secret she went.
You might be thinking, “Where have you been the last few decades John? This type of imagery is everywhere!” Yes, that is true. Sadly. Since this is the case, do we simply surrender to the culture? My thought is that Christians are to take dominion and be the drivers of the culture. We can’t sit back and give up. We must fight! However, before that battle can truly begin in the malls and movie theaters, we have to wage war at home—in our own minds.
Consider how far our culture has fallen—including the culture of the church where only 3% of Christian men admit that they never view pornography! Per the Barna Group, 97% of Christian men are actively looking at porn! 87% of Christian women are entertained by pornography! Many Believers don’t “believe” it’s necessary to abstain from sex before marriage. My God!
Check out how it all began:
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Genesis 3:4-7
The serpent pleaded his case by telling Eve that she would not surely die if she enjoyed a deadly fruit that promised a deeper personal experience. The fruit was pleasing to the eye, and Adam agreed. We can see the striking similarities between the first sin and today’s rampant sexual sin. What is different is that they recognized their sin—and covered up their nakedness. Today? While Christians aren’t joining nudist colonies, they are embracing and celebrating nudity by enjoying that forbidden fruit in their minds. Today’s Christians have naked people performing sexual acts in their thoughts that are strictly and clearly forbidden by Scripture.
Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes… Proverbs 6:25
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant…” Exodus 20:17
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. Matthew 5:27-30
I know there are many out there who will disagree with my position regarding eternity, but I firmly believe that continuing in the sin of lust (or any other sin) can result in eternal separation from God. The above passage of scripture in Matthew 5 speaks to this very directly. The reason I want to make this point is so you don’t casually dismiss this warning. Your eternity is at stake if you are entertaining lust. This is a battle we must fight with passion!
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:27
The results of lust are tragic. In addition to the possibilities of destroyed marriages, illegal sexual activity and other natural repercussions, I submit the most terrible result is what Adam and Eve both experienced:
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” Genesis 3:8-10
Separation from God. As I stated above, we risk being separated from God forever. We also risk being separated from God now. Those who are in bondage to porn and lust would easily admit they feel that separation. Just as Adam and Eve hid because of their nakedness, Christians today are missing out on their walks with God in the cool, refreshing garden.
Adam and Eve lost their intimacy with God. I propose they started to lose it before their banishment from the garden. There was a void there, and they sought to fill it with something unholy.
By the grace of God I’ve been blessed to be free from the traps and destruction of pornography, and I am humbled to say that God has enabled me to live lust free.
Several years ago I was deep in the Rocky Mountains on a prayer and fasting retreat. It was just God and me in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. I was connecting with God about a variety of things that night and a simple thought entered my mind.
Even though I was living a sexually pure life, I had a question for God. I’ll be transparent with you and share it.
If God’s design for sex is the perfect model, which it is, then it should bring the highest level of satisfaction. There should be absolutely no other competing desire that’s compelling enough to give in to. If this is the case, why would this happily married man who has the most amazing wife on the planet have an occasional temptation enter his mind? Why would the thought of thinking about someone other than my wife in a sexual way be the least bit tempting? Please understand, I wasn’t acting out on that temptation, but the question remained. Why is the temptation even there?
I understand today that most married people fantasize about people other than their spouses. That reality caused further curiosity. Again, if God’s design for sex is the best, why is there temptation for an alternative?
God spoke simply and clearly. “The one you are intimate with is the one you will desire.”
Intimacy. It’s all about intimacy.
That made so much sense to me! It’s true! When I am emotionally connected with my wife in an intimate way, any other competing thought would be an unwelcome invasion. It’s easy to reject such thoughts when I’m connected in a deep way relationally with her. However, in those seasons where we may be a little more distant due to busyness, stress or arguments (yeah, get over it…we argue it out sometimes!) then intimacy is negatively impacted. It’s easier to desire other things and to find temptation pressing in.
Of course, the same is true with God. If we are madly in love with him and are cultivating intimacy, the unrighteous invasions into our lives will be soundly rejected. We will guard our love connection with God jealously. This is where holiness dominates in a sin wrecked world. Can you imagine trembling before the Lord as his glory overwhelms you and then, five minutes later, watching a movie with nudity and foul language? That makes no sense.
I propose we refuse to be entertained by anything in media or in our thoughts that required the brutal torture and murder of the one we love. That unholy sexual fantasy required the death of Jesus. The cussing and sexual content in movies demanded the nine inch nails that were driven through his flesh. The simple lustful image that tries to dance around in our heads isn’t simple at all. It took a slaughtered Lamb to deal with that.
That slaughtered Lamb is the lover of your soul. His passion is for you!
You can find powerful and satisfying freedom from lust as you draw near to the Lord.
…put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24
Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:21-22
THE COMMAND TO LOVE
Let’s talk about the call to love. This is the call that God has for us to be intimate with him. Have you ever considered this mandate? It’s very, very intriguing. I can understand calling someone to serve, to give money, to feed the poor or to avoid sin. That makes sense very easily. However, a mandate to love?
Certainly the act of love in many ways is fully intentional and can often be void of feeling. We act in love toward others. This is also quite easy to understand. But this idea goes well beyond a call to act out in right ways. It’s a call to intimacy, a mandate to be deeply intimate with our Lover.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5 (NKJV)
In the original Hebrew, the word love is ahab.
It means: to have affection for, sexually or otherwise.
Additionally it means to like as a friend.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I can be forced to like anybody, much less have deep affection for them. But this is what Scripture is telling us. Could it mean that the call isn’t for instant intimacy, but rather a determined and unwavering process of pursuit and faith toward the promise of experiencing an enjoyable God?
As we, in faith, more easily believe that being with God in a continual and significant way will result in continual and significant enjoyment, we will allow the old things to pass away. We will not stop until we discover the joy that only God can provide.
So, if we are to understand that God is mandating us to fall deeply in love with Him, there is a disciplined process that must commence. The goal is deep and passionate intimacy with our Lover, the invisible God.
It makes sense that when we discover this ultimate of pleasures, that we will not be as inclined to pursue the human desires that demanded so much of us in years past. It’s been said more times and in more ways than we know, “Our sin causes separation from God. We, in effect, trade intimacy with God for intimacy with the world.”
Certainly there is truth to that statement. However, if we view the issue from the other side, we could say, “Intentional pursuit of intimacy with God carries with it the reward of perpetual discovery. Deliberate surrender of human desire coupled with a craving for the manifest presence of God Himself in our lives will lead, sooner or later, to fulfillment that cannot be measured or effectively explained. It’s that extreme. It’s that good.”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you … Matthew 5:43-44 (NKJV)
In the above passage, the Hebrew interpretation of the word “love” is different than ahab. It is agapaō, which emphasizes the attitude of love. It’s the moral and socially appropriate act of service and attention to others, including both mankind and God Himself.
Throughout Scripture we do see various translations of that single word “love”, and God is the central figure regardless of the interpretation. However, it’s that unique call to ahab love that has captured my attention. It’s a mandate to intimacy.
I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, If you find my beloved, That you tell him I am lovesick! Song of Songs 5:8 (NKJV)
Lovesick! What a word that is. As you might guess, the Hebrew translation is ahab. In the Song of Songs we see this amazing story of love unfold beautifully. In the following verses the word “love” is translated ahab each time. As we gain insight into the intimate longing of our God for us, our hearts melt and our understanding changes.
“I will rise now,” I said, “And go about the city; In the streets and in the squares I will seek the one I love.” I sought him, but I did not find him. The watchmen who go about the city found me; I said, “Have you seen the one I love?” Song of Songs 3:2-3 (NKJV)
[The Shulamite to the Daughters of Jerusalem] He brought me to the banqueting house, And his banner over me was love. Sustain me with cakes of raisins, Refresh me with apples, For I am lovesick. His left hand is under my head, And his right hand embraces me. I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, By the gazelles or by the does of the field, Do not stir up nor awaken love Until it pleases. Song of Songs 2:4-7 (NKJV)
He made its pillars of silver, Its support of gold, Its seat of purple, Its interior paved with love By the daughters of Jerusalem. Song of Songs 3:10 (NKJV)
How fair and how pleasant you are, O love, with your delights! Song of Songs 7:6 (NKJV)
[The Shulamite to Her Beloved] Set me as a seal upon your heart, As a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its flames are flames of fire, A most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, Nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love All the wealth of his house, It would be utterly despised. Song of Songs 8:6-7 (NKJV)
Read the last passage, Song of Songs 8:6-7, over and over. Its communication of passionate desire is intense. As we establish a vow with our Lover, the intentional and disciplined pursuit of intimacy with Him is alluring and strong. It is a vehement flame that even water, the fierce enemy of fire, cannot drown. It’s this that we are pursuing, the fire of passion that will overcome the waters of human desire.
In the following Song of Songs passage, we discover a different translation of love.
Draw me away!
[The Daughters of Jerusalem] We will run after you.
[The Shulamite] The king has brought me into his chambers.
[The Daughters of Jerusalem] We will be glad and rejoice in you. We will remember your love more than wine.
[The Shulamite] Rightly do they love you.
Song of Songs 1:4 (NKJV)
The Hebrew word used for “love” in the part of the passage that says, “We will remember your love more than wine” is dôd. The literal meaning is to boil. The idea is that God’s love is actively boiling. It’s hot and constant and intentionally set on us.
The enemy of human desire is a very strong one. A simple resolution to avoid sin and do good is far too weak to be seriously considered for inclusion in our arsenal. The burning fire of passion for God, ahab love, is our most effective weapon. The reward of the perpetual discovery of new depths of God’s zeal for us is enough to keep us burning with a vehement flame that the waters of carnal human desire cannot put out.
Yes, my friend, you can be completely free from lust, and you can live a powerful, joyful life full desire for Jesus.
If you are struggling with lust, don’t despair. Don’t quit contending for intimacy with God. You can absolutely find freedom! God loves you with a passion that’s deep…and he is longsuffering. He will be with you in your journey to freedom.
I pray for radical freedom to overwhelm you as you discover wave after wave of the other worldly, immeasurable love of Jesus! You were born for this!
Let’s make a decree over this nation together. We release a spirit of awakening, revival and holiness. As we go hard after God we will entertain NO NAKED PEOPLE. Not in media or in our minds. Amen!