The Gift Of PurityErwin W. Lutzer | October 21, 2013
Selected highlights from this sermon
As our culture becomes more saturated with “guiltless” immorality, it becomes harder to live a pure life. The Apostle Paul faced similar circumstances with the Corinthians who justified their ways, as today’s society does. But Paul told them, in no uncertain terms: you’re not free to live however you want. Your body is for the Lord, not for immorality.
In this message, Pastor Lutzer expounds on Paul’s words. He gives us three important reasons why sexual immorality shouldn’t be found in our lives, and then tells us what we can do to remain pure or to be cleansed if we’ve already given in to temptations.
So how’s your walk with God been this past week? Are you developing a relationship with the Holy Spirit? You know, when you read the New Testament you come across phrases like these: The Fellowship of the Spirit, The Love of the Spirit, and during this period of time I want all of us to renew our own confidence in the friendship with the Holy Spirit of God, this holy guest that lives in our hearts. Or could it be that I am speaking to someone today, and probably more than one, who has grieved the Holy Spirit of God into silence? You and I can do that.
This message is going to be very difficult for some people–really for all of us no matter where we are in our spiritual walk with God because I am going to be speaking about the topic of unholy relationships, particularly unholy sexual relationships and what they do to the Spirit within us and why it is that the Spirit is there to help us so that we might walk in purity. What an agenda!
Thank you so much for joining us as we have this message. I want you to be attentive, and even though we have prayed a number of times already, could we bow our heads one more time and invite the help of the Holy Spirit? Would you do that please?
Father, I pray that You by Your Holy Spirit might break down any resistance that people might have to what Your Word says. I pray today, Lord, that the Holy Spirit might do in our lives whatever He desires to do, to enter every closet, every relationship, and that you might grant us grace for forgiveness, for restoration, for hope, and for transformation. But we need Your Spirit to do that because all these are miracles. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
When Paul wrote the book of 1 Corinthians to the church in Corinth, and you may turn to the sixth chapter, he was writing to a church that was in the middle of a culture that was sex-saturated. To Corinthian-ize was well known to speak about debauchery of every kind. Name it and the Corinthians had it. They had homosexuality, they had sexual orgies, they had adultery, they had prostitution (hundreds of prostitutes), and of course, they also had child molestation, which always goes with a very immoral culture that has lost its way.
Now when the church was planted there you can understand that the people, who came and received the Lord in the midst of all of that, were still struggling with these issues and many of these kinds of people came into the church, and that was fine but they needed some instruction from the Apostle Paul and from the Holy Spirit. And what the Corinthians did is what we do in our own minds. They justified it all. Did they know by their consciences that what they were doing was wrong? Yes, of course, but they always told themselves it was right, just like some who are listening to this message who know that they are in a relationship that is wrong but it is so carefully justified. And just when you think you have it totally justified in your mind, poof, there it is again, so you have to go over it again, and remind yourself of why it’s right.
The Corinthians did this too and so they weren’t ready for any change, that is to say, for any instruction, because in their minds this all was the way it was supposed to be. So the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6 is answering some of their arguments, and then giving overwhelmingly important arguments as to why these things ought not to be. For example, he says in verse 12, “All things are lawful for me.” They said, “I’m free.” Paul said, “Yeah, okay, I understand you are free. You can do whatever you like,” but Paul says, “Not all things are helpful.” He says, “All things are lawful for me. That’s perfectly fine but I will not be enslaved by anything.”
The minute you say, “Oh I’m free to be on drugs. I’m free to live however I want and I’m free to have elicit sexuality,” yeah, that’s right, but pretty soon you won’t be free because you will be enslaved, Paul’s words for addiction. That’s where it leads.
So then they also had another argument. They said, “You know, the stomach is for food. We get hungry; therefore, we eat. We have sexual desires; therefore, we ought to have sex,” and Paul says, “Well, not so fast.” He says in verse 13, “The food is meant for the stomach, and the stomach for food, and God will destroy one and the other, both of them. The body though is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” Paul says, “Look, it is true that that the body is going to be immoral. Food is going to be destroyed. Your stomach, your desires, your appetites will be no more, but your body is forever, and your body is not for immorality. It is for the Lord.” In fact, he says that the Lord is going to raise up the body, and that’s why immorality is certainly not something that you should engage in.
All right! All that by way of introduction! Now we get to the meat of what the Apostle Paul has to say, and he basically gives three reasons why sexual immorality should not be found in our lives–unholy alliances–unholy relationships. In fact, in Corinthians they were struggling with this. In chapter 5 Paul says, “You have things going on in the church that not even the pagans approve of, that a man should have a sexual relationship with his father’s wife. Paul says, “Now that’s so bad and that’s happening in the church,” and Paul gives them instruction regarding discipline. But here now he’s talking more personally about what happens when a Christian has an unholy sexual relationship.
There are three reasons. First, he says this: “Do you not know (I’m in verse 15) that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute?” Paul says, “Never, never.” How can that be? Now, do you remember back to the sermon that I preached a couple of times ago on the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Some of you perhaps weren’t here that Sunday. It was one when we had a little difficulty getting to church, but you ought to listen to it. What the baptism of the Holy Spirit does is when we receive Christ as Savior, we get put into Christ, so that we become members of Christ’s body, of His flesh and of His bones. We become a part of Him. Metaphysically and spiritually we become one with Christ. Now think of the argument.
Paul is saying, “Here’s a Christian who is having a relationship with a prostitute.” He says, “You know what? Jesus Christ is greatly grieved for obvious reasons. Jesus is in that unholy bed too. He’s there too.” If you are a member of Christ, your body is a member of Christ, and now you are in an unholy relationship. Jesus has to put up with this. He’s there too. And then the Apostle Paul goes on to explain even more. It’s not just the grief of Jesus, but also he talks about the joining of two in that relationship.
I’ve sometimes said that the next verse here in 1 Corinthians gives more information and more understanding regarding sexuality than thick textbooks that you can read in our schools or in our libraries. I stand astounded at the wisdom and the understanding of the Bible that can be found nowhere else, and how accurate it is. Notice what Paul says. He’s going on now with the same argument, and I’m in verse 16: “Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is written the two will become one flesh.” It takes my breath away.
What the Apostle Paul is saying is this: “Even in a relationship in which there is no love, there is simply mutual exploitation (which is what prostitution is). Even in a relationship like that that is casual with somebody you don’t care about, you mutually exploit each other.” Paul says (Bang, there it is-Genesis 2:24), “As God says, ‘I make you one flesh.’”
Paul! Are you serious? Now for us to understand that, we have to go back to the book of Genesis don’t we? God created man, and then he created woman from the man. You know the story. God took femininity and separated it from masculinity, and then He implanted within the hearts of the woman and the man desires that are strong, relentless and compelling to come back together in the relationship. Maybe we could call it the urge to merge. And God implanted that within the human heart. And so what God said was sexuality was birthed in holiness. God says, “I want to represent to people the relationship between the Trinity where you have diversity, but you also have unity of oneness, and I’m going to use man and woman to do it.” And so there you have in the Garden of Eden, with all of the purity that one could imagine and all of the holiness, the beauty of the sexual relationship to bring about metaphysical oneness like unto the oneness in the Trinity. The same word is used–'echad–that is used in the book of Deuteronomy for the oneness of God.
Now sin messed all of that up–terribly messed it up–but Paul says, “Even though sin messed it up, when you have an intimate relationship with someone, even on the most casual basis, God unites you and you become one flesh with one another. Metaphysically and spiritually the image of the other person is stamped onto your soul, not just in a loving caring marriage relationship, but even in what we call casual sexual relationships, and Paul says you become one. What he is saying is that sexuality creates a soul tie, and you become tied to the other person in a way that only God can create the tie.
Oh, this explains so much, and you know, in a couple of months I hope to preach a series of messages on guarding your heart in a culture that is awash with technology, and I’ll speak about this more. But have you ever wondered why it is that people are on Facebook today and they are trying to find their soul mates that they had in high school or they had in college? They are trying desperately because their own marriage isn’t very happy and they don’t know why, and so they think to themselves, “If I just find this other person.” Oftentimes it is the first person with whom they had a relationship along the line and they don’t understand why there’s this longing to recreate it, and all of the fantasies about how wonderful it was, even though if they had married that person they probably would have been divorced as well, but all that to say that they do it because of the bonding, the soul tie, that takes place. This soul tie is so powerful that it can actually affect your sexual orientation. That’s another story for another time.
But do you understand now why, if somebody is promiscuous, it is so difficult for him or her to commit to one relationship because they are tied to this person to whom they’ve been bonded. They’ve been bonded to that person, and now suddenly they are supposed to be bonded to one person forever. And of course it’s possible through the forgiveness and the grace of Christ. And I do believe that there is something like spiritual virginity, and I’ll talk about that in just a few moments. But if you think a boy might say to his girlfriend, “We’ll just do it once; it’ll be our secret,” that that’s the end of it, you are entirely wrong. It may cause you to begin to try to find the real relationship and you go from one relationship to another, to another, because now that you are defiled, what difference does it make? And you are still longing for the one relationship that God wanted you to have, but now you can’t have it because it has all been messed up because of the bonding of the sexual experience. But we’re going to give you hope. If you think that this message is just a message of condemnation you are wrong. I want you to see the issues that we’re up against, and then I want you to see God’s grace and God’s restoration. That’s where we are headed.
Well, Paul says, “First of all, you are joined to Christ.” You’re going to take Jesus and have Him a part of your immorality as a Christian? Never! May it never be! Don’t put Jesus through that. You love Him, don’t you?
There’s a second reason that Paul gives, and that relates directly to the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who baptizes us into Christ, but notice that the Spirit indwells us. He says, and now I am in verse 19, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you. You are not your own. You’ve been bought with a price.” The Holy Spirit of God is within you. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Wow!
God has always wanted to dwell with His people. In the Old Testament God dwells with His people in the Shekinah Glory, and there was the tabernacle, and then there was the temple, and the whole sacrificial system of the Old Testament was set up for the purpose of God being able to dwell with His people without being contaminated. That was the big problem. How does God dwell with a sinful people when God is eminently pure and holy? And so it was set up to try to indicate that, and of course, it did bring that about because people in the Old Testament did have fellowship with God, etc. But in the New Testament, of course, we see it now more clearly that Jesus has come. And God says that rather than having a temple in Jerusalem, “I now indwell all those who belong to me,” and that’s why the title of this series of messages is When the Spirit Has His Way, and then recapturing the wonder of God within us.
In Greek there are two words for temple. One is the general temple area – the whole complex – and that word happens to be hieron. When Jesus went into the temple, you know, and went up the stairs into the temple, that’s the larger temple complex. But then there’s another word. The other word is naos, which refers to the inner shrine. Now we’re talking about the holy of holies, and the Apostle Paul is saying that if you are a believer in Jesus you should know that your body is now the naos, the very temple of the Holy Spirit. Your body is where God dwells.
Imagine that! You are going to work tomorrow and you are going to be on the El. God is within you, and when you are on the El, aren’t you glad that He is within you? You are driving down the expressway; you are even gladder that God is within you. God dwells within you. I can’t get over this. I’m just thinking now, and I hadn’t thought of this earlier, of the passage in 2 Corinthians 6 where it says, “As God has said, ‘I will dwell with them, and they shall be my people and I shall be their God.’” Don’t you love the fact that God is with His people and even indwells His people? (applause)
So Paul says, “You are living an impure life.” You are sitting there watching pornography and Jesus has to watch it with you because He’s a part of it. Right? I mean He’s there; the Spirit is within you. Don’t you see that you have to live a different kind of life because the Holy Spirit of God lives within you? And James says (and who of us cannot identify with this? I certainly can identify with this), “The flesh lusts against the Spirit.” The flesh wars against the Spirit. The Spirit wars against the flesh, and therefore you can’t do what you want to do, can you, or can I? No, we can’t. And the conflict is there because the Spirit directs us towards purity, and the flesh directs us towards impurity, and we have all found the battle within us to be strong and unrelenting. It is there for us.
But think of it. With the Holy Spirit of God dwelling within us, we are His temple. Obviously we should live differently, shouldn’t we? And so the Apostle Paul says, “The Spirit of God (now I’m back in James) envies us in the sense that He desires for us (that’s a better way for me to phrase it) to be set apart to God.” There is still a message in this series that I am going to be preaching a couple of times from now on grieving the Holy Spirit, but this is a good place to mention the grief of the Spirit. He can be silenced. If you live long enough without any confession and without any sense of your sin, and you are in this relationship having paid a heavy price to invest in it, the Spirit will no longer be speaking, leading, guiding because He is sensitive–the sensitivity of the Spirit. And remember the Spirit loves you. The reason that He grieves is because He loves you. If He didn’t love you He wouldn’t care. He’d just say, “Well, let this person sacrifice themselves on the altar of sexual immorality. What do I care?” The Spirit loves us and the Spirit cares.
You know, of course, on the news we’ve heard recently about various young women who have been killed and so forth. The crimes are absolutely horrible, but when I see a crime like that on television, I grieve within but I don’t necessarily cry. I mean I feel sorry for the families, but that kind of passes after another news item about something else and you go on to something else. Why don’t I cry or deeply grieve? It’s because I don’t know these people. Now if that happened to one of my daughters, or one of my granddaughters, you can understand the absolute agony in grief I would be over because I know them and I love them. The Spirit loves you. He’s on your side. He doesn’t want you to sacrifice yourself on the false altar of sexuality.
And so Paul says, “Don’t you know that the Holy Spirit of God has taken up residence within you?” He’s a holy guest and what you ought to do is to allow Him to go into all of the rooms of your life–the living room, which is the intellectual part that you have. He should be able to go to your library. He should be able to go to the den, your entertainment center. He should be able to go also into the basement where you have the closets with hidden things. Let the Spirit do His work. That’s why He is there.
Now there’s another reason that Paul gives, and he says that we are owned by God. We’ve been bought with a price. I’m not going to comment on that because actually the next message in this series has to do with the ownership of the Spirit in our lives. But now I’d like to just talk to you very frankly.
I talk to you as a pastor. I talk to you as a counselor. I talk to you as a fellow traveler along the pathway of life. I think to myself of the times that I have grieved the Spirit just by watching television, and I have to think about all the things that the Holy Spirit has had to put up with in my own life, so I’m not pointing my finger. I’m not judging you, but I am here to help you so I’m going to speak to you very plainly. And I simply say this. Pay any price that you have to pay to get out of and be free of unholy sexual relationships. Pay any price!
I’m getting older as some of you know (and it feels that way when I get out of bed in the morning) and I like to remind myself that I’ve had lots of opportunity to observe human nature, and I can tell you story after story of people whose lives have been ruined because of sexual relationships outside of a man-woman relationship in marriage. History is strewn with it. Your neighborhood is strewn with one example after another leading to cheating and lying and covering and hatred and divorce, and on and on it goes. And sexuality has the power to put you into a trance where you become totally irrational and unable to see what you are doing. It’s very important to realize that. And you don’t care about your kids and your family and your wife. You don’t care anymore because only one thing matters, and that is the soul tie that needs to be broken in the power of the Spirit.
I’ll tell you that it has been my observation that even though sexual relationships outside of marriage–the power of sexuality – promise like a god, in the end they pay like a devil. And you can see that all across the landscape today wherever you look. Do whatever you need to do.
Now let me give you some biblical encouragement and hope. Do you notice what it says there? It says, “Flee immorality,” in verse 18. “Flee from sexual immorality.” Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Why? It’s because of the soul ties. This is not just a biological experience that is enjoyable when you have a sexual relationship with someone. And therefore, in a sense, the sexual immorality is in a different category. The other sins affect the body. Here they are more outside the body but this one is against your very soul, so he says, “Flee.”
For some of you it may mean cancelling your subscription to the cable channels. “Whatever it is, do it,” Jesus would say. He said that very vividly, didn’t He? He says, “Be willing to cut out your eye or cut off your hand.” I mean, I’m not asking you to do that. I’m just asking you to end your subscription to cable television. I mean that’s a small thing to do in comparison. Right?
Then recognize what Jesus is able to do, and that’s why we need the power of the Spirit because we need also to believe the Scripture. Now notice what it says. I’m still in chapter 6. He says in verse 9, “Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived.” Why does he say, “Don’t be deceived?” There’s no area in which we want to be deceived as willingly as this area. “Oh,” a man in adultery told me, “Pastor, you don’t understand. It’s such a beautiful relationship.” If somebody tells you that, don’t argue with him or her. It might be beautiful. I’m sure that he loves her more than maybe anybody else that he’s every loved. I’m not disputing that. It’s exactly the argument, of course, that Eve used in the Garden. Right? “Well, the food is beautiful.” Imagine an angel tapping Eve on the shoulder and saying, “Uh uh, don’t do it.” “What do you mean, don’t do it? Who are you to tell me? This food is beautiful. It is desirous to make me wise. I can see it with my own eyes. It is nothing but beautiful. Get that straight.” And the angel backs away and says, “Okay, it is beautiful, but God says it’s sin, and you will pay the utmost farthing.” Wow!
So he says, “Don’t be deceived. Don’t talk yourself into this loving, beautiful relationship that you are having with someone to whom you are not married.” Some of you are just living together without the benefit of marriage and you have all your rationalizations. I’m sure I have heard them all. But he says, “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God, neither the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, those who practice homosexuality, thieves (Notice it’s not just sexual sins.), the greedy (Anybody here who is greedy?), drunkards, revilers, swindlers (We’ve got plenty of them today don’t we?). He says they will not inherit the kingdom of God. It’s pretty discouraging, but now hope: “And such were some of you.” It’s the kind of thing that Jesus died to save you out of. “And such were some of you but you were washed.” Oh, isn’t that wonderful–to have your conscience washed–the washing of regeneration? At last you can look up to God and if you make it right you can look into the eyes of your partner without that conscience constantly saying, “Uh-uh, look at what you are doing. You’re a hypocrite, aren’t you? You know, you are living a lie, and you are trying to say, ‘But it’s a nice relationship and I’ve invested so much in it,’ but your conscience keeps saying, ‘You’re living a lie aren’t you?’”
So he says, “You are washed.” That takes care of your heart. It cleanses the heart. You’ve been sanctified by God. You’ve been made holy. You belong to Jesus. That’s a fact if you are a believer. Now you are to live it out most assuredly, but Jesus said, “The reason that I’ve become a part of you, and you a part of me is for the sake of holiness,” and so He says, “You’ve been sanctified and you’ve been justified. You’ve been declared righteous by God.” God has declared you to be righteous. So just know that you’ve come out of that because of the intervention of God in your life when you received Jesus Christ as your Savior. The power of God and the grace of God was poured into your soul, and thank God that you aren’t what you used to be. We’re still not what we should be, but thank God we aren’t what we used to be, are we? Anybody out here who says, “Yeah, thank God I’m not what I used to be”? (applause)
I spoke to you about spiritual virginity. In the Old Testament there’s a very interesting story of Hosea, a prophet who was actually asked to marry a woman who had become a prostitute. God knew that that was going to happen. I mean, that is an amazing story. Scholars have struggled with the whole thing, but there it is. And she becomes unfaithful and she has children by someone else, and Hosea keeps hanging in. He keeps buying her back when she’s on the slave market, and he does buy her back. The auctioneer asks for this much, this much and this much. Hosea outbids everybody and gets his wife back. She’d become a slave to some other man.
And then he says, “The Valley of Achor (and the word Achor means trouble) for her is going to be the door of hope.” Do you know anybody about whom it can be said that the valley of trouble will eventually become the door of hope? Some people won’t change unless they are in deep trouble. Could I say, change before you get to the deep trouble? But he says the value of trouble is going to be the door of hope, and then he says, “And there in the wilderness I will betroth her unto me, and I will betroth her unto me,” he says, “in righteousness, in justice, in faithfulness.”
The idea is that she’s going to be a virgin again and she shall know the Lord. What God was saying through Hosea was, “You know how badly you felt when your wife cheated on you? That’s the way I feel all the time about Israel who is always going back to idols. Just get the point.” But Hosea says, “I will see her, betroth her, clean her up (so to speak) and she will be mine in faithfulness, and she shall know the Lord.” God says, “Look, despite all the sin, despite all the past, you can be cleaned up. You can become, through the grace of Christ, spiritually speaking, a virgin.”
One day a young man asked me about marrying a certain young woman who before she was converted had been somewhat promiscuous, and I told him, “I do know that she is now a virgin in her heart,” and she was. That’s been many years ago and they have had a happy marriage.
God is in the business of restoring the messes, and Jesus invites us and says to us, “Come unto me. I will help you.” But for some of you God knows you have issues. I mean you have huge issues. That’s why I encourage you to join the men’s ministry. I encourage you to get involved in women’s ministries because we need one another, and we need accountability. It is a struggle, but any price you pay for sexual purity will be eminently worth it because the Spirit of God whom you and I have so often grieved will cease being grieved and He will be within us what He desires to be. That’s the hope, and for some of you who don’t know Christ as Savior, the way you get into this life, being joined to Christ, having the Holy Spirit, washed, sanctified, justified is through faith in Him alone. You have to cry out to Jesus right now and say, “Jesus, save me. Make me one of Yours,” and He will hear you and He will respond.
And if you will, let us pray. I know that many of you have issues. I honestly don’t know what to say after all of that. Who knows the investment that you have made into an immoral life? Are you at least willing to pray and say, “Oh God…”? In fact, let us pray this prayer together. It’s one that we can all pray. It’s one that I can pray. Okay? Can we just pray a short prayer together, and then I’ll give you a moment to pray on your own?
Father, we confess today that we need Your help.
Would you pray it with me out loud?
Father, we confess today that we need Your help, and we ask today that You will grant us the grace that we need to be obedient to whatever You have shown us. Help us to desire the pure life, to receive Your forgiveness and your grace, and to depend on Christ despite our weaknesses and sins.
And now I am going to pray.
Father, whatever You desire to do I pray that You might grant the grace to do it.
Now You talk to God personally. What issue did He point out today by the Spirit that you need to deal with? Are you willing to say, “God, I don’t know how, but by Your Spirit I will be obedient?” Are you willing to say that? And I might say that there will be prayer partners up here, and maybe today there should be more prayer partners. If you are on a different shift you can come up too because there may be many people who may not be involved in immorality, but because of their past they are dealing with issues, and we are here to point them to the Savior.
Help us, Lord, we pray, and as we sing, we ask that this song might be our prayer. May Your fire make us pure. Oh how we need it. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.