Staying Pure in an X-Rated World
September 19, 2004
(This particular sermon was a “tag team” effort where I preached the first part, and Pastor Bob Boerman preached the last part. I have added a conclusion beginning with the section called “Rise and Walk.”)
“The moment sex ceases to be a servant it becomes a tyrant.” G. K. Chesterton
“There are two basic facts about sex: it is very good and it is very dangerous.” Margaret Thatcher
“Purity is the beginning of all passion. Thus, faithful marriage is the only guarantee of unbridled sexual pleasure.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Since we are talking about sexual purity in this sermon, let’s begin with a simple statement about what God says in this area. We can summarize it in a simple sentence: Within a committed, one-man-one-woman marriage, sex is right and good, but any sexual relations outside that boundary are wrong and must be avoided. Every part of that statement matters. God gave sex as a gift to be enjoyed between a husband and wife. And within that committed relationship, sex is part of the glue that holds a marriage together. But outside the boundaries of marriage, sexual relations are wrong and ultimately destructive. That, I think, is what former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher meant when she said that sex is both good and dangerous. It is good in its proper place, and dangerous in any other place.
So the message of God, the call of God to all of us, is the high call to sexual purity in all things.
I. The Challenge We Face
Fact—Hardcore pornography has come out of the closet and on to Main Street.
Fact—Through the Internet the vilest forms of pornography are now available to young children.
Fact—Homosexuality is now seen as an acceptable alternative lifestyle.
Fact—Most mainline denominations now have openly gay clergy.
Fact—We routinely see things on television that would have shocked us 25 years ago.
Fact—Nothing much surprises us anymore. We’ve seen it all … and seen it so often we’ve lost our ability to be shocked. Adultery … premarital sex … group sex … lesbianism … wife swapping … pornography in our local convenience stores … x-rated movies on TV … easy divorce … multiple marriages … quick abortions … incest … child abuse … bestiality … teen pregnancy … gay churches … born again pornographers … televangelists who visit prostitutes … radical sex education. And the list goes on and on.
I do think there has been a general decline in moral standards among American believers. Just before he died in 1984 Francis Schaeffer wrote The Great Evangelical Disaster in which he targets our growing accommodation to the spirit of the world. In his last published interview, Schaeffer singled easy divorce, changing attitudes toward homosexuality and abortion, and the rising acceptance of pornography as signs of that accommodation.
Let’s consider the issue of pornography for a moment. It comes closer than we would like to think. Consider this note I received a few days ago:
Shortly after we were married I became aware of his extensive pornography use in all the classic forms. Of course I did not know what to do about it and was quite naÃ¯ve about the whole thing and embarrassed to really make it known. Everything about it made me sick to my stomach. I eventually got my nerve to confront him without being able to say the word pornography. It was not even a word in my vocabulary before this. He told me he never wanted to hurt me and would try to work on it as to never do it again. I believed him, or should I say wanted to believe him so bad I denied any feelings I may have had or things I saw him do that proved otherwise.
The devastation that pornography does to a marriage and family is horrendous. It affects everyone involved in that addicted person’s life and then some. Pornography usage itself is like dominos; once you start it you can’t stop it until everyone in your life is hit with its tragic blow. My life has been turned upside down, in a whirlwind of emotions and turmoil. I cannot tell you how deep the pain has gone. I felt like I was being ripped in two. The one person I was supposed to be able to trust and run to when life hurts, was the one person who hurt me the most and who I could not go to for that loving comfort. Given what has happened in my life thus far it was difficult for me to sit through the sermon this past Sunday. I believe in the sanctity of marriage and believe me, that was my deepest desire for mine. I also wanted to thank you though for addressing the importance of men being men and not boys. Its sad that this is not so.
I mention this simply because it’s easy for us to think that the problem is “out there” somewhere on the other side of the church walls. But pornography (especially through the Internet) has become a major problem “in here” because it is so easily available.
II. The Challenge Our Children Face
Think about the challenges facing our children in their battle for purity. Our kids are growing up in a far different world than the one we grew up in. Kids in the ’30s grew up during the Depression when times were hard and everybody had to work and a dollar was a lot of money. Kids in the ’40s grew up with World War II, Frank Sinatra, and Bogie and Bacall. Kids in the ’50s grew up with black and white television, “I Like Ike,” hula hoops, and a kid from Tupelo, Mississippi named Elvis Presley. Kids in the ’60s grew up with the Beatles, LSD, Vietnam, and violence in the streets. Kids in the ’70s grew up with Charlie’s Angels, disco, Saturday Night Fever, and the Doobie Brothers. Kids in the ’80s grew up with crack cocaine, AIDS, MTV, PeeWee Herman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Nintendo, and Nightmare on Elm Street. Kids in the ’90s grew up with the Simpsons, Michael Jordan, Monica Lewinsky, rap music and Nirvana. Kids in the 21st century are growing up with 9/11, the war on terrorism, Janet Jackson, Eminem, reality TV, athletes on steroids, South Park, and gay marriage.
As a result, our children see more than we ever saw as children. They know more than we ever knew as children. And they see it and know it much earlier. Children today routinely talk about sex acts that most of didn’t know about until we were adults. They make jokes about things that were mysteries to us.
III. The Call to Purity
The Bible has a great deal to say about moral purity. Consider these three passages.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God … For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (I Thessalonians 4:3-5, 7).
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (I Corinthians 6:18—20).
As I studied these passages, something jumped off the pages of Scripture that I had never seen before. Let me isolate the key phrases for you:
See God … God wants you … God has called us … you have received from God … honor God.
Last week I told you that your marriage is not primarily about you or your spouse or your happiness or your sexual fulfillment. Your marriage is about God! Until you grasp that, you will never have the right kind of marriage. God intends that every part of your marriage bring great glory to him. The same principle comes through clearly in these passages.
1) Purity is not primarily about sex.
2) Purity is not primarily about what you do or don’t do.
3) Purity is not primarily about what you watch or read or what you say.
4) Purity is about God!
Purity is the personal decision to glorify God with your body, soul and spirit! So many times when we talk about purity, we put it in terms of dos and don’ts. Can I go here? Should I read this book? Is it wrong to see this movie? Is this blouse too revealing? Should I listen to this music? Those are legitimate questions, but they are secondary to the real issue. God has a stake in your moral purity. He has called you to purity, and he is greatly glorified when you walk in purity. The real question is not “Do I want this?” or “Would I enjoy this?” or “Do I need this?” but “Will this honor God?”
Will it honor God for me to read this book?
Will God be glorified if I date this person?
Does reading this book dishonor the Lord?
Will I reflect badly on the Lord if I wear this dress?
This applies directly to the “How far should I go?” question. If you are single, the answer is, “Not very far,” because going down the road of sexual expression outside of marriage dishonors the Lord who called you to holiness.
Purity is not about you or your desire.
Purity is about doing what honors God.
Purity means living so that God’s reputation is enhanced by your personal choices.
Let’s close this section with three simple comments:
A. Purity is Smart
Several years ago Randy Alcorn wrote a short book called The Purity Principle. He summarized his message by saying “Purity is always smart. Impurity is always stupid.” Impurity always leads in the wrong direction. Listen to the testimony of a man who knows what he is talking about:
I destroyed my family and my marriage ten years ago. Because of the grace of God, I have been forgiven of his horrible sin, but it still is painful to listen to you speak as you do of the gift from God that I threw away. However, you made me come to grips of what the problem really was. I was doing some major backsliding in those days. I behaved as I never would have normally behaved. Now I understand that my biggest error, besides not having God in my life, was that I became friends with people that told me that it was okay to fool around if you weren’t happy at home. When you hang out with ungodly people, you have to be incredibly strong! Somehow, please continue to get the young men to understand that marriage is not all about sex, as we have been led to believe.
God bless that man who having learned the truth the hard way, now wants to help others so they won’t make the same mistake.
B. Purity Works
Without moral purity there can be no spiritual freedom. But when we walk in purity, we find the power to break the endless cycle of addiction, shame and guilt. Purity leads to a brand-new life. It is the indispensable key to a happy marriage.
C. Purity Allows Us to See God
Many Christians say they feel far from God. One answer is to relentlessly pursue purity in every area of your life. As long as you harbor impure thoughts, words and deeds, as long as you continue to cover up the truth, you cannot get better. And the channel of blessing from God will be blocked. A wise man told me once, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” Then he added, “If you’ve got a lot of secrets, you’re really sick.” Some of us are sick on the inside because of the secrets we hide from others. “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). If we ever have the courage to confess our sins, bring our secrets out into the open, we can be healed, cleansed, forgiven and be made whole.
But let me warn you that purity comes with a high price tag. The devil will fight you every step of the way. It’s not just lust that he uses against us. It’s the shame and guilt of what we’ve done, and the whispered fear, “What if others knew what you’ve been doing?” So we live in the shadowy realm of fear, worried that someone will find out the truth about us, desperately hoping for a way out. We will not get better until we decide to do whatever it takes to be pure before the Lord. You can’t have clean hands until you decide to wash off the dirt. For most of us, purity will be a lifelong struggle and a battle that never ends. We will wrestle with the world, the flesh and the devil until the day we die. And sometimes we will fail. That’s a given. But by God’s grace we can get up and walk again.
Purity is worth it because the pure in heart see God. They know him deeply, personally, intimately. They have an inner peace that others do not have. They see God and know the comfort of his presence and the joy of his blessing. Purity will cost you a great deal, but it’s one investment you will never regret.
When we walk in purity, God is greatly glorified and we are greatly satisfied.
Application by Pastor Bob Boerman
So how do we do it? That’s the question Pastor Ray asked me to deal with this morning. I’m sure some of you feel as though there is no hope … that our culture is so sexually charged that there is no way to turn the tide. Speaking to this, James Dobson said, “Kids see more smut on their way to school than Grandpa did when he went out looking for it on a Saturday night.” Very true, but we must not surrender. There is hope. You can walk in purity. You can raise children who walk in integrity. The Lord is with us. The Holy Spirit empowers us. So, let’s get back to the question I raised a moment ago. How do you do it? To answer to this question, I want to speak to our parents. This is where my heart is. And I’ve found that what is good for kids usually woks for adults, too. You never outgrow your need to safeguard yourself. For example, if a movie is morally suspect for a child, how safe can it really be for us? I see nothing in the Bible that says, “Once you hit 18, you can now see moral filth.” No, if it’s filthy for an 8-year-old, it’s the same if you are 80. God sets the standard, not us.
So, in our closing minutes let me remind you of two things you must do with your kids.
1. Protect Them
Protection has to do with building hedges around yourself and your children. Some time back I was in a video store looking for a movie. To my shock they happened to be playing a dirty movie on one of the monitors in the store. But even more shocking was the fact that a little girl was standing there watching the movie. I quickly diverted her attention, found her dad and said to him, “Your daughter was watching a very filthy scene in a movie.” His response was dumbfounding. He said, “Well, she has to learn it somewhere.” That Dad was failing his daughter miserably. Parents, we need to protect our kids.
So, what are some practical ways to protect them? Let me give you a quick list.
a) Pay for an Internet gatekeeper service.
Did you know that most children see pornography for the first time by the age of 5? Ten years ago, the average age was 12. The Internet has made the difference. Charles Colson calls Internet pornography “spiritual crack cocaine.” It is destroying countless families. Even though this is true, I am amazed at the number of families who do not have a blocking service on their home computers. Most of us have locks on our houses to keep the creeps out. Well, let me tell you this, it’s much more likely that a creep will come in through your computer than through your back door. I encourage you to invest a monthly fee into a blocking service such as HedgeBuilders.com. It’s better than a software program that can be turned off and on with a password. Again, what’s good for the kids is good for adults. If your kids need this service, you do, too. We have HedgeBuilders on our computers at church.
b) Never let your kids have a TV, VCR or DVD player in their bedroom!
I won’t be popular with the teenagers for saying this, but it’s good advice anyway. Letting your child have these devices in his bedroom is like giving a 10 year-old a loaded gun. Pornography needs secrecy in order to thrive. Make sure your TV, VCR and DVD player is out in the open where all the family has access to it all the time.
c) Screen movie, magazine and music choices.
This won’t be easy, and in most cases, it will be a continual battle. Forty years ago, we had perhaps six TV channels to choose from. Nowadays we have hundreds of choices. At Calvary, we provide two resources (Plugged In, and Movie Preview) to help you evaluate movies and music from a Christian worldview.
d) Interview their dates.
I wish I had an hour to talk to you about this one. Parents, get involved by interviewing your son or daughter’s potential dates. If you have a daughter, have their dates meet you in person. Ask some pointed questions. Make sure that young man knows that you care about your daughter and who she dates. Do the same for the girls your sons date. Yes, this may feel awkward, and yes, it may embarrass your child, and yes, you may have to step in and say no to some potential dates. (More likely, you will scare away the undesirable ones.) Men, let me ask you this: “If a 16-year-old boy asked to borrow your brand new Lexus, would you quickly throw him the keys and say, have a great time, or would you do a little interview?” Of course you would interview him. And then you would probably say no anyway. Aren’t your kids more important than your car?
e) Get to know their friends and their friend’s parents.
Again, this takes time, effort and commitment, but it’s worth it. Perhaps you’ve seen the commercial that features parents asking a series of questions to their teenagers. The tagline reads, “Questions. The Anti-Drug.” Exactly right. Get involved. Be nosy. Ask hard questions. Find out who and how and when and why and who else may show up along the way. And get acquainted with the parents of your children’s friends. First Corinthians 15:33 says, “Bad company corrupts good morals.” And good company promotes good morals. By getting involved, you can go a long way to protect your children from bad influences.
We must move on. It’s not enough to protect them. You must also …
2. Talk to Them
This is key to helping your children stay pure. Deuteronomy 6:7 instructs us to “teach them diligently” (which in the Hebrew literally means “to constantly speak”). Parents, you better talk to your children. Others are. Our children are bombarded by voices enticing them in the wrong direction. So talk to you children. Set aside a definite time each week. And don’t neglect the many “teachable moments” that come along every day.
I’m sure you’re thinking, “What do we talk about?” Well, here are two things you can teach them.
a) Teach them how to resist
Teach your sons and daughters to resist by “looking away” from the temptation. Psalm 119:37 says, “Turn my eyes away from worthless things.” A man once told me, “It’s okay to look at pornography or to look at a woman with lustful thoughts. It’s just eye candy.” I told him that he was a fool! This is how the enemy works. Candy is meant to be eaten. First you eye the candy, then you eat it. Teach them to look away.
b) Teach them how to run
Christ said, “And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, and throw it from you” (Matthew5:29). Christ is speaking figuratively since no part of our body causes us to sin. His point is that we should do whatever is necessary to keep from sinning. The Scriptures say, “Flee from youthful lusts” (II Timothy 2:22). Many times the Bible tells to stand and fight, but when lust knocks at the door, we have only one command from the Lord: Flee! Run for your life! Don’t wait, don’t hesitate. Find God’s “way of escape” (I Corinthians 10:13), and use it. You may have to run by discontinuing your Internet service, throwing your TV out, un-subscribing to cable, etc. Kids can spot a hypocrite a mile away, and they know authentic Christianity when they see it in action. Show your children how to run from temptation by running from it yourself.
You may say, “This sounds so weak.” Guess what? When it comes to this area, you are weak, that’s why God says “Run!” The devil is smarter and stronger than we are. He knows our weak points, and he knows our weak moments. He’s got our fatal flaws all figured out. In your own strength, you are no match for the devil. When temptation comes, in the form of a questionable website, a conversation you shouldn’t be having, a book or a movie or a TV show that does not honor the Lord, an invitation that you know you should not accept, don’t wait, don’t hesitate, don’t look around to see if anyone is watching. Flee! Turn off the TV. Turn off the radio. Put down the book. Say no to the invitation. Don’t listen to the joke, don’t pursue the illicit friendship, don’t re-read the letter, don’t answer the email, and don’t click on that link that leads you to a porno website. Clear the area. Then call a friend and talk it over. Establish some boundaries. Make some rules. Get some accountability in your life. And if you are trapped by some sort of addictive behavior, don’t live in the shadows any longer. Call the church. Go see a pastor. Call a Christian counselor. Open up to a friend. As hard as that is, living in guilt and shame for months or years is infinitely worse.
Are you still wondering what you can teach your kids? Fortunately, there are a lot of great resources available today. We’ve actually field-tested some at Calvary. Let me mention four resources we recommend:
Â· Passport to Purity—from Family Life Ministries (for sons and daughters ages 9 thru 12)
Â· Secret Keeper Girl (Moms and daughters ages 8 thru 12)
Â· Preparing Your Teen for Sexuality (Parents with sons or daughters ages 12 thru 16)
Â· Raising Morally Pure Children (Class for parents with children ages 2 thru 8)
All of these resources allow you to spend quality time with your kids, talking about the issues of purity, dating and marriage. One even includes a purity ceremony.
Let’s wrap up this section by going back to those words from Randy Alcorn:
Purity is always smart!
Impurity is always stupid!
Make a commitment to walk in purity yourself. If you have children, commit yourself to doing all you can to protect them from evil and to teach them to be pure.
Rise and Walk
As I type these words I am keenly aware that some people reading my words feel totally defeated. Perhaps you have already blown it so badly that you feel there is no hope for you. Perhaps you have not been faithful to your husband or wife, and you wonder, “What’s the use?” Maybe you were promiscuous in your younger days or possibly before you came to Christ. It may be that you have burning memories of recent moral failure. Is there any hope for you or must you remained stained and soiled for life? There are two answers to that question. The first is that sin always brings negative consequences. Nothing I can say will change that fact. And some sins bring large consequences that last for a lifetime.
However, I have some better news for you. Jesus has something he wants to say to you. “Rise and walk” is the Lord’s message to every broken sinner. “Go and sin no more.” You can’t do a thing to change the past, and it’s a waste of time to try. However, you can do something about the future. By God’s grace you can be clean and pure from this day forward. You don’t have to live in guilt or fear or shame any longer. Rise and walk, O child of God. Get up out of the muck and mire of shameful defeat. In the name of Jesus, rise and walk!
A New Commitment
Many of us need to make a new commitment to moral purity. We need a new commitment to faithfulness and holiness. We need to commit ourselves to following God’s command no matter what it costs, starting this very moment.
Will you join me in that commitment?
The Sight Struck Him Pure
Some of you know the story of John Newton. He was a slave trader who made a profit by picking up captured Africans and transporting them to America to be sold as slaves. By his own testimony, he was a vile, profane man. After he came to Christ, he wrote the hymn Amazing Grace to describe his conversion. But he also wrote another song you may not know:
In evil I long took delight
Unawed by shame or fear
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopped my wild career
I saw one hanging on the tree
In agony and blood
He fixed his languid eyes on me
As near the cross I stood.
John Newton, slave trader, vile sinner … looked at the cross. And the sight struck him pure! The cross of Jesus Christ still has that same purifying power today. Those who look to Jesus are struck pure.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me
Let me hide myself in Thee
Let the water and the blood
From Thy wounded side which flowed
Be of sin the double cure
Save from wrath and make me pure.
That is the power of Jesus. He can save from wrath and he can make you pure. I close my message with a personal appeal for you to look inside your heart. You may need to take the first step of coming to Jesus Christ by faith. Perhaps you have lived in the grip of lust for a long time. It’s been too long. It’s time you got God’s help. It’s time for Jesus to come in and make a radical change in your life. Do you want that? If you do, then run to the cross of Christ. Lay hold of Jesus by faith. Open your heart to the Son of God. Embrace him as your Lord and Savior. Trust him for your complete forgiveness. If you truly want to be clean from the inside out, you need Jesus in your heart. Trust him right now and you will never be the same again. Amen.