Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Dealing with what we don’t want to talk about

The Pastor’s Perspective
“Dealing with what we don’t want to talk about”
First Published: April 30, 2010

I am so appreciate of the hosts of folks who have encouraged me in the wake of the last Sunday’s sermon on the seventh commandment. To be quite honest, I approached that text with fear and trembling. It speaks to such important and hard and uncomfortable issues in our lives, I knew that it would be disturbing. But we are committed to God’s word here and integrity demanded that the difficult issues (and passages) not be ducked. Many of you have said that the Lord’s word ministered to you deeply, and for that I’m profoundly grateful.

Now I mentioned to you that I wanted to address seven areas of application of the commandment, but in both services we only got to application 3. I will come back to this subject matter again as we work through Exodus (fairly soon, actually), but I think that I will also do some reflection with you on these things in the First Epistle as well.

For one thing, today, I’m going to reveal to you all seven of the areas! I first made the point that the seventh commandment teaches us that as believers are to show covenant loyalty to God only, they are also to show sexual loyalty to their spouse/future spouse. The inclusion of this command in the ten words makes perfect sense. Sexual infidelity is a perennial problem and it relates to covenant loyalty. Marriage is a covenant and therefore all sexual sin is a violation of that covenant. When we say “adultery” we mean especially “any sexual relations between a married person and someone who is not his/her spouse.” “Fornication,” on the other hand, is “sexual relations between the unmarried.” Both are condemned by Christ in his interpretation of this command, and so it is clear that the Bible prohibits all extra-marital or pre-marital sexual relations. The point being made here is fundamental: sex is to be tied to a covenant commitment. There is to be no sex apart from commitment. God has so designed us that there should be no sexual intimacy apart from the attendant covenantal commitments. Furthermore, we emphasized that sexual purity is an expression of love for/loyalty to God, as well as for our spouse/future spouse, see Psalm 51:4 and 1 Cor 7:4). There is a reason adultery is chosen by God as an image of what it means to be disloyal to him (see the OT prophetic writings)!

Second, I commented that as believers seek to be outwardly pure in their sexual life, so also they must strive to be inwardly pure. This is clear from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:27-30. Jesus’ exposition of the true meaning of the law here shows that, because the Law is Spiritual, the keeping of the Law is a matter of the heart. The requirements of the Law extend to our hearts, eyes and hands. Jesus is speaking here of sexual immorality of any sort, for instance, lustful viewing is eye-adultery. Men know exactly what Jesus means! But Jesus also characterizes this eye-adultery as heart-adultery. This is not a superficial or trifling sin.

Jesus’ prescription is shocking. Take drastic action in getting rid of whatever may be the conduit of temptation, he says. The present is not our only life. An eternal destiny awaits us in heaven or hell. Nothing, however pleasurable or satisfying at the moment should be allowed to doom us eternally. Sin must not be pampered or toyed with, but put to death (flung aside immediately and decisively). “Dillydallying is deadly.” The book, the pictures, the film, the web-site, the social tie, the baneful habit – must go.

What areas of application does this teaching have? Many. Many more than I list here. But seven were/are on my mind. Several crucial issues for our time: (1) Pornography: involves idolatry (divided heart), secrecy (divided life), and isolation (non-intimacy). This is a rampant problem. (2) Immodesty: if our clothing is provocative then we are inviting trouble upon ourselves and causing difficulty for our brothers. (3) Pre-marital sex: shows disloyalty to God, disloyalty to our future partner, and is a spiritual danger, as well as a physical danger. [I could have added in the issue of extra-marital sex]. (4) Homosexuality: whatever our society may say it is clearly out of accord with the Bible. Paul’s language of censure is drawn right from the law of Moses! (5) Pedophilia: now that homosexuality has been normalized, pedophilia will be next. Christians must engage the culture on this. (6) Unbiblical divorce: rampant in our community, reveals lack of commitment in our day and time. (7) Intra-marital Sexual Deprivation: see Paul’s comments in 1 Cor 7:3-5.

More on these things later.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

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