A. If you have your Bible, please turn to Jeremiah 2. We are spending some time looking together at the book of Jeremiah in the OT and we are discovering that this book is incredibly relevant to our lives today.
1. One of the first topics God addresses in the first few chapters is sexuality. Talk about a relevant issue. So much of the focus of our society is sex--this obsession with looking sexy and experiencing sexual pleasure.
2. It’s everywhere--Just waiting in the checkout line at Walmart is an opportunity to stare at cleavage on magazine covers, or be enticed to read Cosmopolitans lead article on how to drive your man crazy in bed.
3. Again, it’s everywhere. Commercials, movies, the internet. You can hardly do a search on the internet without some side bar ad trying to entice us to look at some sexy video.
B. Which is similar to the situation in Jeremiah’s day. They obviously didn’t have people paying to download porn from the internet, but they did have these temples that were everywhere.
1. And anyone could just stop in and have sex with a temple prostitute. It was easily accessible and acceptable.
2. And what was happening was that God’s people were getting seduced by the sexual attitudes and involvements of the culture around them. Rather than following God’s life giving design for sex, they were buying into the culture’s perspective on sex.
3. So in the early chapters of Jeremiah, God speaks vividly and directly to His people about this particular issue.
C. And that’s exactly what I feel like He is wanting to do with us. He is speaking His heart to us about this very real issue that is wreaking so much havoc in marriages and in families and in the lives of young people and in the ministries of Christian leaders and in the spiritual lives of so many Christ-followers.
1. I was just talking with someone this past week who said, I am so glad you are talking about this. My marriage was destroyed by pornography. My husband got hooked as a teenager and brought that into our marriage. And it destroyed our family.
2. God loves us enough to tell it like it is, to be real about the seriousness of this particular issue. In the first part of chapter 2, He shares His heart toward us, His bride. The heart of a wounded lover.
3. Then as we saw last week, He gives us this incredibly vivid picture of sin. That sin is saying no to the stream of living water that can feed our souls, and trying instead to dig our own cisterns, our own water storage tanks that can’t hold water.
D. That’s what sin is. It is our attempts to find life in anything other than God. And as we talked about last week, that doesn’t work. The soul cravings we all have--for acceptance and significance--aren’t ultimately satisfied in having sex with our boyfriend, or in looking at pornography or in trying to dress in a way that people think looks sexy or in having an affair.
1. These are all broken cisterns that can’t hold water. They leave our souls empty. Now that is significant in and of itself but it is not the only damaging aspect of sexual sin.
2. Beginning in vs 19, God speaks very frankly about the consequences of sexual sin.
E. Let’s read vs 19 out loud together. "Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of Me," declares the Lord.
1. Notice what He is saying here about the consequences of sexual sin. I think a lot of people tend to think of God looking down from heaven and when anyone sins sexually, He punishes them in some way.
2. I just saw a commercial for a new movie with Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey. I’m not endorsing the movie at all.
3. But in it, Kate Hudson is distraught and says something like "We just had sex in a church and we’re not even married. Is God going to strike us with lightning."
F. I think that is the view a lot of people have especially regarding sexual sin. We know it’s wrong and so when we give in, we feel sure God’s going to get us.
1. But look again at what this verse says. "Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you." God is saying, "Look, the natural consequences of this are bad enough. The sin itself will negatively impact you."
2. It’s like when I tell my youngest son to not push his remote control car in a particular way or it will break. But rather than using the remote, he continues to push it back and forth on the ground--and it breaks.
G. Now do I need to punish him so he will understand the importance of obeying me next time? No. That message is communicated loud and clear in the broken toy he now holds in his hand. He can no longer play with it.
1. God is saying to us, you know what? "Don’t worry about lightning bolts from heaven. Just look at the consequences of sexual sin. Look at what it does in your life. Then you will see why I want you to live differently."
2. So what exactly are some of these consequences? Now I’m not going to turn this into a public health service announcement warning against sexually transmitted diseases.
3. We all know that that is one potential consequence of certain acts of sexual immorality. But God doesn’t go there in this passage. What God does is look deeper.
4. What are some of the ’under the surface’ consequences, the inner world consequences of sexual sin?
H. The first he reveals in vss 20-22 "Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, ’I will not serve you!" Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute. I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine? Although you wash yourself with soda and use an abundance of soap, the stain of your guilt is still before Me," declares the Lord.
1. This reference to every high hill and every spreading tree is a vivid description of the accessibility of sexual sin in that culture. As I mentioned a moment ago, temples for Baal worship were everywhere. Anyone could go any time they wanted and indulge in an orgy of sexual pleasure with the temple prostitutes that were there.
2. That was bad but I think our situation is worse. Rather than having to go out in public and walk to a Baal temple, we can do it in the privacy of our home--on our televisions and computers--engaging in all sorts of sexual pleasures--and no one has to see us.
3. We can read stories of sexual fantasies. We can lust over sexual images. And it can all be a secret.
4. At least that’s what we tell ourselves. But notice what God says here: "although you wash yourself with soda and use an abundance of soap, the stain of your guilt is still before Me."
5. Here is a person who is voluntarily, freely participating in these sexual activities, but deep inside, they know something is not right. Something is wrong about what they are doing, so they try to wash themselves spiritually--using an abundance of soap to remove the guilt they feel.
I. But this is not simply a picture of guilt. It is a picture of shame. You see, guilt is what we feel for something specific we have done wrong. Shame is what we feel for who we are.
1. Shame is not about a specific behavior. It is this cloud of darkness that follows us around, telling us we are so messed up. There is no hope. This is who you are.
2. This image here of someone using an abundance of soap--washing and scrubbing but the stain is still there--this is the reality of shame.
3. This is what so many Christians feel when they are caught up in a sexual sin. This overwhelming sense of shame. I’m a bad person. God could never love me after what I’ve done.
4. Whether it’s our engagement in pornographic images or in a homosexual encounter or in having an abortion, or in visiting a strip club or sexual contact with someone who we’re not married to.
5. Often these kinds of things make us feel ashamed, and no amount of ’soap’ can help us. We carry this with us--to church. We carry it with us when making love to our spouse. We carry it with us when someone asks us to be a part of a small group or to get involved in a ministry.
J. ’I can’t do that. Sorry but not now’. This shame follows us and debilitates us. Not only that. It actually can drive us deeper into our sin.
1. It’s what I’ve heard referred to as the shame/sin cycle. We sin and feel guilty. We confess but we can’t shake that feeling of shame. We don’t feel close to God or other people. We isolate ourselves.
2. Which makes us vulnerable to what? Further sexual sin--to feel some relief. And it works for a few moments but then, when it’s over, what do we feel--only deeper this time? More shame.
3. It is an awful cycle that feeds itself. Sin leads to shame which leads to further sin, which leads to deeper shame. Now in the passages to come in the next few weeks, we’re going to talk about how we can break free from this cycle. God doesn’t want us living in shame.
4. But what I want us to focus on here is the point God is making to us in this particular passage: Our sexual freedom, our decisions to tear off God’s standards and pursue our own lusts will bring with it a very significant consequence.
5. This nagging feeling of shame, that you just can’t seem to shake. Deep in your heart, you love God but because of this sin, you carry around this overwhelming sense of shame and despair.
K. I’ve been there and many of you have as well or maybe you are there right now. And we all can agree: It is a miserable place to be, isn’t it?
1. There is no need for a lightning bolt from heaven to pour out God’s judgment on our sexual sin when we are already actually aware of the misery of our condition.
2. So that is one natural consequence of our sin. It’s this sense of shame about who we are.
II. But there is another consequence God describes as well. Look beginning in the next vs, vs 23 "How can you say, ’I am not defiled; I have not run after the Baals?’ See how you behaved in the valley; consider what you have done. You are a swift she-camel running here and there, a wild donkey accustomed to the desert, sniffing the wind in her craving--in her heat, who can restrain her? Any males that pursue her need not tire themselves; at mating time they will find her. Do not run until your feet are bare and your throat is dry. But you said, "It’s no use! I love foreign gods, and I must go after them."
A. These passages are so powerful and descriptive. Notice the difference between what the people are saying at the first part of this passage and what they are saying at the end.
1. What do they say at first? ’I am not defiled. I have not run after the Baal’s."
2. In other words, I don’t know what you are talking about God. I don’t have a problem with sexual sin. I don’t have a problem with lust. I’m in control here. I know the score. I’m doing fine.
3. But notice where they end up--vs 25 "It’s no use! I love foreign gods, and must go after them."
B. Folks this is the trajectory of sexual sin. It always moves from denial to enslavement. From "I don’t have a problem with this" to "I must have it."
1. This is what makes sexual sin so scary. We start out controlling our decision, but very soon it ends up controlling us. It controls our lives.
2. Now how does this happen? It’s very simple. It awakens in us a raging desire that it is unable to satisfy. That’s how it gets its hooks in us.
3. It inflames desires in us. God gives this vivid description here in vs 23. "You are a swift she-camel running here and there, a wild donkey accustomed to the desert, sniffing the wind in her craving--in her heat who can restrain her."
C. This is what sexual sin does. It inflames desire. God uses the word craving here. It’s like an animal in heat. She craves someone to mate with her. Running here and there looking for this desire to be satiated.
1. She is no longer controlling this desire. It is controlling her. In a sense, sexual sin is sort of like Pandora’s box. When it’s opened, it’s impossible to get it back to the way things were before.
2. I was talking with someone last week before the service and he shared how, when he as a young teenager saw pornography for the first time, he described it as a loss of innocence.
3. Suddenly this door opened to a world of behaviors and thoughts that weren’t helpful for a young teen, but he couldn’t go back. The desire had been awakened.
D. By the way, parents it is so important that we strive to protect our children from these influences. It’s hard to protect them in the world but the least we can do is protect them in our home.
1. You got Playboys hidden under the mattress? They’ll find them. You think your internet is secure. They can get around your filter.
2. The best things we can do to help protect our children is talk with them about what they might see on the internet and why it’s important to protect their minds from this stuff. Engage in the conversation--not in a legalistic, shame filled way but in a open honest way.
3. Like, "You know son, you’re probably experiencing some feelings when you see a supermodel on TV in a bikini. It feels good to look at her. And you know what, that desire is something God placed in you. It’s not evil. It’s good. One day, when you are married, you can experience the fullness of that desire.
4. But the problem is, that desire can begin to control you and me, if we give ourselves over to it. If we look at pictures on the internet...." You just talk about it naturally, rather than "Oh no. He’s 13 and we gotta have THE talk".
5. Just talk about it. And not just once. Keep talking about it. Admit your own struggle. Prayer for each other. It’s everywhere and kids are getting exposed to it at an earlier and earlier age--which is so sad. This loss of innocence.
E. But back to the point here. Sexual sin tends to inflame desire. The more we engage in it, the greater the craving that is ignited.
1. This is the picture Paul gives of sin in Romans 1. He writes in vs 24 "Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a life, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts."
2. There is a very powerful little phrase used twice in that passage: God gave them over. Again, no lightning bolt. The consequence was that God let them become more and more controlled by their sin.
3. There is a clear progression in this Romans 1 passage. What begins with lusting after images progresses to actual contact with another person which leads to more perverted activities, and on and on--resulting eventually in violence, in abuse.
4. In fact, look at the final words Paul uses to describe this progression, to describe what happens to people who are given over to this: vs 31 "They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless."
F. That’s where sexual sin often leads because it’s not about love. It’s about using the other person for our own purposes.
1. Is it any surprise that child sexual abuse, and date rape are on the rise? This is where this stuff leads. And it can enter our marriage covenant as well. What happens when a husband, whose mind is so filled with porn, wants to ’make’ his wife do the things he watches on his adult videos. And she won’t cooperate.
2. Often abuse results--rape or emotional abuse. And at this point, he often doesn’t see anything wrong with his demands. He has become just like the idol he is worshipping--uncaring, self centered.
F. Now sexual sin doesn’t always lead to abuse but it very often leads to enslavement. It may start innocently enough--with a voluntary decision on our part, but very soon, it will control us.
1. We think a little sexual fling with a coworker won’t be a big deal, but after we taste of it, we can’t stop thinking about it. We want to experience it again. It pulls at us.
2. We think a quick You tube strip tease video will be harmless but the next day, we want to see it again. And even see if there might be other videos like that.
3. I talked with a woman who shared how she became addicted to not pornographic images on the internet but rather to reading people’s stories about their sexual fantasies. Porn fiction so to speak. She thought it would enhance her marriage. All it did was enslave her. She kept having to read more. It became an escape.
G. This is what makes sexual sin so addictive and powerful--it inflames desire but it can’t satisfy the desire. It’s what is sometimes referred to as the law of diminishing returns.
1. It’s the idea that when you first do something, it feels great. But the next time, in order to get that same great feeling, you have to go a bit farther or do it more frequently.
2. Rather than kissing, now your hands have to explore. More clothing has to be removed. Or supermodels in swimsuits worked before but now you need to see total nudity. And then you need to see more graphic stuff...Now that you’ve had sex with your girlfriend, you want it more often.
3. This is always the progression of sexual sin. So that before we know it, we are right where the people of Judah were in vs 25 "It’s no use! I love foreign gods and I must go after them."
G. I can’t stop. I must have this. I must look at this. This is such a scary place to be. I can vividly remember in my own past times in which I had given in to looking at some pornography--which felt so exciting at the time.
1. But the next day, I noticed something very disturbing. While there was a part of me that was genuinely repentant and thankful for God’s mercy.
2. There was another part of me in which I sensed that my desire for lust had increased. There was a very real part of me that wanted more. That felt like it needed more.
3. Man that was scary. I felt myself being pulled in that direction. Part of me just wanted to move on. Admit my failure and go on. But there was another part of me that couldn’t go on. A part of me that was saying, ’I must go after this.’
H. Thankfully God’s mercy and His power are real and can help us move forward and not be pulled back into the progression.
1. But let me tell you something. That pull is real and it is scary One little taste of adulterous flirting, or one little taste of internet sex, and suddenly a desire has been inflamed in us.
2. Take a few more steps in that direction and before you know it, you’re ready to end your marriage. You’re totally convinced that this person you are in covenant with, this person that you told, before God and witnesses that you would love in sickness and health, this person is no longer ’right’ for you. The sex over here is so much better. You’re hooked and are ready to walk away from your marriage.
3. Not only that. You’re ready to walk away from God. It is scary how quickly it can happen. This is the progression of sexual sin. We start out controlling it, but very soon it controls us.
I. I received a magazine this week from pure life ministries which is one of several on line ministries to folks struggling with sexual sin.
1. Let me read just a small portion of one man’s personal story: "I had been in ministry for five years the fateful day that I took my first step into hell. It had been some time since I had first noticed the strip club near our church. Occasionally the thought would enter my mind to visit it, but I would quickly dismiss it.
2. The fact that I was a happily married youth pastor didn’t seem to diminish my curiosity about what was within the battered walls of that dilapidated building...One day I impulsively but very purposefully pushed my nagging fears aside. With pounding heart and shortness of breath I made the quick jaunt to the club...
3. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I took trembling steps toward a seat near the stage. I was stunned by what I saw that day...no I was hooked.
4. An hour or so later, I darted out of this hellish den [but I couldn’t really leave it.] ...For the next 18 years, I juggled my secret life of prostitutes, massage parlors and strip clubs with an increasingly successful ministry."
J. One step. One decision and a desire was ignited that couldn’t be satisfied. Now I realize that that is a pretty vivid and perhaps extreme example, but let’s not miss the truth contained in it. One quick walk across the street and his life was never the same. Our seemingly small decisions can over time have a huge negative impact.
1. All of us are vulnerable to this--no matter how ’spiritually mature’ we look to those around us. One decision leads to another.
2. It doesn’t take long for the control knob to switch from us to our sexual sin. It doesn’t take long for us to go from "I’m in control here." To "I love my foreign gods and must go after them."
K. Now there is something even more tragic God reveals in the next few verses of Jeremiah 2. He says in vss 27-28 "They have turned their backs to me and not their faces; yet when they are in trouble, they say, ’Come and save us!’ Where then are the gods you made for yourselves? Let them come if they can save you when you are in trouble."
1. Here is the awful truth about these gods of sexual pleasure that we worship--They don’t give a rip about you. When you’re in trouble and need help, they couldn’t care less.
2. In fact, listen to how God says this in Jeremiah 4:30 "Why shade your eyes with paint? You adorn yourself in vain. Your lovers despise you; they seek your life."
3. That’s how our idols feel about us. They despise us. They don’t care about us. All they want is our life. They want control of you.
4. They may look so seductive and so inviting on the surface, but don’t be fooled. They don’t love you and they won’t lift a finger to help you when you are in trouble.
5. God is saying, Go ahead and cry out to your idols--cry out to your god of lust or your god of sexual attractiveness--go ahead and cry out to that god when you are in trouble. Nothing will happen.
L. Now the clear implication in these words is that God is different than these idols. God will respond differently to us than these idols will.
1. Whereas they couldn’t care less, He does care. Whereas they don’t love you, He does love you. Whereas they despise you, He delights in you.
2. Now how is this possible? We see how in this passage. There is one particular word God uses in this passage that brings hope into our despair and enslavement.
3. Look again at vs 27 "Where then are the gods you made for yourselves? Let them come if they can save you when you are in trouble."
M. Very interesting language. He doesn’t say "Let them come and help you." No. He says, Let them come and save you. That word save is the Hebrew word Yesa which means deliverance from our enemies, dramatic rescue, a victorious change in circumstances--from enslavement to freedom.
2. Yesa--to save, to deliver. Now God is clear that our idols can’t do that for us. They have no power to and they have no desire to.
3. But He is different than these idols. He says to His people later in Jeremiah 30:11 I am with you and will save you. Yesa. I will deliver you and rescue you.
N. Now how can this happen? How can God rescue us from the vice grip of the idols that exert so much control in our lives? How can we experience this Yesa that he talks about here?
1. There is a fairly important name that has its root in this Hebrew word Yesa. Yeshua otherwise known as Jesus. The God who saves. Matthew 1:21 we read "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus (Yeshua) because he will save His people from their sins."
O. Now this is certainly true of our initial coming to Christ. He saves us from our sins (ie he forgives us of all our sins), but this saving power of Jesus is not simply about this initial experience of forgiveness.
1. It is about walking in deliverance. Walking in freedom. Walking in victory over the enemies that seek our life. Including the sexual sins that seek to enslave.
2. There is hope in Jesus. There is rescue in Jesus. There is deliverance in Jesus. How do we experience this? That’s what we’re going to talk about for the next couple weeks, but let me just say this.
3. The rescue is not about trying hard and it’s also not about some one time, glorious victory in which you are forever set free from even being tempted by sexual sin.
4. No. What it is about is a continual open heart in which you invite the mercy and power of Jesus to flow into your enslavement, into your shame.
5. As we increasingly let His love and mercy and life giving presence into those places, we can experience a power that is greater than any ground we have given to sexual sin.
P. It’s the power of mercy, the power of the cross--where we continually admit the depth of our sin and open our heart to the incredible wonders of our Savior.
1. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest." Notice, he doesn’t say "Come to me all you who are sexually pure and have never done anything really bad." No. His invitation is to the weary, the burdened.
2. To them He says, Come to me. Present tense. Bring to me your shame. Bring to Me your enslavement anytime, day or night. Come to Me and let my mercy and my love free you in a way that nothing else ever will.
Alan Kraft is lead pastor of Christ Community Church in Greeley, CO and author of Good News for Those Trying Harder. He is a graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. To find out more about Alan’s ministry to the spiritually exhausted, check out his website at www.alankraft.net. For free MP3 downloads of sermons by Alan Kraft, visit www.cccgreeley.org. For Alan’s blog, visit www.stoptryingharder.com