Those guys who get on top of a Brahma bull, grab onto a rope with one hand, and nod for the other guys to open the gate – they’re nuts! It’s one thing to be on the back of that thing, hanging on for dear life and having your teeth rattled out of your skull. But after they let go or are thrown off, it gets worse. That bull, who has been pretty frustrated up to that point, suddenly realizes his opportunity. Now, it’s dangerous! Bull riders who are off the bull’s back have one goal in mind: the fence, and the nearest part of it. So, most of them also minor in sprinting. If they can just beat the bull to the fence, they’ll be OK. Then, they have to get over the fence. And I’ll bet, as they’re just starting over it, they wish it weren’t there or at least that it was shorter. But once they’re on the other side, “Oh, thank you, Mr. Fence, for being here!” and the taller the better! And that fence becomes their new best friend.
I begin with that thought this morning to remind us that the “fence” of God’s law, rather than restrict us, actually provides us with great liberty.
1 John 5:3 This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.
When God considers the commands He gives us, I don’t see Him looking at them as restrictions. They’re for our good and our happiness. Maybe more than any of the others, we need to hear that in regard to command #7. Exodus 20:14 You shall not commit adultery. (yes, this sermon will be PG13)
The world of which you and I are a part is denying that faithfulness is really that important. They’re asking, “Why faithfulness?” and we need to have some solid answers to that this morning. We need those answers, because the differences between Christian people and non-Christian people in this area of living are cloudier than ever. We need to answer it for ourselves. Why faithfulness?
I. Because Our Faithfulness is the Only Way to Safely Handle Our Sexuality
When it comes to God telling us what we need to enjoy an abundant life, we’re all treated the same.
The fences are there for everyone to get behind. And where our sexuality is concerned, this applies to all of us this morning:
Adultery means sexual contact outside of marriage. The fact that people are unfaithful is nothing new. In 1st cent. Rome, it was very common and widely accepted. Today, it’s still too accepted. The majority of Americans believe adultery is wrong, but our culture still glorifies adulterous relationships all over the place. How many of you can think of one movie or television show that taught adultery was OK?
This command also applies for the sake of a future spouse. If you’re not married but hope to be, consider how this question of faithfulness affects your future spouse, even though you may not know who that person is.
When Jesus pointed back to Exodus 20:14, he said this, Matthew 5:27-28 You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
So, this issue of being faithful has application to all of us – married, once married, and hope to be married someday or else I’ll die!
If those reasons aren’t enough to have your attention, then consider this one:
1. We’re all identified by our sexuality.
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
I’m pretty confident this morning that your sexuality has a bearing on who you are – that you’re one of those two things – male or female! I realize that even this has been toyed with and shoved around.
It’s your gender that determines whether you’re Louis or Louise. It also has strong bearing on your roles in the home and in the Church. Our gender has a bearing on who we are. Go ahead and deny this fact, but wander into the wrong locker room at the YMCA and you’ll lose your membership!
2. We all need a healthy respect for the power of sexuality
Ill – Remember “Crazy Glue”? It’s little, it’s fast, and once it sets up, it’s crazy strong. Our sexuality in marriage is a lot that way.
I love the story in Genesis 2 where God has Adam name the animals. God was having Adam not only name the animals, but also look for a suitable companion so Adam wouldn’t be alone.
Genesis 2:20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.
So God created Eve, and when she’s brought to him, there’s a shift in the way the text is written. God presents the first woman to that guy, and he breaks out in poetry: “Finally! Here’s one like me!” or, loosely translated, “Hubba Hubba!” It goes on to say she shall be called woman and that
Genesis 2:24 For this reason (woman) a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Literally, “he will be glued to his wife…”
What would motivate a man to leave his father and mother? The power of the marriage union.
Remember how Crazy Glue could do so much? On the other hand, you’d better read the instructions and know how to handle it. Crazy glue isn’t made to be entrusted into the hands of babies! In the same way, sex is made to be used only in a certain context: the cementing of a faithful marriage.
Sex is powerful for good, and for evil. So Madison Ave. uses it to market and to sell, and it works! In fact, our society has become convinced that’s what we need to be truly happy in life. But this 7th principle would warn us this morning that sex outside the right context is painful. Casual or improper, it can even lead to hatred and hurt.
Story – 2 Sam. 13 we read the story of Amnon, a son of King David who was attracted to his niece, Tamar, the daughter of Absolam. He’s convinced that he loves her, and he wants her for his own pleasure. Over time, he allows his lust for her to consume him. He makes a plan, and forces himself on her. And in the next verse (15) it says, “Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her.” Turns out that what he thought would satisfy him was immediately a big disappointment.
If burying ourselves in sexuality is all the market says it is, explain King Solomon. 700 wives, 300 concubines – that’s a lot of anniversaries to try to keep track of! That’s also one bold attempt to be satisfied! If anyone would find satisfaction, it would be him, right? Read his assessment of his life in Ecc. 2 and you’ll see that it was all empty.
(Ecclesiastes 2:1 I thought in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good." But that also proved to be meaningless.
Ecclesiastes 2:8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well--the delights of the heart of man.
Ecclesiastes 2:11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.)
3. God has given us the tools and safeguards to handle our sexuality!
As powerful as this animal is, I thank the Lord that He has given us the fences we need to be able to exist with ourselves.
The Bible isn’t anti-sex. It’s very pro-correct sex! If you question that, read the book of the Bible called the Song of Songs. And when you do, you’ll agree that God isn’t trying to keep our sexuality secretive as if it were evil or didn’t exist. What God wants is for it to be kept sacred.
Remember, profanity means taking something holy and treating it as if it were common. That’s what has happened to sexuality in our current culture. It has been profaned.
Our sexuality is powerful. God has given us the tools to handle it with success.
I hope that by now you can see how this message about faithfulness applies to everyone. What we think and say about sexuality, how we live it out in our lives, how we teach our children about it, and how we hold one another accountable in this involves every one of us. Faithfulness is the only way to successfully handle our sexuality.
II. Because Our Faithfulness, or Unfaithfulness, Affects Many
I keep in my files a list of the people who would be affected by my sexual failure. It’s a long list, and the point of it is to remind me of the great cost that would be exacted if I would blow it this way. For everyone here this morning, let me suggest a shortened version of that as another reason for faithfulness. We should choose faithfulness because our faithfulness, or unfaithfulness, affects many:
1. Your spouse or future spouse
You who are single and hope to marry someday need to think ahead to what it will mean to your future spouse to have your experience to deal with when you’re married. This isn’t just for married people to be burdened with. You need to think ahead even more.
Then, those of you who are married, just attempt to weigh the affect that cheating on your spouse would have on him or her.
Ill – We were listening to a lady on Focus on the Family speak on the radio, a survivor of the Holocaust. She had spent time in a Nazi death camp, and survived. After the war, she was married, and her husband later left her for another woman. After another marriage, the same thing happened again. She compared the pain of a husband’s unfaithfulness to the pain of life in Auschwitz. She said, in Auschwitz, the prisoners just trying to survive, and the cruelty of the soldiers wasn’t personal. But after she experienced the personal rejection of a husband, for a long time, she didn’t want to survive. She said the pain of the divorce was worse.
We need to remember the depth of hurt that unfaithfulness causes – and I would just encourage you to listen to it and watch it and learn from it as another reason for faithfulness.
Also on the list of those touched by unfaithfulness would be
2. The 3rd party involved, your children, everyone else
Adultery is selfish.
Ill - I knew a minister whose secretary began to confide in him about marriage troubles. Eventually, the 2 became emotionally involved. They made plans to run away together; to leave their spouses and children all behind and run away. Later, when he came to his senses, he told me about the other husband, “I was convinced that he didn’t love her anymore.” No person, looking out for the happiness and well-being of another, would encourage that person to run away from their marriage and home. It wasn’t about genuine care. It was about selfishness.
The experts have been conceding for a long time that the biggest losers in unfaithfulness and divorce are the children involved. There’s just no way anyone can list or measure the amount of harm that’s done when a person is unfaithful.
Not all sin is the same. There are many places in the Bible that affirm that. Sexual sin is one of those sins that’s distinct.
1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.
While unfaithfulness touches so many, including yourself, the same is true in a positive sense when we’re faithful. The young person who saves himself or herself until marriage has the joy of giving the most precious wedding gift that can be given. The husband who loves his wife in this way loves himself, and doesn’t spend his days looking over his shoulder or regretting what he traded in. The couple that announces their 60th wedding anniversary provides strong encouragement for younger couples to not give up or give in.
This last reason for faithfulness concerns our effectiveness as the people of God.
III. Because Our Faithfulness is a Testimony to the Nature of God
When God wanted to illustrate His relationship with us and what His faithfulness to us is like, he chose faithful marriage as the picture:
Ephesians 5:31-32 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church.
We’ve seen too often the negative side of this – the way failures bring criticism on God’s people; how it turns people away from the Lord.
How we treat our mates, and this whole issue of sexuality, is a testimony to an unbelieving world about God’s unbreakable commitment to His people. When we’re faithful, even when that’s a challenge, we’re saying something about the way God is. How we treat sexual purity is a testimony about God’s place and God’s power in our lives.
We need this commitment to purity because of the message it gives to the world about the God we serve.
I want us to leave here this morning with something to do. I want to suggest, for everyone here, a strategy. And whether it means personally doing this, or holding someone else accountable to it, or just encouraging a younger person in it, I’d like us to commit to doing these 3 things:
1. Make the choice to be pure.
It is a choice – for married people and singles too. And it’s a choice that you can make right now whether you’ve done it right up till now or not.
To help you in this choice, and to see how this all fits together, I want to take a couple of minutes and watch a video testimony of a couple who wrestled through this issue.
Play video here (4 minutes long)
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
The Church is the best place in the world for adulterers to be. In fact, there’s no other place where you’re going to find washing, and sanctification. There’s no other place where you can be pronounced justified – only in the name of Jesus. You can make the choice to be pure, right now.
2. Don’t flirt with unfaithfulness.
In the movie “The Right Stuff,” the heroes are the guys who are continually “pushing the envelope” – each time going a little faster, and little closer to the unknown, a little more dangerous.
But when it comes to the temptation to be unfaithful, the Bible has this command: RUN! Don’t toy with it. Don’t see how far you can push it and still be in control. Run away!
(1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality.
Ephesians 5:3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality…
1 Thessalonians 4:3 It is God's will…that you should avoid sexual immorality;
2 Timothy 2:22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness…)
Eve was tempted to eat the forbidden fruit in the garden. That didn’t begin with tasting it. There was a time of admiring it, looking at it, thinking about what it would be like to experience it, how it would feel and taste. It all started with her eyes and in her mind, and the battle was lost there before she ever ate it.
The Bible tells us to run from it. That may mean physically staying away from certain places and certain people. It means having safeguards and guidelines in place for use of the internet, TV, even cell phones. If you rent or go to movies, it means setting guidelines and exercising discernment for your family and yourself. Don’t flirt with it. Anyone can do that. Be courageous enough and strong enough to run from it.
3. Enrich your marriage
Just like the rest of the commands, #7 is more than just something to not do. In other words, don’t just not commit adultery. Do cherish your mate. Do safeguard your marriage. Do work at being fulfilled and thrilled with each other. Meet one another’s physical desires.
What was the last thing you did to enrich your marriage? If you can’t remember, or if it was too long ago, make a plan to change that today. Fight back at the devil by loving your spouse today. What a great way to do battle!
There’s an old saying, “Fences make good neighbors.” I think it means that, even when you have good neighbors and get along with them, having a fence so that you don’t disagree over how far you need to mow and so that your cows don’t go into his yard, helps prevent problems.
Well, the fences that God has set up for us are good things to have too.
God didn’t issue 10 Commandments to minimize our fun. The opposite is true. Our joy is maximized when we stay inside the fence.
So, this morning, as we invite you to accept Jesus as your Lord, we’re not inviting you to a bunch of prohibitions and rules. We’re inviting you to life as your Creator designed it to be – life that’s fuller and more satisfying now, and life that lasts forever with Him.