Summary: Sexual sin is ubiquitous in contemporary society; it is often excused among the faithful. We need to live with a focus on the Cross if we will honour God with our bodies in the midst of a world that has surrendered to the appetites of the flesh.

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body.” [1]

Accepting Christ as Saviour transforms life—attitudes and actions take on new significance. The adage that is ubiquitous in contemporary society, “It’s my body; I’ll do what I want!” finds no application in the life of the Christian. The idea that we can live as the world lives and still honour God finds no comfort in His Word. Christians are countercultural, if for no other reason than they are distinct from the world in which they live. Perhaps some professing believers are indistinguishable from the world, but such lives do not change the reality of God’s claim on the life of His child; He will not permit His own to disgrace Him with impunity.

Though Christians face unrelenting pressure to conform to the expectations of this dying world, and though believers in the Risen Son of God do succumb to this pressure more frequently than we could wish, the Christian cannot submit to sin and be comfortable in that sin. A former colleague used to perceptively say, “A sheep may fall into a mud puddle, but a sheep will never be content to lie down in the mud.”

The ongoing pressure Christians experience as the world demands that they conform to the attitudes, if not to the actions, agreeable to the world lies behind the admonition found in the Letter to the Romans. There, the Apostle has written, “With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give Him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to Him and acceptable by Him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-make you so that your whole attitude of mind is changed. Thus, you will prove in practice that the will of God is good, acceptable to Him and perfect” [2] [ROMANS 12:1, 2].

Christians intuitively understand that “to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” [ROMANS 8:6-8]. And yet, with alarming regularity, Christians succumb to sin, abandoning righteousness and permitting themselves to be controlled by the flesh. How can such a thing happen? What is missing from life that allows twice-born individuals to stumble into sin, displeasing God and exposing themselves to divine discipline?

In speaking thusly, I am not concerned with cultural Christians—those individuals who imagine that joining a church makes them a follower of Christ. Tragically, our churches are filled with people who are casually Christian, thinking that if they participate in a rite, partake of a ritual, recite a prayer or formally unite with a church, that they must be honouring the Saviour. When I speak of Christians who stumble into sin, I am speaking of those individuals who through faith in the Risen Son of God are twice-born. These are individuals who have received forgiveness of sin, who want to do what pleases the Father; and yet, they are tripped up by sin. Christians are not perfect, though they are being perfected in Christ.

The text for this message speaks of God’s rightful claim over the body of the believer—“You are not your own!” It speaks of God’s residence with the believer—“Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you.” It speaks of the responsibility the child of God bears for employment of the body—“Glorify God in your body.” All that is lacking for us to integrate this teaching into our lives is the context. While the text presents a general principle for life as a Christian, it is presented in a specific context. And that context could have been taken straight out of contemporary life.

THE CONTEXT OF THE TEACHING — Context is essential for understanding what is written. Isolated statements without context can be utterly misleading. An illustration of how context changes perception is demonstrated by a recent news item that tells how a mother’s feelings were hurt causing a teacher to be suspended. The headline implies that a teacher used a racial epitaph and called a boy his slave. A video of the incident shows something quite different. The teacher was calling the student down for disrupting the class. The teacher says, “Did I call you a ‘n*****?’ No, I said you are being controlled, by kids. That is exactly what happened to the slaves. They were controlled by their owners, you're letting him control you and you're the one who's getting in trouble.” The reality is quite different from the mother’s hurt feelings or those of her son. The teacher was demonstrating concern and attempting to help the boy smarten up. [3]

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