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The Ark

Is Moral Failure the End?

Wed November 7th, 2018

Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it, but for people God has plans as to how and when they should do it!

Perhaps the biggest pressure today on believers is the pressure to do what it appears that everyone else is doing and to engage in sexual intercourse without commitment. In our sexualized society the idea of virginity is often publicly ridiculed, and chastity is thought of as….sorry what does that word mean? Self-control is not looked upon as a virtue but instead something easily gotten rid of with a half bottle of vodka.

Black & White

God’s plan for a man was that he joined himself to his wife for life.

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Gen 2:24 NIV

Despite lots of New Testament teaching, like the rest of society, Christians are sometimes lured into sexual activity outside of marriage. My wife puts in this way, for many young people today, “sex is just like having a cup of tea”.

These are sayings of Paul:

The body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 1 Cor 6:13 HCSB

Flee from sexual immorality! "Every sin a person can commit is outside the body," but the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body. 1 Cor 6:18-20 HCSB

Do not be deceived: no sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, 10 thieves, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, or swindlers will inherit God's kingdom. 11 Some of you were like this; 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. 1 Cor 6:9-11 HCSB

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar, about which I tell you in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Gal 5:19-21 HCSB

But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints. 4 And coarse and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable, but rather giving thanks. 5 For know and recognize this: no sexually immoral or impure or greedy person, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of the Messiah and of God. Eph 5:3-5 HCSB

For this is God's will, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, 4 so that each of you knows how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honour, 5 not with lustful desires, like the Gentiles who don't know God. 1 Thess 4:3-6 HCSB

It is quite clear from these and other verses that many of the church were sexually immoral before they met Jesus, many stopped, but others needed reminding. In fact they needed reminding repeatedly, so they were not that different to us after all.

Jesus himself said this:

For from within, out of people's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, 22 adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, lewdness, stinginess, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a person. Mark 7:21-23 HCSB

Singleness

Does this call to exercise self-control (Gal.5:23) put people off following Jesus? Well, it made his disciples think twice!

His disciples said to Him, "If the relationship of a man with his wife is like this, it's better not to marry!" 11 But He told them, "Not everyone can accept this saying, but only those it has been given to. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb, there are eunuchs who were made by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way because of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can." Matt 19:10-12 HCSB

As you can see, Jesus finished off his teaching on divorce with a call to some of singleness. In doing this Jesus was speaking against the social norm – singleness was not an option in society at that time, but Jesus is saying that to deny your body is a valid expression of the kingdom of God.

No Consequences

In a society whose mantra is ‘no consequences’, what is wrong with doing what you want?

Well firstly, God says don’t do it – it is sin; this ought to be enough for us. But in a day in which God is systematically being purged from society, we find ourselves questioning the black and white and looking for 50 shades of grey.

Secondly, there are consequences. Sexually transmitted disease is at epidemic proportions in the UK, many of these limit fertility or make sexual intercourse painful and some cannot be cured.

A beautiful young lady spoke to me a couple of years ago, with her heart breaking because she had slept with a man for the first time and caught genital herpes. She told me that unless she could find a man who also had the disease she was condemned to a life of celibacy.

A young couple who were having trouble conceiving and undergoing fertility treatment told me that it was probably because the woman had caught chlamydia when she was 16. Another couple were also unable to conceive because of the wife’s previous abortion.

A young man told me how he had ‘managed his sex drive by the use of pornography’ but when he eventually did get married he was unable to achieve an orgasm without it. After several years this guy did eventually fix his problem, but not without great marital stress, professional counselling and lots of his social circle finding out much to his shame.

There are consequences indeed! But the biggest consequence is how we hurt God when we ignore him and indulge ourselves.

Community

Ever met a nominal catholic who would go to confession at the weekend and sow his wild oats all week? We mustn’t fall into the trap of thinking that God can just be tapped on the shoulder endlessly for forgiveness. There is such a thing as discipline.

"My child, don't make light of the Lord's discipline, and don't give up when he corrects you. 6 For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child." 7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? Heb 12:5-8 NLT

But there is great grace, and God will forgive the one who is truly repentant, but when there is no repentance there becomes increasing hardness of heart which as we know from the example of Esau it may not necessarily be rectifiable.

And see that there isn't any immoral or irreverent person like Esau, who sold his birthright in exchange for one meal. 17 For you know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected because he didn't find any opportunity for repentance, though he sought it with tears. Heb 12:16-17 HCSB

Turning around

Repentance is different to regret. Regret is sorry you got caught, it may even be sorry that you did what you did, but repentance couples genuine sorrow for your actions with a decision to turn around and walk to God. God will always forgive the repentant heart. There is a way back!

What about leaders though? Remember that TV evangelist crying into the camera?

Much will be required of everyone who has been given much. And even more will be expected of the one who has been entrusted with more. Luke 12:48

Publicly rebuke those who sin, so that the rest will also be afraid. 1 Tim 5:20 HCSB

Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment James 3:1 HCSB

From time to time we hear of Pastors, teachers, evangelists, and other church workers falling morally – usually that means sexually, but it can mean that they run off with the offering or have feathered their own nest at the church’s expense.

Some people target men of God (or women of God!). In mixed company I once met a woman who openly confessed to having had 3 affairs – all with Pastors! Occasionally you even hear of someone paying a prostitute to seduce a pastor. All of these things are appalling but happen. Usually though it is just a hard working pastor who has been working all hours juggling church problems, became tired and hadn’t read his bible for weeks and then stumbled upon someone caring who seemed to really understand him and one thing led to another.

Accountability is so important, and this is especially why no Pastor should be without some structure be it denominational or through a network. Such a person should be removed from their place of ministry and if they are repentant and willing to undergo a long period of counselling and ministry it may be possible to restore them to ministry but it is not likely that you could put them back in the same position that they used to be in, as that would be asking for trouble. The reality is that it is possible to save this person and restore them to a functional life, but it may not be possible to save their ministry. There are of course other ways someone can serve the church, and often we have to look at those.

No one’s ministry is essential. If you think yours is, then don’t commit adultery or do anything else that will torpedo it!

For someone who is part of the congregation of the church, moral failure is regretful but they can be forgiven and restored, you may even be able to help them save their marriage (if their failure was adultery). For someone who leads the church, the same grace and forgiveness applies, but the accountability is greater and their ministry may not be salvageable.

Marriage

When adultery takes place it severs the marriage bond and the other partner is free to divorce, but don’t just assume the outcome – pray and listen and help, because it may be possible to save that marriage. Realistically trust has been broken, and I have seen a number of divorces for this reason. Neither should the partner be put under any pressure to save their marriage, but be aware that some people will at least want to try. I have also seen a few of these and what wonderful marriages they have gone on to become!

Is moral failure the end? Well, no, but it may be the end of where you are now because contrary to what some people say there are consequences for every action and for every sin. The challenge for good character is to recognise what has happened and before God start living a different life

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. Rom 12:3 NIV

Of course grace is the key word here - we must show as much grace as God has shown us. - and that is a lot! Let's not be judgemental, but encouraging to people that it is good to live life the way God says, and the grace of God may be to move you out of the way for at least a little while.