There’s an absolute truth about all genuine followers of Jesus. Namely, that we’re not from here and this spinning planet is not our true home. God has made us and calls us to be different.
The unfortunate reality of “modern” Christianity is that we exhibit a pattern of settling. We have chosen paths of lesser resistance. We have forgotten or ignored God’s call that we be holy, and have replaced it with a satisfaction with being forgiven. As human beings, we have a pattern of finding and then doing the bare minimum and sadly we (as professed followers of Jesus) have allowed that pattern to permeate our walks of faith. We paste a bumper sticker on our car proclaiming that we are not perfect, just forgiven. And while this is absolutely true and has the potential to be the right heart attitude, I fear we have also taken the next (and devastating) step towards permission. We exist in a cycle of sin and confession, never experiencing the true freedom that comes with taking the next (and necessary) step toward holiness.
Being made in the image of God makes us “not from here.” Choosing to believe and follow Jesus is to belong to a kingdom which is Not Of This World. The call on our lives is to be and act as if we’re “not from here” and we’re just passin’ through. Quite simply, to be holy.
Because He said so
Don’t take my word for it. The call and command to be holy is not something I came up with. God speaks very plainly through the apostle Peter:
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:14-16 (NIV)
That “for it is written:” part refers back to the book of Leviticus (11:44-45, 19:2 and 20:7) where God gives that instruction to the nation of Israel … His chosen people. We are His chosen as well, and in that way, He is also speaking to us. Now, I’ll admit that it might be hard to relate to that “as obedient children” part. Maybe you weren’t one of those growing up. Maybe you’re far more familiar with what a disobedient person does and experiences. My guess is you also would admit that obedience would have made your life a bit easier and more joyful. God knows your bent (all of our bent) towards disobedience, and He also knows the great joy and reward in the wisdom of living obediently.
If you remember nothing else from what is said today, let it be the challenge to strive for holiness and not settle for forgiveness. There is no true and lasting freedom in the perpetual cycle of forgiveness. You experience it for a breath of time, but even in that breath what you are experiencing is not true freedom. If it’s anything, it’s nothing more than temporary pain relief. We are called and capable of SO much more than that!
We’re about to get real up in here. Because perhaps the single biggest impediment to the holiness God calls us to is this … sexual immorality. There can be no argument that it is the issue and struggle of our time, but the Bible is proof that the struggle and resulting devastation is timeless. Look at any list in the Bible of things which distinguish true followers from those who are not, and you will find sexual immorality near or at the top of it. It was a pervasive issue in ancient times and it remains so today.
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 (NIV)
There is no wiggle room here. The words God gave to the apostle Paul in writing to the church in Thessalonica are pointed and crystal clear. You are to avoid sexual immorality and live a holy life. And if you choose not to, you are rejecting God himself — not me, not your “holier-than-thou” friend, not your mom, but God himself!
“So what is sexual immorality?” you might ask. Very plainly, sexual immorality is lusting after anyone whom you are not married to. This includes single people and married people. This includes single people in committed relationship who might be engaged or planning on getting married. This includes friends with benefits. This includes viewing pornography (both for single people and for married people who think it might be the thing they need to improve their sex life). The Bible is clear, God is clear … you need to STOP. Not stopping is a rejection of Him. Not stopping is a “can’t cross over it” barrier to being a genuine follower living the holy life God calls them to.
If you are one of those people, we WANT you to reach out to us. Seek out Grant or a leader in the church. We want to get you connected with someone who will be completely discreet and can come alongside and walk through it with you and pray with and for you. DO NOT let Satan isolate you in sexual sin! Be bold and courageous! Break the cycle of sin and forgiveness and the grip that sexual sin has on your life!
Door #1, Door #2 and Door #3
I want to speak specifically to that single person in a committed relationship who is living with their partner and maybe even having sex. To you, I say the Bible provides three options — and only three. There is no, “weellll, I don’t exactly like any one of them, are there parts of the three I can combine together, or maybe a fourth or fifth option?” No. There are only three options.
Door #1 :: Abstain.
The world and your friends may be quick and persistent in telling you this isn’t an option, but I’m here to tell you it absolutely is. But with everything, don’t trust me unless scripture also speaks the same:
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.
Ephesians 5:3 (NIV)
Door #2 :: Break up.
If you find yourself in a relationship where abstaining isn’t desired or working on either your part or your partner’s part, you have a second option … break up. If you or your partner can’t control themselves or have tried and it hasn’t worked, maybe you need to end that relationship as painful as it might be. God says this:
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
2 Corinthians 6:14 (NIV)
Door #3 :: Get married!
Now, I can be almost certain this third option is not one you’d hear from many people … and especially from a preacher. I doubt there are many churches who would recommend this option, but it is absolutely biblical.
Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
1 Corinthians 7:8-9 (NIV)
We believe in this, and as a church we are taking a bold step which underscores our belief. On August 7th, we are opening the doors of Life Bridge and offering the opportunity for you to come and get married.
Some people believe this isn’t possible. You can’t just up and get married a couple of weeks from now! You need to get engaged. There are appropriate ways this needs to happen. There’s planning and flowers and rings and, and, and, and. But you know what? It is possible. And it is something we’re offering. We’re trusting God in it, and we’re all in.
Sexual immorality is devastating and it is one of, if not, the biggest impediment to living the holy life which God calls us to. And being holy is not some “up in the clouds,” unattainable thing. God’s clear instruction to be holy is proof that it’s doable. He would not ask us to do something He won’t give us the power to do. We need to make the choice, and we need to pray for His power in being holy as He is holy. The fancy Greek word for holy (hagios) is simply translated: set apart, holy, sacred. May our lives be one’s which look “not of this world.” May we dare to and be different in the face of all the temptations which are out there to be otherwise. Let’s embrace the truth that we are “not from here,” and are not bound to the expectations and patterns of this world. Don’t settle for forgiveness.