Saturday, March 3, 2018

Be Imitators of God

Ephesians 5:-9 Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
            In the beginning God created man in his image.  Adam and Eve were made to be reflections of him—and to live with him as his children.  They were not puppets on a string but children whose life with the Father was that of a loving family. 
But sin wrecked that that relationship that we were supposed to have with God.  Sin drove a wedge between God and man.  From that moment on:  man lived in fear of God rather than love—obeying out of compulsion rather than freedom.
But God never abandoned his plan.  Never.  God sent his Son Jesus who was what God intended all of us to be:  someone who freely, out of love, offered himself in every way to God—not out of compulsion or under threat-- but from love. 
The offering of his own life on the cross has begun to restore God’s purpose in us—so that now, believing in him we can begin to be what God created us and redeemed us to be:  children who love him—children whose lives are a reflection of his own—children whose lives are to be marked by holiness.  The Bible says:
Sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 
            Couples who get married in this church must go through biblical, pre-marital counseling.  One of the topics we cover is sexuality from God’s perspective.  Most of them can remember the sixth commandment—that we are not to commit adultery—but most of them don’t really have a good grasp of “why” and often times their understanding of sexuality is much more formed by the culture than by Christ.
And so we cover the biblical basics:  that sexuality is God’s gift to be used within the parameters that God has established for one man and one women united in a lifetime marriage:  for the procreation of children, as the physical sign of the one flesh union that exists between them, as a guard against sexual sins, and so that man and woman would delight in one another.  This is God’s standard and anything else is sin—what the Bible calls “covetousness”. 
Now this may seem like an odd way to talk about sexual immorality.  But think about it:  covetousness is a sinful desire for that which is not ours.  And so when there is sexual activity outside the boundaries that God has established—there is a sinful desire for that which is not our own—and there must be a hint of that among Christians. 
What the Bible plainly says is very, very different than what so many parts of the church are saying.  There are church bodies that are allowing and approving sexual sin.  These churches have forfeited the right to be considered gathering places of the saints of God and instead have become temples that serve a perverted pagan culture.
Not only does the Bible forbid any and all sexual sin-- but it also forbids speech that degrades God’s gift of sexuality.  The Bible says:
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
            In 1936 Walter A. Maier, the first speaker of the Lutheran Hour wrote a book entitled “For Better, Not For Worse” that dealt with issues of marriage and family and sexuality.  Some of the chapters included “The Literature of Lust” about the dangers of popular fiction and newsstand magazines.  Another was entitled “Moronic Motion Pictures” about the dangers of the modern movies.  Another was entitled “Hazards of the New Age” one of which he said was the suggestive dance.
Now we may kind of smile to ourselves and think:  how naïve!  But do you want your children reading the magazines that are in plain view at the grocery store or taking their cue on sexuality from what they see on TV or imitating the dance moves on “Dances with the Stars”?  It’s not that Dr. Maier was naïve, it’s that we have become desensitized by the relentless assault on God’s gift of sexuality by the culture around us. 
Instead, the Bible says that we are to give thanks for God’s good gifts of marriage and children and sexuality.  The Bible says that when God brought Eve to Adam he said this at last is bone of bones and flesh of my flesh.  The Bible says that we are to delight in the wife of our youth.  The Bible says that we are to keep the marriage bed pure.
We have a responsibility to speak and live in such a way that those around us see marriage as a wonderful blessing--and regard children as a blessing to be received with thanksgiving and not guarded against- and recognize sexuality as a gift given by God.  We are called to live and speak in this way because there are terrible consequences to living outside of God’s will in these areas. The Bible says:
You may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
            When Satan tempted Eve in the garden, he set before her a good thing:  the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  It was a good thing but it was forbidden to her.  She knew it!  But rather than turning away at his temptation—rather than fleeing from his presence—she listened to him.  She said to herself:  it’s beautiful and it’s good for obtaining knowledge.  And she took of it and ate.  
She went from coveting that which was not her own, to standing in the place of God and deciding for herself what was right and wrong.  On account of her sin, she and Adam were cast out of the garden.
That is what the Bible is saying about sexual immorality:  it is a sinful desire for that which God has forbidden to us (whether that is homosexual activity or a couple living together outside of marriage or an affair or a divorce to marry another or pornography) and when we choose to engage in them we put ourselves in the place of God deciding for ourselves what is right for us.
There can be only one King in God’s kingdom and that is Jesus Christ.  He has made us his own and he wants us to take our rightful place in his kingdom.
But if we insist on being our own king, we cannot expect that he will allow a rebellion against his rightful rule.  Instead, we will find ourselves under his wrath and outside of his kingdom just as surely as Adam and Eve were cast out for the garden. 
Now, you know as well as I do that there are many places in the world and our culture and sadly even the church that say something very different.  Hear God’s warning about listening to those voices:
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  Therefore do not become partners with
            The measure of everything that we believe about God’s good gift of sexuality is the Word of God. 
And so when we hear that:  homosexual marriage is a civil right—that marriage is based upon feelings that come and go rather than a lifetime commitment to live according to God’s commands—that being discreet and modest is puritanical—that the Holy Spirit is doing a new thing in the churches and their attitudes to sexuality--we take those “empty words” and we measure them against the Word of God. 
What God says is what we believe, teach, and practice as Christians and a congregation.
Not only are we to not listen to their lies—we are to have no partnership with them.  This is a solemn warning to those Christians who remain in apostate churches to come out of them--but it is also a warning to us who still believe the Word of God that we are not to receive any person as a brother or sister in Christ who practices sexual immorality—or practice Christian fellowship with any church where this goes on--but call them to repentance and faith in Jesus, with a humility that recognizes that all of us are susceptible to these temptations and all of us have failed.  The Bible says:
At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true),
            The Bible does not speak these words to perfect people—to people who have never failed in some way when it comes to their sexuality.  We all have in one way or the other.  But it does speak these words to people who can count these sins as those which are past—forgiven by Jesus on the cross and forgotten by his heavenly Father. 
These words direct our attention to the future and our lives as God’s children who do not walk in the darkness of this world’s lies about sexuality—but walk in the light of God’s Word that shows sexuality and marriage and family as great blessings from God.
As we walk in the light of God’s Word- and follow his counsel- and adopt his vision for us, there are great blessings for us.  The blessings of:  Marriages that are truly pictures of the love that exists between Christ and the church.  Families where children are received as a blessing rather than a burden.  Young people who live chaste and decent lives so that they can give themselves to their future spouses without shame and guilt. 
May God grant these blessings to the people of God in this place as we walk in light and love rather than darkness and selfishness!  Amen.

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