Michael Youssef - Until Christ Returns - Part 4
The sexual revolution that began in the '60s, where sexual morality has, ever since that time, been sliding Western civilization into moral abyss and darkness. At least, sometimes, I visualize it as a huge boulder that is hurling down a steep mountain, that seems to be gathering momentum and gathering speed as it heads towards that bottomless pit. Now, so-called "freedom of sexual expression," has become the cultural arch god above all the other secular gods in our society today. And we saw in the last message how Satan seemed to be unleashing his fury as he sense his demise and his end near because the knows the Scripture and he knows that the day is coming when he will be thrown into the lake of fire.
But perhaps the greater manifestation of his fury is in that growing dominance of the god of sexual immorality in all of its forms: adultery, fornication, pornography, homosexuality. All have invaded our culture with vengeance. And sadly, they invaded many a home and many a heart of some professing Christians. Today, homosexuality is being taught in some primary schools. Pornography is only two clicks away on computers. Over 90% of sexual encounters on television are among people who are not married to each other. But I'm not here to give you the statistics about the misery and the pain that sexual immorality has produced. I'm here to expose the lie, the deception of that immorality that has invaded many a home and many a church and mostly of our culture. This is how this lie has wormed its way into the hearts and the homes of even some professing Christians.
There are six prongs to that lie, so listen carefully. It first begins, that lie says that "people are basically good, and therefore, whatever their choices are, including sexual choices, must be tolerated". Secondly, it says, "Personal gratification is natural, and it ought not to be frowned upon". Thirdly, it says that "all sex is a mere biological function, therefore it should not be restricted". Fourthly, it says that "sex is another form of recreation". Fifthly, it says, "Fulfilling every sexual desire is far more important than personal relationships". And number six, this lie says that "sex is the most important part of any relationship, therefore it ought to be enjoyed without any restraints".
But here's the truth, my beloved friends, listen. Here's the truth. Sexual activities outside of a monogamous marriage between a husband and wife stains the deepest part of a person's identity. It pollutes the source of our creativity. It produces guilt that cripples our confidence in God's forgiveness. It destroys the foundation of life's deepest human relationship. It assaults the pure lordship of Jesus Christ upon our lives. And in his day, the Apostle Paul understood that disastrous consequence that come from sexual immorality, impurity, where sex can be practiced outside of a marriage. He understood that sexual immorality, which is any sex outside of marriage, can have disastrous consequences.
But I want to remind you that in the 1st century, when those people came to Christ in all of their Greco-Roman culture, throughout the Roman Empire, when they came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, whether they were in Corinth, whether they are in Thessalonica, they came to the Lord from a culture and from a society that experienced sexual perversion as part of pagan worship. Debauchery and sexual promiscuity were part and parcel of their former pagan lifestyle. But here's the tragedy. Here's the tragedy that ought to make us weep before God in prayer, that in Western society, after 2,000 years of Christian influence, we are reverting back to paganism with all of its sexual perversion. Thessalonica was rife with sexual perversion, such as fornication and adultery and homosexuality, pedophilia, transvestitism, and pornography. And they were all done with such a seared conscience. All was accepted by society with little shame and little guilt.
Remember, the people in Thessalonica did not grow up with a church on every corner. They did not grow up with laws and standards of society that were built on the word of God and Christian ethics. They did not have any of these privileges, and that is why now we are rewriting the laws in this nation in order to revert back to pre-Christian paganism. Imagine those believers who came to Christ from such dark and evil and immoral culture into the love of Jesus Christ, that unconditional love and forgiveness that he offered 'em. Imagine they're beginning to understand Christian ethics and Christian lifestyle and sanctification for the first time. And here in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, makes it very clear about the preaching that he preached in that church. And if you read the passage casually, you might miss it, but it is of utmost importance because there's a cause and there's effect. It is the preaching of a false gospel today, it's the preaching of a watered-down Word of God today that brought us to that such low moral standards. The two are connected.
And let me remind you again, the Apostle Paul was only there in Thessalonica 3 weeks, 3 weeks. But I want to show you that in those 3 weeks, he did not preach a cheap gospel. He did not preach a gospel that says, "Come to Jesus but keep on living in immorality". He did not say, "Come to church but then practice all sorts of perversion". He did not preach, "Believe in Jesus and then you don't have to live a sexually chaste life". He did not preach, "Oh, God wants you to be happy, so make happiness to be your goal in life". He did not preach a false gospel that says, "As long as you're doing some good and helping someone, and doing this, and doing that, then you can live in sex outside of marriage". He did not preach these false gospels that says, "As long as you are a good person, then adultery, fornication, homosexuality, pornography doesn't matter".
But in fact, the opposite is true. I want to show you, in verse 6 particularly, he makes it very clear that while he keeps saying, "I told you this, and I told you this when I with you. I told you this when I with you". But then he comes in at verse 6 and he says: "God will judge those sins". God will judge such sexual activities outside of marriage. If there is a desperate need today, it is for parents, for Sunday school teachers, for preachers, and I know many preachers are watching us, for Bible teachers to teach children and teach adults alike that God deeply cares about how we live, particularly our sexual lives. Being a Christian is more than just accepting Jesus or take him as your Friend, then live in a pornographic lifestyle.
And that is why, in chapter 1, the Apostle Paul commend the Thessalonians, and we saw that in the first message, for definitively and decisively walking away and out of idolatry into the Lord Jesus Christ. And here in chapter 4, he gives them the practical step by step of what it means to live this pure life, what it means to turn from idols to Christ, what it means to be the children of the living God, the disciples of Jesus Christ. In fact, the first two verses of chapter 4, I want you to look at them with me, they lay the foundation for sexual purity. They are foundational, those two verses, verse 1 and 2 of chapter 4. You see, Paul is not making this to be an issue of a matter of rules and regulations and legalism. It's a matter of deep attitude of gratitude to the one who shed his blood for you.
How does he lay this foundation? First, by saying that the big question that you and I must ask ourselves about this whole issue of sexual immorality, "Am I want to live my life to please God or please myself"? That is the foundational question. The answer to that question determine the purity and holiness and lifestyle. Now, if you have never committed your life to Jesus Christ, you've gotta come to first base first. You've gotta come to him first. But if you are claiming to know the Lord Jesus Christ, then you must ask yourself that question, "Whom do I want to please"? Actually, the word when he say, "We ask you," it's the word "command". Literally, "We command you to please the Lord". He's not making a suggestion here. This is not take it or leave it, if you like it or you don't like it, you know, you can decide for yourself. No, no, no, there's no question of Christian liberty here.
In verse 2, he said: "We have commanded this, not as our opinion, but the authority of Jesus". This is the authority of the Word of God. There are no gray areas when it comes to our sexual lives. Abstaining from any sex that deviates from the monogamous relationship between husband and wife is a sin against God. It's against others, but it's against God. That's why verse 6, he said: "He will judge this". There's gonna be an accountability. We all are going to appear before the throne of God. We're going to give an account. Did we please God? Did we please ourselves? Verse 6, he said, "God will judge it". Hebrews 13:4 says: "The marriage bed should be kept pure". And I want you to tell you, particularly our teenagers who are listening, the best place to stop this is in the thought pattern. It's when your thought pattern begins to be attacked, don't let that thought linger in your mind.
Let me tell you something, that you've seen people who say they are so addicted to cigarettes, and they're addicted to alcohol and they can't get over it. When you click that computer and you get addicted to pornography, you are inviting Satan to come in and set up a stronghold. God can do everything, and I pray today that he will set some people free. But don't play with fire, because you are allowing him to come in and set up a fortress inside your mind and inside your heart that is gonna be difficult to get rid of. Because when your thought pattern is attacked, what you need to do is immediately start praying, sing praises to God, do what Joseph did. Put on your Nikes and go running. He said, "When it comes to that particular sin, don't negotiate, don't resist, run".
Listen to what the Word of God said in 1 Corinthians chapter 6, verse 15: "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never"! And that is why we must always begin with the question, "Is what I'm doing pleasing to the Lord, or pleasing to myself"? No one can claim to be a genuine Christian believer, a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, when they're, day after day, and if life, first and foremost, try to please themselves. Just incongruity there. It doesn't work that way. It's not the human logic. No one can claim to love God and then live their life selfishly. It is an impossibility. You're either gonna please him or you'll please self.
And that is why, in verses 3 to 8, the Apostle Paul said: "It is that desire and longing to please the one who died for you and shed his blood for you, to redeem you, is going to empower you to exercise control over your life". We can't do it with our own strength. It's an impossibility. We all get tempted. Just because my temptation is a different area from yours, it doesn't mean that we don't all get tempted. The great reformer Martin Luther said, he said, "Temptation is like a bird that is flying over your head. You can't stop that bird from flying, but you sure can keep it from nesting in your hair". Look at verse 4: "That each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable".
Please don't misunderstand me. I preach this with a broken heart. I'm not standing here in self-righteousness. But there's something here very important that you must not miss. Paul was not asking non-believers to do that. He only was asking those who have come into Christ, who are adopted by the Lord as the brothers in Jesus of Christ. And that is why he says in verse 6 that we will be judged for that. Why? God, in Hebrews said, "He chastises those whom he loves". Why doesn't God chastise the pagans? Why doesn't God chastise the nonbelievers? The same way that why I discipline my kids growing up, not the neighbor's kids. God is interested in chastising the devil's kids. He's interested in the purity of his children.
Now, to single people, please listen for a moment. The Holy Spirit who dwells in you, he can teach you to develop deeper friendships with both sexes. The Holy Spirit can teach you how to sublimate your energy into service for others. The Holy Spirit can help you overcome your loneliness by serving the needy. The Holy Spirit can give you joy in your self-giving. And in a Christian marriage, the Holy Spirit can teach you how to give yourself selflessly to your spouse. Well, he will teach you how to repent of selfish sexual demands of your spouse. He can teach you that marriage is sacred. He can teach you how to be intimate towards your spouse in a million different ways. The Holy Spirit can teach you not to take advantage of your spouse, but serve your spouse. Verse 6 again: "The Lord will punish," and that translation said, "men of all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you".
Three weeks, and he already told them. He already warned them. He taught them all about Christian living, Christian ethics. Why? Verse 7 gives us the answer: "Because God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life," a life that is set aside for him, a life that's dedicated to him, a life that asks that question, the all-important question, "Am I pleasing myself or am I pleasing him"? The Word of God is saying that sexual immorality of any kind will be judged by God. Why? Because often, the outcome is damaged marriages, loss of family love, and divorce, and hurt children. Listen, make no mistake about it. God will chasten such a person if that person is a child of the living God, not just someone who claims to be a Christian.
But why? Why? Such sexual immorality will be judged by God because such sexual immorality spurns the will of God. It disregards God's purpose for our life. It defies God's commands. It rejects God's love, and flaunts and abuse God's grace. And above all, it discounts the reality of God's righteous judgment against sin. Don't ever forget that that sin has taken Jesus, the pure, sinless, holy Son of God, and hung him on a criminal's cross. Look with me, verses 9 to 12. He moves from chastity to charity, from control over one's own body to the importance of work. Many historians have said that the reason the church in Thessalonica had problem with members of the church became idles and not working is because they were so confused about the return of Christ, of which he explains in the next message, we'll see it in the last part of chapter 4. Paul does not discourage the church from helping those who are looking for work and can't find it. No, but he is discouraging those who can work and refuse to work.
All along, Paul is saying that "our anticipation of that great day ought to make us work harder, serve more faithfully, give more generously, and not become idles". In fact, he's saying that loving one another is the indisputable sign that we have passed from death to life. Loving will keep us from being idles. Loving will keep us from being busybodies and getting in the lives of others, meddling, interfering instead of just praying. In fact, love compels us to work so that we may be able to help the truly needy. That's what he said. Our selflessness, that our desire to please the Lord and not ourselves, that our abstaining from sexual sin and immorality are all based not on rules and regulations, but rather on a deep relationship. And, beloved, this is the spiritual sensitivity that the Holy Spirit wants to empower us to have toward God.
Listen to me, there are a lot of people who talk about freedom, but true freedom is not freedom from responsibility to the Lord and to others. No, true freedom is freedom from ourselves so that we my live for the Lord and for others. And you notice in this passage, "More and more". "More and more". How many times is this repeated? "More and more," and, "More and more". I mean, it's right there. Which means that every day, we must please the Lord more than the previous day. That we love one another today more than we loved yesterday. And the question is, are you moving forward? Can you really chart your walk with Christ and that process of...? Can you chart your progress in your life in him and for him and with him, in your desire to please him?
That's really the point here. Can you say, "Lord, I thank you that I love you today more than yesterday. I love you this week more than last week. I love you this month more than I loved you last month. I love you this year more than I loved you last year". That's what sanctification is all about. Someone will say, as like somebody told me several years ago, he said, "Well, I just feel that I'm at standstill in my Christian walk". I said, "No, you can't. It's an impossibility. Nobody can ever stand still in their Christian walk. If you're not going forward, you're gonna slide downward". Today, I wanna plead with you. I wanna beg you. Take time and do a complete audit of the books of your life. Say with the psalmist, "Search me, O God, and know my heart. If there be anything that's displeasing you, purge it today".