Robert Jeffress - Detours That Destroy - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. The writer of Hebrews compares the Christian life to a foot race. And if you've ever run a marathon, then you know how tempting shortcuts can look. Well today, I'm going to give you a warning while we are running the race God has planned for us, there are two dangerous detours that we must avoid at all costs because they're guaranteed to distract us from reaching the finish line. My message is titled "Detours That Destroy" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
A few years ago, our nation was shocked when three Florida teenagers brutally murdered three individuals. They didn't use guns or knives. There were no blood stains on their clothes after the murder. In fact, they weren't even present when their victims were killed, but they were responsible. As a prank, these teenagers had removed the stop signs from a four way intersection. And the result was the motorist accelerated when they should've stopped, the result was a fiery collision that claimed the lives of three innocent people.
You know, today we have people in our world who are trying to remove the stop signs that God has put into effect for our protection. And they really don't mean any harm by it, they're just trying to have fun. But whenever you go forward, when God says stop, whenever you say yes to the things God has said no to, the results can be just as catastrophic as a fiery automobile crash. And today we're going to look at two stop signs God has put into effect to protect us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Hebrews 13 as we talk about detours that destroy.
Now we're coming to the close of our study in Hebrews next week, but as we do so let me remind you, especially to understand these verses, of the context of this passage. Remember this letter to the Hebrews was written to a group of new Christians. They were Jewish Christians who were coming under persecution for their faith in Christ. And as a result, they were considering giving up their Christian faith and going back into Judaism. And the writer says, "Why in the world would you ever want to do that? Jesus Christ is the superior priest who's offered a superior sacrifice to obtain a superior salvation. Why would you ever give that up"? That's the theme of the book. And for the first really 11 chapters of Hebrews, the writer is explaining why Jesus is superior to every element of Judaism.
The first 11 chapters are doctrinal in their theme, but when we come to chapter 12, we come to the big pivot in the book of Hebrews. It begins with that word, "Therefore," and that word therefore links us into the practical application that we find in chapters 12 and 13. "Therefore," the writer says, "Since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every encumbrance" or weight, "And let us lay aside the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith". The image here is of a race, you're in a race and you don't stop, you keep your eyes on the finish line. You keep your eyes on Jesus Christ who will reward you one day for your faithfulness. That's the image he's using here.
Now let's continue that metaphor, that imagery, for just a moment more. Let's imagine you're in a foot race. The stadium is packed with people cheering you on. It's a hot July day in Dallas, 115 degrees. You're exhausted as you round the bend for the final lap of that race. You're hot, you're fatigued, and as you have your eyes on the finish line, you can't help but look over to the side and you see a person on the side of the track who's motioning for you with one hand while in the other hand, he has lifted up a pitcher of iced tea. You're tempted, you're thinking about going off the track to satisfy your thirst. Your coach sees what's about to happen, and he yells, "No, no, no". So what do you do? Do you obey your coach or do you follow your desires?
Now that's the image of what we're going to look at in chapter 13. The writer says, "As you run this race, the Christian life, there are two detours that will get you off track in your relationship with God and will disqualify you from the race". What are those two detours that will destroy your relationship with God? Detour number one is immorality. Immorality. To talk about the rising divorce statistics in our country, it seems trite, but you know we see those statistics walking around us everywhere we look even in the hallways of First Baptist Church of Dallas.
Now let me tell you what I see is a pastor and the reason this concerns me is our church is no stronger than the families that make up our church. Let me tell you what I see from my perspective as pastor I see single adults who profess to be Christians completely disregarding God's commands for purity and living together without any thought about it whatsoever. I see men and women married, who were engaging in immoral, adulterous relationships as if God has blinders on and he can't see or doesn't care about what they're doing. I see couples in our church who are divorcing just about at the same rate as unbelievers do. The reason? There's no biblical reason for the divorce. They're not happy. As if God is more concerned about their happiness than he is about their obedience to him. The ironic result is when they disobey God, it doesn't lead to happiness, it leads to despair, it leads to loneliness, leads even sometimes to suicide.
The same attack on the family that is going on in the 21st century was going on in the first century, in the church of the first century. And that's why the writer of Hebrews says, "Be careful of immorality". Verse four of Hebrews 13, he says, "Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled: for fornicators and adulterers God will judge". In this simple, but profound verse, I see three secrets for saying no to immorality that detours you in your relationship with God. Notice the three commands here. First of all, revere the concept of marriage. Revere the concept of marriage. He says, "Marriage should be held in honor". Amazingly in the first century, like today, there's some people who either felt like marriage was too good for them or they felt like they were too good for marriage.
You say, "What are you talking about"? Well in the first century, there was a group of people called the ascetics who were teaching that really if you're going to be holy in your relationship with God, you shouldn't marry, you shouldn't satisfy that desire to be married, that somehow going unmarried will make you more holy before God. And Paul addressed that in 1 Timothy 4:3 when he talked about false teachers who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from certain foods, which in fact, God has created to be joyfully received by those who know and believe the truth. Anytime you see teachers who talk about abstaining from things that God has approved of, you need to stay away from that kind of teaching. It was going on in the first century, it's going on today.
There's certain cults, even Christian cults, who say, "Well you know if you really want to be holy, marriage probably isn't the right thing to do. You need to remain single". No, God's the one who created the idea of marriage and that's why marriage ought to be held in honor. What is God's concept of marriage? Turn over to Matthew 19:4-6, Matthew 19:4-6. Now we're going to look at this passage in more depth in a few weeks in our new series, but the context of this is the pharisees were trying to trip up Jesus on the subject of divorce. "Is it lawful for for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all"? And I'll show you in a few weeks why that was a trick question. Jesus said, "The whole question of divorce can be settled when you go back to God's original plan for marriage". And in verse four, he goes back to Genesis 2 where it all started and said, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female"?
By the way, the whole question of gender identity is answered right here. God made them male or female. He didn't make them male or female or question Mark. We do not choose our gender, God chose it for us. He's the one who has made us male or female. And you know, it's just so interesting to me, people on the left who accuse us Christians as being anti-science, when it comes to gender, they're the ones who are anti-science! A person's gender is not a matter of his feelings, it's a matter of his chromosomes. Your gender is assigned to you by God. But that's not the reason Jesus said this. The real key to this is, look back at the beginning, when God created the first man and first woman, he created one man, Adam, and one woman, Eve. There was no Steve or Jennifer or anybody else. It was one man and one woman.
The key here is the singular nature of this, male and female. And he said, "For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and then the two shall become one flesh". Listen, God says, "I'm giving you the gift of sex, but here's how it's to be operated. It is between a man and a woman in the security of the marriage relationship". That's what God designed, one man, one woman in a lifetime relationship. And any question you have about divorce or adultery or homosexuality, all you have to do is go back and look at what God's original plan was. I hear all the time, I used to debate people on TV about this all the time, it doesn't come up much anymore, but it used to about homosexuality. They said, "Well you know, Jesus never talked about homosexuality". Yes he did. He's talking about it right here. He said, "Here is God's plan, one man with one woman for life". And any deviation from that, whether it's fornication, sex before marriage, whether it's adultery, whether it's homosexuality, whether it's bestiality, any other sexual perversion you want to come up with, unbiblical divorce, all of those things are wrong because they deviate from God's basic plan for sex. That's what he says here, revere the concept of marriage.
Now we try to change the definition of marriage. In 2015, the Supreme Court said, "Hey, we don't like that restriction. We don't like that stop sign. We're going to expand marriage. We're going to say marriage is basically whatever you want it to be, two men, two women, that's fine, that can be marriage". Listen to the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, may try to change the definition of marriage, but guess what, the judge of all the universe has said no. He said "Marriage is between a man and a woman". And as the Psalmist said, "Thy word is settled in heaven forever, oh God"! We dare not bless what God has condemned. Any deviation from that pattern is against God's word. We need to revere the concept of marriage. Secondly, if you're going to stay away from immorality, renew your commitment to your own marriage, renew your commitment to your own marriage. He says, "Let the marriage bed be undefiled".
That word "Undefiled" literally means free from contamination. What does that mean, your marriage bed free from contamination? Well the next phrase gives us a clue, "For fornicators and adulterers the Lord will judge". Here are the two possible ways that you can defile the marriage bed. One is through fornication, that is you come to the marriage relationship already contaminated, defiled. That's what fornication refers to. Fornication in the Bible refers to sex before marriage, sex before marriage.
Now I want to be careful how I say this because I don't want to lay a bunch of unnecessary guilt on people, but I want you to understand what God is saying here. When you come to a marriage relationship with a lot of sexual baggage, by that I mean a long list of sexual partners that you've had before you marry your mate, you're going to have a difficult time in your relationship. Whenever you have a past history of sexual relationships, you come into a marriage with, frankly, memories that weigh you down. You can't help but engage in comparison or engage in, sometimes, boredom. It is a difficult thing to do. Now I'm not saying it's impossible to have a fulfilling marriage, the grace of God can cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I'm not saying it's impossible to have a good marriage, but frankly you have to work harder at it than other people do. The fact is marriage is hard enough as it is, why would you go into it with unnecessary handicaps? In fact, if you think this is just a Baptist preacher talking, it's not. It's statistically true.
A well-known study in Canada published a few years ago revealed that couples who live together before marriage are twice as likely to divorce as those who don't live together. And that's why I would say to any of you who are single adults, any of you are who are teenagers right now, follow what God says. He's put that stop sign, no sex outside of marriage, not for his benefit, but for your benefit. He's not trying to restrict you from happiness, he's trying to enhance your happiness. So he says, "Don't engage in fornication, that's one way you defile the marriage bed". There's another way, though, that you do it and that is through adultery after you're married by engaging in other extramarital relationships. And the Bible says don't do that, don't get involved in sex outside the marriage relationship. And that means you have to continually, continually renew your commitment to your mate and to sexual purity inside marriage.
You know there's an old Arabian proverb that says marriage begins with a prince kissing an angel and ends with an old baldheaded man looking across the table at a fat lady. Don't write me about that, that's the Arabs who came up with that. That's an Arab proverb, not my proverb. But the truth is it takes more than sexual passion and Romance to keep a marriage together. Those things are important yes, but they're not always enough. It takes commitment, commitment to your marriage vows and to your mate.
I remember performing the funeral service for a woman who had been married to the same man for 58 years. During the last 10 years of her life, she wore a colostomy. For the final five years of her life, she was in a nursing home and her husband watched over her and took care of her five hours every day. What is it that kept that marriage together? It wasn't sexual passion. It wasn't Romance in the end. It was the bedrock commitment they had made to one another. And I remember at her memorial service, a man was with me, another pastor, participating in the service. I'll never forget what he said. He said, "In my life, I've been to many promise keepers men's conferences where I've heard man after man stand up and talk about remaining faithful to his wife. But watching this husband take care of his wife for 10 years is the best promise keepers conference I've ever attended". The Bible says, "If you're going to say no to immorality, you need to renew your commitment to your mate and to sexual purity".
Thirdly, how do you stay sexually pure? How do you avoid the trap of immorality? Thirdly, realized the consequences of immorality, realize the consequences of immorality. "For fornicators and adulterers God will judge". Remember, there are consequences for immorality, God will judge. Now he's not talking about the hell and fire, brimstone kind of judgment, that's a real judgment for non-Christians. But he's talking about there's a judgment for Christians who fall into fornication or into any other type of immorality. You know today, the non-Christian says, "Oh, there's nothing wrong with sex. It's just a natural bodily function that needs to be satisfied, like getting thirsty or getting hungry". In fact, one unbeliever wrote, "Sex is a function of the body, a drive which man shares with animals like eating, drinking, and sleeping. It's a physical demand that must be satisfied. If you don't satisfy it, you will have all sorts of neuroses and repressive psychoses".
The writer of Hebrews and God himself says sex is more than just a physical act. It is an emotional, it is a spiritual act. And that's why Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:18, "Flee immorality, for every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but an immoral man sins against his own body". Listen, all sin is sin, I understand that, but some sins have greater consequences than other sins do. And when you join yourself to somebody you're not married to, you're not just joining your bodies together, you're joining your souls and your spirit together as well, and it can have devastating consequences.
Back in 1992, I was reading Charles Swindoll's newsletter to his church congregation in Fullerton, California. I used to read it every week, he would write a pastor's pen like I do. And there's one of those issues that really caught my attention, he was talking about the consequences of sexual immorality. And it made such an impression on me, I clipped it out and kept it in my file all of these years. I'm talking to some of you in this congregation right now, some of you watching or listening to this message. Right now, you're involved in a secret, immoral relationship or maybe you're just on the edge, about to fall into such a relationship. Before you go any further, I want you to listen carefully to the very real potential consequences of that immorality.