Ephesians is a great book for us, Providence! The reason it’s so relevant is because the writer of this book of the Bible, the Apostle Paul, is intently focused on encouraging the church to walk in the fullness of their identity in Christ. Along the way, he also has some very practical exhortations about how we can do just that. Here’s a great example.
Therefore 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. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For 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.
Sexual immorality could mean watching porn. Did I really just read that? Yes, you did. It could mean adultery. It could mean sleeping together outside of the marriage covenant. Keep in mind, Paul here is not addressing “the world” (those who are outside of Christ). This word is for Christians. God is compelling us to turn away from these sins and become imitators of Him. Like a little child mimics his daddy, so we too desire to think and live like our Father. We WILL stumble, and we WILL fall. Is Paul saying that if we commit these sins there is no hope for us? This is one of those passages that scare us (and rightly so)! Does this mean that we can lose our salvation and become excluded from the kingdom of God? No, thankfully – for all of us – this does not mean that we can lose our salvation.
However, take a look at what he put in quotations – “that is, an idolater”. Idolaters will “lose” their salvation because they never had it in the first place. Idolaters do not worship God, they devote their lives to false idols. In other words, their entire life is marked by an unrepentant attitude toward their sin. They never repent of their sexual immorality, or covetousness. It scares me to think that in our churches there would be those who outwardly profess Christ, but inwardly, they really worship the gods of pleasure, wealth, and comfort. In contrast, Martin Luther said, “All of a Christian’s life is repentance”. What he meant is that we are going to sin, but a Christian is also going to repent. A Christian fights. A Christian goes to war with his or her sin. John Piper was famous for yelling at his congregation, ”Are there any soldiers here!!?”
To fight the sin of sexual immorality, you might need to get internet accountability. A good place to look is Covenant Eyes. This sight will allow you to have your internet activity monitored and have reports sent to an accountability partner of your choice.
You might need to break-up with your boyfriend or girlfriend. If your relationship is not heading in the direction of marriage, then my friend, you are simply playing with fire. Am I just a kill-joy, wet blanket, fundamentalist? No, it’s because I care about joy that I say that. Consider this. Sex outside of marriage is a fat lure on the end of a painful hook! It appears at first as though you can have pleasure, intimacy, and love without any strings attached – but there’s always a “catch”. Breaking up after sex is hard. Being a single mom or dad is hard. Relationships post-kids / pre-marriage are awkward. This is not God’s will for our lives. Here’s another option.
You might need to get married. Maybe you are living with someone, and you love them, and you’re a Christian. It’s time to get married. This is not an antiquated thing – this is a timeless thing. It’s the right thing to do – for your spouse, for you children, and for your relationship with God. Ephesians, chapter five, verses 25-33, describes biblical marriage. Paul says that it is like the relationship between Christ and His church. Christ is a God of covenants (promises). He does not say to His bride, “I will love you and be your God as long as you make me happy”. God’s love is a promise kept. If we are to be imitators of God, we will make a covenant with our spouse. We will be united with our spouse before God and before man. We will shout to the world that God is righteous! He makes a covenant with His church that He will never forsake.
The scripture above also mentions “covetousness”. Facebook might be the single greatest covetous-creating medium in the history of mankind. You see what your neighbor has, or does, and your admiration turns to envy and envy has a slippery way of becoming full blown covetousness. You desire to be fit, sexy, wealthy, healthy, and happy… just like your neighbor. You fall into despair because you are not fit, sexy, wealthy, healthy, and happy. Your neighbor seems to have better control of their kids. Their family seems less dramatic. Their marriage seems more connected. You avoid real community because everybody seems to have a better situation than you. Could it be that you are simply struggling with the sin of covetousness?
In Christ, we are reconciled people from all walks of life. The church is made up of all sorts of individuals who have their own hurts, struggles, and temptations. We also have our own gifts, blessings, and victories! The amazing thing about the church is that we are on equal terms with each other before God. That’s why we call each other “brother” and “sister”. Brothers and sisters are loved the same by their parents. Brothers and sisters are unique and it’s that uniqueness that enables the whole family to prosper. We can lift each other up. We can bear each other’s burdens. We can be a shoulder to lean on, an ear to listen, hands to pray.
Christians ought to never be covetous of each other, and we certainly ought to never be covetous of the world! What does the world have that we could possibly want? Jesus said, “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”. We alone have eternal life. We have joy and comfort in the Holy Spirit! “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore”. We are satisfied in God.
Finally, the Apostle tells us to avoid “filthiness, foolish talk, and crude joking”. Brothers and sisters, you’re non-Christian friends talk like this around you and you say nothing. You watch shows and movies where this is rampant and you feel no conviction. Perhaps your heart has been hardened to “filthiness”? Just as the sole of a foot becomes hardened from walking over rough terrain, so too the soul can become hardened to crude, blasphemous talk and crude joking.
You’re thinking, “Oh, brother, I guess I’ll just live like a monk and never go anywhere or see anything… I guess I can’t go to Easter dinner with my family because Uncle Joe’s going to be there, and I know how he talks!” That’s not what I’m saying. Paul said that if you were to never interact with immoral people, you would need to leave the planet! Jesus Himself hung out with sinners. He was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard! But there is a big difference between being around gluttons and drunkards, and actually being one. Likewise, there is a difference between being around someone who is using foul language / making crude jokes and actually laughing at those jokes or using the same foul language. Let’s not make it easier for sinners to sin. Let’s make it easier for sinners to find Christ.
Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth”. How salty have you been lately? I’ve made the mistake of being hot sauce at times when I should have been salt. We’re not trying to burn anybody here! We’re trying to change the flavor of the conversation. Here’s an assignment.
I dare you… double-dog dare you, the next time you’re out in a public place and you hear someone blaspheme our Lord’s name… go up to that person, with all sincerity and gentleness of heart, and say, “Excuse me sir/madam, I would appreciate it if you would not take the Name of the Lord in vain. I find it very offensive.” Does that sound scary? Two things will likely happen. First, you’re going to get so pumped up with Holy Spirit fire that you’ll want to go out and dance in the street, like David. Why? Because the Spirit who dwells inside of you lives to glorify the Name of Christ, and He cannot stand blasphemy. You’re going to feel closer to God, you’re going to gain confidence, and you’re going to glorify Christ. Secondly, here’s what they are going to say in return to your rebuke (9 times out of 10)… “I’m sorry”. That’s right. There is shame, deep down. The problem is, nobody ever helps activate that shame. Nobody is salty. Then, after they apologize, smile and say “It’s ok, Jesus loves you.” You can say that, or you can preach the gospel. Either way. You’re call.
Friends, you are saints. You are beloved children. Be imitators of God – for your joy, and for His glory.
- Matt Johnson
Father, thank you that you call us your children. Thank you that we have everything we need in you. We are well equipped by the Holy Spirit. We ask forgiveness for the areas of our lives where we have failed to realize our calling as saints. We have failed to forsake the false gods of pleasure, wealth, and comfort. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for absorbing the penalty that we deserve for our idolatry. Help us to see the joy in living our lives for you. Help us to walk alongside of you. Hold our hand, Father. We are prone to wander, but where you lead us, we will go. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.