No Impurity

Ephesians 5:3-4

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Teen facts. Since the popular push for contraceptives for teens began, teenage sexual activity and pregnancy have increased 400%. Of teens who marry because of pregnancy, 60% will be divorced in five years. Secular education has espoused the view that if we talk about sex education, and instruct teens in how to have “safe sex,” the problems with our society will go away. They think there will be fewer problems in our culture. The statistics show otherwise. What is the problem? The problem is the way in which our culture speaks about sex. We will compare what Paul says about sex with what our culture says about sex.

First of all, a difficulty in the text. The text says that there should not be a hint of sexual immorality. Literally, the text says, “these things shouldn’t even be named among you.” Well, if they shouldn’t be named, then why am I preaching a sermon on this topic? Am I not naming these things? Well, if talking about them at all was what Paul had in mind, then he would have contradicted himself, since he himself actually named them. What he is actually talking about is that there shouldn’t be even a hint that such things are happening among us. So, the NIV translates it well here: “among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality.”

So by this Paul means adultery, fornication, incest, rape, pornography, lust, any thoughts that tend in these directions, and any talk that tends in these directions. These things all break the seventh commandment. It is important to note here that these sins are like all other sins. They bring condemnation upon the person who commits them. But also like other sins, they can be forgiven. If you have committed any of these sins, then now is the time to repent of that sin, turn to Jesus, and be forgiven. However, it is not enough merely to say, “I repent.” it also means that we get rid of the source of temptation. It is a bit like the kid who was caught with his hand in the cookie jar when he wasn’t supposed to be eating a cookie. His mother caught him and asked him what he was doing. He replied, “Mom, I am putting my hand in the cookie jar in order to resist temptation.” Right. One does not resist temptation by throwing oneself into the way of temptation. There are two ways to avoid temptation. One is physically to rid yourself of the source of temptation. If your TV causes you to sin, and there is no other way to get rid of temptation, then get rid of it. The other way to avoid temptation is to become accountable. This is really the only way for the internet, for instance. The internet is a great tool. However, it is also a source of temptation. The way to avoid temptation is to use a program like Covenant Eyes, which monitors every place you visit, and then sends a report to someone who is your accountability partner. This, in conjunction with a good internet filter, can eliminate the internet as a source of temptation. What about places that sell Playboy? Don’t go into those stores if it tempts you. Of course, many of these temptations I have been describing apply mostly to men. With women, the story is a bit different. With women, it tends to be the emotional draw of a kind, understanding man who listens that is the temptation more than the purely visual. Romance novels are particularly bad, and they are often called pornography for women. Rid yourself of these novels. They are poison for the soul. And they, like more visual forms of pornography for men, will make you unhappy and dissatisfied with your spouse. For both men and women, one of the great secrets to avoiding temptation in this area of life is to delight in your spouse. Be content with the spouse that you have.

Paul also says that any kind of impurity is not allowed. So, we are not talking merely about sexual impurity, Any uncleanness is here meant. What does “uncleanness” mean? Well, Jesus taught us that it is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but what comes out from the heart. Sin in the heart makes us unclean. Any sin of the heart is unclean, and that is forbidden as well. Sin is not merely outward. We should know that from the Ten Commandments, anyway, since the tenth commandment against covetousness is a command against an inward sin.

These kinds of sins are inappropriate for God’s people, since they are holy. Again, what does “holy” mean? It means different, set apart, clean. Everything the world isn’t. If we are saints, then we had better act like saints. We are saints because of what Christ has done. We must never forget that. Christ’s work cleanses every last stain away. But that means that we shouldn’t be eager to get a whole new set of stains. Yes, it is true that Christ’s sacrifice cleanses us of all sin past, present, and future. However, that does not give us a license to go on sinning. As Paul says in Romans 6, how can we go on sinning since grace is abounding? How can we who have died to sin, keep on living in it? We do not live in sin. The condition of a Christian is never perfect in this life, even though perfection is always the goal. The condition of a Christian is that he is living more and more to righteousness and less and less to sin. Is that your condition? Is your trend line going to more righteousness?

Paul, in verse 4, addresses our speech. This is a verse that counters our culture more than almost any other verse in Paul. As you are well aware, obscene language is everywhere in entertainment. You can hardly turn on any TV show these days that does not have foul language, and talk about immorality that makes sin seem enticing. Paul says that we should not use such language. Various four-letter words (you know which words I am talking about!) are off-limits for believers. Also, we should never make jokes about the marriage bed. That is what Paul calls “coarse joking.” Foolish talk is talk that doesn’t have any edification in mind. It is talk that doesn’t have anything good in mind. It talks about foolish things. How do we know when something is foolish? Well, we need to have spiritual discernment about these things. How do we develop discernment? We learn wisdom from the Word of God. There is no shortcut to wisdom. It comes from the Word of God, and from all the means of grace. The Word of God needs to be connected to prayer always.

And prayer needs to be in an attitude of thanksgiving, as Paul says at the end of the verse. Thanksgiving is the opposite of all these sins. Rather than engaging in these sins, we should be thankful for our salvation, and act like true children of the King.

Hear now this solemn warning in verse 5. Sinners such as we have described, who are given to those sins, have no place in the kingdom of God. That sounds somewhat depressing. Suppose some of us are prone to these sorts of sin? What then? Is there no hope for us? There is always hope. There is a difference between someone who is given over to those sins, versus a Christian who is struggling with those sins. The difference lies in whether there is a struggle or not. The one given over to the sin in unbelief has no struggle with sin. His conscience is seared to the point where he hardly even recognizes sin for what it is. The believer, on the other hand, every time he falls into a particular sin, feels a great heavy burden that can only be lifted by the power of Christ. Do you feel bad when you sin? That’s good! Your conscience should accuse you, and then point the way towards the cross. Always go back to the cross and the atonement. Always remember Christ’s blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

The last sin mentioned here is greed. If sexual sin is prevalent, it is usually done in the dark. And oftentimes, people will not swear around a Christian. But greed is practiced right out in the open. It’s there for everyone to see. I wouldn’t say necessarily that greed is more prevalent than any other sin. It may be. But it may only seem that way, since you can see greed operating, whereas these other sins work in secret. But greed is certainly very widespread in our community, especially with regard to land. Sometimes it seems impossible for people to be content with the land that they have. And yet, that is our call, isn’t it? We are to be content with the land that we have. That doesn’t mean that we can never buy more land, if the opportunity arises. But can you do it without going into horrendous debt for it? Can you do it without any underhanded deals? Can you do it without any greed whatsoever? That is the issue. Paul plainly says here that a greedy person is an idolater. Idols are not only the things made by human hands. Idols are also the gods of our heart. Land is very easily an idol in the heart of a farmer. Tear down that idol, being content with what you have, and giving thanks to the Lord. So, impurity is not allowed. Not sexual impurity, not any other kind of impurity, not greed, not impurity of talk, none of it. Rather, be thankful.