It is impossible for the Christian to obey Ephesians 5:3 perfectly, but it should no less be our aim to obey faithfully. Too many believers lack purity!
Do you like eggnog? I love it. If you answered yes, how do you like it? Plain Jane? Super sweet? Whipped cream on top? With a caramel twist perhaps? Regardless, I think there’s consensus that no eggnog is quite eggnog without a touch, or as some would say a hint, of the classic spice nutmeg. And it doesn’t take much. A hint is but a mere sprinkling of the brown powdery goodness, and somehow it has the power to transform what’s by default a good consuming experience, to one that’s fantastic.
Now, I hate to do this after introducing a topic that’s so much fun to think about. My apologies. I was trying to soften your smack into the following brick wall. God’s Word has something to say about a hint, and for believers, consuming what it’s tied to is anything but fantastic.
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. (Ephesians 5:3, NIV)
This issue hits very close to home for me. That’s because I’m fortunate to be a follower of Jesus Christ who by His grace alone, administered through members of His body, managed to recently escape the clutches of pornography. I was sadly addicted to the junk for 15 years, and only in mid-2009 did the Lord enable me to break free of its iron grip. It didn’t just happen though; I had to choose freedom. Clearly gifted fellow Christian Nick Vitellaro agrees with me on that point as well in his barely longer than 7-minute video on YouTube, Sincerely Freedom (also below), where he offers another sorely needed testimony that’s factual, transparent, and full of hope. I don’t know him and have never talked with him, and I know he’s one of many to speak about immorality, but I appreciate his video very much and usually watch it once a week. I further hope God will also use the remainder of my thoughts to add to the transparency that the body of Christ needs so badly, and challenge you fellow believers to fight this war with much more gusto.
The fact is ladies and gentleman… all manifestations of sexual immorality (immodesty, pornography, crude joking, immoral thinking, etc.) are a terrible danger to the church. This sin is destroying lives, testimonies, marriages, and families every single day. (Not that others don’t, but I’m focusing on immorality.) Are we capable of stopping it? No. Sure, we can be thankful that organizations like the Pink Cross, XXX Church, One Million Men, Covenant Eyes, etc, exist to rescue sex workers, help those addicted to the industry’s products, and spread the gospel… but Christians will never be able to rid the world of this sin. Only God can destroy sin and change lives, but we can keep the reality of this sin and our battle with it at the forefront of the church’s attention. There’s a reason Ephesians 5:3 is in the Bible. God knew that sexual depravity would be rampant in every generation, because it exists anywhere that humans beings exist.
What is the bottom-line teaching of Ephesians 5:3? What does that phrase, not even a hint, even mean? Well, I assume you at least know of the Peanuts character Pigpen? I reference the dirty fellow to suggest that Ephesians 5:3 commands all Christians to be the exact opposite of him at all times when it comes to stinking of immorality (i.e. not having even a hint). Why? Because sexual sin is rebellion against the God who created sexuality, and it costs the offender and the offended dearly. There’s a reason sexuality is spoken of so much in Scripture! Because cheap sexual thrills deliver only victims, brokenness, and despair. You need to understand this, or else the issue just won’t grab your heart like the apostle Paul intended. To not have even a hint of immorality, you must consider everything you do, say, and think. So, those comments laden with innuendo and double meanings? Those jokes about anything pertaining to sexuality? Provocative name-calling? God says all that is unacceptable. Expressing yourself sexually in a physical way that isn’t tied to the marriage bed? God says that is unacceptable. Wearing clothing that exposes just a little extra chest and thigh? Listening to music with sexual rhythms and lyrics? Flirting with someone not your spouse? The Bible says that all is unacceptable. And perhaps the most overwhelming of all… all that mentally undressing of people you consider “hot”, or those thoughts of the sexual gymnastics you’d like to make that “hot” person perform for you? The Bible says all that is completely unacceptable. Believers must be [sexually] holy because God is holy! How have you fared in all this?
Does God actually believe that His elect will never be guilty of this? Did God ever expect us to never be guilty? No, but that doesn’t cause Him to diminish His perfectly holy standard in any way. If He did, there’s no telling how much worse the problem would be in society. It’s bad enough as it is! We don’t need any reason to think less of our sinfulness.
Wow, could we get any more depressing around here?
Thankfully, there is of course hope in the grace of Jesus Christ, Who died to crush sin’s dominion over us. As a believer, sexual sin need not have dominion over you, and to have regular victory over it is possible because of the cross. Notice how I said regular though, because permanent victory will only occur when a believer goes to glory. Until then, I challenge you to consider what I believe is the best way to act upon the grace of our Savior if you’re desperate to break free from some sort of sexual sin. You won’t like it, and you’ve likely heard/seen it from many other Christians, but really… you must choose to be helped by someone in the body of Christ! You must allow Christ to use someone to help change you, to place you on the path to rebuilding your relationship with the Lord! It’s just impossible to do this alone, because the flesh is weak. It is incapable. We often don’t do the right thing, even if we want to. (Romans 7) This is why you need to go to someone, because God uses people to snatch them (i.e. especially Christians struggling with [sexual] sin) out of the fire (Jude 23).
Wildly promising God every day that you’ll never do it again is a losing strategy. Clearing your website history only removes the bread crumb trail, and your activities are probably infecting your device of choice with a ton of spyware. Setting up blocks to various websites is a dud, because you’ll always find more. No amount of reading the Bible for the sake of reading it will rescue you. Anything else that you’ve tried, or are trying now, is a losing strategy. This is why you need help. Your mind is damaged, altered even, as is your heart and soul. And the sooner you realize that most members of Christ’s body would be more than happy, truly eager, to guide you on the path to healing…rather than judgmental and condescending, the quicker you’ll get on that path. All you have to do is open your mouth. I did that with the assistant pastor of my church, who at the time I didn’t know for longer than five minutes or five sentences. Who could be the one Christ is directing you toward?
Realistically, I don’t expect the moment you’re done reading that you’ll suddenly contact someone and spill your guts. I understand the sinful nature with respect to immorality too well to know that’s not typically how it works. I’m not stupid. You will want to continue hiding. Despite how miserable it is, you love your sin. You don’t want to give up how good immorality feels in spite of the guilt that tears at your heart, mind, and soul. You think it’s fun to watch those “hot” sex acts that the unfortunate women in porn are made to do, despite they’re being very unhealthy and abused. How do I know all this? Because I hid, loved the sin, loved how good it felt, was racked with guilt for 15 years, and thought most of the acts I saw were “hot”. Am I perfect in this area now? Absolutely not. Sometimes I still lose as far as what goes on in my head. This is a daily battle, and I’m fighting right along-side you! (II Corinthians 10:3-6)
You need help, as I did. You need to return to Christ from your sinful addiction, as I did. I pray often that Christians who are still eyeballs deep in their lustful indulgences will take advantage of the obvious tools God has placed in their lives. Most are too scared (read: prideful) to take the initial steps toward being restored to their Savior. I don’t say these things to criticize, or to put myself on a pedestal. What I actually do is ache for every one of you who are in this boat. I hurt so much, and cry on occasion, because I know now first-hand the joy of what it means to express oneself sexually in the way God intended, and I hate that so many are missing out on that. The devil’s lies have convinced millions that unbiblical sexual acts are good, and that there’s no consequences to engaging in them. He is very skilled at making sin look perfectly harmless. It’s been in his playbook since Genesis 3. Yet the truth is that the devil isn’t trying to promote God’s reality, but twist it so that millions are dragged into eternal torment with him. If you’ve bought the lie, just as I did, it’s tearing you apart.
Like my friend Nick V. says, “Freedom is a choice”. It won’t just happen. You can’t be “smart enough” to gain freedom because sanctification isn’t an intellectual exercise. You can’t be “regretful” enough and/or “punish” yourself enough to break free because repentance is taking God’s side against your own and making your decisions based on that. You must choose to allow Jesus Christ back to the throne of your heart and let Him stay there. And no individual Christian is strong enough to do that on his/her own. That’s why you need someone else’s help! God works through His people. Noticed the idea yet? It’s probably hard for you to see and understand if your addiction is severe enough, but if you make the right choice in the future, it will become more apparent. Sin blinds and confuses, but thankfully the hope we have in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross is more powerful than anything along these lines.
I conclude with one simple, earnest plea. Fellow believer, trapped in sexual sin… please, get yourself help. Believers that are not, please pray for those that are. And hopefully I also didn’t ruin the next time you have some delicious eggnog.