Tuesday, February 14, 2023

The Old Testament Book of Ezekiel, Part 7

5 Things to Remember (and Proclaim) in the Face of the Sexual Revolution

[Below you'll find the prepared message and video of the two Sunday morning worship service of Living Water Lutheran Church for Sunday, February 12. I want to thank Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller, who I've never met, for a sermon that inspired me to use the approach to the Gospel lesson I used. He provided a good context for the message I preached. But, of course, it's God's Word--Law and Gospel--that most inspired me. I pray people will find it helpful.]

Matthew 5:21-37
The Sexual Revolution began in this country and in western Europe about sixty years ago.

It started with the idea that because sexual intimacy is a natural human desire, it needn’t be confined to those married to each other and ought to be expressed in any way a person wishes.

Open Marriage, a best-selling book published in 1972, declared that, “Sexual fidelity is the false god of closed marriage…” And, the authors wrote, “We are not recommending outside sex, but we are not saying that it should be avoided, either. The choice is entirely up to you."

Starting in the Seventies, the revolution fostered more widespread acceptance of homosexuality.

And in its current iteration, this revolution is about “gender fluidity,” in which people can choose gender or no gender. 

Now, a sermon is no place for a preacher to talk about how public policy regarding sexual mores has changed or maybe should be changed. Those are political and legal questions. Churches and pastors should address such matters only in rare and specific circumstances.

But the sexual revolution isn’t primarily a political movement.

Effectively, it’s a religion subscribed to by millions of people, many of them our neighbors and family members, many in churches.

This religion tells us that whatever one’s sexual preferences, “Love is love.”

It tells us that a kind of redemption and freedom happens when we follow whatever our sexual impulses may be.

It tells us, as a prospective groom, explaining why he was living with his fiance, told a pastor, “You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive,” as though the people we marry are commodities that need to measure up to our standards.

This false religion also tells Christians that if we don’t agree with the ethic of the sexual revolution, we are repressed bigots and haters. (I get that one on Twitter from time to time.)

So, what can Christians do or say in the face of the sexual revolution?

The first thing we can do is remember (and proclaim) that there is nothing intrinsically bad about sexuality or sex. Sex is God’s idea. God invented it. Genesis tells us that “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26) Christian faith isn’t anti-sex any more than people who build dams to prevent floods are anti-river.

The second thing we can do is remember (and proclaim) that sexual intimacy is a gift from God for husbands and wives committed to each other for life. Faithless, abusive marriage partners may destroy their marriage covenant with partners seeking to be faithful to Christ and to their partners. But God’s intention is that sexual intimacy will exist in lifelong heterosexual marriages. “A man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh,” Genesis 2:24 tells us. Marriages including sexual intimacy were part of the creation God called “very good.” Or, as it’s put in the Hebrew in which most of the Old Testament was written, “Tov. Tov.”: “Good! Good!” (Genesis 1:31)

Thirdly, we can remember and proclaim the Sixth Commandment that Jesus cites in today’s Gospel lesson. “You shall not commit adultery.” This is God’s Law and whenever law, holy or secular, is brought up, we human beings look for loopholes. “Two consenting adults,” someone will say, “can’t be committing adultery if neither one is married.”

The English word adultery is related to the verb adulterate. It means “to corrupt, debase, or make impure by the addition of a foreign or inferior substance or element.” In God’s eyes, we adulterate the pure gift of marriage when sexual intimacy happens outside of marriage. Adulterating marriage is not what God wills for us and the condemnation for this sin is no different from God’s condemnation for any other sin.

Now, if all of this weren’t convicting enough, Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel lesson: “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28)

We violate the Sixth Commandment then, whenever we entertain lustful thoughts about others or give these thoughts a place in our imaginations, any time we see sexual intimacy as a commodity–a thing in itself–to be used outside of the marriage covenant.

Jesus then goes on to speak metaphorically about our need to get rid of any element of our lives or thinking that turns us away from God’s will in this matter. “It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matthew 5:30)

Critical though we Christians must be regarding the sexual revolution however, we need to remember two additional truths from God.

The first is that none of us is guiltless when it comes to the Sixth Commandment. (And all the other commandments!).

If we say otherwise, we fall for a self-righteous delusion. The Bible teaches us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

The Sixth Commandment, along with the other nine commandments, convict us of sin.

We sin when we put other things ahead of God; resist spending time hearing God’s Word; dishonor parents and others charged with leading us; lie, covet, or steal. When we hold grudges, let bitterness invade our relationships, or commit adultery. We can violate God’s commands in thought, word, OR deed.

So, we dare not let our critique of the sexual revolution turn into an excuse for bragging about how wonderful we are.

As Christians, we should be proclaiming God’s truth on these matters not from self-righteousness, but to remind ourselves and others of God’s love for all people.

The Bible tells us that “the wages of sin [any sin] is death.” (Romans 6:23)

But God asks in Ezekiel 18:23: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? Rather, [He goes on to say] am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”

This leads us to the final thing we need to remember and proclaim on this subject: The God we know in Jesus Christ has entered our world to give us a new, a better, and an eternal way of life.

Jesus says of all of us born “lost in our sin”: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

This includes violations of the Sixth Commandment.

To the woman caught in adultery who didn’t run from acknowledging her sin, Jesus said after He chased her self-righteous accusers away, “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11)

To the woman at the Samaritan well, Jesus offered “living water”--Him and His grace and forgiveness–”welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:1-14)

The wonderful thing about the God we meet in Jesus Christ is that He doesn’t wait for us to get our acts together before He takes action to save us from our sin.

He dies on a cross to take our punishment for sin before we even knew that sin brings eternal damnation to hell.

Before we knew we were sinners in need of a Savior, Jesus said, “It is finished!”

Every one of us can and is called to repent for all our sins and to trust that when Jesus died for us, then rose again to open up eternity and new life to all who repent and believe in Him, He did it for us!

Jesus is bigger than your sin, friend.

Jesus has borne your sin.

Jesus has conquered your sin.

God justifies and makes saints of sinners who, by the power of God’s Spirit-borne Word receive Jesus’ call with gratitude: “Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)

At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, of which today’s Gospel lesson is a part, Jesus said, “Blessed is the poor in spirit.” (Matthew 5:3)

The “poor in spirit” are all those who, on hearing God’s Law, such as, “You shall not commit adultery,” recognize that they are far from guiltless.

It’s the poor in spirit, convicted for their sin, who are then ready to hear the Gospel–the good news–that Jesus gives forgiveness and everlasting life with God to all who turn to Him in trust and are empowered by God to believe.

Sisters and brothers in Christ, let us not be proud in either self-righteousness or in resisting God’s good will for our lives.

But let us speak God’s truth in love, including both the truth that the sexual revolution that pervades our culture is the way of sin, selfishness, condemnation, and death, AND the truth that forgiveness, joy, and new and everlasting life belong to all who daily turn from sin and follow Jesus.

No sinner will be morally perfect on this side of the resurrection of the dead Jesus gives to all who believe. But any sinner who daily entrusts their sins and their lives to Jesus will live in the joy of forgiven sin, will be given the power of God to live more in God’s grace, even in the midst of a world gone mad with sin, and will one day stand in the presence of God, our sin eternally covered in the righteousness of our sinless Savior Jesus.

That’s the message that God has called this sinner justified only by God’s grace through faith in Christ to proclaim to you today.

And this is the message it is our joy to remember (and proclaim) to all we meet. Amen

Sunday, February 12, 2023