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The Bride and Christ

Part 7 – Deepest Desires

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(12/8) This morning we continue with Part 7 of our series called, "The Bride and Christ." We are going to be reading from the Old Testament book of Numbers in chapter 25 if you’d like to find your place. Now the Bible tells us that God made man, God made woman, and God brought them together so that they could be one flesh. They were naked, without shame, and that was God’s intent for marriage. But today our culture is inundated with pornography. Now pornography is not oneness between a husband and wife. Pornography is not nakedness without shame. In fact, it uses shame to make something God created beautiful, dark and contemptible. There is nothing good that pornography can do for a marriage… absolutely nothing… and deep in your heart, particularly if you are a Christian, you know this.

And what’s happened now is the definition of what pornography is, has been blurred, the FCC and the Supreme Court battle and debate about what is pornography. It’s kind of like Bill Clinton’s famous line during his grand jury testimony… He argued, "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is". That argument began on Jan. 26, 1998 when the then acting president Clinton told the nation, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." Yet 7 months later, on August 27 of the same year, he confessed that he did indeed have an "improper physical relationship" with the 24-year-old White House intern (Scott Pelley's report from Jan. 26, 1998 for the CBS Evening News;

And so now we find the line between pornography and the mainstream television shows, movies, magazines, and the like of our American culture is blurred, if not altogether eliminated. It seems as if our world no longer understands "what the meaning of the word 'is' is." Yet, what’s interesting is that the Bible, for thousands of years, has said that lust (and that is the entire purpose of pornography) is sinful… it’s unholy… and it’s unhelpful. Let’s read together from God’s Word a story that will help us grasp God’s purpose for the Bride of Christ.

Numbers 25:1-13; "While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, 2 who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate and bowed down before these gods. 3 So Israel joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor. And the Lord's anger burned against them.

4 The Lord said to Moses, "Take all the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight before the Lord, so that the Lord's fierce anger may turn away from Israel."

5 So Moses said to Israel's judges, "Each of you must put to death those of your men who have joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor."

6 Then an Israelite man brought to his family a Midianite woman right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 7 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand 8 and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear through both of them — through the Israelite and into the woman's body. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped; 9 but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000.

10 The Lord said to Moses, 11 "Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them. 12 Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. 13 He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites." NIV

1. The Gift of God

Without a doubt, somebody will come along and say, "Well, you know, it’s just a movie… it’s just a picture… it’s just two consenting adults... What’s the harm?" Here’s what’s wrong, you’re desensitizing yourself to the holiness of sex. You’re conditioning your body to become addicted to images that you’ll prefer over people or your spouse in the context of marriage. You see sex is an amazing gift that God has given. God created sex, the passions, and the pleasures associated with it for marriage. It’s a gift of God.

Yet in our Scripture reading it tells us that an Israelite man brought to his family a Midianite woman (a strange woman) right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel. Now God had designed that this gift be enjoyed within the confines of the marriage covenant. So when you’re committed to your spouse within the secure boundaries of the marriage covenant, you’re able to enjoy them physically, you’re connected to them, to desire them, to be satisfied with them, and to long for them. And in the safe harbors of marriage that’s a wonderful thing.

The problem was that this Israelite man despised the Word of God and the honor of God. This man was brazen enough to bring a Midianite cult prostitute right into the camp. Now Phinehas son of Eleazar, was so incensed at this bold and open sin that he took a spear... followed the Israelite into his tent, and impaled both the man and his partner. This stopped the plague, putting an end to the wickedness, because Phinehas had manifested great zeal on behalf of the Lord. He was zealous for the honor of his God, and in the same way, you and I honor God, the giver of the gift of sex, when we maintain our sexual purity.

But if we step outside of those boundaries which God has placed there to protect us, we sin and we bond ourselves with… or connect ourselves to… someone other than our spouse. And that is the problem with pornography. It exists to offer a menu of options, none of which is our spouse. So if we give in to temptation, when we sin, we do great destruction to our mind, to our ability to enjoy, and to be faithfully devoted to our spouse. But, if we obey God, we build this deep physical, emotional, and spiritual connection with our spouse. And so God was very gracious to give us such a special gift, so that we might be one with our spouse.

However our culture today threatens the very foundation of Christian marriage. The oneness that God intended for one man and one woman to experience within the marriage covenant is being blurred by the sexually charged and pornographic culture that we find ourselves in today. Yet thousands of years ago, a man named Phinehas let Scripture and not culture determine his sexuality and how his family would engage in relationships.

2. True Worshipers

Many centuries later, the Bible says, the apostle Paul faced a similar situation in the church in Corinth. The sexual immorality of that community was gross and flagrant… it was a very sexualized culture… they even had temple prostitutes as part of demonic worship. And so what had happened was that the decadence and immorality of Corinth had crept into the church. So the Holy Spirit sent this letter in response to their behavior. And in 1 Corinthians 10:11, it tells us, "These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us..." So the Old Testament account of Phinehas and others are warnings to us… they’re given as examples… to guide us and keep us from temptation. And the apostle writes in verse 14, "Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry."

Now why would he say, "Flee from idolatry"? Idolatry is something we don’t really understand in the context of our modern lives. But here’s what he’s talking about. In the Bible, in the book of Exodus, God gave his people ten rules for kingdom living. These ten rules begin with these two commandments. First of all, there’s one God; and, secondly, you’re to worship that God alone. So the worship or exaltation of anyone or anything other than the God of the Bible is idolatry. It is the worship of a false god.

The bottom line is this, you and I, were created to worship, we’re all worshipers. We all give ourselves to someone or something. We give ourselves to a cause, a person, an experience, a pleasure, or a goal. We give it our money, our time, and our energy. It’s what we talk about…. it’s our identity… it’s what we commit ourselves to... We’re all worshipers, the question is who or what are you worshiping?

Now in the Bible, in Romans chapter one, we find the human race divided into two categories: there are those who worship the Creator and enjoy his creation, and there are those who worship the creation as god. And it tells us that the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all those who, in verse 25, "Exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator."

So you wonder, how do they worship and serve created things right? How in the world do they do that? Well verse 26 tells us, "God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion" (Romans 1:26-27).

What God, the Holy Spirit is telling us, is that if you worship the creation instead of the Creator, you will find yourself consumed with sexual sinful passions; because there’s nothing more beautiful that God has made… there’s nothing more pleasurable that God has given us, than the human body. And if you worship created things, you will find yourself becoming perverted. That’s what God tells us here.

So every time you look at a picture, go surfing on the net, and lust in your heart you’re worshiping. You’re not worshiping the Creator; you’re worshiping the created, and it’s idolatry. The root issue is idolatry. Because you can’t worship Jesus Christ and be into pornography. You can’t worship the Creator, while worshiping the created. It’s either one or the other.

3. Zealous for God

So for us, for the Church of Jesus Christ, we need to be zealous for our God. I pray today that a spirit of Phinehas would come upon the church of Jesus Christ. I pray today that the people of God would turn away the wrath of God from this nation because of their zeal for the honor of God. I pray that the Church would be bold and radical, because pornography breaks the heart of God. You see it’s not only idolatry, it’s coveting. It violates another of the ten rules that God gave. "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife… or anything that belongs to your neighbor" (Exodus 20:17). You’re not supposed to look and wonder… and if you’re not married to them, you have no right to lust after them, no right to fantasize about them, and no right to covet something that’s not yours.

Now I’m a father and I know I am a little biased, but I’ve got a really cute two-year-old daughter, a beautiful sixteen-year-old daughter, an incredibly amazing wife, and let me assure you, if they were disrespected, dishonored, or treated the way women are treated in our pornographic culture today I’d be devastated. And in the same way the Bible says that God is a Father who made us in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:27). He created us with dignity, worth, and purpose. But when we act like animals, when we treat one another shamefully, it doesn’t just break the laws of God, it breaks the heart of God. That’s what the Bible says, that there was a time thousands of years ago, when the Lord saw how great man's wickedness was, that every inclination of his heart was evil, and "his heart was filled with pain" (Genesis 6:6).

All of our idolatrous and covetous ways break the heart of God, but I encourage you today… to be zealous for God! Become like Phinehas… zealous for the honor of your God. You see, the goal is not just to stop looking at porn, but to start worshiping Jesus, to become a Christian. If you start worshiping Jesus that will help you to stop looking at porn… the issue is deeper than just activity; it’s rooted in a heart of idolatry. So, you’ve got to be a Christian... you’ve got to come to Jesus… you’ve got to ask him for forgiveness, and receive the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

The Bible says this in Galatians 5:16, "Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature."

So you may be tempted to look at porn, but you really want to honor Jesus. You may have this struggle… this conflict inside… but don’t settle for those shallow, empty, sinful desires. Don’t settle for lesser things, for lower things, created things, but rather like Phinehas have a zeal for greater things. Have a zeal for your Creator God.

I encourage you this morning to pursue your deepest desires, desires that have been given you by the Holy Spirit, desires for holiness, desires for obedience, desires for purity, and desires for marriage. Pursue those deepest desires for fatherhood and motherhood, desires for legacy, and desires for integrity before your God. You see by the grace of God, as you nurture those deepest desires, the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit will change your desires. You’ll be able to put those temptations to death and to worship Jesus. By the grace of God, you can have a new commitment to your spouse, whether you’re married or not yet, because of the commitment that God has for you through his Son Jesus Christ.

And I want that for you… I want that for all of you… You know I understand and sympathize with those of you who are struggling… and I encourage you to have a zeal for God, to put that idolatry to death, because Jesus died for it. And today as we close we’re going to remember his dying and rising again. We’re going to celebrate with the Lord’s Supper. We’re going to remember his victory over sin and the grave. And we’re going to remember that it’s never too late… never too late to repent…

We remember in Luke chapter 23:40-43… a thief on a cross… a criminal being crucified next to our Lord Jesus Christ. His partner in crime is mocking our Lord. "But the other criminal rebuked him saying. "Don't you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."

42 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

43 Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

He didn’t say pray this or do that, he said today… Jesus said, "Today you will be with me in paradise." You can repent at any point and at every point. Turn around, go back, start over, and come clean. Talk to God, your pastor, and your friends… be honest, get the help you need. It’s never too late.

But you’ve got to start right here, you’ve got to be honest with God. Have you ever just sat down and really got honest with God? This could be your defining moment. And let me tell you, it’s going to break you. You’re going to be destroyed. You’re going to cry, and you’re going to weep.

Because we remember Christ who died… as the thief on the cross said… this man has done nothing wrong! We remember Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, so we could put our sin to death. We remember Christ who came as a baby, perfect and without sin, to die for our sin… so we could put sin to death.

As we prepare to celebrate… let’s start the process by getting honest with ourselves. Instead of blaming others, hiding our sin, or excusing ourselves, let’s be honest about it with God. Let’s take some time just to be quiet with God… and let’s kill our sin. Let’s kill it before it kills you and who and what you love.

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