Sermon Manuscript …
The Worst Behavior to be Known for as a Christian
I know of a Christian family who were having some blinds installed. The workers installing the window coverings ended up talking to a non-Christian neighbor who, in the course of the conversation, repeatedly complimented and bragged about what wonderful neighbors these Christians were–how great the family was and what terrific neighbors they were. And I thought, “That’s what I would like to be known for.”
I know of a public school administrative office who were overwhelmed by the hard work ethic and non-cussing mouth of a Christian woman who volunteered in the office. Over and over again, they expressed thanks to her entire family for their dedicated involvement in that public school. And I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to be known for that?”
But I also know a few Christians who more than once compromised their purity. I have known many others who became known for continual sin with pornography, still others who in greed pursued material possessions–and I thought, “How sad it would be to be known for that.”
Brothers and sisters, that is exactly what Paul warns Christians against as we come to our study of Ephesians 5:3 and 4. Turn there and follow along with your outline. Read with me verses 3 and 4, “But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.”
Paul says, these things are not you Christian and not for you Church.
1 This kind of behavior displays ingratitude for all the blessings of chapter 1
2 It demonstrates you are not humbled by how God saved you when you were dead, heartless, hopeless and helpless in chapter 2
3 This kind of behavior does not display the power of the Holy Spirit in you in chapter 3
4 This kind of behavior is not in harmony with a worthy walk or a unique walk from Chapter 4–you have already put them off, do not put them back on
5 And finally, this type of behavior doesn’t reflect a life imitating the Father as a beloved child or walking in love like our Lord Jesus Christ found in chapter 5:1 to 2
Every one of the sins in verses 3 and 4 represent God’s good things we could be thankful for except that sinful people have distorted, corrupted and twisted them so that they have turned evil. Did you discover the main verb–the only command in verse 3? It is that phrase “even be named.” The main idea Paul is trying to get across is, do not be known for this kind of behavior in verse 3 and this kind of speech in verse 4. We as a church and you as an individual Christian should be so far removed from the sin of this type–the very suspicion of its existence in you should be banished.
Did you ever get to know someone, and begin to suspect that they had an addiction to chocolate? I did–the telltale flakes of chocolate on their shirt or blouse, the little dab of leftover chocolate on the side of their mouth. Maybe it was the five empty Hershey’s syrup cans on their car floor, or the hundreds of little balls of tin foil all over their house, the external shell casings of eaten kisses–small clues that lead me to a suspicion of chocoholism.
When it comes to the behavioral sins of verse 3, and the speech sins of verse 4, you are to be so far removed from them that no one would ever even suspect you of them. There shouldn’t even be a hint that these could be true of you. If someone accused you of verse 3 behavior, Paul’s goal is to have all who know you well say, “No way!”
Listen, whatever God establishes as good, Satan corrupts. God established a lifestyle of love in verses 1 and 2, so Satan creates a counterfeit love in verses 3 and 4. This is why we live in a sex-crazed, greedy society–people are looking for love in all the wrong places. Paul says to us Christians, don’t buy into the lie–don’t settle for the cheap imitation.
#1 Do not be known for improper behavior
Look at verse 3, “But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” Do not be known for:
We need to hear God’s Word on this issue. Paul has commanded us to teach the whole counsel of God. All Scripture is inspired by God, and there are no sections of Scripture God sells under the counter in a brown paper bag. We must deal with this issue today because of two unbiblical extremes.
•Promiscuity which says if it feels good, do it
•Prudishness, where human sexuality is a necessary evil—both extremes are incorrect
Here in Ephesians 5:3 is the distortion of human sexuality, referred to here by Paul as immorality, the cheap imitation of true love. It is funny to me that we believe we are an advanced and developed people–yet the sins we are encumbered by are the same sins our brothers and sisters struggled with 2,000 years ago.
The New Testament is filled with commands to stay away from immorality. Some of the better known ones are in your outline.
1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.”
Galatians 5:19, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality.”
1Thessalonians 4:3, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality.”
To flee is literally to run in terror from immorality–it’s a sin against God and your own body. It is of the flesh and against God’s will. Focusing on the fact that Paul does not want this sin to be named among us, the NIV translates Ephesians 5:3 as, “There should not be a hint of sexual immorality.”
Some singles ask, “How far can I go, where is the line?” The line is where there is a hint of impropriety. Probably a lot further back than most of you are willing to admit. God‘s intention is not that we would get as close to sin as possible. God’s intention is that we would live in freedom. For us, there would not be sexuality apart from marriage–that it would be nothing prior to marriage, then complete freedom in marriage.
Anyone who asks where the line is, asking, “How far can I go before I’m in sin?” (meaning I want to act like I am married without being married, and where is the line before I sin?) So Paul draws the line way back–wherever there is a hint of impropriety. But there is even more clarity–singles, the Bible is clear. In 1 Corinthians 7:1b it says it is good for a man not to touch a woman. The word touch is to fasten, lay hold of, and here it refers to a turn on. Whenever your motor starts to run, you have gone too far. It is an internal line–when lust takes root, it is too far.
Certain behavior in the Bible is reserved for marriage, and any other behavior that results in internal lust is too far. Jesus even confirms that immorality is first a matter of the heart. Matthew 5:28, “But I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Someone will say, “Chris, I got stirred up when I held her hand.” Then holding hands is out for you.
Listen, if the Bible drew a line, we’d figure out a way to pervert it, right? Say the line was at hugs, we’d start making rules. What kind of hug? Front is bad, side is good–back is better. How long a hug? One second is spiritual and five seconds is fleshly. How hard of a hug? The flower hug is good, the jaws of death bad. So instead of drawing a line, God wisely says deal with the issue of lust in your heart–stay away from anything that promotes or encourages passion for intimacy outside of marriage and you will be blessed.
Back to Ephesians 5:3, the word for immorality is a very general word, and it encompasses a large number of sexual sins. Now God does name specific sexual sins in the Bible. But He also uses general words like this, because we as people are so perverted that even if we got a complete list from God, we would find a creative way to develop some new category allowing us to sin more. So Paul uses this word as the sexual junk drawer–everything goes in it. This word here includes:
Lust—pornography, strip clubs, web sites, movies
Fornication–having any sort of sexual relationship before you’re married
Adultery—having a sexual relationship outside of marriage, including . . .
Bestiality–sex with an animal
Homosexuality–sex with someone of the same gender
Romance novels–I don’t understand them, but it includes them
It is bizarre to me that millions of dollars are spent on pornography that doesn’t even have pictures. Men don’t read books in general–and if they do and the whole point is lust, they are looking for photos. But women, I am told, read romance novels where the first sixty pages are dating before anything happens. Male porno does not work that way—it all counts . . . rape, incest, any form of sexual sin. People will try to work around this word, but it includes everything. I need to stress that, because somebody will walk out of here and say, “Well, Chris didn’t mention BIG HELGA.com, European women who thumb wrestle–he didn’t say anything about that.” Yes, the word here includes all of it. Whatever your immoral thing is, Paul is saying, do not be known for this, do not get caught up in this—wow, whatever.
And here is what happens when your sexuality is confused and you separate your sexuality from your relationship with God. It has implications for your whole life. JI Packer said, “In times past, Satan used to attack God’s men with a multitude of weapons and now he only uses one because that’s all he needs, it works so well. The issue, particularly among young Christian men, is their sexuality. We live in an age of absolute confusion and perversion. And through technology, the immediacy and anonymity of sexual perversion just exacerbates what is already a well-known problem. That is why pornography is a multi-billion dollar-a-year industry.
Even on Christian college campuses they have a rampant problem trying to screen out all the pornography that the pastoral students are downloading. It is an epidemic and widespread problem, and some of you are ensnared in it. Paul is affirming that sexuality belongs to God–there should not even be a hint of sexual impropriety or immorality. This does not mean that the Bible is anti-sex–it is not. The entire book of Song of Solomon is dedicated to a beautiful description of the sexual intimacy and the romance of a husband and wife. It is frank without being crass. God is pro-intimacy and enjoyment of sex, but only in the covenant of marriage.
God began it that way in Genesis, where the man and woman were naked and they felt no shame. In many cases, you can know your sexuality is wrong when it is accompanied by any sense of shame. Under God’s design, it is supposed to be beautiful and good. Our society is so twisted and perverted, they have taken what would normally be wholesome words and made them evil. They took healthy vocabulary and made it describe perversion.
Movies that are committed to indecency and filled with perversion, we label for mature audiences only, as if a bunch of frat guys sitting around watching naked women was the apex of maturity.
In some areas of our country, there are places called gentlemen’s clubs–gentleman is a good word in our society, but now has been used badly. At a gentlemen’s club, there are naked women and beer and meat–right ? Basically the false trinity—the trifecta of hell, but they call it a gentlemen’s club as if all the men in there are gentle men all playing polo and saying, “Beseech thee,” and arguing over which Dutch master artist was better–Rembrandt or Vermeer. As if all the guys outside, going out to dinner with their wives were Neanderthals, and all the men in this club were actually gentlemen, with their beer and meat.
We are totally confused today–as if this guy is a mature gentleman. No that’s a sociopath, eating a dead, cooked animal with a beer. He is not a mature gentleman, and that is not the height of maturity. It is just that our society is twisted and confused–this is not love. These sins are not proper for a Christian or a church. Jesus didn’t die for you so you could look at pornography.
Today it is more popular than ever to cohabitate with someone prior to marriage. Single people don’t get married, they just live together. They sleep together. And there is this great apologetic to defend it–we need to know if we are compatible. Hey, the divorce rate among those who cohabitate is higher than those who don’t, because you can’t practice being married–you’re married or you’re not. You were not designed to test drive marriage. God says it’s wrong.
The whole thing is so confused–but Paul is clear, immorality should not be named and is not proper for God’s holy people. Don’t do it. Notice verse 3 again–when Paul calls us Christians saints here, it is not by accident. Saints means holy ones, and holy means unique. God’s people are to be different–not just peculiar or weird or odd, but uniquely set apart for God Himself. Our sexuality is to be different than the world. So let me be pointed and ask you individually, and ask you as a church. Is our sexuality any different than our culture? Those people who don’t know God–can they see you belong to God?
If you are a single guy, are the movies you’re watching and the websites you’re downloading and the things you’re filling your mind with different than guys who don’t know God? Paul’s command in verse 3, “do not let it be named among you”–is it? Do not be known for immorality in any form in any way. Just because you have not heard this from a pulpit before does not mean the Bible is silent about this–I am just touching the surface. The Bible is clear and frank and since God is, I will be.
Do not be offended–the reason is simple. There are some of you here today who are struggling in this area. And there is a huge level of guilt associated with this kind of sin. And I am pleading with you today to turn to Christ to be forgiven, cleansed and internally transformed and He will deliver you from your addiction–He alone can set you free and fill you with real love.
Or, if you truly are Christ’s yet you have given into temptation, the Bible is equally clear to you–when it comes to this sin, God says there is one and only one thing to do–flee! Second Timothy 2:22 says, “Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Again, 1 Corinthians 6:18a says, “Flee immorality.” The word “flee” literally means to run in terror–and practically it means to think and take action–how?
•Prepare for situations: like Joseph, be ready to run when out with someone of the opposite sex if things get out of hand. One girl I knew threw up on her date. That solved the problem and cooled his jets. Another reason I love my church family is, I know for a fact for you single gals who don’t come from healthy homes, there are a large number of dads in this room right now who you can call, and they will immediately step into action if you need any assistance in dealing with a young man. Amen Dads? I am picturing baseball bats and more.
•Plan your environment: men, don’t travel alone. If you have to, bring along a large, 8 by 10 family picture (11 by 14 is even better), cancel the cable TV (or unplug it), call home in the evening when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired—wives, take the call and encourage your husband.
•Pick your people: bad company corrupts good morals. Don’t hang out with flirts. The only people who flirt in the Bible were harlots. It is a fact that most adulterous affairs happen among couples who are friends. Make certain your friends are committed to their spouses.
•Ponder your appearance. Ask an older, godly person what you should and shouldn’t wear.
•Practice accountability: tell someone you see weekly, someone you are afraid of that you have a problem with porn. They will help you win the battle.
•Paralyze your glances: like Job who said in Job 31:1, “I’ve made a covenant with my eyes, how then could I gaze at a virgin?” Don’t take the second look. You are gonna see things while you walk in this world, just don’t take the long look.
•Be patient for a spouse: when you’re 18, Christian gals want a guy who is a combination of John MacArthur and Brad Pitt. When you’re 24, most Christian gals want a godly man. When you’re 28, most gals want a guy who goes to church. When you’re 34, most want a guy who knows where a church is. Be patient, Matthew 19:6b says, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” Among other things, this verse affirms, God is the one who joins a man and a woman together. God has your spouse picked out–be patient.
And be balanced, we need to be people of affection. It is wrong for us not to be affectionate at some level to each other as Christians, do you agree? Come on people, in the early church it was a holy kiss, and to be without natural affection is seen as a spiritual sickness. There is nothing wrong with an appropriate hug and a pat on the back, a caring tap on the arm–we are to treat each other as brothers and sisters and healthy families express affection. On the other hand, we need to set appropriate boundaries for dealing with the opposite sex. And all of us must flee sexual immorality. But Paul is not done—in verse 3, “Do not be known for . . .”
This is a general term that refers to anything unclean or filthy. The issue here is to stay away from anything that is defiled or makes you feel dirty. Now don’t miss the force at which Paul is going after this. Please remember Ephesians is a letter, and Paul is writing to one people at one time who live in one place. And these Ephesians were battling with immorality and impurity, so Paul mentions these sins repeatedly in this letter. He has described these sins already and will talk about them again. The Spirit knew these sins were important to address back then, and He knows they are important for us to deal with today.
Look back at Ephesians 4:19, “They, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” Then 1 Thessalonians 4:7 adds, “For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.” So what is impurity? On a daytime talk show, this is when someone stands up and says, “That’s nasty.” That’s what Paul is talking about–that’s sick and impure. It’s defilement. One of the concepts of sin in the Old Testament is defilement. That is why they had ceremonial and ritual washings and cleansings.
There are certain sins that are done, either committed against you or sins that you commit that make you feel dirty, gross, vile, sick and nasty. Anything you do that brings that sense of shame and defilement upon you is something you are not to be doing. This can be addictions, compulsions, all kinds of secret sexual sins. One of the saddest things that happens to people is the tendency for them to take upon themselves a wrong posture. Because they’ve defiled themselves or someone has defiled them, they take upon themselves the posture of someone who is dirty and defiled, then they live that out. They think, “I am a dirty person, therefore I will act dirty.
I know of a brand new Christian woman who had come out of the porn industry–she had been a porn star. When asked, “Didn’t you feel sick about that?” She said she felt dirty all the time, she felt gross. Then she said, “That’s why myself and the other women I was working with did drugs a lot. We’d get so depressed and feel so sick about what we were doing we’d try to forget about it, so we did drugs so we didn’t have to think about what we were actually doing.”
Then she was asked, “Why in the world, if you felt that way, dirty and sick and vile, did you keep doing it?” She said, “That’s who I am!” “What do you mean that’s who you are?” She said, “Well, when I was little I was abused, defiled, things were done to me that should have never been done to a little girl and I felt dirty. So I decided I was a dirty person and I was going to do dirty things. That’s who I am, I am just dirty.” But now that she is in Christ, she is not dirty . . . and she knows it.
You all know 1 John 1:9, but maybe you’ve forgotten a key word in this good verse, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God is faithful and just to do two things—to forgive us and to what? Cleanse us from all unrighteousness. You are forgiven for your sins and you are cleansed from all defilement that your sins and the sins of others have put upon you. You are clean. You are a new creation in Christ. As a Christian you are not dirty, impure or defiled.
In Christ there has been cleansing, washing and healing, and there is a new identity where you don’t have to live as a dirty impure person. Many of you in this room know how dirty you were, but now tears come to your eyes as you realize just how clean you are in Christ. You don’t have to suffer for what you did or what was done to you, because Jesus did all the suffering for your sins.
So Paul says, if you are in Christ, then you shouldn’t be involved in the polluting of yourself or the defiling of yourself. You and we should never be known for impurity. Whatever is causing you to feel dirtiness and shame, it is not fitting for God’s saints. As the New Living Translation says, “Such sins have no place among God’s people.” So do not be known for sexuality or impurity, or in verse 3 . . .
Some have said the word greed is listed here in this context to describe the greed of wanting another man’s wife. I don’t think that is correct, because the word immorality describes that lust, and Paul has already been addressing the sin of greed in this letter. In chapter 4:19 he mentions greed, and in verse 28 he tells the thief not to steal any longer.
Paul is confronting the greed we all know so very well. Greed is the insatiable desire to have more. It is never being satisfied and it is continually wanting. If you struggle with greed, then memorize Luke 12:15. Read it with me–Jesus says, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”
In our world greed isn’t even a vice, it is a virtue. That is why we spend money we don’t have to buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t like. Did you open the newspaper today? How many ads were in there? There were more ads than news reported—why? Because of greed. Am I saying it’s a sin to buy things and have money? No–but greed is. “I have enough nice clothes but I need more clothes. I have a good car but I need a different car. I have a clean place to live but I need a bigger place to live.”
One pastor said it this way. “I have a TV–but I don’t have the flat screen TV with the surround sound and the DVD player and the Xbox. My entertainment center is not spirit-filled, it is not fitting for a child of God, I don’t have TiVo, I can’t record shows while I am watching other shows, this is godless, this is just wrong.” No, it is just greed. Then six months later, what will the company do? They will upgrade your system so you can covet the new version, and greed will drive you to buy again.
Right now, how much junk is in your place that you don’t even know why it’s there? As you have moved two to three times, you have stuff that is still in the same box, right? You don’t open it, use it, it’s just stuff you move around. Some of you don’t even know what’s in the box, but you keep moving it. Why? You say, “I can’t live without it.” But you don’t even know what is in the box.
For some of you, if a thief was to break into your house, rob you and take the right things, some of you would never even know–you’d have no clue. You’d say, “This place is bigger than I thought, I have all this room.” You wouldn’t even miss it–it’s just absolute greed.
We have malls where you can go window coveting all day. And if you start getting lethargic or get low blood sugar because it is such an arduous process, there is lots of food and caffeine–they have music pumped in and special lighting. It’s like you’re a crack addict out on a holiday spree–you’re shaking and need more. Why? It’s all greed. I need more, I am not happy so I have to have more.
Listen, satisfied people are happy. But dissatisfied people are never happy. It doesn’t matter how much they spend or how much they consume or how much they obtain, they are never going to be happy. Remember Philippians 4:11 and 12, “Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” Paul says, I have learned the secret of being content. Whether I have a little or a lot–godliness with contentment is of great gain.
It’s not about how much you’ve got, it’s about how satisfied I am with that which I have. If you have a beater car, a simple wardrobe and a two-bedroom house but you’re satisfied, you’ll be happy. You can be a billionaire, live in a palace, own a fleet of cars and have a wardrobe filled with designer labels, but if you’re dissatisfied you are never going to be happy. The Bible says it clearly in Ecclesiates 5:10, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity.” Ultimately, Solomon says, you can get a lot of stuff, but if you don’t enjoy God, you’re still not going to be happy.
And greed leads to other things . . . covetousness, jealousy. Greed leads to debt. As soon as you can get a credit card you can sink into debt. Some of you have said, “I need another credit card cause my first credit card is full. I need another one–I hope Jesus is coming back soon, cause I’m in serious debt.”
The work of Christ today is being hindered because Christians are trapped by money. Churches are not planted, missionaries are not sent out, and the destitute are not cared for because Christians are not biblical in the use of money. Money is not evil, it can be used for good or evil; money is a tool or a trap. When you budget, spend only what you have, live within your means, give sacrificially and generously, and save–you are going to be a rare witness and useful for God’s purposes in a greedy world.
So Paul says, do not be known for certain corrupt behavior–immorality, impurity, greed . . . actions that are improper for Christians. Choices not fitting for any true believer nor any true church. And Paul gives us three obvious reasons why.
ONE This behavior is not proper. Notice verse 3 again. Other translations say, because these are improper for God’s holy people, OR such sins have no place among God’s people. The word “proper” means to be clearly seen or resemble. It is not to be seen in the Church. These sins do not resemble God’s people at all. “Not proper” is a common sense phrase meaning, if it is a duck it should look and act like a duck. If you are a Christian, you should look and act like a Christ-follower.
The reason Paul doesn’t want you being known for immoral, impure and greedy behavior is because it doesn’t paint the right picture–it leaves the wrong impression, and it gives an incongruent view. It doesn’t resemble someone who has been transformed by Christ.
TWO You are saints–set apart holy ones. Saints means “set-apart ones”. We have been set apart as unique. We are God’s beloved children who imitate the Father and love like the Savior. We don’t belong to the world or to Satan, but we belong to God–therefore we should behave like we are part of His unique family.
THREE You are among the saints. Saints is plural, he is talking about these sins never being among us, around us, in our midst as a church family–it doesn’t fit the community of the redeemed and it harms the testimony of our church family. You know it does. I don’t have to tell you the stories of the number of churches marred by the sins of adultery and fornication–you know.
Paul reminds us, using the plural here that you never sin alone. When you make the choice to give in to these sins–even though you think you are looking at porn all alone, by yourself, it is going to affect us in some negative way. You are not only sinning against God, but you are sinning against us. Do not allow these sins to continue. So amongst other truths, what must I take home from today? What steps can I take to not be known for this kind of behavior?
#1 Dwell on who you are
Paul has just given us four chapters reminding us of the amazing blessings we have because of Christ. If we would own the fact that we are chosen, forgiven, redeemed, adopted, saved, forgiven, beloved every single day, we’re going to be far less prone to give in to the temptations of immorality, impurity and greed.
#2 Never forget the consequences of sin
Your empowerment, fruitfulness, joy and witness are all affected by sin. Never forget you reap what you sow. Your witness and our witness are hurt when you choose to sin in a verse 3 manner. Do not forget your heavenly Father spanks His true children, and you’ll not get away with these sins without paying a consequence. Yes, Jesus died for your sin and you are under grace, but God loves you so much and knows how bad these sins are to you and to us. Never overlook the consequences of sin.
#3 Redeem some things for God’s glory
Not everything in the world is evil. There are things we reject from the world, things we receive from the world, and things we redeem from the world. Reject, receive and redeem. Like we receive good food from this world, we reject pornography, etc. But there are things we redeem that have been distorted. Sex has been distorted by the world into immorality and impurity. The world made it dirty, cheap and vulgar, but Christians redeem it as something given by God, in itself good, and is something we Christians should (according to the end of verse 4) be thankful for in marriage.
Greed is the world’s corruption of money and things. John D. Rockefeller, when the richest man alive, was asked, “How much money is enough?” and he replied, “Just a little bit more.” We reject greed, but we receive what God gives and are thankful. We also know that money and possessions are wonderful ways to show just how gracious and giving our God is. We don’t use people and love things, Christians now use things and love people. God invented sex and God gives us things–now we are to be stewards of them for His glory, only according to His Word and thankful for the blessing of their enjoyment.
#4 Embrace the question continual sin raises
Very soon in verses 5 and 6 of Ephesians 5, Paul is going to tell us that those who continue to defiantly sin without repentance, with immorality and greed, are not His children. Embrace the truth that if you continue in these sins you have no assurance. Embrace the truth that you need to turn to Christ who is the only one who can free you from sin.