Welcome to Friday’s Podcast. Thank you so much for listening this week. Next week my friend and colleague Helen Ward picks up the baton as we continue through the wonderful book of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
Our reading today is Ephesians 5:3-10 but today we’ll focus on verses 3-4:
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. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
My wife was brought some rather fancy posh soaps last year. They were handmade and contained some really unusual ingredients that one might expect to find in a bar of soap. For example, one of the soaps had chocolate in it.
The soaps were beautifully and individually wrapped and were quite surprised one day to find that one of the soaps had been tampered with. There was only fact about 1/3 left & it was unwrapped & left on our bedroom floor. Immediately we quizzed the kids. They denied it. We quizzed a little harder. We offered immunity and a plea deal. They still denied it. We took away parole. We pressed further. Still no budge. They totally denied it.
Then my wife took a closer look at the packaging. She gave it a good sniff and then realised that our kids were innocent. The dog had eaten the chocolate soap.
It’s said that dogs have a very strong sense of smell. To put that into perspective a human has 5 million smell receptors in the brain. A dog on average has 220 million receptors. Our dog could smell the chocolate soap from downstairs. As a Labrador his drive, his desire for food, is so strong and combined with an excellent sense of smell his ‘nature’ won out and he ate the soap.
I want to talk about sex.
Now I’m not saying that a Labrador’s desire for food is like some people’s desire for sex but I do think there’s a narrative that plays out in our culture that goes something like this: it’s natural, we have urges – it’s good we should do it. What’s the big deal? We can sleep with who we like as long as it’s safe and consensual and we’re not hurting anyone. Maybe you’ve heard that – I have.
Behind this view is something deeper – John Mark Comer, the Pastor of Bridgetown Church, Portland, Oregon says that our society celebrates authenticity – the desire to be real and authentic (which is a good thing, right?) that sex is an extension and expression of our feelings and our desires.
Ephesian culture was influenced by a very strong Greek idea called Dualism. Dualism separated the body from the mind. Therefore, people could do whatever they wanted with their bodies – they could follow their desires – because Greeks believed that the mind was the only thing that mattered – so as long as your mind was OK – you were fine.
And that’s where Paul’s wisdom to the Ephesian church clashes with their surrounding culture and our own.
For him sex isn’t about personal expression. It’s not about personal fulfilment.
Right in the middle of this section of his letter which is about how we relate well to other people – he decides to place sex in the context of holiness and how we treat other people. What we do with our bodies matters. In fact he believes this so much – in such a strong contrast to the culture – that we worship God with our bodies. In 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 he says ‘do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit…’ In Romans 12: 1-2 we are to offer ‘our bodies as a living sacrifice’.
For him sex is a godly, beautiful thing – it’s wonderful – but it’s set in context of a marriage which at its heart celebrates ‘agape’ love – a sacrificial love. Marriage is modelled on Jesus who laid down his life and as husband and wife make vows together – they promise to serve – choose the other – celebrate the other – until death. Within that context of love – of preferring the other – sex is celebrated.
To walk in purity in this way we need people to help us. We cannot do it alone. We need the wisdom of one or two Christian friends whom we can talk to and give permission to – to ask any questions, who will pray with us, encourage us to walk with God in this area.
Lord, I pray that you’ll show us who we can journey with you in this area. If we have those people – thankyou! Praise God. If not, will you show us Lord whom that might be!
BIBLE READING: Ephesians 5:3-10
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. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: no immoral, impure or greedy person – such a person is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.