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Sexual Sins and the Body of Christ:
Dealing with Immorality in the Church
Without Altering the Gospel or
by Bob Wilkin
Sexual immorality is rampant today. The
seventies and eighties have been an era of
free sex. Unfortunately, the problem of sexual immorality did not bypass the body of
Christ. Studies show that sexual immorality (e.g., premarital sex, adultery,
homosexuality, incest, lusting over pornography) is a common problem among believers today.
While I have heard these things before,
they didn't really sink in until recently. I
just finished reading a book--one which I
highly recommend--by Randy Alcorn entitled, Christians in the Wake of the Sexual
Revolution (Portland, OR: Multnomah
Press, 1985). Alcorn shook me up with
many true-to-life illustrations of believers
who are in sexual bondage (see, for example, pp.25-32).
How are we to respond to this problem?
First, let's not deny that it is a very significant problem. Recognizing the problem
is a key step in dealing with it.
Second, let's avoid changing the gospel
message as a solution. Lordship salvation
has a deep concern that believers live holy
lives. I share that concern. However, the
solution which Lordship salvation offers,
adding works to the gospel, is one I cannot
adopt. Salvation is a free gift. It is received
by faith alone, not by faith plus works.
To tell a person that he or she must stop
living with their lover in order to be saved
from hell is to contradict the idea of a free
gift. If I must give up something (other
than self-righteousness and unbelief)--or
even be willing to do so--then salvation
costs me something. Lordship salvation advocates do not deny this. Dr. James Boice,
for example, in his book Christ's Call to
Discipleship (Chicago: Moody, 1987) in a
chapter entitled, "Counting the Cost,"
asks the question, "What must I pay to be
a Christian?" (p. 112). Notice that he is
speaking of what we must PAY. We do not
pay for gifts. Boice then answers his own
question, in part, by noting, "I must pay
the price of those sins I now cherish. I
must give them up, every one. I cannot
cling to a single sin . . ." (pp. 112-13).
Third, let's avoid changing the basis of
assurance. Some pastors preach and counsel that believers engaged in ongoing sexual sin are
probably not "true believers"
and hence are probably not saved. Sadly
this encourages believers to look at their
works instead of the Word for assurance.
It turns their eyes off of the Savior and
onto themselves. The cross goes out of
focus. Grace becomes forgotten.1 Such
teaching can lead believers to despair, depression, and such an overwhelming sense
of frustration that some give up completely
their efforts to live for God.
Fourth, it is vitally important in terms
of discipleship that we maintain lives of
sexual purity ourselves. All of us are capable of adultery, premarital sex, homosexuality, addiction
to pornography, etc. To avoid these calamities we need accountability in our families and
standards carefully maintained, and a track
record of obedience over time. If we who
proclaim his grace and the freeness of the
gospel fall into sexual sin, many will point
their fingers and say that it was the doctrine
which produced the immoral conduct. Sexual sin can destroy lives, ministries, and
Fifth, in our preaching, teaching, and
interacting with other believers, let's be
clear that sexual immorality is a big problem, one which can easily trip us up, and
one which has terrible consequences.
Rather than occasionally making a reference to adultery, pornography, homosexuality, or
premarital sex when we preach or
teach, it seems to me that we should address these problems frequently.
If done tactfully, I think that sharing
some of the illustrations which Alcorn and
other Christian authors provide may have
a very beneficial effect. When talking
about sexual sin we can discuss the chastising ministry of God, the Judgment Seat of
Christ, the ridicule such actions bring to
the cause of Christ, and how the powerful
motivation of gratitude can transform the
lives of those touched by His grace.
We can counter the claim that we give
people a license to sin by living godly lives
ourselves and by repeatedly calling others
to do so. May the grace of God spur us
on to live exemplary lives. While the rampant immorality of our day is a terrible
thing, it does provide us with even more
of an opportunity to stand apart and to let
our lights shine before men so that they
might see our good works and glorify our
Father who is in heaven.
In next month's letter I will discuss a
watershed issue related to the gospel and
assurance: homosexuals and salvation.
1Alcorn. by the way, does not change the gospel
or question people's salvation in his book. While
he does not directly discuss the gospel in the hook,
it is clear by what he does say and by what he
doesn't that he holds the freeness of the gospel
and the absoluteness of assurance.
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