January 18, 2015 Epiphany 2 The Rev. Kim Gilliland SCRIPTURE: 1 Samuel 3:1-10 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honour God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV) WHAT GOD EXPECTS OF HIS PEOPLE SEXUAL PURITY WHAT DOES GOD EXPECT OF US? You might remember that during the fall we did a series of messages aimed at reminding ourselves on what God expects of the Church. Today we are going to start another series that will take us up to Easter. The theme will be not what God expects of the Church but what God expects of us as individual followers of Christ. What are we expected to do if we want to be faithful? How are we supposed to live our lives? How are we supposed to treat others in this world? Those are all good questions and we will take a stab at answering them over the next few months. We can’t do everything in that span of time but we will try to cover a wide range. Why is this important? It’s important because we are being bombarded on a daily basis with information about how we should live. We get it in school. We get it at work. We get it from the radio stations we listen to, the TV shows we watch and the newspapers that we read. It seems that everyone is trying to tell us how to live. But what does the Bible say? That will be our focus. Why is that important? It’s important because what our schools and workplaces, radios, TVs and newspapers tell us is going to change over time, probably in a very short period of time. But the teachings of the Bible are timeless. They have been around for thousands of years and they have guided the lives of God’s children from the very beginning of the Church. Because they are timeless they can guide us to. page 1. Before I continue, I want to say is that I have more proof that God has a sense of humour. I felt God calling me to do this series a while ago. I prayed about it and eventually said, “Yes,” to God. Only after saying, “Yes,” did I look at the lectionary readings for today. And what did I find? The passage from 1 Corinthians 6 was all about sexuality. And I thought, “Thank you God. You might just as well give me the toughest one right off the bat. Get it over with so to speak.” So here we go. How do we live out our faith when it comes to sexuality. So what does God say about sex? BIBLICAL UNDERSTANDING OF SEX Clearly God says that sex is dirty, nasty thing that you should only do when you have to and only in order to have children. That’s what the Bible says about sex. Right? No, wrong. That might be the impression that you might get from some well meaning people in the Church but that is not what the Bible says. It’s always seemed odd to me that people get the idea that the Church is against sex. I understand where that comes from because some churches have what I would consider to be some weird ideas about sex. Let’s look, for example, at the teaching about the virginity of Mary. I think we can all agree that she was a virgin when she conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. I get that part. But some churches also teaches the perpetual virgin of Mary. What’s that? That means that Mary was a virgin before, during and after she gave birth to Jesus. I don’t want to sound like I’m dumping on those churches because I’m not. But this is one of the areas of theology where we disagree. I would point to Matthew 13:55-56, Mark 3:31 and Luke 8:19 - all of which reference Jesus’ brothers and sisters. How did Mary remain virgin if Jesus had brothers and sisters? The most common explanation is that they actually weren’t Jesus siblings, they were his cousins. But if that is true then why does the Bible say they are brothers and sisters? As Protestants we believe that those brothers and sisters mentioned in the Bible where Jesus’ biological siblings which means that Mary and Joseph must have had sex. And do you know something else. I think they may have even enjoyed it. It all comes down to how the Church views sex. Is sex a dirty, nasty and sinful thing or is it a gift of God? Suffice it to say that sex in the Bible is not a sinful thing. It is not to be avoided. It is a gift of God that was given to us for two reason. First it was given to us so that we could grow together in intimacy as husbands and wives. Jesus said in Mark 10:8 (NIV) that, “... the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but page 2. one.” What this tells us is that making love is the one of the most intimate things we can share with each other not only physically but also spiritually because there is clearly a spiritual dimension to sexuality. God gave us sex for intimacy. The second reason for the gift of sex is so that we can have children. In Genesis 1:28 (NIV) God told the people to, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it...” It’s tough to do that without sex. Sex is a gift from God. DEFINING SEXUAL PURITY The Bible also gives us some pretty clear guidelines about how we are to use this gift that God has given to us. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV) says this: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit; who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honour God with your body.” What does it mean to say that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit? It means that the way that we use our bodies is important to God. We are called to use them for God’s glory. Even our sexuality then should be seen as a offering to God. Our bodies should be seen as temples of the Holy Spirit. Why is it then that so many people think they can use their bodies as amusement parks? They use them just for fun as though it matters not one little bit what they do or how they behave. As long as it feels good and they are enjoying themselves then it’s okay. The trouble, however, is that it’s not okay. Your body is a temple, not an amusement park and you need to treat it like the sacred gift that it is. That’s hard to do because sexual immorality is being strongly promoted in the world, by the entertainment industry, by the media and even at times by the public education system. Ruth and I were watching a video last weekend and one of the characters said this: “Monogamy is not natural.” I heard that and it made me flinch. I flinched not because I thought it was wrong - although I clearly think it is wrong - but because it was not the first time I have heard it. I have heard that line in other movies. I have heard it in TV shows. I have heard it from stand up comedians. I’ve heard it on talk shows and open line radio shows. Why have I heard it so much? Because I believe that this is the next direction the social engineers of our world want to take our society. That’s why we need to be very clear about what the Bible says and what God expects of us. page 3. As men and women of God, we need to understand that our bodies are not amusement parks. They are temples of the Holy Spirit, sacred before God, and we need to treat them with the sacredness that they deserve. But how do we live that out? 1 Corinthians 6:13 (NIV) says this: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord and the Lord for the body.” Clearly, we are not to engage in sexual immorality. But what is sexual immorality? I could answer that question but I’d rather answer another one by turning the question around. Rather than talking about sexual immorality, let’s talk about sexual purity. What is that? I don’t think sexual purity is difficult to define. I think we can define it biblically as celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in marriage to a spouse of the opposite sex. Did you hear that? Just to be clear, I’m going to say it again. Sexual purity is celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in marriage to a spouse of the opposite sex. Does the Bible say that anywhere? Not in so many words but it certainly outlines the concepts in different places. The virginity of Mary is well established. Why was she a virgin? Because she was not married. 1 Corinthians 7:25-39 has a lot to say about marriage and virginity. It always equates an unmarried person with a virgin. In biblical language they are synonymous. As far as faithfulness in marriage goes, Jesus echoed the teachings of the Old Testament when he said that man shall leave his mother and father and be united with his wife in such a way that they become one flesh. 1 Corinthians 7:39 says that a woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. Likewise a man is bound to his wife. We are bound to each other. This includes sexual faithfulness. Sexual purity in the Bible is celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in marriage to a spouse of the opposite sex. That is the biblical norm and that is the standard that we as the Church need to proclaim and seek to maintain. Is it a popular viewpoint? Absolutely not. In many places, if I said these things, I would quickly be labeled as old fashioned, naive, misguided and let’s not forget homophobic. But I am none of these. I am not here to preach to gospel of Hollywood, Oprah Winfrey or Much Music. My job is to preach the gospel of Christ and sometimes that gospel runs counter to the teachings of the world and that’s why we as the Church are called to be counter-cultural. “But Pastor,” someone says, “How do you expect anyone to follow those rules in today’s world?” The answer to that question is that it’s not my concern whether or not they follow the teachings of the Bible. I don’t just preach things that are easy to follow. I do my best to preach the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in every aspect of life. page 4. Whether people follow it or not is between them and God. I’m not going to judge them and neither should you. But that should never deter me from proclaiming the truth. DEALING WITH IMPURITY But now we have another problem. The truth is - and I think we all know this - that as far as sexual practices are concerned, Christians pretty well follow the same path as the rest of the world. The Journal of Psychology and Christianity found that sixty-five percent of men and fifty-five percent of women will have a extramarital affair before the age of forty. Christianity Today found that twenty-three percent of pastors admitted the same thing. Those numbers, I think you would agree, are disturbing. As far as premarital sex goes, Christians are involved pretty well to the same degree as non-Christians. There is no significant difference. As one study stated, it seems that true love no longer waits. That seems to be true for both people of faith and those who are not. What does that mean? Honestly, it means that almost everyone here today have been involved in sexual immorality at one time in their life. Almost all of us have either been involved with premarital sex or have had an extramarital affair. Think about that. Think about what it means. What does it mean? It means that we are flawed human beings who make mistakes and fall to temptation. That should be no surprise. So how do we respond to that present day reality? Let me break that down into two parts. I want to deal with premarital sex and extramarital sex separately because I think they are separate. Extramarital sex is the easier one of the two. If you are having an affair, if you are being unfaithful to your husband or your wife, or if that ever happens in the future, there is only one answer. You have to stop it and you have to stop it now. You cannot work on two relationships at the same time. Your primary responsibility is with your spouse. That is the person to whom you have a life long commitment. Maybe she’s not as shapely as she once was. Chances are you aren’t either. Maybe he’s gone bald and has long hairs growing out of his nose and ears. We all change and so have you. Then I hear people excuse their actions by saying things like, “She doesn’t meet my needs anymore,” or, “I still love him but I’m no longer in love with him.” When I hear people say things like that I just want to go and get my stupid stick and give them a good whack with it. I always wonder who taught people to say such stupid things. I’m not saying that those things aren’t true. They may very well be true. But you cannot blame page 5. your spouse for your actions. You cannot blame your spouse for your lack of fulfillment in life. You cannot blame your spouse if you are not happy. You cannot blame your spouse if you are no longer in love. All of those things are 100% on you. A dear friend of mine lost his wife a couple of years ago. They had been married for thirty years. Fifteen years into their marriage, she became very ill with a serious neurological disease. She had to stop working at a good paying job. That affected their income. The medical bills piled up but somehow they found the money. They drained every penny of their savings. Ten years later she was in a nursing home with limited mobility, unable to feed herself or look after her most intimate personal needs. Her nice figure and pretty face had become shriveled and bent. My friend went to see her every single day in the nursing home. Every Tuesday, he would take her to their home and they would spend the day together. If he was away from home on business, he would phone her every night. I heard parts of those conversations and they were like to teenagers in love. They loved to talk. It was always the best part of their day. When she died a couple of years ago, he was financially broke. He once confided in me that they had not has sex in fifteen years. He also told me that he would never get married again. He said that once you’ve had the best wife, no one else would measure up. If you’ve fallen out of love with your spouse, if you are no longer attracted to him, if you don’t find her sexy, look in the mirror. That’s where you’ll find the reason. That’s where you will find the answer. Work on yourself and work on your marriage. You won’t find fulfillment in an affair. In fact, I’ve counseled more than a few adulterers in my ministry and I have never yet met one who was proud of what they had done. The one thing that person after person has learned is this; as far as affairs go, if they will do it with you, they will do it to you. Don’t forget that. Affairs are the easier of the two. If you are involved in an affair, just stop it. But what about sexual purity before marriage? What do we say to the vast majority of unmarried people who are involved in this? First of all, let’s be clear that this is not part of God’s plan. We are called to respect the purity of our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. That may not be popular but we are still called to understand the biblical standard and seek to follow it. Having said that, I also know that a majority of people who get married even in this church are already living together. How do we deal with that? The short answer is this. If you never plan to marry the person you’re sleeping with, then stop having sex with them. If you are planning to marry this person, then make plans to get page 6. married. It’s as simple as that. I don’t insist that the couple stop living together until they are married. I don’t do that because, quite frankly, I think it’s ridiculous. It just leads to lying and deceit. All that will do is alienate a couple from the Church and that is clearly not our intention. I’m just happy when a couple that is living together wants to get married. It means that they are doing their best to correct the situation. Whether they continue to co-habitate or not is completely up to them. But whatever they decide to do, we will rejoice in the marriage when it happens. It is so easy to judge others. It is so easy to tell them they are wrong and that they are sinning and falling short of God’s glory. But guess what, we all fall short. As someone said at Bible study last week, “I need to stop judging people whose sins are different than mine.” How true that is. Rather than judging others and condemning them because they aren’t perfect, we as the Church should embrace and support them as they seek to move towards living closer to the way God wants them to live. At the same time, I will uphold the biblical standard because that is what God has called me to do. I will also say this. Sexual sins, like every other kind of sin is forgivable. If we take it to God, if we confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts, we are forgiven and freed from the chains that bind us. Sexual purity means celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in marriage to a spouse of the opposite sex. As Paul wrote: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit; who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honour God with your body.” page 7. PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE We come to you, O God, after another week of activity and ministry. We pray that your blessings would continue to shower down upon us and what we do in the name of Jesus Christ. We give you thanks for winter weather and snow. You made them too, O God. They are the work of your hand. Be with those, however, who find the cold and snow difficult to deal with. We pray today for safety on the roads and sidewalks. We lift up in prayer those who mourn. Give them comfort in their sadness and peace in the midst of anxiety. Bless them with an inner healing that only your Spirit can provide. We keep in mind especially all those who are mourning in the aftermath of the massacre of 2,000 people in Nigeria. We don’t understand things like this but we would be bold to pray for healing and peace. We pray for those who are sick and those in hospital. We think especially about Rebekah Gilliland as she seeks to recover from her injuries. Grant your healing touch. Be with everyone else who is suffering from the flu that seems to be raging all around us. Be especially with the young children and the elderly who are most at risk. Holy God, we want to always keep the priorities of our lives in proper order and balance, choosing your will and purpose over our own. Help us also to always remember that we have a purpose and reason for being here. Help us to understand more of that purpose and how we might fulfill it more completely. Finally, we pray that you would give us bold hearts to share your Good News. Often, we are timid and hesitate to share our faith. We need your encouragement. There are other times when we are arrogant and insensitive. At those times, we need your gentleness and compassion. Give us, O God, the tools that we need to share the Gospel message and lead others to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. Hear our prayers and the prayers of all of your people. Amen. page 8. WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE January 19, 2015 / Epiphany 2 SCRIPTURE 1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20); Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; John 1:43-51; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 CALL TO WORSHIP Let us praise the One who gives us life. Let us praise the One who knows our every thought. Let us praise the One who speaks to our hearts. Let us praise the One who hears our prayers. Let us worship the One who calls and saves us. PRAYER OF APPROACH In you, O God, we are wonderfully made. As part of your created order, we lift our voices in praise to you, the Master Designer. Great is your power. Gentle is your love. Strong are your arms that hold us and offer comfort. Our voices are lifted in song. Our hearts are open to your Word. Fill us with your Spirit and surprises us, once again, by your amazing presence. Amen. PRAYER OF CONFESSION ONE: Hear, O God, the confessions of our heart as we come before your throne of grace; ALL: We call upon your mercy. ONE: Save us from the timid confusion that prevents us from doing your work; ALL: We call upon your compassion. ONE: Save us from the self-centeredness that consumes us and blinds us to the needs of others. ALL: We call upon your grace. ONE: Save us from the uncertainty of hesitation and enable us to step forward in faith to greet your Spirit with courage and confidence; ALL: Forgive us and empower us to walk closer to your way. ASSURANCE OF PARDON God's power to forgive is boundless. The redeemed life the God offers is eternal. The forgiveness that we experience now is but a foretaste of the everlasting compassion of God who cleanses us from all of our sins. DEDICATION OF OFFERING These gifts, O God, we bring to you in gratitude for your blessings. All that we have is yours. Give us the wisdom to use it for your purpose. Amen. COMMISSIONING God has called us to live holy and redeemed lives. Let us go with the confidence that God's Spirit walks with us and enables us to journey in holiness. Go to be the people of God. page 9. MESSAGE OUTLINE The Rev. Kim Gilliland January 18, 2015 SEXUAL PURITY BIBLICAL UNDERSTANDING OF SEX Sex is a gift of God: 1. so that husbands and wives can grow in intimacy. ... the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Mark 10:8 (NIV) 2. So that we can have children. Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it... Genesis 1:28 (NIV) DEFINING SEXUAL PURITY Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit; who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honour God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV) Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. But we often treat them like amusement parks. We should treat our bodies with the sacredness that they deserve. The body is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord and the Lord for the body. 1 Corinthians 6:13 (NIV) Sexual purity is celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in marriage to a spouse of the opposite sex. DEALING WITH IMPURITY The reality however is that Christians are almost as likely to break this as non-Christians. Extramarital affairs are wrong and should be stopped immediately. If there is a problem with a marriage, deal with the problem. Pre-marital sex is also contrary to God’s will. Couples who live together should be prepared to get married. We are not to judge them but to support them in making things right. page 10.