Recognizing Modern Idolatry Day 3: The Idol of Sex, Part 1
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 5:3-6, ESV)
Today, as we continue our discussion of modern idolatry, we will be moving on from the idol of money to the second of the two most obvious idols in our culture—the idol of sex. If you have spent any time reading the news recently, you will not be at all surprised by my claim that our world seems to be profoundly confused about the nature of sexuality. We are struggling to answer basic biological questions about males and females, we are redefining marriage and even personhood, and we are finding ourselves twisted into logical knots regarding sexual concepts—knots that seem impossible to untie. While this upheaval may seem entirely unique to our cultural moment, the Bible makes it unmistakably clear that sexual sin with its subsequent bondage has been part of the human problem since our earliest days.
The Old Testament has no shortage of accounts of polygamy, rape, prostitution, adultery, and homosexuality. But for simplicity’s sake, we will look today at a story well known to many of us—the story of King David and Bathsheba. The full account of David’s horrific actions is found in 2 Samuel 11 and the prophet Nathan’s meeting with him is found in the following chapter, 2 Samuel 12:7-14.
Interestingly, David’s idolatry of sex followed the same pattern as Gehazi’s idolatry of money. We see David’s temptation, his choice, his deception, and his consequences. He saw a beautiful woman bathing and lusted after her beauty. After finding out she was another man’s wife, he chose to take her by force to have sex with her. Then, he concocted a deceitful plan to hide his complicity in her pregnancy and, when that failed, gave orders to have her husband killed. When God’s prophet exposed his guilt, he was cursed with constant violence and infidelity in his family and, tragically, the death of his infant child.
Of course, the heinous nature of his crimes merited far greater consequences than Gehazi’s sin. David’s wicked choice had far-reaching consequences which fell on Bathsheba, her family, David’s family, and the entire nation of Israel. Isn’t this true of sexual idolatry in our lives as well? We do not commit sexual sin in a vacuum; there is always a trail left behind of fractured families, ruined testimonies and ministries, and broken hearts.
Hear again how God’s words to David, communicated through the prophet Nathan, ring with the desperate disappointment of a doting father who has been deeply hurt by his son’s wickedness:
“I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight?…. You have despised me… because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die” (2 Samuel 12:7-8,10,14).
Think of what God is saying here to David, one who is referred to elsewhere by God as a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). As a paraphrase, the Lord is saying, “David, I gave you everything. I protected you, I gave you power and position, I gave you love and family, and I would willingly have given you anything you asked. Why did you do it? How could you think so little of My holiness that you would steal another man’s wife, murder him, and then think you had covered it up to escape My notice? I am saving you from complete destruction, but your life and your family will be marred by this forever and your child will die. It didn’t have to be this way.” How many times have we felt the gnawing ache of grief over our sin against God’s heart? Does not sexual idolatry tear us from His presence and reveal our wayward hearts?
We need to remember that God’s heart and God’s law have not changed since the days in which the Old Testament prophets spoke. He is still deeply grieved by the immorality of His people. He still sees us despise and scorn His name. He still feels real pain when we destroy ourselves by disobedience. He wants to give us all we ask for because He loves us, but we so easily reject His ways and toss aside His faithful love to satisfy our lusts. We should fall on our knees with gratitude as we realize that He sent His own Son to protect us from His righteous judgment.
Regrettably, many professing Christians today have forsaken that truth and bought into the false idea that God does not care about our sexual lives. People who claim to love Jesus, particularly those who call themselves “progressive Christians,” are tossing aside His clear teaching on God’s standards of holiness and are confusing—especially young people—with smooth talking that has no basis in Scripture. Many lies about God’s view of sex are being aggressively promoted to us, and it is unwise for believers to remain unaware of their popularity and their danger. The following excerpt was published on the Patheos website by Brandan Robertson, a reverend and progressive pastor with a very large following who, despite claiming to follow the ways of Jesus, vehemently rejects Christ’s teaching on the issue of sexuality:
“The truth is that most people in the world have sex outside of marriage. Most people in the world will hook-up with someone at some point in their lives with no intention of having a lasting romantic relationship with that person. And most people will have a positive experience during and after the sexual encounter. If this is true, then we should be drawn back to our tradition and our text to see where we’re missing the mark with our sexual ethic. After all, when reality and your theology clash, it is your theology that needs to change…. When we dig deeply into the Christian tradition and explore what the Church has taught about sex, we quickly see that there has never been a single coherent sexual ethic for Christians…. Each of us should be free to explore and discover how God has wired us sexually and seek to live according to the values of Jesus and inner-authenticity. For some, that may mean reserving sex for a marriage relationship. For others, that may mean expressing your sexuality more freely. Both have a place in God’s design for sex, and therefore both should be celebrated by the Church” (Rethink Sex: A Progressive Christian Perspective | Brandan Robertson).
The problems with Robertson’s reasoning are clear if we take even a brief glance at the New Testament. Our theology does not and should not change based on the fact that the majority of the surrounding culture does not agree with it. When many people commit sin and seem to enjoy it, sin has not somehow ceased to be sin; it simply means that they are still under the bondage of their sinful nature and have desensitized their consciences to God’s law. It means that our world is increasingly in need of repentance and forgiveness—namely, the good news of the gospel of Christ. Our theology and practice should be dictated by the teaching of God’s Word, not shifting opinions.
We’ll pick back up tomorrow, outlining what God says about sexuality, and what His design is for sex within marriage.