A man, who once lived in our community, returned for a visit. We had lunch together, and he commented to me, “I am amazed you can still hold the attention of your congregation!” He was not necessarily complimenting me on my ability to communicate the gospel. Instead he was telling me that the topic I used the previous Sunday is not relevant for our day.
What I said to him is this: “All I can tell you is that Jesus Christ is the same today, yesterday, and forever, and so is his Word. I must be faithful to the proclamation of his Word, for it is sufficient for relevancy in any age.”
I think of this man often and wonder what he would say about our text in today’s message. Although it is only one verse, it speaks to the hour.
We live in a day of great immorality. When I turn on my television, read my newspaper, or listen to the conversations of people, I can see things are often not very good. I often found this to be the case during my pastorate when I spoke to couples during premarital counseling. One of God’s greatest gifts to the Christian is the gift of the marriage bed. God instituted that unique relationship for a husband and a wife. Today we wrestle with the matter of cohabitation. I’m sure it has been a part of secular behavior from the very beginning, for we find it happening even in the Old Testament. But simply because it has been common doesn’t make it any right, only a little less embarrassing, perhaps.
Many people today are living in cohabitation. However, it is still not God-pleasing. I recall visiting with a couple who were going to be married. She was a member of our church; he was unchurched. During the meeting, she stated that they were living at the same address. So I asked how they felt about this. She said she felt really good about it. It helped her know him better, saved expenses, etc. Then I asked him the same question, and to my surprise he replied, “Not good. It is not right, pastor.”
She looked at him very astounded and said, “You agreed to this type of behavior. You said it was the right thing to do.” He replied, “I am not saying I do not enjoy living with you. But I know it is not right.”
So we discussed it a bit further, and finally she said, “I can tell you this: 95% of people my age have had sexual relationships of one type or another.” It seemed clear to her that, because her lifestyle is popular with her crowd, it was an acceptable way of life. But does general acceptance really make it right, friend?
Well, certainly it does not for those of us who have sensed the coming of Jesus Christ into our lives through that redemptive experience. When he lives in our life and we have a personal, intimate, relationship with him, the secular lifestyle and the Christian lifestyle simply do not go together.
In this message, I am going to speak more plainly than I generally do. When God created the earth, after he had created all the birds and the fish, the flowers and the landscape, he said, “Now let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number (Genesis 1:26-28a).
Then, in Genesis 2:18, it says, “The Lord God said, ÔIt is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'” Notice that one of the purposes for marriage was a unique, intimate fellowship only husbands and wives can enjoy and understand. That is the uniqueness of the sexual relationship.
Genesis 2:21-25 tells us that God made a woman from Adam’s rib, then he brought her to the man. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame.”
It is very clear, from the creation story, that our Lord as the Creator was making a very unique relationship between a man and a woman. When they have that union, the two become one. These words are quite relevant, even for us today.
This teaching is found not only in the Old Testament, but it is also scattered throughout the Scriptures. Hear the words of our Lord Jesus Christ himself from Matthew 19:4-6: “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, ÔFor this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?’ Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
We can live in sexual immorality if we wish, but the church must speak against it. Our text, taken from Hebrews 13, tells us that marriage is to be taken extremely seriously.
Stop and think of what it means to the marriage when a person sleeps around. I heard of a man in our community who supposedly has had relationships with 25 different women, including his wife. Every time an affair occurs, a tie is established. Physically he is married to his wife, but spiritually he is married to another woman. So what happens?
Studies of unfortunate marriages have shown that these affairs spoil the marriage, for the memory of those immoral convictions plagues the relationship and robs it of the marital joy God intended us to have with our spouse. So the church must utter the voice of our text today. “Marriage should be honored by all and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”
I am sure I speak to many of you who are living pure lives as far as sexual activity is concerned. You’ve lived 60 or 65 years with one spouse, and you never tire of one another. You have a story to tell to those who do not know this type of marital relationship.
I am certain the words of this message anger some who listen to it. I don’t want you to be angry, nor does God. However, God will not change his message to make an exception for you. Only one voice can make it right. It is the voice belonging to Jesus Christ. He came into this world to suffer and die on the cross of Calvary to pay the price for our sins. He is willing to take all our sins upon him. If you believe with all of your heart that you have been doing wrong according to the will of God, take it to him. Don’t try to make it right yourself, for you cannot. Just take it to God. Go into your bedroom, get down on your knees, and confess to Jesus Christ what you have done. You will hear him say, “I forgive you.” Then you will sleep soundly, for although this is a bad sin, it is not an unforgivable sin.
I am not attempting to take the situation of sexual immorality lightly. Instead, I am simply telling you that living in immorality is wrong. It is wrong according to the Word of God, and cohabitation is not the way in which Christ wants us to live our lives.
So what does this message have to do with Christmas? The Christmas gospel says, “Unto us is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Go to that Savior and pour your heart out to him. Confess your sin. Say to him, “Lord Jesus, I cannot properly celebrate Christmas with this burden on my heart.” You will hear him say, “I forgive you.”
That is the Christmas gospel. Then we can truly sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men,” for we have a Savior who can deliver us from all our immorality. In Jesus’ name.