Last Sunday, we studied Mark 6:14-29. Herod Antipas threw a “stag party” for his birthday and invited all of the other leading men of Galilee to it. What took place there is unforgettable, to say the least, and not in good way. The lack of sensitivity to immorality and murder in that scene sadly reminds us of our own culture. Herodias, who wanted John the Baptist’s head removed, is almost a “type” of our culture that says, “I don’t care about half a kingdom or anything else you have to offer, just don’t place any moral standards on me.” She wanted the head of John the Baptist, God’s messenger, who told her the message that it was morally wrong for her and Herod Antipas to be living in adultery.
Many kids today, like Herodias’ teenage daughter Salome who danced for Herod, are growing up without believing in any certain moral standards or think they can create their own standards, as if they’re just relative or subject to change. The reason they believe this is because their parents, like Herodias, and some teachers have denied the source of moral standards, which is God. They’ve been trained that way by the world system.
The corruption in the text, and particularly Salome’s insensitivity to what is right and wrong (her rapt obedience to her mom’s evil ways) makes you a bit angry and mournful at the same time because it’s terrible to see this young girl so lost and living such a destructive life. As believers, we know that the most satisfied people in this world in the long run and the most satisfying marriages are those who do things God’s way, saving sex until marriage and keeping the marriage bed pure. Hebrews 13:4 says that standard is to be held in high honor among us and we want our kids to hold it high as well.
However, one of the things we do that that can be a great disservice for our kids is to set the standards of God’s Word and not don’t equip them to keep it.[i] We’re just setting them up for failure if we don’t equip them. So I want to give us a few equipping principles for meeting the standards, or like Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 4:2-5, knowing how to possess our own vessels – how to steer our own ship, as those who know God (1 Thess. 4:2-5).
The first principle deals with the relationship picture between God and man – the theological picture behind sex & marriage.
1. Relationship. (Get the picture!)
We were created for and foremost for a relationship with God and until we find God as our all, we will greatly struggle to fill our longing for intimacy with Him through intimacy with others. However, because we have a God-shaped void in our heart that only God can fill, we are left ultimately unsatisfied.
Marriage and sex is the most intimate thing in this world and carries an intimate picture of God. When God created man, the Godhead deliberated saying, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” When we were made in His image, it means we were created with a personality made up of mind, emotion and will. But also that we are relational like Him, created for love, communication and fellowship – whereas the rest of the creatures He created, weren’t. There has always been love, communication and fellowship in the Godhead.
So just as you have this singularity to God (there is one God), but also a plurality to God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), so you have a singularity and plurality to man. He created us male and female (Plural) but through marriage Adam and Eve would become one flesh. Eve was “bone of [Adam’s] bones and flesh of [Adam’s] flesh” and the two were “joined together as one flesh”. Just like there is a purity & oneness to God in three persons, so there is a purity & oneness to the husband and wife and their three-fold relationship with God.
The NT also reveals that a husband and wife are a picture of Christ & the Church (Eph. 5:15-33; 1 Cor. 11:2-16). Remembering this incredible picture that marriage is to be will go a long ways in our honoring that picture through purity because without purity, relationships are damaged and the picture of our intimate & holy God is damaged. Again, though, it is a picture and not a replacement for the most important relationship in our life. When someone finds God as their all in all, that sex drive which He gave us, can be greatly curbed and put in its place because we were created first and foremost for a relationship with Him.
The second thing to remember is that there’s just going to be times where it’s necessary to run away from temptations. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee immorality”. It’s a graphic reminder of Joseph in Genesis 39:12, who had to literally run away from Potiphar’s wife who was trying to get him to do commit adultery with her. She grabbed Joseph’s garment and he ran away, leaving it in her hands. Run when you need too.
Third, learn to refocus when you mind starts to drift in that direction. Refocus on God’s Word. Memorizing helpful Scriptures to bring to mind to get focused again on eternal things. Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your Word.” Proverbs, chapters 1-5, are also great place to go when you’re struggling. There, Solomon (the wisest man in the world) gave his son instruction on how to avoid immorality.
One of things I keep in mind is that just as God designed Eve perfectly for Adam and brought her to him, so God designed my wife and brought her to me. In His sovereignty, He didn’t have to allow us to be introduced to each other – but He did. He knows we are perfect for each other. So if you’re ever tempted to lust after someone who is not your spouse or will lead to immorality, thank God for your spouse who is perfectly fit for you by Him or thank Him for your future spouse, should it be His will. Chances are, the person you are tempted to lust over, has a personality you wouldn’t like anyway.
Read Romans 13:11-14. In the same context of teaching on the believer’s purity, Paul finishes by saying, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provisions for the flesh in regards to its lusts.” This basically means stop providing opportunities for the flesh to lust and provide opportunities for the Spirit instead. A great example of this is when Paul tells thieves to stop stealing and start working. If they work and have money, they’re not as tempted to steal, right? If you’re trying to lose weight, you don’t keep a candy dish around, do you? That’s how simple and practical this is.
David said, “I will set no evil thing before my eyes. I hate the work of those who fall away” (Psalm 101:3). I’ve heard of some men writing that verse out on a card and taping it to their tv’s! How about instead of doing some last-minute late night browsing through social media before you fall asleep, you simply set your alarm and pray instead. Just do what you have to keep the flesh from rising up and causing problems. Get rid of anything in your home that might tempt you. Try taking advantage of apps that cut out the immoral parts of movies you watch.
5. Realize & Rely.
This may be the most important point of all. Realize you cannot do this on your own but you must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16) because apart from Him we can do nothing (Jn. 15:5) but by Him we can do all things (Phi. 4:11). If we try to do this in our strength, we will inevitably fail. We must not think we can do it on our own, for pride comes before the fall. We must depend on the One who has set us free positionally in Christ so that we can live it out conditionally in our lives. Walk by the Spirit by focusing on Christ who set you free from the power of sin through the cross and raised you through the resurrection to walk in the newness of life by the Spirit (Romans 6:4). The gospel is not just for salvation but for living moment by moment as a Christian.
The last tip I have is straight from out text in Mark:
We need to remember to care more about what God thinks than what others think of us or what we think. Herod cared more about his cool & powerful reputation before his buddies than he did about his obedience to God. And there’s nothing like a little peer pressure to test what we really believe, right? When the pressure is on, we find out if our beliefs have really become convictions.
In his book called Love, Sex, and Lasting Relationships, Chip Ingram gave a great example of the difference between intellectually agreeing with something and when it is actually a personal conviction. He said that when he was in college he was a Resident Assistant (RA) and during their training, certain statements were made like “Premarital sex is wrong.” And the RA’s who agreed with the statement were told to go to right side of the gym and those who disagreed, go to the left. And with the sexual revolution raging at that time, out 70 students in the room, 67 went to the far left side saying they disagreed. 2 of them though, Christians in his Bible study, walked to the far right, unconditionally agreeing with the statement.
What did Chip do? He said he walked about two steps to the right of the middle line. He said “I had a problem. I was willing to move a little in the right direction, but I wasn’t committed and I wasn’t definite. I had an intellectual belief that sex before marriage is wrong, but my conviction wasn’t fully developed. I didn’t believe the point of openly acting on that belief 100 percent of the time.” He said, “There’s nothing like social pressure or peer pressure to demonstrate the strength of our convictions (or lack of them).”[ii]
So which side of the court are you on? Are your beliefs definite convictions that you act on? Are you like John who would suffer for the standards of God no matter what (to the point of execution) or like Herod, who when all the eyes are on him, forgets the all-seeing eyes of God? Herod caved under pressure against his conscience that knew it was wrong to behead the righteous man John. He sends for the executioner and has John beheaded in jail and the platter brought to Salome who brought it to her mom.
If there’s anyone to feel sorry for in this text, it’s not John… it’s Herod. Herod gained the whole world and lost soul while John, a man of conviction before God, entered eternal bliss and left an impact on the world by his willingness to die for what he believed in. There is a great reward for those who run the race of the Christian life well.
[i] Bryan Clark, Family Matters sermon.
[ii] Chip Ingram, Love, Sex and Lasting Relationships (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015), 190-192.
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