Dr. Stinson says he already commends everything I have to say. So, I’ll say this to Dr. Stinson: “We, Moores, might be a little people; but we’re fiery! I guarantee you—if you get enough adrenaline in me, I can whip any man in this room!”
The moment when that adrenaline started to surge through me—and what I believe was the highest level in my life—and possibly at a toxic level—happened at a True Love Waits retreat, sometime in the 1990s. I was serving as a youth pastor. I’d been asked to speak at this event that was devoted to talking to teenagers about sexual purity and about saving themselves, sexually, for marriage. I had my youth group with me, as well; and I was here with a group of other youth groups.
I was about to speak about sexual purity, and I was seated on the platform. They said, “Before you speak, we’re going to have one of the teenagers stand up and give her testimony.” So, she did—girl named Laurie. She got up and said: “Some of you, in this room, know that I had sex with Chad last year, right over there; and I’ve repented of that. Some of you don’t think I’ve repented of that. Just because Chad was dating Tina when we got together, you can’t judge me! You can’t judge me!”
I’m sitting here, thinking, “This has suddenly turned into some type of a daytime talk show.” It went on, and on, and on. Then, I had to stand up and preach the Bible. As I was reading the text, I mistakenly thought to myself, “Well, at least we have hit rock bottom;” but, “Oh, no,” because the next day was an event for guys only. The male teenagers were to come to this event. Laurie’s dad, who was a leader in that church, was leading that event. He stood up and started talking to this group of mostly eighth-grade boys about sexual purity.
He said, “As some of you heard last night, my daughter, Laurie, had sex with Chad over there. Chad, it was what? November? October? It was October. They’ve repented of that. I want to tell you something right now. You boys think that sex is so great. You think that sex is just so fantastic. It sure seems like it now, but just wait until you’ve been married to the same woman for 30 years. It’s the same thing—day in and day out—and night in and night out—you won’t think that sex is all that great then.”
Well, the Lord has given me a gift that I’m not sure is included in Ephesians, Chapter 4—but I can read thought-balloons sometimes. As a former eighth-grade boy, I can especially read the thought-balloons, over all our eighth grade boys. It is, “Well, if this is what we have waiting for us, then, let’s just get while the getting is good.”
The more he talked, the madder I became. The reason why is—I’ve reflected upon that man’s attitude over the years—It’s not just that he’s mistaken—although he is—It’s that, at the core of what he was saying—despite all his good intentions—was something deeply and profoundly satanic.
If you are going to be the kind of husband, or the kind of wife, who will maintain moral purity in your marriage, you must understand what it is that you are wrestling against. What you are wrestling against is not merely biology—what you are wrestling against is not merely whatever circumstance you happen to be in your life, or in your ministry, or in your marriage—what you are wrestling against is an ancient, spiritual battle that cuts to the very core of what the Gospel, itself, is about.
Whatever sexual temptation will come into your marriage is not about you! It is about something that has been going on for millennia—and something that was purposed and planned, in the mind of God, before the cosmos ever was. Your struggle and your battle is precisely what the serpent offers in the Garden, when he says to the woman—simultaneously—“See yourself as an animal.” She’s been given dominion—the Bible says—“over all the beasts of the fields.” Now, she is taking direction from a “beast of the fields.” Also, “See yourself as a god. You can decide what is good and evil” (Gen. 3:5).
You will face this pull, throughout your marriage, because this is exactly what the Apostle Paul is talking about when he says the issue in sexual purity is not simply about self-control—although it is about self-control. It is about a kind of self-control that is doing warfare against the temptation of Satan. You will face this pull and this devastating drive toward sexual temptation. I want us to deal with it, this morning, in several areas.
The first is in the most obvious area of adultery. Almost anybody in this room can look around and see the kind of carnage that takes place in the lives—even of people that you know. Some of you have pastors who preach the Word of God to you or who baptized you, who were later destroyed in an adulterous affair. Some of you have friends that have started out in ministry with you, who have been destroyed by an adulterous affair.
Just this last year, I heard of a friend of mine, from years ago—a man that I had studied for ministry with—who was caught in an adulterous affair. The worst part about it was a mutual friend said: “He sat his children down. He said, “I know this is wrong. I’m leaving your mother for another woman. I know this is wrong, but God will forgive me because That’s what God does.” The mutual friend said what was most disturbing to him was hearing his children scream. I put down the phone and vomited out of anguish—imagining myself, looking into the faces of my children and saying, “Everything that you have ever known is being torn to shreds.” I said, “I can’t even imagine that!” but then—it hit me. Two years ago, he couldn’t have imagined it either. Two years ago, that scenario would have been just as shocking to him as it is to me, right now!
You will face this pull, throughout your marriage, because this is exactly what the Apostle Paul is talking about when he says the issue in sexual purity is not simply about self-control—although it is about self-control. It is about a kind of self-control that is doing warfare against the temptation of Satan.
That’s because sexual immorality is not something that suddenly happens to you. Sexual immorality is part of a conspiracy and a plot to work with you, in your sin, in order to—as the Book of Proverbs says—“…trap you, like an animal, who is caught” (Prov. 7:21-27). Paul says, “Flee from sexual immorality. Be warned about joining yourself in adultery” (1 Cor. 6:16-18) and why is that the case? It’s because this warning applies to all of the people of God.
We typically think that sexual temptation and sexual opportunity happens to sexy people. You see love affairs on television and in the movies in which you have these magnetic, attractive people who lined up together in these affairs. That is not the way that it happens! The ugliest people I’ve ever known have had affairs. I have seen—I can’t tell you how many men who have left beautiful, godly wives for women that you would not even notice if you passed them in the hallway. This is not a matter of how sexy or how attractive someone is. The satanic powers are noticing you! They are watching you! That is especially the case for those of you who have stood up and said, “I am pursuing God’s call upon my life to stand, and to speak for Christ, in proclaiming the Oracles of God.” They will do anything to see to it that the Gospel is discredited by your animalistic impulses.
Most people, who find themselves drawn into adultery, are not drawn into adultery because they are so oversexed. Most of them, instead, find themselves in that place because marriage is exactly what Dennis Rainey said, a few minutes ago—a mission. It’s an economy. It’s an order that has been put together—and it is hard labor together—to bring forth the bread from the earth, and to be fruitful and multiply, and to raise up the next generation, and to get along with one another, through all of these sufferings and all of this strife.
Most of the ministers of the Gospel, that I know, who have wrecked themselves in affairs, have done so because this is a means, initially, of escape. They find themselves in a situation where talking to her or visiting with him has all of the vibe and the excitement of a high school romance. You don’t have to worry about who’s going to take the garbage out, and who’s going to separate the recycling, and who’s going to discipline the children. It simply is a means of flight from responsibility. It is a way for the ego to be gratified as someone starts to see himself or see herself as the object of attention.
But notice what the Apostle Paul says here. It is shockingly radical! The Apostle Paul says, “You belong to each other.” He does not simply say, “Flee adultery.” He does not simply say, “don’t be joined to a prostitute.” He does not simply say, “Hey, It’s okay to be married”—those of you who are wondering about that. He says something significant here. He says, “Husbands, your body belongs to your wife; and wives, your body belongs to your husband” (1 Cor. 7:4).
Do you realize what a shocking statement that is to be made in a patriarchal culture in which so many people in the pagan world see women as being simply a form of property of men? For Paul, not only to speak to the wives—as Peter calls them, “joint heirs of the Gospel with you” (1 Pet. 3:7)—but to say, “Husbands, your wife has authority over your body. You are one flesh” (1 Cor. 7:3-4).
About Dr. Russell Moore
Russell D. Moore is the dean of the School of Theology and senior vice-president for academic administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. The grandson of a Mississippi Baptist preacher, Dr. Moore also serves as a preaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church, where he ministers weekly at the congregation’s Fegenbush location.
Dr. Moore writes and speaks frequently on topics ranging from the kingdom of God to the mission of adoption to a theology of country music. He is a senior editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and also blogs regularly at Moore to the Point (www.russellmoore.com). He is the author of several books, including The Kingdom of Christ, Adopted for Life, and most recently of Tempted and Tried. Dr. Moore and his wife, Maria, have five sons.
Russell Moore, “Purity, Not Just for the Unmarried,” Moral Purity in Marriage, audio broadcast, 11 February 2013.