Jesus raises alarm when he warns us that adultery isn’t limited to sexual intercourse outside of marriage, but actually begins earlier in the lustful glance of the eye and mental fantasies. Adultery isn’t just physical; it can be done in the heart. So great is the threat of a wandering eye or a straying hand that Jesus suggests losing a part of the body instead of facing the fire of hell. Kingdom righteousness demands more than physical abstinence from sex outside of marriage, but not less.
In view of such teaching, what kind of sexual conduct is becoming of a disciple of Jesus? In this episode of the podcast, we bring you the audio from our May 2022 live event on lust with Dr Marshall Ballantine-Jones and Dr Dani Treweek.
Links referred to:
- Watch the Commanding the heart: Lust event
- Watch the Commanding the heart: Anger event
- Dani Treweek’s website
- Dani on the CCL podcast:
- Our August 2020 event with Dani Treweek and Chris Thomson: Can we live without sex?
- The Single Minded 2022 Conference
- resistporn.org: What about masturbation?
- Episode 051: The rise and triumph of the modern self with Carl Trueman
- Moore College 2022 Open Events
- Commanding the heart: Deception (24 August)
- 2021 CCL Annual
- Support the work of the Centre
Runtime: 1:08:06 min.
Please note: This transcript has been edited for readability.
Chase Kuhn: Jesus raises alarm when he warns us that adultery isn’t limited to sexual intercourse outside of marriage, but actually begins earlier in the lustful glance of the eye and mental fantasies. Adultery isn’t just physical; it can be done in the heart. So great is the threat of a wandering eye or a straying hand that Jesus suggests losing a part of the body instead of facing the fire of hell. Kingdom righteousness demands more than physical abstinence from sex outside of marriage, but not less.
In view of such teaching, what kind of sexual conduct is becoming of a disciple of Jesus? Today on the podcast, we bring you the audio from our most recent live event on lust. Time ran short for the event because of the rich content, and so we’ve recorded a follow-up special Q&A session to address some of the questions that were raised by our live audience and will plan to release this Q&A episode in the near future.
Until then, we hope you’ll enjoy the audio from the event.
CK: Good evening, everyone. We’re very glad to have you here for this evening’s event. My name is Chase Kuhn and I have the privilege of teaching here at Moore College—I teach theology and ethics—but also I have the privilege of directing the Centre for Christian Living. What we seek to do here at the Centre is to bring biblical ethics to everyday issues.
This year, we’re focusing on a theme—that is, “Commanding the heart”—looking at some of the commands that Jesus interacts with in Matthew 5. Last time, we looked at anger: I spoke with Kara Hartley on that topic back in March. Tonight, we’re onto the theme of lust.
I think we often think about the law in the Christian life—these kinds of commands—like walking a tightrope. We’re always afraid we’re going to fall off one side or the other, teetering back and forth, either into legalism or into licence. But I wonder if that’s actually the right way of thinking about righteousness in God’s kingdom. One of the reasons why we’re taking this time out to look at these four different topics this year at our live events is that we get a clearer vision of what true kingdom righteousness looks like. I’m very thankful that tonight, we have another chance to consider these matters—especially with a view towards our sexuality.
We hear tonight that adultery is not just prohibited, but so too is lust. So I invite you just for a moment to listen with me to Matthew 5:27-30: that’s the passage we’re going to be thinking about in a most focused manner tonight. Jesus said,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (ESV)
These are striking words about the severity of these things that we often dismiss. So tonight we’re glad to hear God’s word. I want to be prayerful even now that the Lord will use this evening for our good and our growth in the Christian life. So please join me in prayer.
Our heavenly Father,
We come with humble hearts tonight, asking that you would lead us even through your word, that you would help us to see the truth of your word clearly, and that we would see it applied into our lives—that we would not resist this, Lord, but that your Spirit would work your word down deep into our hearts to change us and lead us in ways of righteousness—that we would understand what it means to be your people—to live as kingdom citizens, even this world—even in this body. So please, Lord, help us tonight to listen carefully and grow up in Jesus our King.
It’s in his name we pray. Amen.
It’s my pleasure to introduce you this evening to two of our speakers. We’re going to be hearing from Dr Marshall Ballantine-Jones, who will be bringing our primary address on the topic of “Adultery of the heart”. He currently serves as a researcher on the effects of sexualised media and social media behaviours. His PhD research was on pornography and its impacts on adolescents, and connections to narcissism, social media and sexting. I’m very thankful to have Marshall with us this evening.
We also have the privilege of having Dr Dani Treweek with us. She is the founding chair of the Single Minded Conference. Dani is no stranger to the Centre for Christian Living. She’s been on the podcastand even has spoken at an event with us in the past. I’m very grateful to have Dani back. Dani’s PhD research was on a theological ethic of singleness. Dani, thank you again for coming.
Before we hear from our speakers, please give me just a moment to run through a couple of practicalities. First of all, we’re glad that we have—and we plan on continuing to have—mixed modes of delivery. So we have a fair number in the room tonight: we’re very grateful that you could journey in and join us in person. We keep inviting people to keep coming back to us. But we have far more online tonight, all over the world, and we’re very grateful to have you, wherever you’re joining us from, and we hope that you’ll engage with us as you’re able to online.
Everyone in the room has been given a booklet. This will correlate with the presentations this evening, and serve as a guide for our time together. Online, you’ve been given a chance to download the PDF for that. Hope you found that okay.
Our plan for our evening is this: we’re going to have three sections tonight. The first is going to be our main address from Marshall, who will present on the issue of “Adultery of the heart”. After that substantive section, we’re going to go into a time of practical exploration, and have a conversation between Dani and Marshall as they will explore some practical scenarios that are related to what we hear this evening on lust. Finally, we’ll finish with the Q&A.
Now it’s time for us to get to our program, so I invite you to please welcome with me Marshall, who will present to us. Thank you. [Applause]
Adultery of the heart (Marshall Ballantine-Jones)
MBJ: Thanks Chase! Great to see so many people here tonight. I know there’s lots of people online. I know there’s people into the future online who will be seeing us. We’re like time capsules for you. Welcome to you. If you want to know what people wore in 2022, these are the jackets, which look just like what my dad wore in 1972, but anyway—welcome.
1. Introduction: Our world and sexual desire
We’re going to look at these hard words of Jesus: “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:28 NIV). Now, these words just make for desperate reading for so many Christians. We live in a sex-saturated world.
Living in a sex-saturated world: an endless onslaught
Just a couple of weeks ago, I was down in Melbourne with my son. We were there to watch Formula One, but there was also a comedy festival on. He said that we really needed to go see some artists he knew from TikTok who were running comedy shows. I said to him, “Mate, I’m not interested in watching a bunch of young people do their comedy shows. They’re just going to be swearing and talking about masturbation.” He goes, “No, no, no. They’re really good.” I said, “Okay. Well, let’s buy tickets to this guy.” This guy: he’s the one everyone’s into. I’m not going to say his name, but he’s popular with the young folk.
So we buy tickets and go to the venue. We’re waiting out the front. I said to my son, “I tell you, mate, I know what these things are like. I see them on TV. Every second word is the F word or the C word. They fill everything with that, and then they just talk about sex and masturbation. That’s what it’s going to be like.” He goes, “No, no. This guy’s so funny. Everyone loves him. He’s brilliant.” “Okay. All right.”
I’m looking at the people waiting to go into the venue and I’m thinking it looks quite promising. I kid you not: they’re all hipsters in their 20s, and the ratio of females to males would have been about, maybe, four-fifths. I thought, “Okay, that’s good. They’re expecting a clean show, these girls. This guy’s going to be respectful. I could probably put up with this.” So we go into the venue.
The show starts. In fact, there were some warm-up shows, and in the warm-up shows, interestingly, every second word was a swear word, and it was all about masturbation. But we had hopes for the main person. He came out. Then I endured an hour of this guy, swearing and talking about masturbation. He adlibbed on masturbation and he gave gratuitous examples of his own masturbation. I was thinking that not only was this a prophecy come true, but also, “This is going to be so awkward for people here.” But the thing that grabbed me about this experience was that the entire audience—which consisted primarily of young ladies—was in rapturous applause. They loved it.
Now, okay, I accept that I’m a fossil. But I thought that perhaps there would have been some sort of #MeToo pushback about white males throwing sexual content on females. But what was driven home for me as I left that show was that “This is the world”. You see, we live in a sex-saturated world. The terms for whether or not sex and sexual content is appropriate is whether or not there’s consent involved. This audience had consented to the process. This was what they wanted, so it was all fine.
Sexualised identities, individualism, and happiness make criticisms immoral
Now, I present that illustration because if anyone is familiar with Dr Carl Trueman’s recent work, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, you’ll see a wonderful and clinical and historical analysis about why our society is so sex-saturated. It’s really important for us to understand at a sociological level, how people are thinking and why they’re thinking, and why they’re feeling.
Some of the things that Trueman points out is how, in the last, say, a hundred years, there’s been a very long process of transforming what personal identity is. We’ve gone from being psychologised, to being romanticised to being plasticised and individualised, to now being sexualised. Our society defines identity primarily as sexuality and sexual identity.
So because of this, it creates a big problem for dissenting and contrary views and opinions—particularly and including those from Christians, the church and various similar institutions. Undergirding this idea of sexual identity are other broader sentiments, like the drive for happiness. Actual moral ethics now is framed around the idea that individual happiness is the major principle.
So when someone or a group wishes to critique or contradict this sexual ethic, we immediately run the risk of harming someone, because we might cause offence. When you cause offence and you harm someone, you’re committing immorality. So that means it’s very, very difficult to just get a voice into our world with a different perspective on sexuality. Really, who is going to ever listen to Jesus’ words?
Technological exposure, another front facing young people
Now, that’s one side. There’s another side to how our sexual world is infiltrating us. I see this in my work, because as an adolescent researcher on online behaviours and pornography, and sexting and so forth, there are some astonishing facts about what most people’s normal experience is as they grow up now. For anyone who is a post-internet adult (post-internet means that during your formative adolescent years, you had access to the internet), these statistics are common: firstly, the average age that they get their first social media account is 11; the average age that they first encounter pornography is 11; and by 15, 100 per cent of females and 90 per cent of males are using Instagram, TikTok or SnapChat as their primary social media tool. 70 per cent of males by 15 and 21 per cent of females are regularly looking at pornography. There are similar numbers for engaging in sexting behaviours. So once we reach adulthood now, we are being bombarded with social ideology, and we’ve been infiltrated internally through the lie-filled experience of constant exposure to sexualized media.
As a researcher, as a parent and as a past youth worker, I ask, “Do I see this affecting the young Christians and the adult Christians around me?” Anecdotally, I have to say, “Absolutely!” I see this having the most powerful and disturbing effects on people. For example, it is very common now for young, dating Christian couples to engage in sexualised behaviour. It’s common for them to participate in casual sex and sexual behaviours when dating. It’s very common for dating couples to travel alone together for extended holidays. Rampant pornography addiction is rife at the same statistical level among Christians as it is in the secular world. People are uncritical about what they wear, both in fashion and swimwear. There is a high tolerance and even indifference to consuming sexualised movies and shows—say on Netflix. And there’s unfettered and endless self-promotion on social media, and I find that Christian leaders are often the worst offenders of narcissistic self-promotion online at the present.
Even more deeply, what I see frequently is a growing resentment among young Christians when being challenged with the traditional biblical teaching on sex, marriage and relationships. The idea that abstinence until marriage is God’s will is offensive to some. I was challenged recently by a group of young Christian males: when I was discussing why they needed to get off porn, they challenged me and basically said, “This is none of your business. It’s a private matter. Buzz off.” I see these things over and over again.
Is anyone left listening?
Now, not everyone is like this, and I presume a lot of you aren’t like this because you’re interested in this topic. But I guess it’s really, really important to tease out the spirit of our generation, peer groups and even within ourselves. Does anyone really have a stomach to listen to Jesus tonight? I hope they do, because what he has to say is so important.
2. Does Jesus even care about my thoughts?
So I’m going to launch off Matthew 5, and look at the Bible’s view on lust, sexuality and God, and use this to say, “Well, what do we do about this?” Because I hope that tomorrow, when you get on with your lives, there’s something that comes out of this talk and our discussion that gives you tools.
Blurred lines between actions and intent (Matt 5:29-30)
Let’s look at Matthew 5. We’ve already had it read out and I read out verse 28 at the beginning: Jesus says lustful thoughts are akin to adultery. This is pretty profound. We want to just soak this in for a bit. He makes it clear that the intent is on the same level as action.
Now, the Jews who were listening to Jesus that day on the mountain, wherever it was, they knew how profound this was, because they knew their Old Testament really well. They knew that adultery was very serious: it carried a death sentence. Read Leviticus 20: it’s all there. You could also look at John 8 and see the zeal they had at stoning that woman caught in adultery. Doing the act was a bad thing, and they avoided it.
They also knew that lust really wasn’t about adultery. Lust fell under the domain of the Tenth Commandment, which is “Do not covet”. Jesus fusing the two was inflammatory to them, because sexual immorality belonged to the pagan world, not to their world. But in declaring that unrestrained lust would warrant hell—warrant a death sentence—Jesus has elevated it to the same status as adultery, and in any case where they have participated in lustful thoughts, he has said, “You deserve death”. So this was a serious and confronting burst of words.
The heart levels the playing field between the “righteous” and “pagans” (Matt 15:19)
What Jesus is really doing is exposing to them what the root of sin is: the heart. Later on in Matthew, he develops this in a much clearer way: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matt 15:19). It’s the heart that is the root of sinful behaviour. So by promoting lust with adultery, intent with action, Jesus levels the playing field for all people listening to this message. We’re all in the same boat. Romans 2:1: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”
How do I know lust and sexual behaviours matter? (Rom 1:24, 26)
So how do I know that lust is a big problem? Well, of course, as Jesus has already said, it’s because it warrants judgement. Not the judgement of stones: he’s not saying, “Well, now you need to add lust to stoning people for adultery.” No, God’s judgement: God sees the thought and he knows the thought. He will judge this. I think we need to just dwell on that. This is serious business to Jesus.
Now, judgement isn’t just something that is forward-looking. I think it’s really important to show from the Bible that judgement is something that God hands us over to now, when it comes to sexual immorality. If I were to take your minds to Romans 1 where we see this picture of people exchanging the truth of God for lies, he immediately hands them over to sinful desires and sexual impurity. You can see it Romans 1:24: “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.” Now this is fascinating: when people want to reject God, what does he do? He lets them. He gives them what they want. But we find out that it’s actually framed as a judgement. The permission is the punishment, because in Romans 1:27, in discussing homosexual behaviour, he says they received in their bodies the due penalty for their sins. I believe, it’s a general way of saying that engaging sexual immorality comes with a cost.
As a researcher, I see this cost littered in the research papers. I focus on pornography and I frequently do talks showing people the layers and layers of harms and negative effects from engaging with pornography. Simply, it hurts people individually. Sexual immorality hurts people individually. We see it at a neurological level: as people engage and obsess in negative repetitive behaviours, it changes the way their brains work and changes the way their sexual function works; it changes their attitudes; it changes their behaviours; it changes their capacity to regulate self-control and delay gratification; it affects them academically; it affects their memory retention. For many, many men—as in over 50 per cent of porn addicts—they experience erectile dysfunction: it affects them bodily. So it hurts people individually.
It also hurts people relationally: just the wide, sweeping carnage that people who engage in porn, sexualised media behaviours and sexual immorality wreak. It affects people’s trust. It affects their expectations. It affects their sex lives. It affects the way they live for each other, because our current sex world is a selfish world, where it’s individualistic: it’s about gratification, not service. So relationships are just destroyed across the globe because of sexual media.
We see the damage, statistically, and with research. We see what’s happening societally because of sexualised media. I mean, notwithstanding that something like pornography always involves the exploitation of countless victims and countless vulnerable, desperate people, for whom no one cares about other than their genitals, and the other people making vast sums of money out of them. We see, at a more popular level, the influence of sexualised culture on mainstream media, movies, shows, music, fashion and advertising, and the way in which that, then, infiltrates how people live and relate, their expectations, their earlier sexual engagement, dysfunctional sexual relationships, their unhappiness, depression and anxiety. Then under the dregs of all that is what’s going on in the seedy end of the world—the third world: prostitution, child trafficking, child pornography, sexual abuse, and domestic violence and broken relationships.
The point is, it doesn’t take much to see that when the world gets what it wants with its sexual culture, it’s self-punishing.
Being clear about good vs bad sexual desires (Matt 19; Heb 13)
So let’s take a step back from this drab discussion and talk about good sex, because the Bible has something to say about this. God is not against sex. He designed it. He gives it. I love what we read in Matthew 19: this is part of the divorce discussion. Jesus says,
“‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matt 19:5-6)
So sex here is clearly described as a bonding gift for marriage. It helps consolidate the deeper oneness that marriage brings—the relational, the emotional and the spiritual oneness. But what’s clear there is that God joins the married couple together. Sex is a gift from God for this purpose. This is a good thing: God wants sex used in this way. This is how he designed it. This is what brings him pleasure.
Sexual desire for one’s spouse pleases God. Jesus is not condemning lustful thoughts for one whom they are married to. That’s a good thing. That honours God. But once we step outside of this parameter, we move into a new category. It’s a category that the Bible calls “sexual immorality”.
3. Is sexual immorality really a problem?
Now, the word for “sexual immorality” across the New Testament is porneia/πορνεία. It’s a Greek word. I don’t know much Greek, but I know that, because, actually, the word “pornography” comes from the word porneia. “Porn”—porneia—is like “sexually immoral”; “graphy” is graphe/γραφή, which means “writings”. “Pornography” is sexually immoral writings. It’s a word we’re familiar with.
Now, the Bible uses porneia or “sexually immoral” all the way through its pages. It’s the same word. So I’m going to refer to this. It’s important for us to understand why porneia or sexual immorality is a problem to God, because so far, what we’ve looked at is that Jesus has said lustful thoughts deserve hell and sex is just for marriage. The legitimate question that we should ask is “What is the problem with sexual immorality? Why is it even a problem to God? Because if I can’t see that, and you’ve just given me rules, why should it be a problem for us?”
So I want to give us three reasons from the Bible why sexual immorality is a big problem for God. These reasons just go beyond the obvious—that is, when I engage in a behaviour that’s unloving, selfish and hurts other people, that’s not a good thing. I’m not going to talk about that. I’m going to talk about how sex relates specifically to God.
When sex rivals God (Rom 1)
The first thing I want to say is that misplaced sexuality is idolatrous. Back in Romans 1 when we see that people exchange the truth of God for lies and they surrender to their sexual feelings and their behaviours, we’re seeing people use sex as a substitute for God. Now, history is littered with examples of religions that use sex as part of their worship. This was very much true in the pagan world of Jesus’ day—which is exactly why, in Acts 15 when James and the apostles gave those Gentile Christians in Antioch instructions about how to live as free Christians, they said, “But don’t engage in sexual immorality” (Acts 15:20). They knew sexual immorality was so linked with pagan cultic worship in those days, you can’t have one without the other in their minds. So that’s another way we knew that it’s idolatrous.
But we see it today, even. We live in an agnostic or even atheistic society now—no doubt about that. Certainly the humanistic values of our post-liberal Western culture is atheistic. But have you noticed that those who are defending and promoting modern sexual ethics do so with the fervent zeal of religious zealots? It is as if it’s a religion to them. They defend it and bow their knee to it like it’s their god.
Well, it is their god, because it is an idol. I wonder how many of us are aware that when we engage in a private session, say, with pornography or sexual fantasy, our knees aren’t bowed to Jesus, but to an alternative idol of sexual liberty and freedom.
When sex corrupts God’s body (1 Cor 6)
Sexual immorality is not just an idol, though. It’s also something that corrupts the body of Christ. You may be familiar with 1 Corinthians 6: it has a lot to say about sexual immorality. But it says in verse 13, “The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body”. The profound thing that we learn in 1 Corinthians 6 is how, as Christians who put faith in Christ, we are fused to the body of Christ. We are fused to him in a very real way. His Spirit lives in us. We are united to him. We are one with him.
The idea that we can then take our bodies and, in the words of that chapter, unite them with a prostitute is so vile, foul and absurd to Paul, because he says it’s like you’re taking Jesus and connecting him to the prostitute. It’s an impossibility. It doesn’t belong.
What belongs in our bodies is not a surrendering to sexual immorality, but a surrendering to the Lord, in whom we put our faith. If we don’t remove sexual immorality from our bodies as Christians, we live insultingly to him. We live in a violating way to Jesus. And if you think about it more deeply, we risk our salvation, because the essence of our salvation is to trust in the Christ and his perfect substitute. But if we aren’t taking that substitution of perfection seriously, because we don’t value what our actions do to him, do we really believe?
When sex mocks the gospel (Eph 5)
Thirdly, sexual immorality is a problem to God because it mocks the gospel. You may be familiar with Ephesians 5—the discussions about husbands and wives, and how they are to relate. But in that chapter, what we find is that the unity between a husband and a wife actually is a forward-looking metaphor for the unity between Jesus and his heavenly church. The unity that comes between Christ and the church is won over by the work and person of Jesus—his death, his resurrection and his righteous obedience to the Father.
So when we take that wonderful work of the gospel as expressed in the eternal unity between Christ and his people, and we mock that symbol of sex that unites the metaphor, we are mocking the gospel. It’s that profound.
So whatever way you look at it, whether because sexual immorality is idolatrous and rises to be a rival to God, or whether because we see that sexual immorality corrupts the body of Christ, or whether we see sexual immorality as a mocking of the gospel, because it mocks Christ and his church, you can see why Jesus is so serious about us mucking up sexually in our hearts and our thoughts, as well as, the Bible further says, in our actions.
Remember what Jesus said about treasures in our hearts? He said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). He immediately said after that, “The eye is the lamp of the body” (Matt 6:22). We have to guard what we look at, what we think about and what we dwell on, because what we look at, what we fantasise about and what we desire becomes our treasure. To what we treasure, there goes our heart, and from our heart comes forth the action.
4. What do we do about sexual lust and behaviour?
So what do we do? I’ve tried to tease out some deeper, biblical thinking about the importance of sex, good sex and sexual immorality, and just why Jesus was so emphatic that even sexual desires that are wrong are very serious to him. But what do we do about this? I’ve got some thoughts.
Cutting it off (Matt 5; 1 Cor 6)
Jesus starts us off, by saying in Matthew 5:29-30 to cut it off. He says if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. He’s saying, “Take serious action. Don’t be indifferent to this. Don’t be passive to this. Don’t think that because it’s not something that someone can see and catch you out on, it’s not seen by God and he doesn’t know and he won’t respond.” It’s like in 1 Corinthians 6, again, where Paul says, “Flee sexual immorality”. Flee! Be drastic about how we deal with this. It’s a mindset that we need to apply as we go forward with our conversation tonight and tomorrow and thereafter. We have to take this seriously.
Committing to school (Titus 3)
The essence of my PhD was looking at evidence-based solutions to problematic pornography behaviours. I wanted to find some secular evidence that I could use in secular contexts that would help, and I found some good ones. But the Bible is actually way ahead of the game. One of the bits of the Bible that I love and that you might not be too familiar with, but I think is spot-on for this question, “Now, what do we do?” comes from Titus 3.
Titus is a brilliant little book: we mostly see it as a leadership manual to Titus, but actually it’s a church-planting book about a really difficult place. One of the things about the Christians on Crete was how selfish, pleasure-seeking and utterly addicted to themselves they were. They had a real problem with getting out there and being good, caring about others, not being lazy, and not just soaking in pleasure.
Right at the end of the book comes this verse: “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good” (Titus 3:14). Now, the word for “learn”: I did a bit of research and discovered it’s a fascinating and very rarely used word. It means, “To be schooled”—as in to go to a Rabbi’s school: to actually sit down and be tutored. “To be schooled”.
What Paul is saying to this dysfunctional group of Christians who were addicted to pleasure (so much like our modern world!) is that they need to step up and learn. They need to learn how to be different. It’s not passive; it’s active.
This is the problem for so many Christians today—particularly as I deal with porn addiction. I see people give up so quickly: they say, “I prayed to God. I tried this. I went to a counsellor. It didn’t work.” And they give up. I normally find, once I start to dig under the layers of their story, that they didn’t really do much effort. They didn’t try. They didn’t take the process that seriously. They were very passive. They were hoping that someone would come from without, or that God would come down from above and fix up their problem. The Titus Christians were to learn and to be schooled.
Letting the gospel teach godliness (Titus 2)
Titus also teaches us what that schooling process is, because he tells us who the teacher is. There is a teacher who teaches us when we’re at school and when we are learning a process of change. In Titus 2, we’re told very clearly who it is: it is the gospel:
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age … (Titus 2:11-12)
The gospel teaches us to be godly. This is so important. We don’t want to let these abstract thoughts be lost on us. We want change in our lives and we want God to be the guide of this. He tells us we need to step up and commit ourselves to a process of change. Part of that is the teacher who we listen to, and the teacher is the gospel. The gospel itself is an enormously powerful weapon for change.
The gospel can do so much for us. It convicts us—convicts us of our need for forgiveness or our need for God. But it also comforts us: I know so many people get lost in despair or indifference or guilt or their despondency over repeated mistakes. But the gospel says, “I love you. I know you make mistakes. I knew you before you were my child, and I loved you then. I know you struggle with sin. I know you keep repeating these mistakes. I know you’ve spoken to me before about this, and then you went and did it again. But I love you. I died for you. There isn’t a crime that you have to pay a debt for. I already paid it.” It’s what the gospel does. It’s such a powerful, immediate reminder that we need Jesus and that he wants us.
The gospel does more than that. The gospel shows us what love is—what sacrificial love is. How, like Christ, we can put others first. When we let this message infiltrate our souls, we don’t want to see or use other people for our satisfaction and gratification. They are more important than us. We don’t live to be served by them, but to serve them. That’s what the gospel teaches us.
The gospel teaches us who the other people in the world are. They’re people who bear the image of God. They are image-bearers of the Almighty. They are that worthy. How dare we think that we can violate them! The Bible tells us that those whom Jesus has called have been redeemed and are children of God. That’s even the next level higher. That’s how God sees this world when he saves this world. The gospel teaches us how to take off the old self—the sinful self—and how to put on the new self: how to imitate and learn the character of Christ.
The gospel teaches us what’s important in the world order. This world is not about happiness. My satisfaction—my contentment—is not what makes this world revolve. God’s kingdom makes this world revolve. My job in this world is to live for the kingdom. This what I’m here for. I need to help people be saved by hearing the gospel. This is my mission. I need to help build up God’s church. This is my mission. The gospel teaches me priority.
Being heavenly minded (Matt 5; 1 Pet 1)
Most importantly, I think, the gospel takes our minds to the future. It casts our minds to heaven. That’s what hope is. It tells us that we have a Lord and Saviour who is seated at the right hand of God (Col 3:1). We’re told that when he appears, we will be like him in glory (Col 3:4). That’s our future. That’s what we will be. That’s what he is right now on our behalf, for us. So when Peter says in 1 Peter 1:16, “Be holy, because I am holy”, when Jesus says in Matthew 5:58, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”, this is our vision. This will be our future. We want this to drive us. That’s why the gospel is such a powerful teacher.
Are we listening to the gospel? Do we let the story of Jesus infiltrate our thinking? Do we meditate on this? Does this come through in our discussions, our priorities and our thinking? Because if it’s not, don’t expect much change in life.
5. Reflections for modern times
I will finish with three short things. I want to say what does someone do now for tomorrow? I have in mind particularly a person who’s struggling with lust. I know that might not be everyone here, and you might be the person to get alongside someone else who’s dealing with this. You might also be a person for whom you’ve experienced the bitter side of someone else’s lust, one way or another. So maybe some of these words might resonate pain in you. We will hopefully bring out this in our discussion later. But for right now, if I were to give something practical for people who are struggling with lust, I would say these three things: repent, change and act.
Repent if you are a person who has surrendered to sexual immorality in your heart or even in your hands with your actions. In our pain-averse world, saying something that may cause distress to someone else is seen to be wrong. It’s very easy to resist hearing what Jesus says, because it’s painful—because it’s powerful. But feeling a bit of guilt is not a bad thing. It’s so important that we are reminded that God has something to say about our behaviour and actions in this world. We aren’t the rule-makers here. He’s said very clearly what he feels about sexual misuse. If we have offended him, let’s come back to him. Let’s get on our knees and in our hearts, call on him to forgive us and start anew.
I know we may have done this before and may do this again. But that shouldn’t stop us from doing it tonight. Repent.
Now, change. I really, really urge people to take serious repetitive behaviours, which they don’t seem to be able to conquer. Generally speaking, people who have repetitive sexual behaviours are addicts. This is borne out in the research, and anyone to do with any addictive behaviour, whether it be substance or behavioural, will know that it’s not a simple process of change. It’s not a silver bullet and it just doesn’t happen with a snap of the fingers. There are many processes that a person can commit to that can give long life and real change. I want to urge you to do that: I want to urge you to, at the very start, to disclose to someone your struggle—to a leader at church or a trusted friend. I want to urge you to get to a counsellor. I want to urge you to get someone else to start looking in on your life and trying to dissect who you are and why you like what you are—to help you analyse what triggers you and why you keep repeating your behaviour. I find that once you do this process, people can find some very concrete patterns in their lives—patterns that, once cut out and removed, mean they can really move forward.
I really urge people to do it in community. I’m a big believer (because the research shows this) in working together with our problems, because it moves us forward together faster. So you’d be surprised: if you have a personal struggle and you disclose it to, say, people in your small group or whatever, how many others actually have the same problem. We don’t want to be a bunch of islands just floating parallel to each other at church; let’s work together and deal with the muck in this world and in our lives, and let’s start getting holy. So commit to change.
I run a five-week recovery program called “Resist”, which I’ve written. There are other courses as well—great courses out there. I urge churches and church leaders, if you’re listening, to start thinking about putting into the annual calendar for many people the idea of recovery groups and so forth.
Lastly, act. It’s not enough for us to say, “Yeah, I accept that God is really down on the world’s values on sex, and I can see that we’re saturated in a world that is immoral about sex, and I know that it stands up against God and it’s a rival to him, and blah blah blah”, and then get on and subscribe to shows that are highly sexualised, or follow music or artists or people on social media who are highly sexualised, and so forth. I think that’s hypocritical.
We’re going to talk about this at length and I know that these questions will become quite nuanced and complicated. But I want to say, just broadly speaking, that saying that you oppose sexualised culture, but still watch sexualised shows or promote artists, or you’re sexual in your own online presentation, or that you’ll openly endorse other people’s ungodly sexual influence—that doesn’t belong with us.
We have an opportunity as the people of God to be countercultural, and we can act. This is not the person who’s struggling with lust; this is all of us. Parents: parents have a responsibility, a challenge and an opportunity to help shape their kids before the world gets to them. This is means a lot of hard work for them. But they need to upskill on what it means to protect their kids from the problems of technology and from the messages of the world, and get the right peer groups and think through those things.
Christian groups. Christian schools have a big responsibility as well, because they can not only help shape the minds of their kids and protect them, they can also make them use technology as part of their learning. So they got to work out how to navigate that. This is a challenge for them. But are they sensitive and are they doing the right things to help their communities move forward? Do they teach kids how to combat sexual culture?
Churches: I think this is the best point to leave it. What does it mean for our churches—our church communities that we belong to—to be countercultural to the sexual values of the world, a world that is obsessed with lust and sexual consumption? I want to say I think this is something you need to work through yourselves. You need to do it with rigour, regularity, sensitivity, care and seriousness. If we remain silent and indifferent to sexualised culture, we leave the hearts of our young people, our future leaders, our children—we leave their hearts exposed to the world’s mercy, its unrelenting onslaught. And God will call us to account for that.
Let’s be people of action. Thank you.
CK: I’ll keep moving if that’s okay. I’ll give you a break just for one second. I’m just going to give a couple of quick announcements.
What I will tell you is we have 32 questions right now in our Q&A just on Sli.do. So I’m going to find a way for us to have a post-session wrap of a lot of these questions. Do take heart, dear people who have asked these questions: you’re not forgotten. We will deal with them in one way or another. So please be patient with us. We’re anticipating some of the questions in some of these scenarios so I hope that’s helpful.
Just a couple of announcements for you. Moore College is very glad to welcome people for our Open Events. We just so happen to have one next week. So if any of you are considering theological education for a year, four years, even for a postgraduate degree—whatever it may be—we have a lot of ways that you can continue to be equipped for ministry at whatever level and stage that you’re interested in serving in. So please consider checking that out.
Second is that we have another event coming up. Our next event in our series on “Commanding the heart” will be on deception. I’m very thankful that we’re going to have Dr Tony Payne coming back to speak to us. Tony did his PhD on one another edifying speech, and here in Matthew’s Gospel, we’re going to be talking about “let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’” (Matt 5:37 NKJV) and the significance of truth-telling for our community life together. So please make a plan to join us on 24 August.
Our CCL podcast is something that we continue to produce episodes for—about two episodes every month. It’s always awkward that my face is the thing that pops up. The most frightening thing was when I opened up the National Church Life Survey at my church and the first thing staring at me was—I didn’t know it was going to be my face, and everybody in my church was looking at me. I was thinking, “I did not do this. I did not put this here. I promise you!”
Anyways, our podcast is something that we really work hard at—getting local and international guests to speak on all kinds of issues. Whereas we curate a theme for the year for these events, our podcast is a bit more ad hoc, and we talk about a whole range of issues on demand. One of the things that was mentioned earlier about Dr Carl Trueman’s book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, we had Carl on, talking about that book just as it was released a few years ago. You can go back and listen to that. It’s a really helpful episode. He’s been on a few times, actually, for different things. Do check out our podcast and subscribe.
Our CCL Annual for 2021 is now available. This is a curated ebook of some highlights from last year—whether it be transcripts from our podcast or our live events—all of our events on community last year are in there, as well as some essays that have been submitted. You can find this on our website or wherever you would get an ebook, and I encourage you to do so. I think it’s well worth your time. They’re bite-sized, readable things so that while you’re on the train for 15 minutes or something, you can get through an article. I think they are well worth your time.
Finally, Dani represents a ministry called Single Minded that runs a conference. Coming up at the end of July and beginning of August, depending on where you are, you can join in for that conference, which is on the theme of being a body. So 30 July, it will be in Sydney; 6 August, it will be in Brisbane, if I’m not mistaken. So wherever you are, if you’re in New South Wales, that is, or in Queensland, or are willing to fly there, you can join those things. It might be online as well.
DT: It’s all being livestreamed.
CK: So anywhere you are in the world, you can join. Her guest is going to be Sam Allberry, who has written many books. He just released a book at the end of last year on the significance of our bodies. I highly encourage you to check out that. You can go to singleminded.community.
CK: Right, now we’re going to enter into a time when I invite Dani to join us as well. I’m going to put to Dani and Marshall a few different practical scenarios that we can seek application for in our thinking, teasing out some of these principles and what it means to actually live these things in real life circumstances. So I invite you both back up here to join me on these stools down the front.
Thank you again, for both of you being here. And thank you for what you’ve just presented, Marshall. I’m going to raise a few difference scenarios. In the past, we’ve done this and we’ve, in effect, anticipated some of the questions for the Q&A. That may happen a bit now, but what we’re going to try and do is situate it within people’s lives a bit more and try to draw some of these things out a little more.
CK: Let’s just talk about pornography to begin. Marshall, this has been an emphasis in your study, but Dani, you’ve dealt with this quite a bit as well in your ministry. Let’s just say that someone watches pornography a bit like you proposed, Marshall, and they say, “Oh, what I do is private is my own business. You can butt out. If I do it by myself, it doesn’t actually harm anyone else. It’s not actually having an impact on anybody else. So what’s the big deal? Why does it have to be ‘sexual immorality’ when it’s just detached from any real relationships?” How would you respond to somebody like that? Either of you can answer this or talk.
MBJ: Do you want me to do that one? [Laughter] Look, it’s a frequent feeling. I hear it from Christians a lot. It’s certainly very frequent in the secular world as well, and a lot of celebrities promote porn with those arguments, saying it’s fine because it’s private.
It’s never private. Pornography is never ever private. Just the nature of what it is involves more than one person. Someone might be in their bedroom on their phone on a session, looking at something. But the content they’re looking at had to come to them. It had to get delivered to them. It had to be produced by someone else. And it involved other people: it involved other people with real lives, real backstories and real vulnerabilities.
Statistically speaking, the vast, vast, vast majority of people who participate in the production of pornography in making it—the actresses and the male performers—have disadvantaged lives. They’re more susceptible to mental health problems and drug addiction. They have high rates of STIs. They, more often than not, arrive at a point in their lives when they regret it. Yet every time we use that content, we’ve involved their lives in our satisfaction. Some of these people seek to break free of their porn use and we enslave them every time we reuse it. Some porn performers have become Christians—brothers and sisters in Christ—and have tried to get on with a quiet life. And yet we keep enslaving them to their past and holding them to their sins. It’s never private.
I don’t need to say more about how it infiltrates and affects sexualised culture. I said that in my talk tonight. But it flows onto everything. Pornography has driven the changes in popular media when it comes to presenting sex. That only happens because there’s a market for it. And there’s only a market for it because we have a consumer. You the private user are the consumer: you have helped be part of the machinery that has enabled all that dysfunction—all that hurt. It’s unloving. There is no part for a Christian to be unloving. Yet to participate in pornography is always and only to be unloving.
CK: Can I just follow on from this? Dani, I would love if you want to contribute anything. You’ve just considered the production of the media; we haven’t even thought about that it’s not just a private thing if I’m in my own bedroom doing this. I have relationships that this is actually impacting as well, and it happens in ways sometimes unknown—whether it be expectations around performance, whether it be the objectification of the other—whatever it may be. You’re right.
Dani, is there anything you’d like to add on this?
DT: Only to say that our verse for tonight has been Matthew 5:28: a man or a woman who looks on another person with the intent to lust. The word there has an “in order to” sense: looking at someone in order to lust. Now, viewing pornography, if that’s not looking at someone in order to lust, I don’t know what is. It seems very, very clear that this is the definition of what Jesus actually says is lust—is sexual immorality—and is something that we just need to have nothing to do with.
CK: And if we’re putting a penalty on it, legally, we’re actually saying this carries a death penalty with it: that’s how dangerous it is—a soul death penalty.
DT: And the flip side of that is this is what Jesus died for. This is how horrific it is that it held our saviour on that cross. It’s not something that just happens in the privacy of our own room that no one needs to know about.
CK: Well, I’ve appreciated the exploration of how to open these things up in our churches and begin talking about it. I think it’s important that we stress as well that this is not just a men’s issue. This is actually something that women struggle with. You said even by mid-teens—we’re talking one in five girls are regularly looking at pornography—not just have looked at pornography, but they regularly engage with pornography.
CK: Let’s talk about masturbation. You raised this in your comedic opening. It wasn’t meant to be funny, I know; it was actually just talking about the real low-hanging fruit that people go for in comedy, sadly. But if the sin of lust is about intent, as we’ve been talking about—Dani, you just mentioned this again—whether or not it’s intentional thought or action or both, then can masturbation be a way to avoid lust, in a sense, or sexual immorality? So imagine yourself in a situation where you think, “Ooh, I could easily find myself being sexually immoral. I’ll use masturbation as the solution to stay out of trouble.” Dani, do you want to start this one?
DT: I was joking with Chase a little while ago that if you told me ten years ago that pretty much every event I go to and I’m talking on singleness and sexuality, there’s a question about masturbation, I would have run screaming from the room. [Laughter] It’s basically the most-asked question I get! And that should mean I should have a really pat answer for you all. But it’s an incredibly complex question.
One thing I do want to say, and I was reminded of this recently as I was listening to some content by someone else, it’s fascinating to me that the Bible doesn’t address masturbation. We’ve just heard tonight the Bible is not reluctant to talk about sexual immorality and to name it. The Bible never talks about masturbation.
Now, I don’t think we have just invented masturbation. I’m pretty sure that the Old Testament people were struggling with masturbation too. So I say that because I think it’s very easy for us to want an answer that says, “Masturbation: no”—a kind of legalistic answer that just makes it very clear. But I actually think we have to do the harder work, and this is what Marshall’s been trying to develop with us tonight. We have to do the harder work of, “Hang on, what is going on here? Why am I feeling this way? Why am I thinking about this? What am I engaging in as I consider masturbating? For what purpose?” We have to ask the questions that are informing us at that point, rather than just going to a straight, “Oh look, there’s a verse—a prooftext—that says that masturbation is never on.”
I think once we do that hard work—once we understand what God’s purposes for sex is—when we understand that the world around us has a very different purpose for sex—the world around us says that sex is all about you; it’s all about your gratification; it’s all about your flourishing; it’s all about your pleasure—then masturbation makes perfect sense in that world. But if we’re looking at sex from God’s perspective—what he’s designed it for—which is to be other-person-centred and to be glorifying to him—then that changes the way that we think about this question about masturbation.
So I’ll toss it to Marshall and he can actually give you the answers.
MBJ: So there’s a website called resistporn.org. It’s a Sydney Anglican website. On there is a masturbation discussion paper. I just draw your attention to it. It’s really, really good.
Now, my comments just on this is if you were to eliminate all the violations of sexual, lustful thoughts that Jesus talks about, and pornography and so forth, and just talked about the mechanical process of stimulating the genitals to orgasm as a means of feeling good, that’s all we’re talking about. I still want to say I think we need to pause. What the Bible does talk about is self-control. It talks about being a purpose-driven person—that is, living for the kingdom of God and the purposes of Christ, and so forth.
I think once we bring into those factors Christian living, the question is, is masturbation really that necessary? Is that what I needed to do to stop me from having those sexual temptations that I was trying to avoid? Because I suspect there are plenty of other, better techniques that that person could deploy in their life to avoid the sexual temptations that doesn’t involve them having to masturbate.
CK: Yeah. What do you tell people who say they’re struggling with control? They say, “Look, I have such strong bodily urges that I must find some outlet for them.” [Laughter] What do you tell them, Marshall?
MBJ: I say, “I know how you feel, mate. I know how you feel. But I think you’re overstating the problem.” I don’t believe that someone is truly in a state where they can’t control themselves. Can I be a little bit crass?
CK: I appreciate that, yeah. I have a feeling I know what you’re going to say. Please tell us.
MBJ: Yeah, I say to all school kids when I speak to them—the older high school kids at least: I say, “You tell me you can’t control the urge to masturbate? I promise you, if you’re masturbating in your bedroom and your mum walks in on you, you’re going to stop.” They will stop at that point. There’ll be no question at that point about self-control. They can do it. Right? We often kid ourselves about what temptation and what—the degree the power of those urges are. So actually, you know what? What we find is if we restructure how we live our lives, where we live our lives and what we do with our time, we have intentionality—an accountability for our minutes each day—and we’ll find the opportunity and the interest and the desire will get much less.
I always found when I went on school camps—two-week school camps—that I wouldn’t masturbate for the whole time, and I never even thought about it once, because we were just so active, so frequent and so forth. And then I would get home and go back to the old pattern. I’d think, “Wow: if I only I could just replicate that!” Well, you can replicate discipline and structure by being planned.
DT: Can I just add to that as well—I think that’s spot-on—but the Bible talks about self-control being a fruit of the Spirit. I think we’ve been complicit here. We Christians for many, really, centuries now have been complicit in putting sexual desire—sexual urges and longings—outside the possibility of self-control. It seems to be the one area of sin that we think you need some special gift from God to be able to handle this. We just heard tonight it’s the gospel that teaches us these things, and we have the indwelling Spirit of God, who God has promised is working in us, sanctifying us, making us more like Jesus, bearing spiritual fruit—one of which is self-control.
CK: Yeah, and that theological vision of 1 Corinthians 6—that the Spirit is dwelling within us—you’ve talked about the awkwardness if your mum walked in on you or something, but actually we have the ever-present God with us all the time, who knows every thought, every word, every deed. To think that somehow, then, I would think anything unbecoming like that would be appropriate, when God is always with me, knowing and seeing, that is a different thing.
Desire and singleness
CK: Now, Dani, you’ve just mentioned something that’s really important. As we think about curbing desires, I imagine there are many single people who think, “Well, if God has given me these desires, surely, then, this is not a good thing. God is not thinking of me in my singleness, but actually I need to find some sexual outlets for me as a single person to become whole or to go along with what I’m supposed to be doing.” How do you encourage singles in this situation where God is saying, “This is not the context for sex”?
DT: Yeah. It is a reality. I’m single. I’ve never been married. I’ve never had sex. I have lots of single friends, and it’s very easy to think, “This is cruel!” But what I need to remind myself of—what I want to encourage other people to understand—is “Who is informing that perspective?” It’s not Scripture. It’s the world. It’s what Marshall said before: we live in a world that has made sexuality the core of who we are—not just kind of the ultimate experience in life (though there is that) and not just the thing that is meant to bring us the most happiness (though apparently there is that too). But we can know ourselves—who we truly are deep down—by understanding ourselves sexually and then having the freedom to express that sexuality. That’s the world’s view. It’s not Scripture’s view. It’s the world that says that a celibate life is suppressive and cruel.
God says living as a single, unmarried child of God in a sexually pure way, where you are not engaging in sex in corrupt ways for which he hasn’t intended, is true freedom. It’s not enslavement; it’s not cruelty; it’s freedom. It’s not a suppression of your sexuality; it’s actually an intentional expression of it. It’s me as a single person saying, “I’m choosing to express my God-given sexuality in this way, because this is the way that most glorifies God, that is most loving of other people, and it is actually for my own good as well.”
So what I need to keep remembering and what I want encourage other singles to remember is “Who are you being discipled by in these ways? Is it the world and everything it has to say about sex? Or is it God and his good plans for sex?”
CK: Yeah. That’s very helpful. I won’t draw this out right now, but even what Marshall was saying at the end, if we’re going to stand against a sexualised culture and then embrace the kinds of media that may not be even pornographic, but are quite sexualised, then we’re actually being hypocritical, and we’re being, if you will, “discipled”—we’re being taught by the world, rather than submitting ourselves to the rule of Jesus Christ—which, I think, is a real rebuke to me and I think probably to many of us.
CK: Just as we go to that, then, let’s be clear: The Bachelor: thumbs up? Thumbs down? [Laughter]
MBJ: Oh, thumbs down from me! [Laughter] But that’s because it’s really bad entertainment as well. [Laughter]
CK: Hearts are breaking right now, I’m telling you!
DT: I will admit I used to watch. I think maybe the Honey Badger was my last season of The Bachelor! [Laughter] I really love that fact that—spoiler alert!—he didn’t choose anyone. I loved that. The rest of the world hated it. I think it’s actually just become really poor entertainment.
But one of the shows I do love is Gogglebox: they always show clips of The Bachelor or Married at First Sight. I do think it is revealing when you watch other people watching those shows—that sense of titillation: the kind of, “Ohhhhhh!” and the “Oh my goodness!” and the kind of delight that’s taken in, really, what is this sexually immoral way of relating to other people. I think it’s very easy for us to fall into that and find that titillation exciting. If we do, we certainly shouldn’t be watching those shows.
Not Gogglebox! You should always watch Gogglebox. But Bachelor. Married at First Sight. [Laughter]
MBJ: For me, Channel Nine or Seven—I think it’s Nine that does The Bachelor, isn’t it? Whoever does it. They’re monetising a mockery of God’s gift of sexuality to the world and I just can’t support that. There’s lots of things I could support. I don’t want to waste my energy supporting the monetisation and the profiteering of Channel Nine in this gratuitous stupid show, which, they know, is just laughable themselves—which involves people misbehaving and looking stupid, as well as, at times, conducting themselves poorly and in a sexual way. It’s just a mockery of God and I don’t want to be part of it.
Shame over past sexual sin
CK: Yeah. I have a couple more things. Let’s just ask this final question for now, even though I have many more I would like to ask. Let’s just say there is a single man or single woman who’s previously engaged in sexual activity with a partner outside of marriage. Now they’re feeling quite a lot of shame and they’re worried about a potential or maybe even an actual future spouse. How would you counsel him or her?
I know there’s two sides to that: you have the person who was the offender in the first instance, and you might have a now potential spouse embracing that person who has lived that life. How do you deal with the aftermath of this kind of sin?
DT: I’ll start and see where it goes, and Marshall can interrupt when it goes off the rails.
I think this is a really serious question and a very common one. It probably should be more common than it is: I think the fact that it’s less common—that we have to deal with it—shows that there’s a lot of sexual history that doesn’t get brought out to light.
You talked about the sense of shame. I think shame, to a point, can be very productive for us as Christians. When I sin and feel no shame, that’s when I’m concerned. Well, no: I’m always concerned about my sin. But when I sin and feel no shame—when I feel like I can come straight before God and not worried about what I’ve just done or thought—that’s when I get really alarmed about where the state of my heart is. So shame itself actually ought to drive us back to the foot of the cross.
But we as Christians don’t exist in shame. We exist in forgiveness and grace. So if you have a sexual history that you are ashamed of, then allow that to drive you to the foot of the cross, seek grace and forgiveness, and revel in the fact that you stand forgiven before God in him.
But do take seriously the fact that your sexual sin, as we’ve talked about—it’s never just alone by yourself in a room, or just one other person in the past. It actually has ongoing implications. So if you arein a relationship with someone, it’s serious and it’s heading towards marriage, I do want to encourage you to work out how to be honest about that. I would encourage you to talk with your pastor or another mature Christian who you trust to think about what the best way to actually bring that up is that’s going to love that other person well and that’s actually going to make that conversation the conversation you need to have to move your relationship forward.
CK: Yep. Very helpful. Thank you.
CK: I am very sorry that we’ve run out of time. I really am. We’ve very grateful that you’ve joined us here in person and online. We really hope that you will continue to come back. Can I just say as well, take on board the action points that Marshall said before at the end of his talk—that it really is important for us to take repentance in this area seriously, to take action and, I’ve forgotten your third one.
CK: To change! Yeah. Thank you. Please be sure to do that and do that in the context of community, remembering the gospel grace that we’ve received. It is a real comfort to us.
Let me pray for us now.
We are grateful that we’ve been together. We’re grateful that we’ve been able to hear your word tonight—a very sobering word from King Jesus, and yet one that we know we’ve been given everything we need for life and godliness. That’s the promise you’ve given to us. So we pray, Father, that we would trust you and, in faith, that we would walk in the newness of life that you’ve given us. So please continue to change us. Renew our hearts and our minds by the work of your Spirit deep within us, and lead us, Lord, unto godliness.
For the sake of King Jesus, we ask in his name. Amen.
Thank you, everyone!
CK: To benefit from more resources from the Centre for Christian Living, please visit ccl.moore.edu.au, where you’ll find a host of resources, including past podcast episodes, videos from our live events and articles published through the Centre. We’d love for you to subscribe to our podcast and for you to leave us a review so more people can discover our resources.
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As always, I would like to thank Moore College for its support of the Centre for Christian Living, and to thank to my assistant, Karen Beilharz, for her work in editing and transcribing the episodes. The music for our podcast was generously provided by James West.
Except as otherwise noted, Bible quotations are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by International Bible Society, www.ibs.org. All rights reserved worldwide.