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Defeating Our Human Nature (Part 3. Fornication - Destroy Your Own Flesh)
Although part of a series, this article is a Complete study on its own. (3 of 18 in series)
* all [bracketed] words in Scripture quotes are mine *
"He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before your God?" (Micah 6:8)
"I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh...
...For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such things there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another." (Galatians 5:16-26)
Based on the Scripture above, we will be trying to understand the damage caused by the fleshly work of fornication.
Welcome to back to our series on defeating our human nature.
The human race has been "doing what feels good" since the fall and each generation has paid a steep price for their indulgence in their fleshly lusts. We watch television and when there is attraction between two characters, we wait to see if there will be sexual activity as a result. We watch with anticipation and vicariously get a rush from the exploits of the characters on the screen. Stories sweep us along with them and we root for the bedroom scene to happen. Yeah, good for them we cheer, and then we realize, wait a minute, I'm rooting for sin, for fornication to occur. I know, it's "just a movie," just a fictional story, it isn't "real," but... Jesus said that if I look at a woman so as to lust for her, I have already committed adultery in my heart. Looking can be on television or video, even vicariously in written description in books and magazines. (Matt. 5:28) The Bible says that people who live in their lustful sin are condemned, but also warns those who stand by and "take pleasure in them that do them [mentally share in their lustful sins]." (Rom. 1:32) Those sharers are as guilty in God's eyes as those that devised and acted on their sin. So God tells me that by my giving approval and getting enjoyment in others' sins, that makes me partaker in the same sins. It really makes no difference if I entertain ideas that include real persons or ideas that pertain to fictional people, the mental process and sin are the same. Therefore, I have been, (we all have been) guilty of many sins that have not been done with the body but have been committed in the mind. Do you see how easily sin is tossed at us by the world and gleefully caught by people who may otherwise be trying to live a godly life? Do you see how careful we must be?
In part 2 of this series on the works of the flesh, we considered adultery, its horrible toll on marriage and the great damage it causes, including spiritual implications. In order for adultery to be committed, fornication must happen. Fornication is reaching out with your lust and taking, with your mind or body, that which does not belong to you to use it sexually, violating God's law. We will examine that which constitutes fornication and we will see why God has written in His word that we are to run from it, to flee as if afraid of it.
"Flee fornication. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body." (1 Corinthians 6:18)
In Leviticus chapter 18, God lays out the guidelines for sexual behavior. Basically, sex outside of marriage in any form is prohibited. But to be clear, certain other things were spelled out that falls under the broad term fornication. The passage below gets quite specific because God knew that man would rationalize a scenario not mentioned and think he had found a way to fulfill his lust, a way around the sin. People would say, "Yes, the Bible says not to go to bed with my father but I am adopted, so it doesn't count." Or, they would say, "It is wrong to go to bed with my sister, but she is only my half-sister." God knew, and had this very specific list included. People are inventive and kept coming up with things in which to defile themselves so the rule of thumb is that proper sexual conduct is guided and empowered by the Spirit and only in marriage.
"Then the LORD spoke to Moses saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, 'I am the LORD, your God. According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Caanan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances...None of you shall approach [that is to say- don't even mentally entertain the thought] anyone who is near of kin to him, to uncover his nakedness [a term meaning to lust over or have sex with]; I am the LORD. The nakedness of your father [the one from whose seed you sprang] or the nakedness of your mother [the woman who gave birth to you] you shall not uncover. She is your mother; you shall not uncover her nakedness. The nakedness of your father's wife you shall not uncover [step-mother, second wife]; it is your father's nakedness. The nakedness of your sister, the daughter of your father, or the daughter of your mother, whether born at home or elsewhere [sister, half-sister, adopted sister] their nakedness you shall not uncover. The nakedness of your son's daughter or your daughter's daughter [grandchildren] their nakedness you shall not uncover; for theirs is your own nakedness. The nakedness of your father's wife's daughter, begotten by your father - she is your sister - you shall not uncover her nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's sister [paternal aunt]; she is near kin to your father. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother's sister[maternal aunt], for she is near kin to your mother. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's brother [paternal uncle]. You shall not approach his wife, she is your aunt. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law - she is your son's wife - you shall not uncover her nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother's wife [sister-in-law], it is your brother's nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter [together] nor shall you take your son's daughter or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness. They are near kin to you. It is wickedness.
Nor shall you take a woman as a rival to her sister [getting revenge by having sex with her sister], to uncover her nakedness while the other is alive...You shall not lie with a male as with a woman [any type of homosexuality]. It is an abomination. Nor should you mate with any animal to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it. [bestiality]. It is perversion. Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants." (Leviticus 18:1-3, 6-18, 22-25)
Fornication is a broad term for improper sexual thought and action. The Greek word for fornication is porneia (por-ni'-ah) the origin of our word pornography, and means "all forms of improper sexual thought and deed; idolatry." Its root word is porneuo (porn-yoo'-o) and its literal meaning is "play the harlot, indulge in unlawful lust." Its primary focus is on harlotry, but also includes adultery, incest, and bestiality. The Hebrew equivalent is the word taznuth (taz-nooth). Both words have their roots in the religions of the times.
In ancient times, Israel ran into people groups that practiced religions believing the success of their crops were insured by sacrifice and fertility rites. Women were used to lure men to the worship of carved idols and false gods so as to have enough sexual energy to please the gods. These priestesses of sexuality were part of ceremonies where new-born children were burned alive in human sacrifice (made to pass through the fire) to the gods of the sun, rain and harvest.
(If you were wondering, yes there were male counterparts to these women to sexually serve in the sacred areas to these false gods.)
Then to assure that there would be a bountiful harvest, frenzied, wanton, sex orgies containing every perversion under the sun took place to ensure the fertility of the soil and complete the life cycle. It was one big perverted package that made God's heart ache. These rites and religions were practiced in temples (in some areas) like the temples to Molech and to Baal, but also they were done in ornate gardens (groves) where flowers, and serene plant-life was arranged to give protection against the sun with a comfortable, cool place for rites to occur. When no grove was around a very large tree with nice shade would do.
"For they also built for themselves high places, sacred pillars [large phallic shaped idols to worship gods of fertility], wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree. And there were also perverted persons [sodomites, KJV] in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD God had cast out before the children of Israel." (1 Kings 14:23-24 NKJV)
"My people ask counsel from their wooden idols and their staff informs them. For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray. And they have played the harlot against their God. They offer sacrifices on the mountiantops, and burn incense on the hills, under oaks, poplars and elms, because their shade is good. Therefore your daughters commit harlotry [fornication] and your brides commit adultery." (Hosea 4:12-13)
"And they built the high places of Baal which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin." (Jeremiah 32:35)
Porneia is closely related to another word many times used in conjunction with it. The word is piprasko (pip-ras-ko') which means "to traffic and dispense merchandise," in this case, human flesh for sexual service. Its secondary meaning is "to sell into slavery." Of course, these people did not work at the temple for free. It was a means of living employment opportunity for young women and men once they were trained to serve in the way of worship. It also was money for the traffickers who supplied the young captured recruits. These people were mostly captured and sold into this service from neighboring areas and tribes, much like sex traffickers do today. It is clear that drafting into this service was against their will (at least at first) but then the psychologically damaged children began to act like the sex slaves of today and obey their masters without question. I think it is clear that porneia itself contains an element of slavery to it as a person sells his or her thought process to the service of the god of self-fulfillment. The sex drive is put into place by God and then lust transforms it into a giant chasm in one's soul which can never be filled. Like chasing smoke, the lust feeds on itself and evaporates before it satisfies. A person is in slavery to it until God sets him free.
Fornication begins in the mind (as do all of the strongholds of sin) but this "personal" sin will not stay in the mind, harming only that one individual. The effects of this sin spill out to all those in our life's circle, whether or not it is acted upon physically. The world would have you to believe that the philosophy should be, "to each, his own." Indeed, we are not to try to strong-arm people into changing their ways, but we are not to just accept their ways as co-equal with God's standards or as an "alternate but valid way to live." We are to love the sinner that commits the sin while hating the sin they commit, which means we lovingly use any words we can to help them see that their life's course will end up in death and destruction. "Lovingly" being the operative word, for very few (if any) are convinced within a framework of vindictive, self-righteousness.
The essence of fornication is greed and selfishness. Consider the example testimonial below that is a composite of some common situations, and see if you identify at all with the one trapped in this sin that quickly becomes a stronghold from which it is hard to escape. I venture a guess that one or more of these things has come into your experience at one point or another. Our society is permeated with these things and they are now deemed acceptable behavior by the masses.
"...I had sex with my wife and it was very good, at first. I should have been happy and content, considering myself a lucky man but then I found I would get inflamed with lust. I began to crave variety, some new and different sensations, and my mind would not shut down or turn to other things. Everything reminded me of sex, increasing the urgency and expectancy of my next encounter. I set my mind adrift in a sea of imagined sexual delights and followed the sex lives of strangers using their bodies on the Internet, on DVD, Pay-Per-View, in paperbacks I read, in magazines I bought. I spent hours (and much money) in adult bookstores. I made a pretense that it was for her and our life together, so I bought her all kinds of toys, that could stimulate my fantasies of others and satisfy the rising need for a sexual high, the craving growing exponentially. Soon games and accessories with my wife were not enough, so I suggested my wife allow another woman to join us. Of course, this all ended in divorce and I then was alone with the still growing sexual addiction and frustration. I turned to prostitutes and joined a "swapping" group. It went along like that for a while until the hole in my heart grew to such a point that I could no longer feel or taste the sensations that had been driving me. It all turned to ash in my mouth. I had ruined a beautiful woman that had been my wife, abandoned children that needed a father, and now am waiting for an incurable virus to kill me. I will welcome that end..."
Is it possible the man in this example did not know he was destroying his life and the lives all around him? Probably he knew but never allowed himself to dwell on any negative effects that satisfying his lust may incur. Most do know that this lifestyle and all lifestyles that constantly give in to hedonistic practices usually end in disaster, but they don't care. That is the nature of the flesh. The flesh doesn't care about consequences, only that the sensations and the situations that cause the sensations remain surrounding them in ever-increasing volume. This person would reach for it, despite the cost to him personally and to his family. But God is not mocked. There are things, principles of life, that God has put into play that will cause predictable and disastrous results. Certain behaviors increase risk, increase the chance that dangerous consequences will come into play. A man cannot be unfaithful to his wife with another woman, mentally or physically, and not have it take its toll eventually, even in couples that tolerate the idea of an "open relationship." A man cannot have sexual union with others who have no morals or principles without eventually running into viruses that claim thousands of lives per year. The children will be affected by all the loose morals, whether or not behaviors are acted upon. They sense the hidden disrespect for rules of behavior and toward any guidelines for life and they too learn to disregard them and adopt the ways of the parents.
"And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and fourth generation." (Exodus 34:6-7). (**Deuteronomy 5:9 adds to this verse: "of them that hate me." This phrase makes it plain it is the children deciding to adopt their parent's ways and not God making the children the same as their parents or accountable for their parent's sin.)
But how could this person not care, even as he watched everything he loved dissolve right before his eyes? The answer is actually quite simple and yet profound, the person worshiped himself instead of God. He did not care that God said the lifestyle he chose for himself is wrong. He only cared that his desires, his lusts, his feelings, were satisfied and that his world revolved in an orbit of his own making. He is like his ancient counterparts that made idols of wood and had orgies under every green tree. He mentally erects an idol, made of his own lust and selfishness and then proceeds to bow to it, giving it the worship that rightfully should be given to God.
This world encourages self-worship. While it denies the existence of a Creator God, the world encourages everyone to pursue all they want with no restraint. They hold any who would warn against such disregard to right and wrong in contempt. They call those, who care enough, to tell the truth about sin bigots, homophobes, intolerant, haters and many other choice names and phrases to shame them into accepting every lifestyle as equally correct as any other. God is the one whose opinion counts as to what is right and wrong. He is Creator. He has authority to declare what is sin and what is acceptable. It really doesn't matter what you or I think about it. My opinion does not change what is wrong, whether I cling to it with enthusiasm or not. The Bible calls anything other than God's way and law, sin. Sin must be confessed and forsaken.
Let us consider two examples of Scripture, both said to be good men, each facing the lust of the flesh and fornication. Though in different circumstances, both had an opportunity to choose right. One chose not to flee the flesh and fornication, serving his lust, and the other did not.
The first was Samson, a Judge in the Old Testament. (Jud. chap.13-16) After the death of Moses and Joshua, the Israelites began to imitate the neighboring peoples which God had warned them not to do. Each time they did, God would allow them to reap the consequence of falling under the captivity of those very people they imitated and they would suffer until God raised up a Judge that would be used to free the people.
Samson was a man upon whom the Holy Spirit would come and he would be empowered with great strength from on high. I don't believe Samson to be any different in physical makeup than any other man, no great muscles or marvelous physique. The reason that he had this strength was because he was in a covenant relationship with God called the "Nazarite Vow." As a Nazarite, Samson was not to touch any dead things. He was not to drink any product of the vine, grape juice, wine, nothing. He was not to intermarry with strangers of the land. He was not to commit fornication. Samson did all these things. Because of God's mercy, He still used Samson to free the people from the Philistines but at great cost. Eventually, consequences caught up with Samson and he was captured, blinded, and made to grind wheat in a temple dedicated to the Philistine God, Dagon. If that was not enough humiliation, the people brought him out to a fertility rite so that he could "make them sport," a term used for sex. They brought the blinded Samson before their idol of Dagon and began to repeatedly rape him to boost the sexual energy for their crops. Dagon was symbolically "mounting," Israel's God, Yahweh, thus thoroughly humiliating Him. This was done in the temple with all the people present. Samson reaped this consequence from his fleshly life. But God, who is great in mercy, heard Samson's plea for forgiveness and allowed him to regain his covenant relationship and his superhuman strength by Holy Spirit empowerment. Samson pulled down the whole temple upon all the sex-crazed, worshippers of Dagon in the middle of their fertility rite, killing them and Samsom himself died also. This act got Samson into the "hall of faith" chapter of Hebrews. (Heb. 11)
This was our first example, a man of fleshly appetites that didn't say "no" to the flesh and he reaped death and destruction to himself. The second example is that of Joseph, Abraham's son. Similarly, Joseph found himself in a relationship with God, he being empowered to understand dreams and receive visions. He was not a Nazarite, but he was under directive to keep himself pure from fleshly lust, to keep the law of God. He was just a child when his brothers, jealous of his relationship with his father and his spiritual gifts, sold him into slavery. He landed in Egypt and was made a house servant, where he grew into a handsome young man. It was common for Egyptians to commit adultery, incest, homosexuality, bestiality and many other forms of sexual sin against God. His master's wife proposed that Joseph and she "lie together." Joseph said that her husband, the master of the house, trusted him and he would not sin against him and against his God. He was firm yet gentle. It doesn't say that at that point he was not tempted. (Personally, I think he was tempted) He flatly refused and left. But on another day, she grabbed him and tried to force herself upon him. At this point, if it were a movie on television, the guy would usually say "oh well" as if he could not help himself and he would "go for it." Joseph did not. He ran and left her holding firmly onto his coat. He ran like a coward, as if his life depended on it. I think he ran because he was tempted and he knew if he stayed he would give into his own lusts. You may know the rest of the story, she accused him of rape and he was placed in prison for years. But all the while God had His hand on him. He made friends with the prison master, was given a chance to use his spirit gift of dream interpretation, won his freedom, and then was promoted to second ruler of all the country. From this position he saved the whole family that would become the nation of Israel and thus preserve the line from which the Messiah would come. A very different outcome than Samson. Both reaping what they had sown.
In the summation that was in our last article in this series, it was very plain how adultery had spiritual and physical affects that are devastating. Fornication has similar devastation as a result. The thing about adultery is that it is a sin against the spouse and God. But fornication is a sin against one's own body and God. Though there is no physical spouse, a Christian is still part of the bride of Christ and is still one with Christ in a symbolic marital sense. The infidelity against God for the Christian is real and God hurts because of this. He will discipline his children. For those who do not know Jesus, this may not seem a big deal at all. For them, they may believe that their body is theirs to do with as they wish but the fact is, that is not true either. Ultimately, everyone belongs to God. God allows us to do what we wish to this physical body we inhabit but it belongs to God. He makes it possible to take a breath, to heal, to feel and to live.
"Do you not know that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For 'the two,' He says, 'shall become one flesh. But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him." (1 Corinthians 6:15-18)
"Do not be deceived. God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life." (Galatians 6:7-8)
"For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is mine and all its fullness." (Psalm 50:10-12)
Will you choose to chase after the illusion of the world by pursuing sexual fulfillment with whomever you choose? Or, will you obey the Lord and only allow your body and thoughts to connect to your spouse? That choice is up to you but the consequences fall into the hands of God and God is not mocked. Flee fornication. I don't care if you look like a prude when you do it. It is the holy thing to do. It is the smart thing to do. Waiting on the Lord to fill your needs is wise and He loves you and will give you the desires of your heart if you follow Him. So clean up your mind, straighten your path, confess your sin, forsake your past, and God will bless.
I'm not sure if you have read any other of my articles but if you have, there's always a point where the road comes to a fork and there is a division between those who know Jesus and are saved and those who have never come to the point of humbling themselves before a holy God, asking for forgiveness. In this article, for example, those that do know Jesus, know that they have the Holy Spirit of God living in their heart. He never leaves them and when they are pulled to get into these kinds of sin that will hurt (or kill them), the Spirit convicts and warns them. If, by chance, they do not listen, cross the line, and do sin, the Spirit convicts and disciplines, pulling the ill-gotten joy of the sin away from them. A person that does not know Jesus continues to fall prey to their own appetites. All they have is the strength of their own flesh to keep them from harm. I'm afraid to say, that is not enough. Addictions and sin will win out because we are but dust. But God wants to change things with the non-believer. He wants them to convert, to turn and believe and live a life so much fuller and so much more vibrant, that to compare the two is just not possible.
Which path of the fork in the road will your next step be? Will it be down the road that leads through years of service to lusts that will lead to death? If it is the side away from Jesus, it will lead to hell.
"Enter by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that lead to destruction, and there are many who go in by it." (Matthew 7:13)
You may think that you can live the best you can and you'll be okay. The Bible says that is not true either. That without Jesus, no matter how you live, you are in a state of condemnation so that if you die in your sins you will never be able to reach God.
"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:18)
But God stands with His arms out to you and has been reasoning with you for all your life. He has been standing at the door of your heart and knocking, waiting for you to open the door to Him and let Him in. He has reasoned with you as to His existence as God, His coming as Jesus to save you, His burial and resurrection for you. Now you must choose to stand alone and against God or to join Him and ask Him into your heart.
"For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13)
If you are tired of being victim to your desires and lusts, if you are tired of feeling alone in your fight against a cruel world, then pray this:
Dear Lord Jesus, I have never come before You to admit my sin. I come to You now and ask You to forgive me of my sin and save me. I know and believe that You are God in human flesh and that You left Your home in heaven to come to earth and die for me. I believe You died and rose the third day to give me life as I come to You for forgiveness. I am so tired of living the way I have been living, of feeling so inadequate, so alone. I am tired of desiring things that will hurt me. I turn from my sin and turn to You as the only way of salvation. I promise to follow You always, to obey You always, to love you always. I pray this in Jesus' holy name. Amen.
Others in this series of independent study articles: