Only one set of sins has its own chapter in The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung. He does not address that set of sins because it is popular to do so (in some circles it is easy to do so).
He addresses them for two reasons. The first is their connection to union in Christ, which Paul draws out in 1 Corinthians 6. The second is that they seem to be the blind spot for the contemporary American Christian. That might not seem obvious to us. Each generation and culture has its blind spots. Earlier generations had a blind spot on issues of race. That is one reason the practice was able to flourish in largely Christian nations. That was why Jim Crow laws and other manifestations of systematic racism were common in this nation in which most people would classify themselves as a Christian.
Sexual sins surround us. Part of Kevin’s point is that while we still call the most grievous manifestations sin (few Christians refuse to call adultery and pornography use sinful) but we have seen an erosion of our sexual mores that represents a significant departure from the biblical standard. Things like fornication, nudity in movies, songs encouraging non-marital sex etc. have become so common place that we are not shocked anymore, and don’t seem to mind them.
He mentions the high places of Israel, which even the best kings never seemed to remove. They wrongfully became normalized. We have done this with some forms of sexual immorality. That may lead us to do it with the other forms as well even as the culture pushes the boundaries of acceptable practices, and definitions of marriage farther and farther.
“If we could transport Christians from almost any other century to any of today’s “Christian” countries in the West, I believe what would surprise them most (besides our phenomenal affluence) is how at home Christians are with sexual impurity.”
As I mentioned, he focuses on 1 Corinthians 6. He starts with defining sexual immorality. As he notes, it refers to all categories of sexual sins. It is the broadest term for sexual sins, encompassing all the others. It is any sexual activity that takes place outside of the marriage of a man and a woman. So, it would include adultery, prostitution, fornication (aka premarital sex), homosexuality, bestiality, use of pornography etc..
“Don’t reason with sexual immorality, just run. Don’t dabble. Don’t peruse. Don’t experiment. Don’t ‘find yourself.’ Don’t test your resolve. Don’t mess around.”
Our response to the temptation to any form of sexual immorality is supposed to be flee. It is so alluring to us in our fallen state that we want to satisfy our curiosity (“People really do that?”). Personally or vicariously. We test our resolve, as if it is a measure of our strength to get all worked up but not go “all the way.” We want to do just about everything but run.
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul sets his warning in the context of their union with Christ. And our union with the person with whom we sin. “… joined to prostitute… one body with her… one flesh … joined to the Lord … one spirit with her…” This is why sexual sin is so serious- we bring Christ into it in a way we don’t bring other sins.
Kevin tells of his own weakness. We could each speak of our own. My own life was characterized by sexual immorality in many forms prior to my conversion. Some stopped immediately. Some didn’t. They were part of my progressive sanctification. Like all but sexual anorexics, I am still subject to various temptations. Someone noted to me that if we knew all things that tempted those seated by us in church, we’d be shocked (as long as ours weren’t known- then we’d be too ashamed to pay attention to theirs).
When we belong to Christ, as Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 6, we have been set free from slavery to our sinful desires. Too often we don’t see sin as enslaving, but as freedom. But it enslaves us. It lies to us about a tiny-minded God who wants to keep us from real fun (see Genesis 3). If we ponder the nature of belonging to God, we see that we want to do what our good God demands.
“Union with Christ means God’s power for us working in and through us.”
While I was in seminary, one professor recommended Seinfeld. Another professor lamented over what many seminarians watched on TV. Evidently he heard us talking about Seinfeld. But Friends was “too far out there” for me. Jerry and his friends joked about fornication, but saw a group sex as “too out there” while Friends guest star Jean-Claude Van Damm bragged about it. Funny how that works.
Each of us unknowingly makes those odd compromises while pointing out another person’s compromises. Our self-deception blinds us to our sin, but not theirs. Most of us have logs in our eyes on this one.
He provides some guidance for single adults that he wished he’d heard (or perhaps heeded). I talk to plenty of married people who look back on their time before marriage and thought they went too far with their future spouse. I’ve never heard anyone say they didn’t go far enough.
“First, the main goal in all relationships is to glorify God, not to get as close to sinning as possible. … Second, do not stir up love before its time.”
He advises treat all Christians you are not married to as if brothers and sisters. That means, not doing with you significant other (if you have one) what you wouldn’t do with a sibling. You know, in a healthy sibling relationship. Sexual desires are powerful, and once you begin to give them expression it is hard to put them back where they belong. We think we can, as the proverb says, put fire in our lap and not be burned.
“The commitment in dating may be one of exclusivity bit it is certainly not one of permanence. And without the promise of permanence it is hardly commitment.”
He then moves into Ephesians 5:3-12, which includes the idea that there should not be even a hint of sexual immorality among us. We shouldn’t find it funny. We shouldn’t dance with it. We should seek to be beyond reproach, to be blameless. We shouldn’t satisfy our curiosity. We are children of the light, so we need to flee from the deeds of darkness.
“And God can change you, even if it’s slowly, haltingly, and painfully from one itty-bitty degree of glory to the next.”
A tough chapter. We shouldn’t hear condemnation, but warning. Christ is able to purify us from all righteousness, even sexual unrighteousness. He forgives us of all our sin, even sexual sin. He does that if we repent, confessing it and turning from it. Yes, you may have to repent often for particular sins, but less often over the course of time. God’s will is for your sanctification, which includes abstaining from sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3). He doesn’t just tell you to leave those sins, He enables you to do so.
Perhaps we all need to ask God to show us where sexual immorality has gotten an unseen foothold in our lives. We need Him to show us what is really in that blind spot so we can own up to it, repent and cry out for mercy and grace.