Sexual Sin and Idolatry

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A turning point in Israel’s history occurred at Shittim.  Shittim was close to Mt. Peor. The Bible says, “And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab” (Numbers 25:1).  Later, we discover that Balaam instigated this evil in order to defeat the Israelites through idolatry and sexual sin.  Numbers 31:16 reveals, “Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.”
Baalim was not a prophet of God.  He was hired by Balak, the king of Moab, to speak a curse against Israel.  When Baalim attempted this, God intervened and Baalim was only able to speak a blessing to Israel.  However, God did use Baalim to speak for Him (Num. 24:2).  Baalim was not Israel’s friend.  Baalim took the “rewards of divination” from Moab and Midian to do evil against Israel (Num. 22:7).  He failed to pronounce the curse.  But, he succeeded in seducing the Israelites into idolatry and sexual sin.
The fertility religions at this time were idolatrous.  Baal-peor was god of the Moabite mountains.  He was worshipped with sexual rites. As a local Baal, it was believed that he controled fertility in agriculture, beasts and mankind.  Fertility is a gift of God’s grace.  In making sex a mysterious ritual (the seed of your body in exchange for the multiplication of your crops), the fertility religions revived Satan’s rivalry with heaven.  Therefore, God did not, could not, tolerate what happend at Shittim (see John White, Eros Redeemed, pp. 44-45).  John White observes, “Sexual sin always involves the presentation of one’s body (and therefore also of our whole selves) to the dark powers that wish to control it” (Eros Redeemed, p. 45).  The Bible actually says that Israel “joined” itself to Baalpeor (Num. 25:3).  Commenting on the power of sexual sin to enslave, White declares, “Sexual sin enslaves us to the “gods” to whom (in our case) we unwittingly yield ourselves.  Every time we sin by misuing the sexual parts of our bodies, or by indulging in sexual fantasy, by pursuing pornography or paying for time on erotic phone numbers, their power over our behavior increases.  Sexual sin is sin because it is idolatry” (Eros Redeemed, p. 45).
Idolatry is false worship.  It is worship given to something or someone that belongs to God.  True worship arises when we hear God’s Word and respond to it with trust and obedience to God.  False worship is when we hear the words of darkness and act upon them thus presenting our bodies and spirits to the powers of darkness in devotion to them.  The sacrifices of pagans were offered to demons, not to God (I Cor. 10:20).  Listen to Paul’s words, “But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.”  While the actual object of an idol is “nothing” (I Cor. 8:4), there is something significant about the powers of darkness that stand behind the idol.  Charles Hodge notes, “Men of the world do not intend to serve Satan, when they break the laws of God in the pursuit of their objects of desire.  Still in so doing they are really obeying the will of the great adversary, yielding to his impulses, and fulfiling his designs.  He is therefore said to be the god of this world.  To him all sin is an offering and an homage. We are shut up to the necessity of worshipping God or Satan; for all refusing or neglecting to worship the true God, or giving to any other the worship which is due to him alone, is the worshipping of Satan and his angels” (Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 193).  All sin is a form of idolatry.  Sexual sin is a form of idolatry.  It takes what rightfully belongs to God and gives it to another.  Let us heed the words of John, “Little children,keep yourselves from idols. Amen” (I John 5:21).
One final thought.  If the church fails to keep herself sexually pure, she will lose her moral vigor and fail at her mission to take the gospel to all of the nations of the world.  “Sexual philandering by church members accounts in good measure for the impotence of the church’s gospel presentation” (Eros Redeemed, p. 52). When we worship Satan through sexual sin, we lose our desire to fulfill the Great Commission.  Sexual sin among Christians is a distraction, a sin and idolatry.  We must eliminate it and other sins in order to regain our moral integrity as the people of God and march to convert the world to Jesus Christ.

When Love Dies

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In Matthew 24, Jesus instructs us concerning two major events: the destruction of Jerusalem and His Second Coming.  The destruction of Jerusalem is detailed in 24:1-35.  The Second Coming is discussed in 24:36-51.  With regard to the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus gave many signs.  However, with regard to His Second Coming, He gave no signs (vv. 36-37).
Jesus makes an interesting statement in the context of Matthew 24 that deals with the signs concerning the destruction of Jerusalem.  He states, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matt. 24:12).  This statement indicates an inverse relationship between iniquity and love.  As iniquity increases, love decreases.  As love increases, iniquity decreases.  Jesus predicted greater iniquity because men would love God and each other less.
Iniquity is lawlessness.  It is sin or evil.  Lawlessness produces an undesireable effect: lovelessness.   To “wax cold” is the process of dying love.  When lawlessness abounds, love dies.  Love produces a warmth of the soul.  Coldheartedness is the result of iniquity.
Love God Less.
Love for God is manifested in the following ways:  adoration (praise, worship); attachment (covenant relationship with God); affection (desire of the human heart for the sacred indicated by priorities); attitude (reverence and godly fear); and activity (obedience and righteous conduct).  When men love God less, God is not praised or worshipped.  Often something else takes God’s place, idolatry develops.  Idolatry destroys the identity and nature of God by changing human concepts of godness.  When men love God less, they do not seek to live in harmony with God’s law.  They become rebellious and disobedient to God.  They do not make God a priority nor do they fear God and respect His word.  Iniquity abounds and love for God diminishes and dies.
Love Neighbor Less.
Lawlessness produces many sins against one’s neighbor.  Adultery is a sin against one’s neighbor when someone steals his wife.  Fornication is a sin against one’s own body and God.  But, it is also a sin against one’s neighbor when we use him/her to fulfill the lusts of our flesh.  In the absence of true, committed, love, sex becomes gratuitous and recreational.  It becomes pleasure oriented.  However, it also becomes the means of disease and unwanted children.  Sometimes unwanted children are sacrificed to convenience and aborted.  Abortion is a sin against another human being.  Yes, when iniquity abounds, love for others diminishes and dies.  When we lie, we destroy trust.  No relationship can survive in the absence of trust. Lying is a sin against our neighbor.  Murder is also a sin against one’s neighbor.  When lawlessness abounds, violence increases.  Sometimes we do not show any respect for the reputation of our neighbor.  Slander, gossip and back-biting are all sins that abound when we love less.  In Matt. 24:10, hatred and persecution are mentioned.  Hatred is enmity for another.  Christians will be persecuted when iniquity abounds.  The list could continue, but these sins surely prove that in the absence of love, numerous types of evil will befall our neighbor.
The Power of Love
Love for God and for neighbor are commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 22:36-39).  Love for God and for neighbor contain religous and moral elements that act as good leaven in the world in which we live.  Love for God comes first!  We cannot have true love for our neighbor and have a distorted view of God.  God is love (I John 4:8, 16).  We learn love from God (Eph. 5:1-2).  Love preserves relationship with God.  Love preserves purity while lawlessness destroys it.  Love protects my neighbor.  Where love abounds, iniquity diminishes and dies.  James tell us to “resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:8).  One of the most powerful ways to resist Satan is to love.
You Choose.
Now that you are fully aware of the outcomes of both iniquity and love, you must choose.  Where iniquity abounds, love dies.  Where love abounds, iniquity dies.  You must decide.  You choose.

Ahab’s Legacy

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In I Kings 18:16-18, there is an interesting exchange beteween king Ahab and Elijah the prophet.  The prophet Obadiah arranged a meeting between the king and the prophet of God.  The Biblical record gives the details of the meeting.  “And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?  And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.”
Ahab’s Misperception.
Ahab blammed Elijah for the drought and famine that Israel was suffering.  It had not rained for three plus years (I Kings 18:1).  The drought was the result of Elijah’s prayer for it not to rain and God’s power which, in answer to the prayer, shut up the heavens.  The lack of rain was punitive.  God chastened His people to bring them to repentance for idolatry.  Israel had sinned.
Elijah’s Accurate Perception.
Elijah was not the troubler of Israel.  He said, “I have not troubled Israel.”  The word “troubled” refers to alientation from God which results from a heinious crime or sin.  Sin always produces trouble!  Elijah states that “ye have forsaken…”  The “ye” is plural and refers to the people of Israel who were involved in idolatry (they worshipped Baal).  Their sin was collective (committed as a group).  Elijah also said, “…and thou hast followed Baal.”  The “thou” is singular and indicts the king personally.  Elijah demonstrates great courage to speak so boldly before the king.   Idolatry was a serious sin against God and broke the first two of the ten commandments.  The result was God’s punitive act in causing a drought and famine.
Nobel Tester stated, “It’s easier to get mad at the preacher than it is to get right with God.”  Ahab was angry with Elijah and instead of humbling his heart and turning to the LORD, he hardened his heart (I Kings 19:1).
Truth Prevails.
Elijah challenges Ahab to produce the false prophets of Baal in order to have a challenge.  The challenge involved the demonstration of immediate power to consume a sacrifice.  The odds in this challenge were 450 prophets of Baal to 1 prophet of God–Elijah.  The false prophets of Baal attempted to excite Baal to act, but to no avail.  Baal did not respond to their cries of desperation.  Elijah prayed to God and God immediately sent fire down and consumed the sacrifice (I Kings 18:37-38).  This dramatic demonstration persuaded many of the people of Israel to repent.  But, Ahab did not repent.  Elijah proved that there is only one, true, and living God.  Ahab continued to deny this fact.
Ahab’s Legacy.
In I Kings 21:25-26, the Bible records the legacy of Ahab.  “But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.  And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all things as did the Amorites, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.”  Ahab left a legacy of wickedness.  The true “troubler” of Israel is now apparent before all.  Sin always produces trouble!