For You May Be Sure of This

Ephesians 5:5-6
May 26, 2019
Abraham Hong


Warnings are all around us. And they are meant for our good. There are sirens for tornadoes and tsunamis. There are signs that warn against the misuse of medicines or household products. If you order a coffee at a fast food restaurant, there’s a good chance that the words “Caution Contents Hot” are on it. And when you see the low fuel warning light on the dashboard of your car turn on, it is a friendly reminder that if you don’t fill up soon, your day will get interesting.

The concept of a warning is profound. A warning is a statement about the future. A warning is meant to command obedience and action. A warning can be a matter of life or death. A warning, at its very best, is given because of care and love.

Dear brothers and sisters, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gives us today a warning. And his warning is for our good. Our Lord warns us about sexual immorality, a serious sin that comes with serious consequences. Jesus says that sexually immoral people have no inheritance in the kingdom of God. He says that such sons of disobedience will receive the wrath of God. And he commands us to be sure of this and let no one deceive us with the sin of sexual immorality.

Everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. People who sin against God in these ways without truly repenting and believing in Jesus will not have a place in the new heavens and the new earth. They will have no home there. They will not receive the ultimate blessing of having joyful fellowship with God in his presence. They will be shut out of the kingdom. They will not have salvation.

And sons of disobedience who are sexually immoral will receive the wrath of God. People who disobey God in these ways without truly repenting and believing in Jesus will have a place in fiery hell. They will be forsaken. They will receive eternal punishment and torment for their sins. They will face God’s justice and suffer God’s wrath forever. They will not have salvation.

Brothers and sisters, all of this is a warning for us who are in Christ. All of this is a warning about the eternal endgame. It is a sobering reminder that we all have an eschatological future that is bigger than and goes beyond our lives here and now on this old and fading earth. Every human being has an eternal end. These things will happen.

All of this is a warning for us. All of this is a wake up call to obedience and action. It is an urgent plea to put off sexual immorality and work out your salvation with fear and trembling and grow as you wait for the return of the Lord. Get motivated and be holy.

All of this is a warning for us. All of this is a warning that this is a matter of life or death. It is a serious matter that cannot be ignored.

All of this is a warning for us. All of this is given because the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ loves you.

Therefore, dear church, be motivated to put off sexual immorality and all impurity and covetousness and idolatry. And put off filthiness, foolish talk and crude joking. Such things must not even be named among you. Such things are out of place. Jesus will have none of it in your life. And, dear church, be motivated to put on thanksgiving. Jesus loves you. You are set in him. You have ultimate satisfaction and contentment and the joy of salvation.

This is not easy. Sometimes our hearts sinfully desire for people or places or things that we do not have. And sometimes we find ourselves serving more than one master - worshipping God but also worshipping ourselves or something else in creation. This struggle with covetousness and idolatry is real.

There is a very famous but sad story in Exodus 32 about the Israelites and their building of an idol of a golden calf. They made it and worshipped it because they complained that God was absent from them. Because they wanted the presence of something that they could see with their eyes. Because the joy of salvation from Egypt was not enough for them. And so with profound ingratitude in their hearts, they coveted things other than God and made their idol of a golden calf.

The Lord saw this and responded. He had the idol of the golden calf burned with fire and ground to powder and scattered onto water. Moses recounted this in Deuteronomy 9:21, “Then I took the sinful thing, the calf that you had made, and burned it with fire and crushed it, grinding it very small, until it was as fine as dust. And I threw the dust of it into the brook that ran down from the mountain.” The Lord therefore destroyed the idol.

What is interesting about this is that this kind of thing happened several times. Throughout Israel’s history, righteous kings would take down idols and burn them in fire and grind them into dust and scatter the ashes into water. And one body of water, one brook, became the place to do it: the brook Kidron (1 Kings 15:13; 2 Kings 23:6, 12; 2 Chronicles 15:16; 30:14).

But then, in the fullness of time, this kind of thing happened one final time, once and for all. For it was at the brook Kidron where our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was betrayed and arrested and lead to his eventual crucifixion and death (John 18:1). It had to be there. Because Jesus came to destroy all the idols in our lives. He came to remove them from our hearts forever. And he destroys it all. For your sin, he descended into the fiery hell of the wrath of the Father’s justice. For your sin, he was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). For your sin, he was forsaken and scattered, taken away, cut off from the land of the living (Isaiah 53:8). For your sin, Jesus died for you. Jesus resurrected for you. And now your true righteous King takes down your idols and burns them and crushes them and scatters them all… for you. You can be sure of this.

Let no one deceive you with empty words of sexual immorality. There is a lot of false teaching that you should be aware of.

Do not be deceived, for example, by the idea that sexual immorality (or any sin) is ultimately cause for a kind of celebration because it makes grace all the more beautiful and because it makes us recipients of greater grace. These are empty words. But Romans 6:1-2 provides these full words: “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” Sexual immorality (or any sin) is never to be accepted, encouraged or celebrated. We must hate all sin. Sin was the reason Christ died for us. And we must put sin to death. We are to “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).

Do not be deceived, for example, by the idea that holiness and the law of God are vestiges of an uptight old-school religion and that such things are not important for Christian life. These are empty words. Have these thoughts ever crossed your mind? “It doesn’t matter how I do because I’m saved.” “I can do this and get forgiveness later.” “God always loves me, no matter what.” The tough part about false teaching is that it twists true teaching and sounds right. But the Devil is in the details. It does matter how you do because faith without works is dead (James 2) and because we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2). You can’t just use God’s forgiveness as an open license to sin and presume on the riches of God’s kindness and forbearance and patience, when actually God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4). Yes, God always loves you, no matter what. But he loves you so that you could love him. And this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments (1 John 5:3).

Brothers and sisters, do not be deceived with empty words of sexual immorality or any sin. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). This all comes from profound ingratitude, from the idea that Jesus and his Word is not enough. Do not be deceived, Highland Church. You have been warned.

I would like to close with two short points of application. Simple but life-changing application.

To all the friends and guests here who are not Christian, I ask that you repent of your sins and believe in Jesus. We do not want to see you shut out from the kingdom of Christ. We do not want to see you receive the wrath of God in hell. Please talk to me or any one of us if you desire to know Jesus and bend the knee. Do not wait on this. Do not ignore this. This is a matter of life or death. Your ultimate future is at stake. This is an invitation of care and love. Act now.

To all the brothers and sisters in Christ, I ask that we be more thankful and grow in awe of God and the fear of the Lord. As we hear these warnings from Jesus, we ought to be deeply moved. We are supposed to have no inheritance. We deserve wrath for our sins. The only reason why we have a place in the kingdom and why we are not going to hell is because of God’s grace. This should humble us immensely.