Bible Reading – Ephesians 4:38 – 5:4
Good evening, Church. My name is Dineo and I’m a part of FOCUS. Today’s reading will be from Ephesians 4:28 all the way to Ephesians 5:4. “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” This is the word of God.
Our Life’s Purpose
Good evening, Church. It is a great privilege to be able to open God’s word for us this evening. I must confess before we dig into it, it’s always hard when you know you have to deal with the topic of money and sex. Because you wonder, what’s new? What is that thing you’re gonna tell people? Because, people almost know everything about it. But the good thing is, we are looking at it from God’s perspective. So, we are looking from God’s word. So, at least that that was a comfort for me. That, you know although there’s nothing new that I will tell you tonight, but I am sure there is something that God wants us to learn from his word regarding money and sex. So, let me pray for us as we dig into the passage that was read for us. Let’s bow our heads and pray;
Lord Jesus, we pray that we will see you again as the Lord and saviour. We pray that you’ll open our hearts and our minds, and that you will speak to us. And lord, as your servant I pray that the word of my mouth and the meditation of my heart will be acceptable to you, oh God, our strength and our redeemer, Amen.
So far in our series that we started two weeks ago, ‘Why Church?’ We have answered this very question, ‘Why Church?’ And, ‘What is Church?’ And our series is a fancy one, and Reggie actually found that name for us. So, it’s called, ‘Obsolete or Absolute Church.’ It’s two English words that are really, they may sound the same, but they are totally opposite. So, that’s the series we are looking at. The past two Sundays, basically what they did to us, they set the ground for us to build on. So, everything that will come after, starting today, will just be rooted in what Roydon and Gareth spoke to us. You will remember that when Gareth, Roydon was trying to answer the question, ‘Why Church?’ He reminded us of God’s bigger plan, which is, that of bringing everything under the loving gracious reign of king Jesus. Put in other words, it’s just that God’s plans from before time to unite his people under the headship of Christ. That’s what God has been doing. How did he do this? He did this by sending his son Jesus. In history, he came into this world, he lived, he died, God raised him from the dead, God seated him at his right hand- which is a position of authority and ruling. So, that’s where Christ is. And that’s the greatest blessing that you and me can ever, ever, think of. To be included into this God’s bigger plan. So, if you think like your life is a disappointment, just remind yourself that God has included you in his plan in spite of who you are.
Why church? Well, God is placing everything under the authority of Christ. And that’s for our blessing and for his glory. So that’s what Roydon spoke to us two weeks ago. And then, last week Gareth was trying to answer the question, ‘What is Church?’ And when he did that, he gave us this fancy definition, I’ll quote it exactly in his words, “The Church is God’s united people- meaning us, people who trust in Jesus. Under God’s word- that means what unites us is God’s word. And that God’s word is being taught by his teachers. And as the word is taught, the Church ministers to one another, and this results in the maturity in Christ.” So, what is Church? Church is you and me, sitting under the authority of God’s word. As we minister one another. And the purpose of all that, is so that we may mature in Christ. Already you can see that if we are here this evening, you should be excited about your identity. If you’ve come to trust in Jesus, you know that you have been included in this bigger plan- the plan that is beyond you, being part of God’s family. This plan was initiated by the one who holds everything together, by the one who created all.
So, think about it, so you’re just sitting here and you wonder, “What am I doing here?” Well, you are here because you are included in a bigger plan, a plan that is beyond you. God is putting everything under the headship of Christ. So, God, chose you before time, in Christ, to bless you in Christ. As we sit under his word, and minister to one another, and the result being the maturity in him, and that’s for God’s glory. So, it has never been about you. No matter who you are. It’s for God’s glory. And when you understand that, it gives purpose to your life. You know that you live for something that is big beyond your small world. And that’s why, as we sit here, we can call each other brothers and sisters in Christ, because of what God has done through Christ. Who would have thought that I could call someone from Limpopo a brother? I love people from Limpopo. Tshifhiwa, I love you. God loved us the way we are, and included you and me in his plan. And this offer extends, if you haven’t come to trust in Jesus, well the offer is there. Trust in him, and you will be part of this bigger plan that God has done.
Our Identity In Christ
So, our topic this evening is, ‘Church meets sex and money.’ And we try to look at it from the passage that was read for us. Just as I said earlier on, I may not tell you something new that you don’t know. But when you will put this in the context of what God is doing, or what God has done, it will help you to see how you live your life in perspective of what God is busy doing in his world. Let me just tell you, when you read the book of Ephesians, from chapter one, to chapter three, what you find there is Paul is describing what God has done for Christians through Christ. So, the first three chapters of the book of Ephesians basically is the gospel. Paul is trying to explain what God has done through Christ. And then, when you come to chapter four to six, Paul talks about how Christians are to live because of what God has done for them. So, basically, chapters four to six are kind of application of how we should live our lives because of what God has done already. And our passage falls under the second part, where Paul is telling the church that certain behaviours, certain practices shouldn’t be seen among them. Why? He’s telling them that, as he reminds them that they are God’s people because of what Christ has done. Because of what Christ has achieved on their behalf. And thus, their conduct should be different from the conduct of the world around them. We still live in this world. And that’s a real challenge because this world has got so many temptations. You know when you are at work, sometimes it’s easy to forget that you’re a Christian just because of the environment. When you get to school, the environment is so different sometimes you try to hide. Just because the environment that you find yourself in is against what you believe. But if you are a Christian, you are to be different, you are to live your identity.
You know, I would rather not call myself a Christian and live like a pagan, than call myself a Christian and don’t live like one. So, if you call yourself a Christian, you’re at your workplace, there’s some expectation from people. You’re not living your Christian life because you want to please people. It’s because you understand this bigger plan that God has done for you. And when you call yourself a Christian, you must live in a way that is appropriate to what a Christian is. This challenge is real. I remember growing up, on a very good evening my late mom would just maybe prepare you know some magwinyas for the family. You guys know how magwinyas are tempting. You know, once you’re addicted to them, you can’t go back. So, she will prepare them on an evening for us to have in the morning for breakfast, and take some to school when we go to school. So, imagine, this scenario, because I know how these magwinyas are very tempting to me, I say, I want to make myself strong and be able to resist the temptation of these magwinyas. And this is what I would do, when everyone goes to sleep at night, I will wake up, I will go to the kitchen, I will open the container where they are, I will put my hands in, I will grab one, I will just smell and leave it in my hand. I won’t eat it, and then after a while, I will put it back and go back to sleep. Do you think I’m able to win that challenge?
So, we live in a world that is so tempting. And two of the big temptations that we all face is, sex and money. So, for me, in that illustration that I gave, instead of waking up at night, how would I face that challenge? The wise thing to do would just be for me to sleep when everyone is asleep. That’s how one does it. Sex and money are real. They are big temptations to all of us. And why would I go, and sleep, and ignore everything else? First of all, because I know that either way in the morning, I will have my share. Second, because I know that the mum made those magwinya for us to enjoy because they love us. And third, I don’t want in the morning when the people wake up, when they are giving everyone their share, some of my siblings to miss theirs because I was trying to be the guardian of the temple the night before. So that’s why I wouldn’t do that.
Temptation Of Sex And Money
Now we come to sex and money. People say that, most of people they fall into this trap of sex and money no matter where you are, who you are, they are real because we face them day after day. As we look at sex and money, these two serious temptations to all of us, we shouldn’t let our guard off. Our identity in Christ should define how we approach sex and how we approach money. So that’s what will guide us in the way we deal with sex, in the way we deal with money. Otherwise, if we don’t do that, they will destroy us.
Let’s first look at the problem of money. Take it from what we read Ephesians 4: 28, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may he may have something to share with anyone in need.” Do not steal remember the eighth commandment. Stealing has a wide spectrum. It goes from stealing money and possession from other people, to tax evasions. Any time one does not report his income to SARS, it’s stealing apparently. Any time when people dodge customs, it’s stealing. Any time when you borrow money from someone and you don’t return it, it’s stealing. Any time when you don’t pay your debts, you are stealing. Any time as a business person when you overprice items, you are stealing. Any time when you use the employer’s time for other things and deliver poor service, you are stealing. In your work contract it says you are to work eight hours per day, but you hardly work for three or four hours, that’s stealing. Any time when the employer oppresses the employee, he is stealing as well. You know, we have this joke here at Christ Church Midrand especially from Martin. So, whenever they used to ask him, “So, how many people work here at Christ Church Midrand?” He says, “Half of them.” If you don’t get it, speak to him, he will explain to you what he means by that. And of course, you know what they say about people in ministry- ministers and pastors. When they ask, you know, “What do they do for the whole week?” They say, “You know, six days they are invisible. We don’t know what they do. One day, they are incomprehensible. When they stand on the pulpits, we don’t know what they are talking about.” So, that’s just a joke for the people in ministry.
if you don’t want to be under the bondage of money, just ask yourself, “Am I able to give it away? That’s a big question.
But what I’m trying to say here is that, there’s different ways that people steal. And the question is, most of the time, what makes us steal? Why do you steal? Or why do you take advantage of others? And of course, there are so many reasons. And if we were to deal with all of them this evening, we would spend the whole night here. But I just want to tackle one that is obvious, and that’s greed. You know greed is defined as an excessive desire. It could be of food, it could be of wealth, of possession of material. That’s what greed is all about. The temptations to steal someone else’s property which basically is depriving other people of what they have a right to. This temptation emerged because as a fallen man, you and me, we always want more than what we have at the present time. And not only we always want more than what we have now, we also want more than others have. That’s a problem. You and me we want more than what we have now. It would have been fine if that was the case and end there. But it doesn’t end there. I also want more than my neighbour or my friend has, that’s a problem. So, greed makes us more selfish than you and me can imagine. You remember this proverb it was by the Romans, “Money is like sea water, the more a man drinks the thirstier he becomes.” So, the more I have, the more I want. The more I accumulate wealth for myself, the more I hurt people along the way because of my selfishness. And the big question that is there and that I would love you maybe later on to give me an answer. I’ve never found an answer for it is, ‘What is enough money?’ Think about it, what is enough money? When will I reach a point and say I’m satisfied, I’ve had enough. We are not easily satisfied. I get this, the next thing my lifestyle changes. I want to improve; I want to get more. I get to that level, then it’s not enough. Prince has got this; I also need to get that. What is enough money?
The Sin Of Greed
And you know greed, when it happens, it happens like instinctively. That’s just how our sinful nature is. Most of the time, you and me we are not aware of the sin of greed that is within us. Later on, I’ll speak about sex. But you see, the sin of greed is different for instance from the sin of sex. When someone commits adultery, or when someone commits fornication, you don’t then say, “Wait for a minute, you’re not my wife.” Or, “Wait for a minute, I’m still single.” Of course, it’s something that you plan. It’s premeditated the sin of adultery or any other sin. But when it comes to greed, most of the time, you and me, we are not aware that we are becoming greedy and that’s very dangerous. So, greed proceeds in a gradual and subtle way. But, the effects of it are very, very, very harmful. If this is what money and greed do, imagine if the whole church is characterized by greed, by people just wanting money. How will this church look like? Just think about it. If that’s what we are all about here, money- all greedy. How will this church look like?
Remember, Paul tells us to stop stealing. And instead, to work hard and give to others. And that’s the antidote to greed. If you think about it is to give away. Can I give it away? If you don’t want to be under the bondage of money, just ask yourself, “Am I able to give it away? That’s a big question. Am I able to give my money away to support the missions of the church? Am I able to give money away to support Nokuphila? Am I able to give money away to support a church plant? Am I able to give money away to support the people who are needy among us? If we don’t pay attention, greed can destroy us as individuals but also as a Church. I hope, and now just speaking of greed, and money you already understand why Paul wrote what he wrote to the Church.
The Problem Of Sex
Let’s quickly look at our second point, the problem of sex. Ephesians 5:3-4, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness no foolish talk no crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” So, the Greek word for sexual immorality and impurity together cover every kind of sexual sin. And what I mean here by sexual sin is, all sexual intercourse outside the context of a loving marriage which God ordained. That’s basically what sexual sin is. That will include adultery- which means for people who are married and who are having a relationship outside. That will include fornication- for single people who are having sex and they are not allowed to have it. That will include homosexuality. All that is part of that package- sexual sin. And you will notice here that Paul adds also covetousness which basically is a jealous longing of somebody else’s body for self-gratification. When you covet, that’s what it is all about. So, Paul is saying that not only Christians should not indulge in sexual immorality, which is; adultery, fornication, homosexuality. But also, they should avoid thinking and talking about them in an inappropriate way. That’s what Paul is telling the believers here. And you can see that he’s setting the bar very high. Not only you shouldn’t do it, but you shouldn’t be making jokes about it. Because you don’t know where those jokes will lead to.
Casual sex will never fulfil God’s ideal for sex. Never, it will never. It diminishes the meaning and the purpose of sex.
Why is Paul setting the bar very high? You remember the context in which he’s writing to these churches in Ephesus, in Asia? Sexual immorality was really also, bad in Asia. One of the Greek goddesses called Artemis known as Diana to the Ephesians, was a fertility goddess. And basically, to worship Diana, or to worship Artemis, people were supposed to be involved in all kind of sexual practices. That’s how this specific god or goddess of fertility was worshipped. All kind of deviation was done. So, talking about all kind of sexual deviation was just a normal trend in the city. Basically, that’s what happened. And that was just normal in Ephesus. That’s why Paul has to set the bar high, don’t do this because you’re Christians. But also, not just doing it, don’t talk, don’t make jokes about these things because they are serious.
And if we are honest with ourselves, even as we meet here this evening, although we do not have Artemis or Diana, those goddesses that were worshiped by the people in Ephesus- in Asia, we have our own goddess in our very world today here in Midrand. And that’s even worse. Just think about it, the misuse of the social media and internet. You have Artemis and Diana on your phone next to you. Think of how many lives have been destroyed just because someone clicked that button and porn came to his phone. Think of how many lives have been destroyed because of online sex trade. Think of how many lives have been destroyed because you just googled that place that someone told you, and then you ended up there, and that changed everything for you. The phone that you have, it’s a good tool, but it can also destroy you. And I’m pretty sure later on when Gareth will be talking about social media, he’ll speak about this. But yes, we have our own Artemis and Diana close to us. Think of those places where people tell you, don’t even try to go there because that’s just a vicinity of sexual immorality. We’ve all heard that. We know people have told that to us. And if that’s the case, now think about this, if Paul, uncle Paul was to write to us today, in our world, think of the strong words that he would use to warn us against this danger that is there close to us. Jesus went even far, it’s not just about talking about it, it’s not just about doing it. In Matthew 5: 28 he says, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” And I think for all of us we need to be repenting each and every day because our hearts are sinful hearts.
Sexual intercourse is between one man and one woman in a context of a loving marriage. We read that from Genesis. That’s what the Bible tells us. Genesis 2: 24 -25. It’s God’s gift like any other good gift that God has given us. In fact, God is the one who invented sex. This gift of sex is to be enjoyed in marriage, and marriage only. There’s no other alternative. There’s no that idea that, “I want to try before I get married to see that it will work for me.” That’s not what the Bible says. “I want us to see if we are compatible so that we can live together.” That’s not what the Bible says. The Bible is against that. And that’s for our good. Marriage is a lifelong relation of faithfulness between a man and a woman. And of course, marriage is the safe environment where children are to be born. That’s how God designed it. But we understand that our world is so broken. But this is what God designed for us. So, no sexual intrusion must be seen in other people’s marriages. If people are married, I must respect their marriage. There shouldn’t be any intrusion in their marriage. Focus on yours, leave others alone. Any sexual intercourse outside this context of marriage is immorality. And should not characterize the church. And as I said earlier on, of course this is nothing new, we’ve all heard this. But it is good to be reminded, and to be reminded in the context that we are looking at it. Unfortunately, just like it were in Ephesus, our society has undermined and misused sex.
Again, you just go to the social media, and you see how sex has been used for all the wrong motives such as; “You know, I just wanted some mental relief or because I had some, you know, tension- physical tension that’s why I had sex. Just to release, to was get a relief.” Sex has been used as a desire to control or a desire to humiliate other people. Sex has been used because someone said, “You know, I just felt lonely and I just wanted someone to be with me. I had sex because you know, I felt bored in whatever I was doing. I wanted to experience something new.” All these motives they cheapen sex and make it look ugly. Actually, if you think about it, that’s not how God intended it to be. Casual sex will never fulfil God’s idea for sex. Never, it will never. It diminishes the meaning and the purpose of sex. Having said this, it’s also important for me to mention that not all who wish for sexual partner or marriage can have one. But one thing for sure is that, what God calls us to, he will enable us for. We have so many examples in the Bible. I always say, every status is temporary. You can be married today, and tomorrow you’re single. Maybe a divorce or maybe your partner dies. You can be single today, and tomorrow you are married. So, what counts for you, is to live your life where you are knowing that God wants you to be there now.
The Church Meets Sex And Money
Having briefly spoken about sex, and about money, how does all these things now come together? How does the church meet them? Again, in Chapter 4 and 5 of Ephesians, as I said, Paul is more concerned about the unity and the purity of the church. That’s what Paul is concerned about, that’s his desire. The unity of the church, the purity of the church. Remember, this is not just a moral lesson that Paul is telling the church in Ephesus, it’s beyond that. What Paul is giving here, he told us, that before time, God planned to bring everything under the headship of Christ. That’s what the Church is, that’s what you and me are if we’ve come to put our trust. So, we are under this bigger plan that God planned before time. And if this is what God is doing, then we must really have a high view of what God is doing to us in Christ. Our ways of living must really be different from the world around us. Because of what we are, and what we have become to believe, we must have a specific way of living. we are to live as a Christian. We are to live a Christian life which is opposed to the pagan life around us. We shouldn’t be conformed to the world around us although we still live in this world- in this pagan world. Remember, we are God’s new society, we are precious to him. So, when he’s telling you that, it’s because he loves you. Because you have to be different in this world. And of course, for us to mature in Christ, God has not saved us in isolation, and just leave you there, and say, “Prince, you will struggle on your own alone.” He has put us together as a church. That’s why we can hold each other’s hands. What do you think it means when we call each other brothers and sisters? Because we have to work this journey together. That’s how God has designed it for us. So, you are not saved in isolation.
The Holy Spirit lives within us and every time we sin, whether the sin of greed or sex what do we do? We grieve the Holy Spirit that lives within us.
Four Things To Remember
Four things I want you to remember as I close our talk this evening; First of all, always remember that we did not deserve to be part of all this, God’s plan. We did not deserve, none of us. Remember Ephesians 2 :1-2, “We were dead in our sins and transgressions.” That was our nature before Christ. So, we did not deserve, it’s not as if we are special. It’s not as if Treasure you’re a special person that’s why God wanted you in his family. No, no, no, you and me were dead in our sins and transgressions. But he loved us, he rescued us. So that the first thing. The second thing, it’s only by grace that we are part of God’s family. Ephesians 2:4-10, “By grace you have been saved. By grace you have been saved.” So, we were dead, it’s only by grace that we are part of his family. Third thing, now that we are part of this family, we are told that Christ himself is the head. So, think about it, you are a body, Christ is a head. How does you as a body honour the head which is Christ? Especially looking at sex and money. How do you honour the head which is Christ? Fourth, we are also told that the Holy Spirit lives within us and every time we sin, whether the sin of greed, whether the sin of sex, what do we do? We grieve the Holy Spirit that lives within us.
And my prayer for all of us here this evening, is that God may help us as his new people. I hope we understand who we are. We are his precious new people. To bring unity and purity to his body as we fight the sexual immorality and greed. And we want to mature in Christ, in him who has saved us. That’s my prayer for all of us. Remember I said at the beginning, that I may not tell you something new that you have not heard before. But all that I want you to remember is the bigger plan that God has. And he has included you as individual into his plan. And he wants you to live a different life when it comes to sex, when it comes to money.
Let’s pray; Lord Jesus, we thank you for rescuing us. We thank you because you came into this world to die on the cross for our sins. And Lord, we know that we are sinners. We sin each and every time, especially as we focus on the sin of sex, and greed. Lord we pray that you will help us through your Holy Spirit just to honour fight this temptation in our lives, and to rely on you to help us. And thank you because you brought us as a family together where we can talk to one another, we can encourage one another to walk this journey. So, Lord, we want to commit ourselves to you. We know that we are not perfect, we are sinful people but we know that you have loved us and we are part of your plan. So will you please help us as a Church to love one another, to be united around you, and to seek purity of your body that we are. And thank you for your great plan, Lord, that includes us in spite of who we are. Lord we just want to commit this week we’re about to start before you. Please help us to live for you, to stand for you, and to witness for you, and to speak for you wherever you’ve placed us. All these things we pray in the mighty name of our Lord and saviour Christ Jesus, and for his sake, amen.