A Culture of Holiness
As the elders prayed for our church one of the men mentioned his desire that our congregation would have what he described as a “culture of holiness.” When I heard it I thought it was a concise description of the lifestyle which the Lord Jesus Christ calls us to as Christian believers. Then it made me think about what is needed in order to have a culture of holiness. It starts with being intentionally intolerant.
A Culture of Intentional Intolerance
For there to be a culture of holiness in our church, there must be an intentional intolerance of porneia. The word porneia is a Greek word that expresses broadly any type of sexual immorality. This includes the betrayal of marriage bonds in adultery, or in the betrayal of God’s law in sexual desire expressed in any way, even for a single person.
Now you can see the word porneia looks familiar because it sounds like our shortened term, “porn.” Porn is sexual exploitation for the purpose of sexual gratification-- in other words “pornography.” Even the terminology for pornography is porn that is graphically displayed. So if a married man looks at porn he is sexually exploiting someone else for his own selfish pleasure. It is a betrayal of his marriage covenant.
A Culture Against Porneia
Nothing can be clearer than the fact that we must have a culture against porneia. As Paul said, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality [porneia]” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Paul does not permit the therapeutic and ill-defined category of “struggling.” The euphemism of “struggling” can be a way to permit occasional self indulgence in porneia. But Paul said, “We must not indulge in sexual immorality,” adding the example of the golden calf idolaters when , “twenty-three thousand fell in a single day” (1 Corinthians 10:8). God didn’t tell those who “rose up to play” (v.7), that they were merely “struggling.” In fact, God quickly killed them. An idolatrous and indefinite state of “struggling” with porn is not the will of God. Rather the clear will of God for your life is to cease looking at porn and desist from fantasizing about anyone who is not your spouse. Cease and desist. That is the order. And if you won’t then are you prepared to face what God might do to shock you into obedience or make you stop your blasphemy?
A Culture More Indignant
Many young men in churches are puzzled why they are not given greater opportunities for ministry in the church since they have theological acumen and decent biblical knowledge. Yet the problem is not that these men are lacking in biblical content. They are lacking in biblical obedience.
This is a paraphrase of what a friend who pastors in Quebec said to the recent TGCCanada gathering, “Eight out of ten guys I mentor for future ministry are still looking at porn. So that it’s one step forward and three steps back. You have to go back to the basics with them every time.”
Guys might be indignant that they aren’t getting advanced in opportunities, but they’re not indignant enough at their own sin and how dark and defiling it is under God’s holy eye. If they were indignant at their sin, they would stop using euphemisms, “I slipped up,” “I had a bad day” “I did something I shouldn’t.” On top of the porneia is a tendency to be deceitful, to minimize the offense, to shift blame and to lie. A culture of holiness is more indignant about personal sexual sin, living by the command, “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:13).
A Culture Against False Toleration
There can be no culture of holiness, if there a toleration of porneia. Jesus is against porneia. He is against the church that tolerates porneia. He condemns the church at Thyatira for tolerating porneia (cf. Rev 2:20).
Our church must be intentionally intolerant of porneia, resisting the seductions of the Jezebel-like internet. In a report from ERLC, it noted that a classified ad website was being used for massive solicitations for sexual trafficking and that it got “93.4 percent of its weekly paid ad revenue” from these trafficking ads. Soliciting porneia amounted to “more than 1 billion pageviews.” Looking at porn is not a victimless sin. It contributes to the debasing of lives, the destruction of marriages, and the distortion of God’s gift of sex.
A Culture Awake Against Porneia
If our church is to have a culture of holiness, we will need to wake up. It is too easy for Christians to get drowsy and relaxed in the fight against lust in the mind and sexual immorality in the heart and hand. Paul urges the Roman church saying:
“you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:11-14).
As we pursue a culture of holiness in our church, we will be intolerant of “provisions” for the flesh and we will be against the gratification of the flesh’s desires. We won’t be sleepy about it. A culture of holiness will not be filled with sleepy sinful eyes, but will heed Jesus words:
“if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, (Mark 9:47).
May God awaken his church to be a culture of holiness intolerant of porneia.
More in Pastoral Blog
September 13, 2019Luther's Rose and Other Symbols in Stained Glass
August 12, 2019Sexuality, Gender and Christian Witness August 24 with Denny Burk
May 3, 2019Happy and Holy Christians