What happens at home stays at home, right? Well, not exactly. One of the main issues that erupted during President Clinton’s term in office was the divide created during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. A great deal of time was spent arguing about how the quality of a person’s private life affected their capacity for effective public service.
From the perspective of Scripture, which wasn’t consulted during this scandal, it becomes clear that our home life is deeply connected to our public life. Actually, I would argue that our home life is at it’s core, a microcosm (a small glimpse of the whole) which exposes the real person.
Let me rephrase this another way: Much like a surgeon’s scalpel serves to provide an opening so that he may repair what is broken inside; we need to peek into our home life if we are to begin to peel back the layers in our own lives so we can see the areas which are most in need of being surrendered to God. Do not take this as an opportunity to think to yourselves, “Ah this is a sermon that (so and so) really needs to hear!” Rather this is a personal message from God, to you.
It’s very easy to “put on Jesus” (like a coat if you will) when we get out of the car on Sunday morning, or come up to a men’s retreat, and pretend that everything is alright. But our performance in front of other people really isn’t all that impressive to God, because our performance really isn’t an insight into our hearts.
When we live in close proximity to other people, we tend to let our guard down and in many ways expose who we really are. Those we live with often see the real us, if indeed we are not master manipulators. When the doors are closed and the curtains are drawn, the real us stands up, and asserts himself.
When this happens, who are you? Who is the person behind the closed door? What would we see if we could see through your eyes during the course of a normal week at home? What screens would we see? What type of language would we hear? What postures would arise? What kind of anger would be unmasked?
When speaking on home issues, I believe this is where we must turn, because going straight to good news before the bad news is exposed would be like throwing beautiful pearls into a mud pit of dirty pigs to trample on. So let’s be real here this morning.
My prayer is that all of you would have an honest assessment of what kind of man you are. We don’t need pretenders here. We can’t afford that. God comes to those who know they need a doctor. And many of us “Christians” knew we needed help during our conversion, but then we put on the Jesus coat after that and began to help others at the cost of being ignorant to our own lives. In public, for the most part, we conceal who we really are and act as if we do not need Christ. So let’s be honest and turn to Christ now:
With this, let’s turn to 1 Thess. 4:1-8: 1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
Paul urges us in verse 1 to “walk” in a manner that pleases God. Paul uses this “walking” metaphor over 30 times in his letters to Christians as a way to describe the Christian life. We are on a journey, as God’s called out family members, we are called to walk in a certain way that is consistent with the good news that we have received. We are to walk (or live) in such a way that displays the kingdom of God to those who are watching; to show those who are far from God that there is a better city and a better way of life that is to be found in Christ. Our lives are glimpses for others to see the hope of a future with Jesus. Would you agree?
It’s important to note at this place, that Paul’s urging us to “walk” in line with the good news comes on the heels of a very motivating indicative; a backdrop of the story that is already true. We often take passages like this one in 1 Thess. 4 and go straight to the commands of what we are supposed to do, or not supposed to do and quickly place ourselves under the Law of the do’s and don’ts and are motivated, I think at least, with weak and short lived motives.
So in this letter, Paul has been urging the Thessalonians with the indicative of what is already true for the them. Let’s briefly discover what those indicative are:
1:4-6, 9-10: 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit…9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
2:3-4: 3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.
2:12-13: 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. 13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
3:8: For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.
So on the heels of the good news that has already been true for the Thessalonians, Paul says “Finally brothers”. “Finally, now that I’ve reminded you of all the good that God has worked out on your behalf through Jesus and his people, I urge you to walk in a manner that pleases God.” Then, and only then does Paul begin to address specific ways for them to live in holiness. The motivation of obedience is birthed out of the indicative, not the imperative (the command). You tracking with me?
As Paul moves on in this passage, we see a progression of growth that Paul is speaking to; movement if you will. The Greek word for movement is “Kineo”, which means “to cause movement”, which is exactly what the Spirit of God does in the lives of those who surrender to Him, this is the indicative (grace) that leads to the imperative (obedience).
You can see this progression starting in verse 1a: “we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us”. You received the word by faith, that is great! But look at what Paul says next in verse 1b: how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing. You have progressed in the faith today, presently. This is crucial! But Paul doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say in verse 1c: that you do so more and more. You must continue to grow more and more. The Christian life is not so much as how we start, which it’s important that we do start, but how we finish.
“2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;” (4:2-3) Paul is after holiness in the lives of believers in regards to their sexuality. The church’s conduct is of the utmost importance to Paul because holiness is one of the chief signposts that displays God’s kingdom to the nations.
4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; (4:4-5).
Paul’s command is to abstain from being a pervert essentially. Don’t look at porn. Don’t rape your brothers wife or sister with your eyes. Don’t take advantage of women who are hungry for male affection. Don’t act like animals who only make instinctive decisions. Have self control. Exercise the discipline of delayed gratification. Control yourself. Be holy. Honor your brother and sister.
And Paul closes with these sobering words: [see to it] “that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” (4:6-8)
I go here today as we talk about being a Fortis man in the home, because this is the place where we get away with sin and no one can ever know, so we think. Brothers, God has not called you for impurity, but purity. And if you disregard this imperative and throw to the wind the indicative of what He has done, then God will avenge those who disregard Him. These are big words. How do we respond to this? What are we to do? How do we become the fortis man that God has called us to be?
Maybe you’re single and you long to get married and have a family. Maybe you are married and haven’t started having kids yet. Maybe you’ve got all of the above, and you know that you aren’t being the man you are called to be. Maybe you know that your home has been a hiding place for your sin, selfishness, anger, manipulation, deceit, etc.
If this is you, and I’m taking the liberty to assume that many of you are connecting with this today. So what I want to do is close with 5 progressive points of application that I personally live by so that I can be the lover and protector for my wife, the leader and father for my children, and to be a light to the nations starting at home. You ready?
Point # 1: You can’t fight sin with religion.
It’s really interesting, that when Jesus was on the earth and He was teaching, He spoke to a religious culture that had a very technical view of what sin was and they had created some categories that basically were loopholes so that they could be immoral, much like us.
So Jesus took it right to the mind (or the core of who we are; the seat of our emotions) and said, “I tell you, if anyone looks upon a woman with lustful intent, he’s already committed adultery.” “If anyone has anger in his heart towards his brother, he’s already committed murder.” Loopholes! As long as their are loopholes you are using to get around real change, you will not be the man you were meant to be. Listen to me, you will be playing religion and flirting with destruction. You will be saying “justice and renewal” with your religious rhetoric, but will be propagating destruction with your life.
So here’s a typical scenario within the church. A believer comes to me and is broken and hates his sin and says: “I messed up man. I slept with somebody I shouldn’t have,” or “I fell again. I totally looked at porn on the internet and masturbated and I feel sick and guilty about it.” Then they’ll go straight to religion: “So here’s what I’m gonna do: I’m gonna read the Bible ten times a day, and I’m gonna go to every church service I can find in town. I’m gonna put an internet filter on, and I’m not gonna look at another woman the rest of my life. I’m gonna make a covenant with my eyes like Job did,” and on and on goes the lists of what they are gonna do (or at least try to do)!
Now, I do agree that those are helpful things, but apart from Jesus, they really won’t make a difference. So when men tell me stories like these, I basically have to say:
“Let’s go ahead and set up the next appointment, because I’m gonna give you a few weeks, and then you’re gonna be right back here crying.” You can’t fight
Point # 2: Sin grows in the dark; expose it.
This self-destructive tendency we have to rebel against God always grows like fungus when kept in the dark. So just by bringing your sin to the light, and by that I mean sharing your sin (sin of omission and commission) with the people you need to and confessing your sin to the Lord and being transparent, is vitally important.
1 John 1:6-7: 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
Find godly brothers to walk with you. Come clean with your pastor, your wife, your friends, and whoever else needs to know. Stop managing your behavior and get your junk out into the light and let Jesus begin to work on your heart.
Point # 3: Kill the core.
At the core of sin is a heart that doesn’t trust God. This third point can help inform what and how you might need to confess. In our sin we basically say, “I can’t trust you God to meet and provide for (blank) in the way that you choose. That’s why I have to go outside of your will and provision to get (blank). You’re just not big enough or good enough to satisfy (blank). I have these desires, these urges, these needs, and I need to (blank) because I can’t trust you to take care of them.”
At the core, this is what a heart that doesn’t trust God says and believes. Instead of worshipping the God who is trustworthy, who knows our every need, we worship ourselves and comforts and pleasures. When we do this, we’re saying, “I need to worship me and my needs instead of you God, so I can fulfill this deep longing in me.” Maybe you need to be more honest with the Lord and some other men this weekend.
Point # 4: A heart that doesn’t trust God has a worship problem.
False worship (or idolatry) is the sin behind the sin. For example, you can get someone to stop eating too much, and they’ll start drinking, or they’ll stop drinking and then start smoking, or stop smoking, eating, and drinking, and start being proud of their morality and their idol is obedience. You can stop looking at porn then lust like crazy over women and treat them in a sinful way. Or you can stop looking at porn and control relationships in some other self-righteous way in the name of Jesus. You have a worship problem.
Tim Keller says, “Good things that get turned into ultimate things are idols.” What we don’t want is for you to stop looking at porn because you found another way to satisfy your deep longing. Only God Himself can satisfy the longings of your heart (Psalm 17:15; 63:1-8). We don’t want you to start masking your fear or anger by acts of self-righteousness. That will only make you more of an annoying punk!
Remember in Genesis 1 where we learn that we were made in the image and likeness of God. This means that in part we were made to worship; and so we ceaselessly pour ourselves out. We were created to give ourselves away – our heart, our mind, our money, our devotion goes somewhere, to someone, to something. “Everyone is a worshiper; everyone is a slave”, says Martin Luther.
The result of the fall is that we continue to worship, but we worship wrongly. This means we worship our way into sin. So if we worshipped our way into sin…
Point # 5: Worship your way out of sin.
If you are able to begin to see that these issues are really heart worship issues, and then understand that the only way to change your heart is only through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit through the declared truth and belief in the good news, then you’re on the road to becoming a Fortis man!
If sexual sin is your main battle, what’s difficult about it is that it has a unique shame factor to it. What happens when you commit sexual sin is you typically withdraw from the things you need the most, namely Jesus, His good news, and His people.
But like all sin, it’s an issue of the heart, and the good news is Jesus changes hearts. You can get from one idol to another, but you can’t get from idolatry to freedom unless you meet up with Jesus and begin to worship Him. Only Jesus and the power of the indwelling Spirit can free you from sin. The only way out of your worship problem is to begin to worship rightly, to worship Jesus.
And how do we do that? I’m glad you asked! You must know and believe the gospel at its core if you’re gonna be able to let Jesus free you from slavery to sin. God became a man, Jesus, who fulfilled His promise to Israel by coming as the Messiah, the savior. But when Jesus came to earth, He declared Himself to be the good news that God’s kingdom has come to earth to renew not just Israel, but all of creation.
This also means that He has substituted Himself with you because He is the King and you are not. Jesus died in your place for your sins, and because of His resurrection, He conquered your enemies: Satan, sin, and death; and promises life now and forever with Him. He gives you a reconciled relationship with God so that you will again participate in the same love and joy and praise and adoration that the Trinitarian God has within Himself. Not only that, but He places on you the righteousness of Jesus and treats you as if you were as clean as Jesus. This means you are clean before God and have been adopted into His family and God calls you Son and says to you today, “Welcome home”.
To the degree that you believe this and your heart is broken because of what Jesus has done for you, will be the degree by which you have victory over your idols and imprisonment of sin. And it will be the degree by which you will be a fortis husband, father or friend.
For those of you who have never received what Christ has done for you, then right now Jesus is saying, “Come home son! Come home!” Unless you “Come home!” you won’t live the kind of home life that honors others, loves and respects your wife, leads your wife and kids. Unless you “Cone home!” you won’t be the dad that you always wanted to be, or the lover to your wife that she has always wanted and needed. Only then will a real women of God want to be with you and give of herself completely to you…and trust me, that’s really good when you’re allowed to be in bed naked with each other!
Jesus is saying to you guys today, “Come home! This is where you belong! This is where all of your deepest longings will be met! This is the way it was supposed to be!” Come home brothers! Come home!” Confess to Jesus where you are at, your sin and self-righteousness. Turn away from serving yourself, and turn to Jesus and let Him serve you and make you clean. “Come home!”