Honoring Chastity (Commandment #7)
HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAYS 41
What is God’s will for you us in the seventh commandment?
God condemns all unchastity. We should therefore thoroughly detest it and, married or single, live decent and chaste lives.
Does God, in this commandment, forbid only such scandalous sins as adultery?
We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul, and God wants both to be kept clean and holy. That is why he forbids everything which incites unchastity, whether it be actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires.
DEVOTIONAL: SEPTEMBER 17-23
Honoring Chastity (Commandment #7)
The Seventh Commandment – “You shall not commit adultery” – is a clear and welcome voice. On the one hand, it is rooted in the structure of creation. God created sex as a beautiful gift to be enjoyed within the boundaries of a one-man and one-woman marriage covenant. On the other hand, the commandment is also rooted in the character of redemption. A monogamous male-female marriage represents to the world the character of God’s faithful and abiding love, and chaste singles reflect God’s faithful, loyal and self-sacrificial character. The Catechism, therefore, teaches that “we should, married or single, live decent and chaste lives.” Since “we are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul,” it further states, “God wants both to be kept clean and holy.” Like the rest of life, our understanding of sexual identity and practice is an opportunity to declare the glory of God’s grace and mercy.
Still, the Seventh Commandment is a difficult commandment to receive and live. Whether one listens to the culture, liberal Churches or conservative Churches, it is clear that confusion reigns about sexual identity and practice. In fact, within the Church itself there is substantial disagreement on what constitutes “decent and chaste lives.” On the issue of homosexuality, a clergy member of the United Methodist Committee to Study Homosexuality stated: “The scriptural texts in the Old and New Testaments condemning homosexual practice are neither inspired by God nor otherwise of enduring Christian value. Considered in the light of the best biblical, theological, scientific, and social knowledge, the biblical condemnation of homosexual practice is better understood as representing time-and-place bound cultural prejudice” (In Desire & Deceit by R. Albert Mohler, p.58). It is no longer assumed that the Bible has anything substantial to contribute to current cultural discourse. Of course, Christian orthodoxy disagrees with this assessment. It refuses to abandon God’s supremacy for the sake of human autonomy, or to sacrifice truth for the sake the latest cultural agenda. It knows that only God’s creation design for love, sex and marriage – maligned by sin but restored in Christ – allows one to live a genuinely free and joyful human identity and life.
My own pastoral observation underscores the teaching that sexual behavior outside of God’s design demeans and dehumanizes individuals. It assaults the inherent value and dignity of the image of God in people, and, therefore, is an assault on God Himself. I have watched over and over again how those lost in sexual immorality begin to drown in shame and lose connection with the Lord. Consider pornography. Does it reduce woman to objects? Does it erode marital intimacy? Does it fuel the sex-trafficking industry? Or, consider adultery. Does it mock the exchange of vows, vow which are intended to emulate God’s promise of faithfulness and abiding love? Does it make normal the betray of trust? Are the children really doing “okay?” The answers are obvious. The brokenness and its effects show up in board rooms, class rooms and dorm rooms. Yet, our narcissistic, consumer driven and therapeutically sustained culture suggests that it is not that big a deal. After all, it teaches that I belong to no one but me, and, therefore, must commit to that which is best for me. And only I can decide what that is.
Biblically orthodox Christians who embrace their new redeemed identity in Christ, must also bear the responsibility to emulate His character. That means they seek to live their lives as a display of His glorious transforming grace and mercy. And that, more than written words or public debate, is the antidote to sexual immorality. It is the life-style of sacrificial faithfulness that will make the Christian alternative attractive, for the gospel alone has the power to renew, restore and reconcile broken lives (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). This leads me to a moment of lament because at this particular moment in history even this truth seems to be under attack, not by secular culture, but by Christians who sinfully manipulate grace to justify their ongoing immorality. While I am at odds with my culture’s distorted mind, I do not fault it for receiving the Church’s message with suspicion and disgust because her own lifestyle is found wanting. The take away? A good dose of Spirit-directed and Christ-centered repentance and renewal is more than necessary in both the Church and the culture.
So, let’s embrace the practice of Job: “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully” (Job 31:1). Let’s also root that practice in the principle of the gospel: “Flee sexual immorality. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). Finally, rest in His promise: “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18).
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn
Sunday, September 17
The Catechism states: “We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul...” Prayerfully read 1 Peter 2:4-12. Describe how your decisions and actions honor Peter’s teaching that all of life, including moral behavior, is an exercise of worship that declares the glories of God grace: “You also like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Monday, September 18
The Catechism states: “We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul, and God wants both to be kept clean and holy.” Prayerfully read Ephesians 5:1-20. To be made holy by Jesus Christ and to live the holiness of Jesus Christ is to be truly human. Describe your growth in holiness, identifying the obstacles in your path, the temptations you face, and the growth you have experienced. What are some of your personal goals for growth in holiness?
Tuesday, September 19
The Catechism states: “We should…live decent and chaste lives.” Prayerfully read 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8. Describe the character of sexual purity in your own life, especially in a culture which suggests that sexual pleasure should not be limited by Christian phobias, but should be freely expressed according to one’s self-conceived identity and desire.
Wednesday, September 20
The Catechism states: “We should thoroughly detest all unchastity.” Prayerfully read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. How do Paul’s words help you in your personal struggle with sexual sin? How does knowing that Christ has already forgiven you or is now ready to forgive you, help you flee temptation and grow in chastity?
Thursday, September 21
The Catechism states: God “forbids everything which incites unchastity, whether it be actions, looks, talk.” Prayerfully read Matthew 5:27-29. The temptation to lust is powerful in our sex saturated culture. What safeguards have you set up in your life to both guard your own heart and protect the dignity and value of others?
Friday, September 22
The Catechism states: God “forbids everything which incites unchastity, whether it be…thoughts or desires.” Prayerfully read Colossians 3:1-17. Pornography is known and proven to do substantial emotional, relational and spiritual damage both to oneself and to others. What does it mean to set your mind on things above? Describe how the gospel of Christ – truth and grace – control and direct your desires.
Saturday, September 23
The Catechism states: “God condemns all unchastity.” Prayerfully reflect on Matthew 11:28-30. Contemporary culture clearly condones what God condemns, advocating freedom of sexual expression while condemning the Biblical call to sexual purity. What is your prayer for our culture, for families, for individuals and for yourself?