This article is condensed from a talk Joey McCoy recently gave at an i.d.9:16 Disciples’ Night. It originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ August 2019 newsletter.
By Joey McCoy
It’s easy to walk through life believing human beings are the center of everything. But God breathes us into being. We have no claims on God. God has every claim on us. But how does this apply to sex?
When God created spiritual beings, one of them, Lucifer, grew prideful and led a rebellion against God. The few angels who stayed with God defeated Lucifer—whose name changed to Satan, the adversary, the devil. He remains the most powerful thing God created, but now is totally warped and bent.
Unfortunately, we listened to the adversary and believed a liar instead of God. As soon-to-be St. John Henry Neumann said, this was a primordial catastrophe that deeply wrecked our race. We were always meant to become like God, which Eve saw in the fruit. It was to make her wise, and we thought we should become that by grasping, and by making happen in ourselves this gift that was always meant to be given to us, but was intended to simply be received.
Without Jesus, the human race is now senselessly darkened and without hope. We’re exceedingly vulnerable to our adversary, who lies to us and knows exactly how to drive our flesh toward evil. Listening to the adversary—sinning—bring serious consequences. To sin means to place yourself into the hands of a tyrant and a trafficker, to be enslaved. Sin separates us from God and drives us deeper and deeper into sin. If we persist in sin and do not repent of it, those consequences will endure eternally.
However, God wants us to become like Him. To do that, we must strive against the adversary, with God’s help. And in the fullness of time, God calls a people unto Himself so He can enter into the story to bring it to its rightful conclusion. A time is coming when the living and the dead will be judged, and God will bring justice.
This is the stark reality that Jesus reveals about humanity. It can be confusing: Many seemingly good people do not confess Jesus; how can they be in a bad place? We forget that to not love God revealed in Jesus is the most unjust thing anyone can do. It’s horrifying, it’s worse than anything else you can think of, and justice will be done to those who inflict horror upon God.
This very stark picture is why God has always shared with His people, who are meant to be a light to the world:
“I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you this day, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you . . . But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you this day, that you shall perish.” (Dt 30:15-18)
God wants to bring the human race out of this wreckage and to salvation. That’s why He entered into this story and tried to draw close to humanity. There are absolutely only two options: life and death. Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and it is easy that leads to destruction. And those who enter by it are many, for the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life and few there are who are finding it” (Mt 7:13-14).
Jesus loves us and wants us to know the truth. St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas thought a majority of the human race would be lost because of what happened in the Garden of Eden. The narrow way—Jesus—is the only option.
Jesus first mentions sexuality in Matthew 5:27, when He says lust is the same as adultery, one of the Ten Commandments. And not abiding by the commandments means choosing death. We probably have friends who live in persistent sexual sin, and we just go, “Meh.” Considering what Jesus says, what an unloving response that is!
Sexual purity involves eternity. A Christian is a temple of the Holy Spirit; what we do with our bodies deeply affects God. To be with God, you must covenant yourself to Him. And woe to the person who defiles what is God’s, even if it’s him or herself. Matthew 15:19 lists adultery and fornication in the same list as murder. That’s pretty striking.
This could be the whole talk: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” (1 Cor 6:9) People often think only Hitler’s going to hell. This tempting heresy, called universalism, is everywhere, but it can’t withstand Scripture: “Neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:9-10). This means those who engage in this behavior in a consistent, unrepentant way—but that’s still a lot of people! We all struggle, but do we repent? Do we want to walk differently; are we willing to make changes so we can?
God never tires of forgiving. But to live as someone who partakes in homosexual acts, as an adulterer, or in unrepentant sexual immorality brings destruction if we don’t repent and get up again. Conversion means getting rid of this stuff—not seeing how I can follow God while bending rules and dancing on the line.
Jesus wants to rid our heart of the disease and affliction of sin, including sexual sin:
“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two shall become one.’ But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him . . . Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:15-20)
“You are not your own.” How often does our world not understand that? You have been made one spirit with Christ; therefore, when you become one flesh with someone, Christ is implicated in that. That is why sexual sin matters. Your body does not belong to you; your body belongs to God, just like everything else about you. And that’s actually fantastically good news! Jesus shows us how we stay healthy and how we escape eternal judgment and damnation forever.
If anyone hearing this message experiences condemnation, beware. That is the devil. We should feel convicted. Those are two very different things: God convicts; the devil condemns. If you’re experiencing condemnation, make the sign of the cross over yourself, say Jesus’ name, and tell the devil to go back where he belongs. We all face this struggle. It takes time, and we have to be patient.
Paul teaches in Ephesians that walking in sexual impurity is typical before coming to Jesus, but that we must allow our new life in Jesus to throw off that old cloak. The Church has always been radically different in this. Coming out of that way of thinking is part of Christian growth. Therefore, we ought not to excuse it when we encounter it in fellow Christians.
“And he who sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new . . . As for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death’” (Rv 21: 5-8).
What a passage! The cowardly are in the lake of fire, as well as fornicators—and how easy it is to not live up to things sexually because you are a coward? Praise God for the Theology of the Body and the way it breaks open Scripture to show the immensely beautiful things about sexuality, but may we never forget how high the stakes are! May we hear the warning that our eternal salvation is at stake, and that living in unrepentant sexual sin sends you to hell.
In conclusion, let’s find encouragement from St. Theresa of Avila, who says, “Even if you are committing mortal sins, keep on praying, and I guarantee you that you will reach the harbor of salvation.” Never give up hope! Never stop clinging to Christ! Never stop praying!