If you have your Bible with you this morning, I'd like you to turn with me to 2 Samuel, the book of 2 Samuel and chapter 11. 2 Samuel and chapter 11, reading from verse 1: "And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem. And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house. And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child".
Psalm 119 and verse 9: "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?" - or how can a young man keep his way pure? - "By taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes. With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word".
Let us pray: Our Father in heaven, we come before You this morning and we thank You for Your word. We thank You, as another Psalmist said, that Your word is a light to our pathway. Our Father we pray that in the pathway of our lives, from day-to-day, that we would indeed find that Your truth, that Your Scriptures, the word of God would be our direction, would be our guidance, would be the thermostat that determines our lives, our character and our actions. Father, may this word that is so rich in inspiration, in fullness, in vitality and in life - may it be real to us this morning. We pray that the Spirit of God, that He would be here, and that He would help us as we seek to ask what You would say to our hearts today. For we ask these things in Jesus name, Amen.
I wonder would you turn with me - just keeping your finger in that passage that we've just read - but turn back with me to 2 Samuel chapter 11 that we read earlier, 2 Samuel, chapter 11. I read this week that, according to the Reuters report from Stockholm, Sweden has long ago arrived at complete sexual freedom and liberty. Old-fashioned fornication that we read about in the word of God is accepted in that society. Parents have indeed arrived at the opinion that it is normal for their children, for their youngsters, to behave in this way. It is reported that only 5% of girls and 2% of boys go with their purity to marriage. I wonder is that a reflection of the fact that Sweden has the highest percentage of suicides of any country in this world?
In  research firm surveyed 35,000 young people - now remember, 1974 - they were from the ages of 16 to 25. The interviewers sought to learn what their selected individuals felt about important standards and important values in today's world. The study revealed that only 31% viewed premarital relationships as morally wrong, compared to 52% in 1969. Opposition to abortion dropped from 58% to 45%. The proportion who considered living a clean moral life a very important value fell from 71% to 52%. That was 1974.
It seems that patterns are shifting, and we could say today that: 'As it was in the days of Noah, so it is today'. We only have to look at our television screen, look at the media, and even ice cream is advertised by suggestive theatrics. The daily soaps, that many of us are glued to, advocate and defend promiscuous living, adultery, homosexuality and a variety of other perversions of God's intended ideal and will. Our newspapers - many, indeed, now of the broadsheets - are becoming more, if they have not already arrived at being, pornographic magazines. What was considered 30 years ago as pornography, believe it or not, is on our television screens advertising body creams and perfume. You've all seen it: the camera focuses close-up in black-and-white on a tense, lusting male face, over which is superimposed an amber flame, which becomes a glowing bottle of Calvin Klein's Obsession.
Last year the shock film was the film 'Crash'. I'm sure you've read about it in your newspapers, how the whole plot of that story was to do with sexual exploits with crash victims on the scene. This week, if you've been reading your newspaper, the new shock film - it seems that they're just trying to shock us as much as they can now - it's entitled 'Lolita', this film is nothing more than a glorification of paedophilia - child abuse.
If we think that this is happening just in the world, we are fools. Recently Leadership Magazine, which is a pastoral magazine for ministers, commissioned a poll of 1000 Pastors. It indicated that 12% had committed adultery while in the ministry - that's one out of eight of those thousand! It indicated that 23% did something that they considered inappropriate whilst in the ministry. Christianity Today, which is a more broad magazine that is read by Christians of every sort, they surveyed Christians who weren't Pastors and the figures - those figures - doubled! 23% admitted that they had committed adultery. 45% said that they had committed something that they felt was inappropriate for a child of God. These statistics are shocking, aren't they? They're almost unbelievable - and when we think that most of the people that read this literature, they are people who have been well-educated, college educated, church leaders, elders, deacons, Sunday School superintendents and teachers - and it's left up to our minds this morning to think what the ordinary church member could get up to.
What I want to ask you this morning is this: when we live in a world like ours that sweats sensuality from its pores, and when even the church of Jesus Christ is practising - and in some areas and quarters is actually advocating living in sin - how, how can a young man, how can a young woman (or for that matter and older man or older woman) possibly expect to keep his way pure and to cleanse his life? What hope is there? What hope is there for our children and our young people in a carnal, Corinthian society like our own? It is such an easy thing for us as believers to become desensitised, and even - God forbid it - even in our lives to imbibe these sensual attitudes, the spirit of the age today. How can a young man cleanse his way? How can he cure himself of the problems of our age? How can he prevent getting taken into this sensuality, the flesh of this age that is wreaking havoc - not only around in our world, but today is wreaking havoc in the church of Jesus Christ?
If you look at the passage that we read together earlier in 2 Samuel chapter 11, I believe that there are within this passage various warnings to us this morning as children of God. David, in 2 Samuel 11, was a successful man. He was in his midlife, it seems that he had everything, he had charisma, he had personality, he had musical talent, he was intellectual - it seemed that everything was on the up for King David. What was wrong? Well if you look into this passage - and if we had time we could look at the whole passage, and we could even look at the whole of David's life - if we looked at it we could see that in David there is a progressive degeneration which eventually brought his downfall. This progressive degeneration is something that, I believe this morning, can be identified in every backslider, every child of God that wanders away from the pathway.
Therefore the writer, in 2 Samuel 11, would have us beware of certain things. The first thing I believe he wants us to beware of this morning is: to beware of losing our sensitivity. If you were to turn to 2 Samuel 5 you would read there that David took up power in Jerusalem. But it says in verse 13 of 2 Samuel 5 that, after David had left Hebron, he took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem. When David had left Hebron, when he had taken up the throne in Jerusalem - he had become King - it says that he took more concubines and more wives when he arrived in Jerusalem. Now, according to Deuteronomy chapter 17, David's taking of extra wives, in the sight of God, was sin. This was forbidden for a King of Israel. A King of Israel, it says in Deuteronomy 17, was not to take unto himself much riches, much livestock, he wasn't to take unto himself many wives - this was forbidden in the sight of God, it was apart from the code of holiness that God had laid down for the monarch of Israel.
Now, I want you to see this morning that David's progressive desensitisation to sin had a consequent inner descent from holiness in his life. His progressive desensitisation to sin had a consequence in his life, for as he went along his life's pathway, and little by little he became more insensitive to the sins that were in his life, it had an effect on his inner walk with God. Now don't misunderstand the biblical text this morning. David taking to himself other wives was perfectly legal - in fact, not only was it legal, but it was something that was culturally acceptable - but the point this morning is this: although it was legal and it was culturally acceptable, it was something that was against the revealed will of God. David's endorsement, and David's even practice, of culturally permitted sensuality - do you know what it did to him? It desensitised him to sin, and it ultimately contributed to his downfall in adultery.
Do you see this? No-one falls, no-one backslides, in a flash! It doesn't just happen right away, there are small little steps where people become desensitised to sin and to the world, and to the things of the world - and before they know it, they are taking bigger steps into sin and sensuality until, before they know it, they have fallen headlong into great sin. We need to beware this morning, because there are certain things in our society today that are cultural, they are cultural sensualities, they are legal indulgences that - in the eyes of the people around us, in the eyes of our government, in the eyes of our society - are seen to be socially accepted. But these things - if we really think about them - they contribute to an inner descent in our holiness.
Young people today, older people today, are expected to watch hours of television unguarded - indiscriminately. In the workplace men, and women now, are expected to laugh at dirty jokes, and even tell dirty jokes. Businessmen are expected to show 'business indiscretion' and turn a blind eye to certain practices. At business-dos and dinners it is expected that you take a little tipple. In relationships it is expected that you go a little farther each year along your relationship, until eventually you might as well be married. This passage warns us in the gravest language that David - this man David, a man after God's own heart - he lost his sensitivity to sin and to the world, and it started in a small little bit, but before he knew it he was on his face in adultery.
But the writer wants us also to notice that: we are to beware of losing our discipline. David had relaxed, it says in verse 1, he had relaxed from the rigours and disciplines that had characterised his life, the activity that was in his life from day-to-day. He should have been at war, he should have been with Joab fighting for the cause, but he knew that it was an easy win so he stayed at home. Now, the problem was not the fact that he relaxed - and there's nothing wrong with relaxation - but David's problem was this: that his relaxation extended to his spiritual life. Has that ever happened to you? He relaxed physically, he relaxed in his life, he retired for a little point - but that affected his spiritual life, and what happened was: he left himself unguarded, he left himself unprotected and he fell. Don't think that David woke up one morning and said: 'Well, it's a lovely day today, I think I'm going to commit adultery'. He didn't! He was a man after God's own heart, he wrote many of the Psalms that we have in the word of God. It wasn't the fact that he intended that day to sin, but he lost - in some way - his sensitivity to sin, and because he was undisciplined on this particular day the Devil got a foothold.
Can I ask you, Christian, this morning: are you losing your discipline? Do you read the word of God from day-to-day? Do you pray daily? Do you have a quiet time with the Lord? Have you lost your discipline with regards to the church of Jesus Christ? Are you found at the prayer meeting? Are you found having fellowship with God's people? Do you wait behind for the Lord's table that He has commanded you to wait for? Do you discipline yourself in your watching of the television, in the things that you read, in the things that you listen to, the things that you say? We need this - listen, this morning - to beware that we do not lose our sensitivity, to beware that we do not lose our discipline.
But thirdly, he would have us beware something else. He says: beware of losing your focus. Beware of losing your focus - what happened? Think of the scene: it's twilight in the Middle East, in the humid air in the evening - and this man (now in his middle-age, now remember that, he's in his middle-age - he's probably 50) he gets out of his bed and he takes a look out of the window. He sees a curvaceous form of a young beautiful woman, the shadows and the half light making her more attractive. Verse 2 says that the woman was very beautiful, in the Hebrew that's an over expression - she was absolutely gorgeous, she was a beautiful woman. David's problem was not the fact that he looked, but the problem was that after that first glance he looked again, and again, and again. He focused into this woman and he became fixated with her. Kent Hughes, a writer, says this that: 'In that moment David, who had been a man after God's own heart, became a dirty, leering old man'. A lustful fixation came over him that could not be denied.
He lost his focus. I wonder this morning, Christian, young person, have you lost your focus? What are you focusing in on in your life? What are the things that your eyes light upon? What do you watch on the television screen? What is it that comes from the video recorder? What is the music that you are listening to? What are the magazines that you are reading? You see, by focusing on the wrong things in our life we then begin to think about these things and chew these things over. Now, don't get me wrong this morning, there are some helpful things that come on the television - but I don't know about you, but I've yet to find a television that turns itself off before the picture comes on. People would say to me: 'Well, there's a knob on the screen, turn it off!' - but before you can turn it off you've seen something that has harmed your mind.
David Frost - you all know him, the TV presenter - he said this, David Frost: 'Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living-room by people you wouldn't have in your home'. Isn't that true? It permits you to see things, and think about things, and listen to things that you wouldn't permit in your home! Often we will indiscriminately - and I'm speaking to myself as well - we will plant ourselves down in front of the television and watch unlimited television, and inevitably - before we know it - we end up focusing or listening to impure things. You know when something happens on the screen - there's a bit of interference - what does it come on? 'Don't adjust your set' - well, listen, my message to you this morning, it's not all about television, but my message to you is this: Don't adjust your life! Don't adjust your life because there's a fault in the world!
I don't know whether you've ever heard of the television Psalm, but I'd like to read it to you this morning. It goes like this:
'The TV is my shepherd, I shall not want.
It makes me to sit down and do nothing for His name's sake,
Because it requires all my spare time.
It restores my knowledge of the things of this world.
It keeps me from the study of God's Word.
Its sound and picture, they comfort me.
Even though I live to a hundred, I shall keep on viewing.
As long as it works, surely no good thing will come of my life'.
We need to be careful this morning - I'm not saying all throw your television sets out, but listen: we need to be careful about what we are focusing upon. We need to be like Job, young men - listen: Job, in Job chapter 31 and verse 1, he said: 'I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl'. He made an agreement with himself that he wasn't going to do it!
What happens when we focus on something unhelpful? Dietrich Bonhoeffer said these words, listen: 'When lust takes control, at that moment God loses all reality. Satan does not fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God'. Have you not experienced that? You're doing something wrong, you're thinking about doing something wrong, you're tempted about doing something that is unpleasing to God - and what happens? God is as far away as possible from your mind, not just the fact that He is there, but the reality of His presence. Is that not true? Beware of what we focus on.
We need to beware of being desensitised, we need to beware of losing our discipline, we need to beware of losing our focus, but we need to beware of losing our mind. David lost his mind for that split second. David probably said: 'Well, Uriah's away, Bathsheba's on her own - sure, no-one will know. She's probably quite lonely, she probably needs company - sure, it'll be love!'. He began to rationalise his sin. Someone said to him in verse 3: 'Hold on a minute, King. Isn't this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah?' - and he knew that, he knew that that's who it was, someone had told him, but he began to rationalise in his mind and to think it over.
Sometimes we do that, we begin to rationalise our sin. We say to ourselves: 'Well, it's alright this time. God'll understand if I fall into this sin this time'. We say to ourselves: 'Well, how can something that gives me so much pleasure be wrong? God's not going to deny me anything that would make me happy, He wants me to be happy!'. We say to ourselves: 'Well, if it's love then it must be alright'. Christian so-called 'artists', Christian movie watchers - and I'm saying that, talking about movies that they shouldn't be watching. They say to themselves: 'Well, can I not - as an intelligent adult - evaluate these pictures? Can I not objectively look at these films without letting them affect me, and enjoy the art and the beauty in them?' - and we begin, before we know it, to rationalise everything out until we feel no guilt at all about what we're doing! The more we commit a certain sin, the more we fall into it, the more acceptable it becomes, the more habitual it becomes, the more we rationalise in our mind that it's OK, that God's not angry with us. But the only thing that we don't rationalise about when we're thinking of sinning, is about the way we feel afterwards - isn't that right? You can think of all the reasons why you should do it, and then when you do do it you think to yourself: 'Why did I do that?'. We need to beware of losing our mind.
We need to beware of losing our sensitivity, we need to beware of losing our discipline, we need to beware of losing our mind and losing our focus, but we need to beware like David of losing our purity - he fell! He lost his purity - this progressive degeneration, it led to sin - and the whole of the Old Testament testifies as to what happened to David after he fell. That one sin of adultery led to the sin of murder, as he put Uriah - the husband of Bathsheba - in the front line of the battle and he was murdered (before that he got him drunk!). One sin led to another, and his kingdom began to split up, his child that he bore to Bathsheba died, havoc was wrought in Israel - why? Because of David's sin. Now listen, God forgave him his sin - Psalm 51 is a testimony to that - but listen: don't you think that David is a licence to go and do what you want, because his life was never the same after it! Someone has said: 'Uriah was a better man drunk than David was, at that moment, sober'.
Beware of being desensitised, beware of losing your discipline, beware of losing your focus, beware of losing your mind, beware of losing your purity - but let me, in finishing, just turn your eyes to Psalm 119 for a moment. The question remains this morning: how then, how can a young man, a young woman, or a middle-aged man - remember David was in his middle-age - how can we, in this stinking world, cleanse our way? There are three ways, in Psalm 119. The first thing is this: be careful to read. Be careful to read the word of God. He says this is how we cleanse our way: by living according to Your word. By reading the word of God we cleanse our minds, we cleanse our heart and our life. Let me ask you today, and it might seem silly asking a Christian this but I'm going to: do you read the word of God? Do you really read it, young person? Do you have a scheme for reading it day by day, until you read large chunks of the word of God? Do you meditate upon it until it's in your heart? Family, parents, do you read the word of God to your children? Deuteronomy chapter 6 and verse 6 says this: 'These commandments that I give you today, are to be upon your heart: impress them on your children, talk about them when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up'. Listen, do you know one of the tragedies of our time? The family altar has been lost. Fathers do not pray with their children, some hear them pray in the church and they don't hear them pray at home. Parents don't read the word of God and teach the word of God to their children. Listen, this morning: read the word of God and that's how young men and young women will cleanse their way.
You need to read, but secondly you need to heed the word of God. Verse 9 of Psalm 119 says: 'How can a young man cleanse his way?' - well, it doesn't say by reading His word, it says: 'By living according to His word'. You see, it's not good enough to listen to the word of God, it's not good enough just to read it, to listen to it week after week - but listen: you must live the word of God! Sometimes when I sin, I sin and I think to myself: 'This Christian life's a sham! Nothing is changing in my life! These sins are still taking over my life!' - and I think to myself: 'I'm meant to be a new creature in Christ Jesus, why aren't things different?'. Do you know what's wrong? I expect my life to be changed, but I'm not willing to implement the word of God in my life. I'm not willing to read the word of God with a pen and paper in hand, and when God says to me: 'Don't do this', I write down: 'Endeavour not to do this in your life'. And when we start obeying and implementing the word of God in our life, young people, our lives will be changed!
We need to read the word of God, we need to heed the word of God, and we need to hide the word of God. Verse 11 of Psalm 119 says: 'I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You'. We need to memorise the word of God, and when we do that - when we chew over, like chewing the cud - it becomes part of our lives, and we become epistles - letters, biblical books - written unto the people around us.
How do you get oxygen out of a bottle? You can get a hoover if you want and you can try and suck it out. You can try and suck it out with your mouth if you want, but the best way to get oxygen out of a bottle is to pour water into it. And the way we cleanse our minds, this morning, the way we get the filth of this world out of our heads, is when we pour in the word of God and then all the dross will come out.
Let me ask you in closing: are we going to be the dummies of the world? The world - listen - the world holds the right opinion, that there can be no such a thing as a worldly Christian - they have that opinion and they're right! Do not, as Romans 12 verse 2 says, do not let the world - young people - press you into its mould. Let's be honest this morning: who has a problem with purity? Who doesn't have a problem with purity? I'll tell you this morning: I have a problem with it. I have a problem with this aspect of purity. And the question to my heart and to your heart this morning is: will we dance to the tune of the television network? Will we make our home the environment where the scripts of the soaps will dictate and will impose a humanist, secularist agenda onto our children? Or will we let the word of God rule our lives? Not in a legalistic way with rules and regulations, but in a vital way, in a worthy way of the Gospel liberty of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Have you failed? Have you? I've failed many times. Have you wandered? Well, why not come back and let the blood of Christ cleanse you from your sin, and let the word of God wash you from that filth? One verse, and I finish with this, that gives me great joy is this - Jude verse 24: 'To him who is able to keep us from stumbling' - and if we read the word of God and inwardly digest it, and implement it into our lives, He is able to keep us from slipping up. May God help you, this morning, to live a life that is pleasing to Him.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Portadown Baptist Church, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "How To Stay Pure In A Sin Sick World" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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