By Ron Halbrook
P& when left to his own lusts finds himself wallowing in a moral morass. Immorality is a quagmire of quicksand-the more we exercise ourselves in it, the deeper into trouble we sink. Moral issues and decisions involve our daily attitudes and habits, especially our conduct toward other people. Moral behavior is virtuous, righteous, clean, noble, and pure. Immorality debases the person performing the sinful act and degrades other people who are touched by the deed. It is debilitating in that it weakens any moral fiber which remains, and degenerative in that it leads to ever lower standards of conduct. The remedy is the cleansing power of Christ and this remedy is urgently needed now!
The Quagmire Of Immorality
Romans I tells the depressing story of how the Gentile world was gradually enveloped in the oppressive darkness of immorality. Men left the love of God and busied themselves in the quagmire of sin until they were hopelessly sunk in its filth. Their uncleanness and vile affections engulfed them in “all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness.” These godless degenerates were “full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice” and were “gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful.” Fearing the laws and the penalties of neither God nor man, they reveled in their sins and gave “hearty approval to those” who joined with them (Rom. 1: 18-32, KJ and NAS).
Satan uses the momentary pleasures of sin to make it attractive to man and to hide its malignancy. The father of lies got Eve’s attention by questioning God’s law and denying its penalty. Then he hypnotized and deluded her by pointing to the delight of the flesh in food, by stimulating her desire with the fruit’s beauty, and by stirring in her the ambitions of pride. There is nothing profound or complex about the devil’s approach to man. It is simple and direct. He appeals to “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 Jn. 2:16). All of us are susceptible to such enticements. We cannot blame God, our bodies, “circumstances,” or someone else for our sins. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (Jas. 1:14-15).
Giving in to temptation is like scratching an itch-the more you scratch, the more it itches. Sin is a quagmire, ever pulling us deeper. Sin is a progressive disease, an all-consuming cancer. With individuals or with nations, the patient is terminal unless the remedy is found. “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” (Isa. 1:5-6).
Issues Of Fornication And Abortion
Both in the church and in the world, the presence and the progress of sin is shocking. Adultery and fornication abound on every hand. Religious leaders excuse it as the “new morality,” which tickles the ears of people committed to the proposition that any message permitting four legs in a bed is “moral.” The divorce rate topped one million in 1975 and marked its first decline in 20 years in 1982 at 1.2 million. Even some gospel preachers are afraid to tell those who take mates in violation of Matthew 19:9, “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (cf. John in Mk. 6:18).
Homosexuality is widely tolerated as an “alternative lifestyle.” Incest and other forms of child molestation have been publicized recently. Police investigators say of the magnitude of this problem, “We’re just at the tip of the iceberg” (Houston Post, 25 Nov. 1984, D-1,9). As the cesspool thickens, some stores now “sell bestiality video cassettes over the counter and sadomasochism clubs equipped with elaborate whips and harnesses” (Newsweek, 18 Mar. 1985, pp. 58-67).
Closely related to sexual immorality is the abortion plague. Our nation has lost about 1,200,000 lives in all the wars of its history, but fornicators and murderers are slaying more babies than that every year by abortion in our land. Abortion is not the mere termination of a pregnancy but is the extermination of a human life. “Hands that shed innocent blood” are an abomination unto the God of all life and the voice of innocent blood cries out unto God for vengeance” (Prov. 6:16-17; Gen. 4:10). America is awash in the innocent blood of infants!
Issue Of Lasciviousness
Whatever stirs the desire for immorality is lascivious, including pornography, dancing, and immodesty. Lasciviousness has become an accepted way of life. The ideas “that arousal of desire” or “sexual stimulation” is “one of art’s functions” and that “graphic sexual depiction” is “good, clean fun” creates an atmosphere in which “a majority of Americans support access to sexually explicit material in private.” “Home porn is booming” through TV and VCR’s (Newsweek, 18 Mar. 1985, pp. 3, 5867). Suggestive magazines are as close as your nearest grocery and drug store counters.
The older cheek-to-cheek style dancing involves vulgar handling of the opposite sex, and the newer stand-and-shake style involves vulgar viewing of the opposite sex. In the modern style, certain parts of the body move “sexily from side to side” or make “sensuous gestures” (Time, 20 Mar. 1964, p. 62). A famous teacher of this vice explained, “First, the dances are too easy not to dance. Second, they’re too sexy not to dance . . . Aaah, the girls really love these dances . . . Now they can be as wild as they feel . . . On the dance floor they’ve got no inhibitions” (Saturday Evening Post, 27 Mar. 1965).
As the poet Ogden Nash said of people in their swim suits, “Their clothes are riddles complete with answers.” Sports have promoted shorts more and more until it is harder for people to have a native sense of shame about wearing them. One designer commented, “Ever since jogging shorts . . . short lengths have been acceptable.” Another observer noted of the recurrent desire for shorter skirts, “Short skirts are for looking at legs, not style” (Time, 22 Oct. 1984, p. 108). The Bible still teaches that God loves the meek and quiet spirit of modesty, and that lasciviousness will keep us out of heaven (Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Pet. 3:1-5).
The entertainment industry constantly increases the flood of lascivious and immoral influences. Songs, movies, and TV programs promote hedonism-“If it feels good, it can’t be wrong, so go ahead and do it.” Sins such as gambling and drinking are glamorized in beautiful media ads on popular TV programs.
Issues Of Gambling And Drinking
In the decade of the 1970’s, the number of people who gambled legally rose “more than 340 percent . . . . Over 100 million people gamble on a regular basis” (State Legislature, Oct. 198 1, p. 20). Eighteen states have government-run lotteries, and all but four states allow gambling in some form. Americans wager a trillion dollars annually, or $4,500 for every man, woman, and child in the nation (U.S. News & World Report, 30 May 1983). Gambling violates the love of God and of our fellow man (Rom. 13:8-10). It is covetous, wasteful (most wagers are lost), dishonest gain (no goods or services exchanged), and a work of evil against our neighbor.
In the 1980’s, the amount of liquor and beer drunk in America has declined slightly, after a decade in which consumption of all alcoholic drinks kept rising. But many drinkers are simply switching drinks, from liquor to beer or wine. Wine consumption continues to grow (Wall Street Journal, 14 Mar. 1984, pp. 1, 18), after it doubled between 1970 and 1980 (Time, 14 Jan. 1980, pp. 63-66). Sales of sparkling wine such as champagne bubbled up to $1.7 billion in 1984, “34% more than in 1983” (Time, 31 Dec. 1984, p. 50). The drop in some drinking may reflect the health fad and protests against highway slaughter by drunks, but also the largest group of beer drinkers-males, 18-24declined in population for the first time in years at the same time figures on beer consumption dropped. The bottom line is that peer pressure to drink is still strong, drinking is considered sophisticated and macho, many religious leaders and even members of the Lord’s church have compromised on the subject, and the nation is flooded with alcohol.
Christians who excuse “moderate” or “social” drinking fail to see that the ability to make proper judgments, in both spiritual and secular affairs, is weakened from the very first stage of drinking. We are warned against “banquetings” or “drinking parties” in 1 Peter 4:3 (cf. KJ and NAS), or the use of intoxicants even when “not of necessity excessive” (R.C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament, p. 211). To protect ourselves from Satan’s subtle approach, we must “be sober,” a term meaning “free from the influence of intoxicants” and thus morally alert (1 Pet. 5:8; W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of N. T. Words, IV:44, 201).
Can we learn from experts who research the effects of alcohol on driving?
1. General Motors published an article on “How Much Is Too Much To Drink If You’re Driving?” It began:
First, you should understand that drinking any amount of alcohol can impair your ability to drive.
. . . For example, if you weigh 160 pounds and have had four beers over the first two hours you’re drinking, your Blood Alcohol Concentration would be dangerously beyond .05 percent, and your driving ability would be seriously impaired — a dangerous driving situation (Time, 4 July 1983).
2. Under the heading, “If You Drink, Don’t Drive,” we read:
. . . Drinking any amount of alcohol can impair your ability to drive . . . However, it is not true that beer or wine is less likely to make you drunk than so-called “hard” drinks. A 6-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce can of beer or 1 = % ounces of 86 proof whiskey have about the same amount of alcohol and will have the same effect on you (Alabama Farm Bureau News, Summer 1983, p. 5).
3. Information supplied by the automotive Information Council warns against the myth that “drinking beer or wine does not cause a problem.”
A driver doesn’t have to be legally drunk to make mistakes behind the wheel. The 140-pounder can be considered impaired after three drinks in two hours and that could cause errors in judgment and could lead to an auto accident (The Motorist [Journal of Alabama Motorists Assoc., AAA] Nov./Dec. 1983, p.3).
4. An article on “Drunken Driving” included this information:
A major study in Michigan showed that people who drink-even one can of standard beer-and then drive, have a three or four times greater chance of having an accident (Christianity Today, 5 Aug. 1983, pp. 10-11).
Just as drivers need to be alert, Christians need to be morally and spiritually alert by abstaining from all alcoholic beverages.
Cleansing Power Of Christ
Now is the time for men to see in our lives and to hear from our lips the light of God’s love and of God’s glory (Matt. 5:14-16). Christ said, “the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19: 10). The pardoned sinner will hear these uplifting words from the Savior, “Go, and sin no more” (Jn. 8: 11). Christ shows the morally upright that even they need pardon from sin. He shows the vilest sinners that even they have hope of pardon. Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, swindlers – all may be washed, sanctified, and justified by the cleansing power of Christ. Jesus is calling today, now, for you and for me to believe the gospel, to obey the gospel, and to rise from the waters of baptism walking “in newness of life” (Rom. 6).
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 9, pp. 267-268, 276, 281
May 2, 1985