I haven’t read Alice in Wonderland in a while but if I remember correctly Wonderland was a world in which many of the ideas that people were so confident of in the "real" world were turned upside down. As a result we find Alice often feeling befuddled as she tries to reason with characters who have no problem not making any sense.
Sometimes as Christians, after reading the Bible in which God lays things out so clearly, and then looking at the ideas that our culture is presenting, it almost feels like we are Alice in Wonderland – only I guess it would be better to call it Disaster-land.
As we interact with our culture we find our society choosing to believe and act on ideas that are the exact opposite of what the Scripture teaches - the exact opposite, actually, of the way things really are.
That’s certainly true when it comes to sex.
We live in a sex-crazed culture, a culture that for the most part thinks about sex in a way that is completely warped. I could give you a number of specific examples of that, but I don’t think that I really need to because you are confronted with that fact day in day out. You want proof of how consumed our culture is with sex and how twisted the way our society thinks about sex really is, just turn on your television.
It’s embarrassing sometimes, and I’m not speaking so much as a pastor or even right this moment because I am a Christian, but just as a human being, it’s embarrassing as you go to the grocery store and glance at the magazines that are in the check-out stand or as you flip through the television shows that are on night after night, to note just how those shows and those magazines so often are just completely centered on sex.
There’s no dignity. For many people it seems sex equals life. Sex is their god. Sex is what life is about.
We could kind of amuse ourselves and say that is just true of people on the fringe of our society. But we know that’s not the case. Otherwise pornography wouldn’t be the billion dollar industry that it is. Whether we’re talking about the guy in a prison cell with girlie magazines on the wall or the congressman in Washington who is having affair after affair, it’s evident that we live in a society that worships sex.
One trap when talking about this problem is to start thinking that this problem is new.
We sometimes think that the struggles and temptations we face have never been faced before. Obviously, they are not. In fact, although our culture’s attitude towards sexual sin is often pretty revolting, it may be that the attitude of many in Paul’s day was even worse.
One author writes, “There was in that society a plethora of prostitutes, concubines, mistresses, homosexuals, pedophiles, transvestites, temple harlots, adulterers and adulteresses…In fact, it was from that very mass of people that the churches were plucked. They had experienced a sexual revolution which included homosexuality, which included pedophilia--sex with little boys, homosexual sex with little boys--which included effeminate transvestitism, men dressing up like women, which included every form of fornication and sexual perversion. It was true in the Roman world. And unlike today there wasn't any preliminary Christian culture to act as a sort of a small barrier along the way. And there apparently weren't even any laws in any of the societies to stop any of that kind of behavior. Consequently they had their venereal epidemics as we do and all the rest of the things that are attendant upon a fornicating society."
You see the early believers, like us, were living in a society that encouraged and promoted sexual sin and frowned on those who actually spoke up against it. This particular problem had so permeated the culture that there were numerous Greek terms used to describe sexual sins.
We find Paul using a number of them in Colossians 3:5-7.
"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness..."
The first term translated, sexual immorality, actually comes from the Greek word porneo – from which we get our English word porn. It was used to describe basically every type of improper sexual intercourse, from an adulterous affair to lesbianism.
The next is impurity, another catch all phrase for morally impure sexual relationships.
With the terms passion and evil desire, this phrase moves beyond just what we do to what we want, referring not to passion in general, but instead to shameful passions, strong sinful desires of a sexual nature.
He wraps it up by talking about covetousness, which describes an insatiable longing to lay your hands on something of someone else’s. It’s interesting that Paul lumps this particular term with all these other terms describing various sexual sins. The fact that he does so, seems to indicate that most likely he’s specifically pinpointing sexual covetousness – a love and desire for a person or sin which becomes a substitute for one’s love and devotion for God.
These kinds of sins, sexual immorality, impurity, passions, evil desires and covetousness were all being promoted in the world in which the Colossians lived. They had been delivered from that kind of lifestyle yet Paul knew that they desperately needed to be reminded of what God desired from them. So he lays out real clearly why this is such a serious issue.
"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and covetousness, which is idolatry..."
This is a serious issue because it’s not just about sex - it’s about worship.
Paul here specifically says that covetousness is idolatry, but what’s true of coveting in this passage is certainly true of these other sexual sins as well. In fact, Paul himself links them all with idolatry over in Ephesians 5:3-5.
The reason he does so is because he wants us to understand these kinds of sins are not only sins on the horizontal level as far as our relationships with other people, they are also sins on the vertical level. They flow out of a problem in our relationship with God. They demonstrate that we have placed someone or something else in his place. We are worshiping sex, which means ultimately, we are worshiping ourselves rather than God.
The world may laugh and scoff at sexual sins but God doesn’t. The world may say that we can do what we want to do and there will be no consequences but God says something very different.
Paul writes, "On account of these the wrath of God is coming.”
People think they can do whatever they want to do sexually and that there’s no accountability because after all it is their body; but they are one hundred percent wrong because there is a day of accountability. They are created beings. And their Creator is in fact their Judge. He is going to hold them accountable. And He makes it crystal clear that He opposes those who give themselves over to this kind of lifestyle.
Which means you and I can mark it down: if a person is doing things God says he should not do sexually, if he is thinking about sex in ways that God says he should not, if he is making an idol out of sex, and refuses to repent, he is going to be judged.
That’s an absolute certainty.