Spiritual Oncology

Spiritual Oncology

Colossians 3:5-11

Dr. Jim Denison

The other day I got interested in domain names. There are some strange ones out there, like menwholooklikekennyrogers.com. It’s just what the name implies, available to anyone with too much time on their hands.

And I found some intriguing website names for sale, like ultimatemoneymachine.com and doubleourmoney.com. Comeonbabylightmyfire.com is for sale; if that doesn’t work, talktomyattorney.com is available.

USA Today is reporting that the most expensive domain name ever sold was purchased just last month: sex.com, for $12 million.

But as we’ll learn today, that domain has been for sale a lot longer than the Internet has been around. In Colossians we’ve learned to live for God’s glory, in his fear, radically and fully devoted followers of Jesus. We do this in his strength, in gratitude for his grace, by fixing our minds and values on Jesus. Now we go from preaching to meddling. This week: what to get rid of. Next week: what to put on.

When we see these sins as cancers of the soul, deadly to our lives and joy, we see them properly. Let’s discover those which are growing in us today, what to do about them, and why the subject matters so much.

Refuse sexual sin

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature”:

This is a present tense imperative, intended for us all. Paul’s syntax makes clear that we are all included here, no matter how checkered or clean our past or present appear to be. The tense is active–something we must do. God cannot do this for us and yet honor our free will.

Something on the lists which follow is the enemy’s special strategy for each one of us. Your temptations may not be mine, and mine may not be yours. But we’re all here somewhere.

We must put it “to death,” not just out of the way to be considered later. Something must die–these sins, or us. Either we kill the cancer, or it kills us.

Now we come to the vice list, five words which all relate to sexual sin. Five stages of sexual cancer, if you will.

The first is “sexual immorality,” porneia in the Greek. Any kind of sexual activity outside marriage and outside God’s will. Premarital sex, extramarital sex, prostitution, pornography–all such acts are included here.

Next is “impurity,” “filthiness” in the Greek. The word relates to immoral thoughts.

Next is “lust,” “passions” in the Greek. The word relates to emotions, feelings.

Next comes “evil desires,” immoral desires and longings.

Last is “greed, which is idolatry.” In this context, wanting something sexual which we should not have. Wanting a person or a picture, an act or a relationship.

The order appears to move from symptoms of the disease to their source. From secondary, metastasized malignancy to the primary tumor.

To reverse the chronology, we begin with stage one: we are tempted by something or someone which is sexually improper. Stage two: we desire what we want. Stage three: the cancer spreads to our emotions. Stage four: it spreads to our minds and dominates our thoughts. Stage five: it spreads to our bodies, and we act on it. Then the cancer spreads to others, and the malignancy multiplies.

James warned us about the same fatal progression: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:13-15).

Such sins lead to the “wrath” and judgment of God (v. 6). The cancer is eventually terminal. We all have committed something on this list in the past (v. 7), and we are tempted to go back where we used to be. But the wages of such sin is death.

Consider a few statistics regarding the cancer of sexual sin in America today:

Those who lived together before marriage are three to five times more likely to have an affair than those who did not. The divorce rate for those who lived together is twice that of those who did not.

24 percent of men say they have had an affair. Only three percent ever marry their lover.

“Sex” is the most popular search term on the Internet.

70 percent of porn traffic occurs between 9 and 5 in the day.

Pornographers sell 20 times more movies each year than Hollywood produces.

One in ten who use the Internet admits being sexually addicted.

One in five youth under the age of 17 received a sexual solicitation over the Internet last year.

325,000 children under the age of 17 are prostitutes in America today.

The average American teenager will view 14,000 sexual references on television this year.

Fortunately, there is some good news from our teenagers. The number of boys who are sexually active has declined nearly 50 percent in recent years, and girls’ percentage has declined significantly as well. It is not true that everyone’s doing it.

God’s word is clear: “put to death” all such sins. How?

Where they start. At stage one, when the thought first attacks us. When we first want something or someone we should not. Bring that temptation instantly to Jesus, asking his help and strength. “Set your hearts on things above” (Colossians 3:1) in prayer and praise, word and worship. Bombard the cancer with God’s Spirit.

If you’re already further down the slippery slope into immoral desire, feelings, thoughts, or even actions, it’s not too late to come to Jesus for help. He cannot reverse the past, but he can bless the future. He can heal your guilt and remove its stain. You can begin again in his grace. “It’s too late” is a lie from the enemy. The fact that you’re here, listening to God’s word, proves that his grace is sufficient for you this day.