Instinct or Understanding

By what standard do we determine what is right? This ought to be an easy question to answer for the Christian. But in our day and age, we are not as solid on this topic as we should be. All in all, there are only two options. You can determine morality by the faithful study of and application of Scripture, or you can determine morality based on your own personal judgment. There are not any other solid choices out there. You choose divine revelation or something else.

In the letter of Jude, we see that there are a people doing evil in the church. They are rejecting biblical morality for their own instinctual standards.

Jude 10 – But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.

The folks causing a problem have two things that they are doing. First, we see that they have gotten to a place where they blaspheme what they do not understand. When a standard is set before them that they do not want to follow, they speak out to revile that standard. In contrast, these people who are enemies of the faith in Jude are led to destruction by their instincts.

Let’s not let this seem mysterious. What is happening is simple. There are people in the church to which Jude is writing who do not understand God’s standards related to human sexuality. This is not to say that they cannot comprehend the command of God, but they do not agree with it. Their desires do not match the command of the word. And since they do not personally like or understand God’s standards, they speak out against the word of God and give themselves over to evil practices that go against God’s word and which will ultimately lead to their own destruction.

How do we know this is about sexuality and not merely about some other failure to follow Scripture? In verse 4, Jude says that these people “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality.” That word behind sensuality is a word that repeatedly appears in biblical condemnations of sexual immorality. As Jude speaks of other immoralities that mirror the licentiousness of these people, he compares them to Sodom and Gomorrah and says that they “likewise indulged in sexual immorality” (verse 7). And, in verse 8, speaking of the practices of the sinful, Jude says that they “defile the flesh.”

Jude is clear. There are people in his day who are in the church who are participating in sexual immorality. When they are challenged to stop sinning against the Lord and destroying themselves in this way, they speak out against the Scriptures. Instead of following the standards present in the word of God, instead of following the clear teachings of the apostles, these people rely on their own minds, their own dreams, their own instincts. And, as Jude said, these people determine their morality like unreasoning animals as they walk themselves into the judgment of God.

In no way am I trying to be personally harsh as I speak of this issue. But I must simply let the word of God say what it says. And God clearly inspired very strong language to describe the sexual immorality that was going on in Jude’s day. We cannot tone this down and be faithful to the word. Giving one’s self over to sexual immorality is deadly. Following our human instincts and passions instead of following what God tells us is right is deadly. And there is nothing good to say for those who would hear the word of God, see God’s standards, and speak out against those standards as if they somehow know what is best for us more so than the God who created us.

Of course, Christians, there is something for us to learn here about sexual immorality. We want to be very wary of any group claiming to follow God, yet which speaks out against the plain biblical standards of human sexuality. God is clear that human instinct will lead us to destruction if not corralled by the protective fence of biblical revelation. God has designed us to glorify him. One of the loveliest ways that we can honor the Lord is by submitting to his perfect plan for our lives and bodies. We are not our own. We are bought at a price. And our loving God intends that we honor him in our sexuality.

But the further truth, the foundational thing that we need to grasp, is that we must determine all morality based on the word of God and not on human instinct. WE are fallen. Our moral compass is corrupt. We lack the wisdom of the Lord. We are not naturally holy. For us to make moral choices that will not lead to destruction requires that we are fully submitted to the perfect word of God. Otherwise we will be misled by the blinding influence of our unreasoning instincts. Submit to Scripture and not to your best guess as to how things ought to be.

An Age-Old Ploy

When the king of Moab was unable to entice Balaam to curse the people of Israel, it seemed that the nation might be safe. After all, how great is it for Israel to be totally protected by God from outside attack? Thus, at the end of Numbers 24, it looks like the people of Israel are set up for a great success as they face down their enemies from Moab.

But Balaam was a bit more clever than all that. Balaam had to obey the sovereign command of God. He could not pronounce a binding curse over Israel. God was protecting the nation. But Balaam had another strategy. Balaam knew what to do to make Israel fail. Balaam advised King Balak of Moab, and they hatched a plan that still works against men today. Moses points it out a few chapters later.

Numbers 31:15–16 – 15 Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live? 16 Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord.

Jesus also mentioned this in his letter to the church of Pergamum in the Book of Revelation, which indicates to me that it is a serious point that should not be forgotten.

Revelation 2:14 – But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.

What was the trick? Balaam knew that God would not let him curse Israel. So, this evil man devised a simple plan. He would send Moabite women to seduce Israelite men. These women would lead the Israelite men into idolatry as the worship of Baal was tied together with immoral sexual activity.

Numbers 25:1-3 – 1 While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.

Note, this is not some sort of nasty, anti-woman indictment. There is nothing here to say that women are the temptresses and men are innocent pawns. It simply was the structure of that culture, these women, including priestesses of pagan idols, were able to entice the men who were leaders of Israelite clans. The men who fell into the sin were just as guilty as the women who tempted them.

But here is the key for us to consider. Sexual sin is deeply dangerous. This has always been the case in Scripture. And, strangely, though Christians talk about sex a lot in our modern culture, we so often seek the approval of the culture around us that we seldom speak the truth about the deadliness of rebellion against God in our sexuality. So, let me say it very clearly. Sexual immorality is deadly. To rebel against God in your sexuality is deeply sinful, self-destructive, and dangerous.

Is this true because God is a prude, all dull and anti-sex? No, that is not at all the case. God invented humanity, and thus he invented our sexuality. Song of Solomon, among other places in Scripture, speaks very clearly of the beauty of a sexual relationship between a husband and his wife.

What is true is that there is seldom a more tempting, more clinging, more personal form of fighting against God and his design than when we fight against his will in our sexuality. The drive is great. The emotion is deep. And once we have decided to compromise here, we will compromise in a variety of other areas to continue to have what we desire.

Christians, I will now say something that many are refusing to say. Sexual immorality is not just the same as every other sin. Many are teaching from pulpits that all sins, especially sexual sins, are equal, because they want to be seen as loving and not condemning. And there is a grain of truth in the notion. All sin is damnable. All sin separates us from the Lord God. All sin merits hell for being an infinite offense against an infinitely holy God.

But the Bible does not present every sin as just the same. Look to the beautiful law of God. A thief must pay back what he steals with interest. A murderer must be put to death. Those are clearly not equal sins. Paul talks about sexual immorality as being a sin that is uniquely personal in 1 Corinthians 6:13-20.

I’m surely not writing this from a position of superiority or perfection. But, I do need to tell the truth regarding this topic. God is clear that sexual immorality is uniquely a big deal. And Balaam shows us that sexual temptation is one of the most common ways that the enemy of our souls will use to draw us away from the Lord and into destruction. And so we must see this sin as uniquely a big deal, and we must guard ourselves with everything we’ve got even as we run to Christ for grace and mercy.