Editor’s Note: This blog is the second of a two part series discussing how to fight Wanton, how to counsel others who are in the grasp of Wanton, and application points for the believer. Be sure you read the first post in this series.
A brief recap:
In post one, we defined Wanton as the sexually immodest or promiscuous woman. She is boisterous, strategically presenting herself publicly through billboards and movie theaters and privately through personal interactions, television, and the internet.
In recognizing the danger of Wanton, we also began the discussion about how to fight and counsel others against Wanton. We looked at two main ideas from Ephesians 5:
- The EXHORTATION to Christians: To be imitators of Christ
- The EXAMPLE of Christ: As we look to Christ and love as he has first loved us, Ephesians 5:3-5a states that imitating God means not partnering with anything that Wanton represents.
Here we will pick up with the third and fourth main ideas found in Ephesians 5.
The EVIL to Avoid.
In Ephesians 5:3-5, we see that God’s children must do two things: Avoid all improper conduct and avoid all corrupting conversation.
Avoid all improper CONDUCT.
Ephesians 5:3, 5 says, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints… For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater)…”As there is “no temptation which is not common to man” (1 Cor 10:13), these same sins — sexual immorality, impurity, and covetousness — still characterize our culture today.
In Ephesians 5:3, the greek word for “sexual immorality” is porneia — which includes any form of sexual immorality from pornography to fornication to adultery to homosexuality. As a teen, I can remember youth workers talking about dating and discussing the all-important question: “How far is too far?” While their intentions were good, their question was misleading. Ephesians 5:3 does not lead us to ask “How far is to far?” but rather “How fast can I flee!” If there is to be ˆnot even be a hint of sexual immorality named among us,” we’d better not be thinking about how CLOSE we can get to the edge of the cliff before falling off. Rather, we should be careful to “guard our hearts will all vigilance” (Prov 4:23), lest we let a temptation entice us to exchange the pure love of God for the perverted, self-destructive lust for the world.
Paul continues by saying that not only should “sexual immorality” not be named among believers, but also “all impurity.” Put into the positive, imitating God means that we live “morally pure” lives, fleeing all immorality as we run to Christ. Paul then takes it even a step further as he writes that “covetousness must not even be named among” us. In other words, to “walk in love” means that we not only keep from stealing another’s property or spouse, but we guard our hearts from covetousness knowing that “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:28).
In The Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan depicted well the struggle to guard our hearts and lives against immorality, impurity, and covetousness in this sin-saturated world. After Faithful recalls having been enticed by the seduction of Wanton, whose “steps take hold of Hell,” Faithful was then seduced by Adam the First from the town of Deceit. Adam the First offered Faithful “all the dainties of the world,” including his three beautiful daughters: “the Lust of the Flesh, the Lust of the Eyes, and the Pride of Life.” All this and more was offered to Faithful if he would but come live with Adam the First. Bunyan writes that Faithful was inclined to go with him until he saw these words written upon the forehead of Adam the First: “Put off the old man with his deeds.” Similarly, Paul warns against such seductive words of Wanton & Adam the First in Ephesians 5:4, where believers are called to avoid all corrupting conversation.
Avoid all corrupting CONVERSATION.
Ephesians 5:4 says, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”
“Corrupting talk” becomes a doorway to immorality, impurity, and covetousness and is to be replaced with “thanksgiving,” or gratitude. As Heath Lambert states in Finally Free, “Gratitude is the offensive weapon that destroys the enemy stronghold of greed that is at the source of your desires for pornography.”1
Put another way, being grateful for the eternal, immeasurable blessings of God in Christ compels us to no longer live for ourselves and the fleeting pleasures of sin but rather to live for him who for our sake died and was raised (Heb 11:23-28; 2 Cor 5:14-15).
The ENDING to Consider.
Paul concludes this section on walking in love with Ephesians 5:5-6, “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”
So who are “the sons of disobedience?” Paul uses this same description, “sons of disobedience” in Ephesians 2:2 to describe those who are “dead in trespasses and sins.” Literally, they are “sons of unbelief” or those whose true identity is of this world rather than in Christ. Note two things that we are to “be sure of” concerning the “sons of disobedience.”
They receive no INHERITANCE “in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph 5:5).
Why not? As a dog returns to its vomit and a pig returns to the mud (2 Pet 2:22), they prove by their character, conduct, and conversation that they are not “beloved children” of God, and thus have “no inheritance” in God’s kingdom.
They receive the WRATH of God (Eph 5:6)
In part, God’s wrath is already upon the sons of disobedience. Romans 1 says that “God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves… giving approval to those who practice ¨all forms of evil.’” So God’s WRATH is upon the “sons of disobedience” because in suppressing the truth and failing to cling to Christ they show themselves enslaved to sin.
Application Points for the Believer
Thankfully, God has provided a way to save sinners from his just wrath. Romans 5:8-9 says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” In the presence of a Holy God, everyone deserves God’s just wrath. Yet to those who repent of their sins and trust in Christ’s all-sufficient sacrifice of himself upon the Cross, the wrath of God is exchanged for the righteousness of Christ (2 Cor 5:21) thus making one a “beloved child” of God.
So to the believer, here are 4 points of applications to help you live in the light of Christ’s love while avoiding the ways of Wanton.
- CULTIVATE your love of Christ.
We cultivate our love for Christ by communing with Christ through his Word, praying that we might daily know his love. To this end, Paul prays in Ephesians 3:17-19 “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in LOVE, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to KNOW the LOVE of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
- CONDUCT yourself according to God’s Word.
Psalm 119:9-11 makes clear our dependence upon God and his Word if we are to keep from wandering off with Wanton. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
God’s Word reminds us of the holiness of God and our calling to imitate him. Thus, when Wanton seeks to take hold of us, our response is to be that of Joseph when seduced by Potiphar’s wife: “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Gen 39:9). Joseph then fled from her presence.
Similarly in commenting on Faithful’s encounter with Wanton in The Pilgrim’s Progress, Wayne Mack wrote: “After overcoming Wanton’s temptation, Faithful went on his way. He didn’t hang around her. He stopped focusing on her and instead focused on what God wanted him to do and he got busy doing it.”2
To that end 2 Timothy 2:22 says, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”
- CONFESS your sins sincerely.
When we see anything in our lives that characterizes “our former manner of life,” we need to be quick to repent. Proverbs 28:13 says, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” As beloved children, we need not run from God in our sin, but run to Christ — Who not only gave himself up for us that our sins would be forgiven (1 Jn 2:1-2).
- CLOTHE yourself with GRATITUDE.
As seen in Ephesians 5:4, the remedy to corrupt conversation, grievous immorality, impurity, and greed is Gospel-driven gratitude! To that end, Milton Vincent writes the following in A Gospel Primer:
When I look at any circumstance that God apportions me, I am first grateful for the wrath I am not receiving in that moment… Second, I am grateful for the blessings that are given me instead of God’s wrath. Life’s blessings, however small, always appear exceedingly precious when viewed against the backdrop of the wrath I deserve. This two-layered gratitude disposes my heart to give thanks in all things and it also lends a certain intensity to my giving of thanks. Such a gospel-generated gratitude glorifies God, contributes to peace of mind, and keeps my foot from the path of foolishness and ruin.3
As you seek to prevent and purge sexual sin in your life and in the life others, “may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 5:23).
- Heath Lambert, Finally Free (Zondervan, 2013), 126.
- Wayne Mack, Christian Life Issues, Volume 2 (Focus Publishing, 2017), 43.
- Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer (Focus Publishing, 2008 ), 48.
Bryan Gaines is Pastor of Family Discipleship at Grace Community Church in Glen Rose, Texas. He regularly teaches classes to encourage and equip parents, works in the Student Ministry, leads an adult Care Group, and oversees Grace Preschool. Bryan also leads Grace Biblical Counseling, LLC. He is certified biblical counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC, formerly NANC).
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