The most shocking news at the start of this year came from reports about the sexual misconduct of Ravi Zacharias while he was alive. I had respected him and had considered him a model evangelist, so this news really shocked me – but also terrified me. I can only hope that he repented before he faced God. How many among us could possibly say that they are free of this sin?
The New Testament does not fail to list sexual misconduct as a sin that we must get rid of, and when it does, it always does so first. Adultery, which is prohibited under the Ten Commandments, is about sexual relations with someone other than your spouse; the term sexual misconduct is broader, and covers any inappropriate thoughts and actions regardless of your marital state.
Romans 1:18 onwards depicts how the Fall of Man happened. First, man leaves God. Then the next thing that happens is sexual impurity and degrading of their bodies, which is followed by all sorts of social injustice. That suggests to me that the first sin that comes to a world that has left God is sexual immorality.
There was a lot of confusion after the Gentiles had first started to believe in Jesus, as the Jewish teachers demanded that they follow the laws of Moses. To resolve this conflict, the leaders of the church of Jerusalem gathered together. After a long debate, they decided that salvation comes from faith in Jesus Christ alone, but agreed to write to the Gentile churches to ask them to refrain from a few of their traditions, to help unity with the Jewish church. The traditions they pointed out were religiously, the worshiping of idols, and morally, sexual misconduct. These two were interrelated back in those days – and sexual misconduct was potent enough to have an impact on religion.
How can we be freed of this sin? In Romans which I quoted above, we should note that one thing that happened before sexual immorality was this: “although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” While worshiping idols once took the form of creating statues to bow to, these days, anything we prioritise over our relationship with God, and anything that influences us to deprioritise that relationship should be considered an idol. Not even working for God can be a higher priority than our relationship with Him.
The reason for Zacharias’ fall can be guessed based on what he said to the women he engaged with – it is reported that he would frequently say how tired he was from working so hard. No matter how great your works may seem in front of God, if you fail to find rest in your relationship with him, sexual immorality will try to fill that place. And once you open the door for that, Satan will start to influence our lives and bring in more types of sin. That is why sexual immorality can lead to several different types of sin from taking control over our lives.
“Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes … will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people” (Ephesians 5:3).