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Thursday, December 1, 2022

Kraybill Church Road sunset (Photo by Doug Maxwell)
Our next door neighbor, Doug, took this stunning photo of a sunset across the road from where we live.

"The Peril Of Incremental Immorality"

Note: Today's message is longer than usual and may be a bit hard-hitting. But the encouragement is at the end. If you must skip down it's here.

Message summary: Everyone is headed in one direction or the other. In which direction are you headed today? Let us beware of the peril of incremental immorality and faithfully live out our confession of faith.

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of Him and were taught in Him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:17-24).

Frog in kettleIncrementalism is often illustrated by the familiar "frog in a kettle of boiling water" illustration. A frog placed in cold water supposedly won’t jump out as long as the water is brought slowly to a boil since the frog becomes acclimated to the slowly rising water temperature. *¹

Incremental means happening gradually, in a series of small amounts.

The slide into sin, whether individually or as a culture, often takes place incrementally, that is small step by small step. Casting Crowns has a stirring song that deals with this called “Slow Fade” (see below for link). Surely as the prodigal left his father and childhood home he did not aspire to feeding pigs. People don’t have a deep longing to be moral reprobates or addicts. Countries don't aspire to being evil.

So often people will testify that they began with “just a little” tobacco, alcohol, or “harmless” weed. Consider other areas where this is true such as David's extended glance at the bathing beauty, Bathsheba. “Just a little won’t hurt” the devil continues to whisper since his first conversation with Eve. After all, the slide (original sin) began with just a little bite from the forbidden fruit.

We consider the lustful temptations common to all and the many times Brooksyne and I have counseled pastorally with those who have fallen into sin and now do so as chaplains when people confide in us for help.

Red light districtIt’s practically incomprehensible the degree and scope of moral decadence that is present today, both the culturally approved and culturally unapproved (which so often becomes “approved” over time). Practically every day there is some new acceptance, promotion or justification for some type of behavior that was once considered deviant. Five years ago could you imagine there would be drag queens in libraries, schools and even churches.*² What will the next frontier look like as those things once considered “deviant” are referred to as “good” by fallen humans? Can anyone deny there is an increase in wickedness? It seems there is a contest of depravity on many fronts.

The daily Scripture portion is longer than usual but provides fuller context. It’s a good portion to read aloud several times. Maybe you’d like to print it out and memorize it since it is a good passage for reference and biblical perspective during these challenging times.

Today let us focus on two verses that succinctly describe fallen humanity, which includes each of us since we were all ruined by the fall: “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”

Homeless man“They” specifically describes the Gentiles but generally the entire human race. It describes all of us apart from the redemptive work of Christ. What we particularly want to focus on today is the last phrase, “a continual lust for more". This translates a word “pleonexia” which describes an insatiable craving greed, consuming ambition and/or giving rein to the appetites and desires which are against the laws of God and man. The picture is of indulging in self-gratification with no regard for others, willing to do almost anything in an attempt to gratify the flesh.

This “continual lust for more” began in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. God had provided enough, absolutely all they needed. In the midst of all the blessings and that which God permitted in Eden stood the forbidden tree. The crafty serpent enticed Adam and Eve that this forbidden fruit was a “gotta have”. Because they did not resist the temptation, their disobedience resulted in what theologians call “original sin”.

Ephesians 4Since that time people have had the struggle of resisting the forbidden! Whatever level of wickedness temporarily “satisfies” the sinful cravings, it will eventually be insufficient. More will be needed. This can be seen in so many of Satan’s vices such as gambling, alcohol, drugs, pornography, and sexual immorality. Vices so often begin with a scaled down “harmless” introduction but will all too often become your master. It will take you where you never wanted to go, keep you longer than you planned to stay, and take more than you wanted to give. Does anyone really set goals for themselves to live in the gutter of sin?

Today as God’s standards of morality are mocked and shrugged aside we see this phenomenon of a “a continual lust for more” growing at a fevered pitch.

We frankly wonder what the next frontier will be when that which is presently considered deviant behavior becomes considered normal. It may be something we can hardly imagine but just consider where we are now and that which was unimaginable just a few years ago, by Christians and non-Christians alike.

The ungodly make big business out of every kind of impurity. Pornography, prostitution, vulgar media, intoxicants and every other kind of impurity make up one of the largest industries in our country. The vast majority of it is open, shameless, and legally protected. 

Many years ago a Christian leader observed that many of the books published in the United States rival the drippings of a broken sewer, but his words preceded the availability of the internet and other media. Now the drippings have become a steaming stream of debauchery.

With the flood of evil, pornography and various perversions sweeping over our land and around the world many of those who have partaken now have “a continual lust for more". Deeper and deeper depths of depravity can be expected along with the evil acts that accompany it. We should not be surprised.

Today’s message is a sobering assessment and actually may not be very encouraging. But the very next verse brings joy to our hearts today: “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way” (Ephesians 4:20).

Those that experience the life transforming power of Jesus Christ are different.
  • We are made new in the attitude of our minds;
  • We have put on the new self,
  • We are created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness
When we are saved the slide into decadence stops and the renewal begins. We are a new creation. Rather than having a continual lust for more wickedness we become seekers of God’s Kingdom with a continual desire for more righteousness, peace and joy.

Everyone is headed in one direction or the other. In which direction are you headed today? Let us beware of the peril of incremental immorality and faithfully live out our confession of faith.

Be encouraged today, (Hebrews 3:13)

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, shape my thinking into that which will bring about growth and conformity to Your will. Teach me to think not in accordance with my own human instincts or that of others, but in accordance with the truth as revealed in Your Word. There is a growing majority of those with a secular platform whose hearts are hardened against godly teaching. They are darkened in their understanding to the point that they choose and condone sinful behavior. With the growing acceptance and visibility of every kind of impurity I ask You to help me stand firm to that which is taught in Scripture lest I be drawn by the tempter into this contest of depravity that spreads daily in this evil world. I am not discouraged but determined to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and invite others to join me on the straight and narrow way that leads to life eternal. It’s in His name that I pray. Amen.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Slow Fade"  Video   Casting Crowns  This song really describes immoral incrementalism on a personal level.

“This Little Child"  Video   Scott Wesley Brown  This ballad type song was written in the eighties and my, have we come a long ways since then down the road of depravity. Contains the Gospel and Christmas message but also a powerful statement regarding man's depravity and the evil in the world. This version contains the lyrics as well. If you have not heard this song we urge you to do so and consider the message.

Further study:

*¹ Frog in boiling water: Modern sources tend to dispute that the phenomenon is real. In 1995, Professor Douglas Melton, of the Harvard University Biology department, said, “If you put a frog in boiling water, it won’t jump out. It will die. If you put it in cold water, it will jump before it gets hot—they don’t sit still for you.”

Dr. George R. Zug, curator of reptiles and amphibians at the National Museum of Natural History, also rejected the suggestion, saying that “If a frog had a means of getting out, it certainly would get out.”

In 2002 Dr. Victor H. Hutchison, Professor Emeritus of Zoology at the University of Oklahoma, with a research interest in thermal relations of amphibians, said that “The legend is entirely incorrect!”. He described how the critical thermal maximum for many frog species has been determined by contemporary research experiments: as the water is heated by about 2 °F, or 1.1 °C, per minute, the frog becomes increasingly active as it tries to escape, and eventually jumps out if the container allows it.

However this doesn't change the main point of the illustration regarding incrementalism!

*² Here's the article about the church drag queen and if you think it's made up the video is on the church's website. This is the denomination I attended as a child since my Mom was raised in it. My dad never attended regularly since even then (the 60's) he was disgusted with the liberalism he saw coming in. By the time I was in high school we again attended church together as a family in Bible preaching churches. Now, I am certainly aware there are some churches in this denomination who have remained Biblically faithful but even now they are in a split and many of the Bible faithful churches have already or soon will leave. Interestingly today Brooksyne speaks at a ladies group at a local Methodist Church.

Finally today:

Ken, a longtime reader from Kansas responded to yesterday's encouragement on courage:

I noticed that you referenced Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I was being reminded of his last words prior to his execution in concentration camp. As he and a friend and fellow prisoner were walked out to the scaffold, his friend, if I recall from my reading correctly offered that he was sorry that things for Bonhoeffer were ending in this way and Bonhoeffer smiled and said, “This is the end—for me, the beginning of life.”

It is for me a powerful testimony as to what Bonhoeffer's expectation was at that moment in his life when he knew that he had only minutes left on earth. I can only hope that if faced with similar circumstances that my faith in our Lord and His Holy Spirit would sustain my spirit in such a beautiful way. Bonhoeffer truly died as he lived and continues to live.

Weber couple photo 7/3/22
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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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