“Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do.”
I wouldn’t classify myself as an avid runner. I would rather be hiking, swimming, or even cleaning toilets. However, I love to challenge myself, and nothing has challenged me more than training for a marathon. About five years ago, I decided to put my body through the rigors of training for such an endeavor. Early morning runs replaced my usual tradition of curling up on the couch with a blanket and a hot cup of coffee. The concept of “cross training” entered into my vernacular. Pastries and sweets were replaced with fiber bars and dried fruit. Essentially, every aspect of my life was subtly rearranged, or even drastically changed, for the purposes of preparing my body for race day. All except for one area, one stronghold in my life that I REFUSED to give up ... ice cream.
Now, some might argue that one indulgence, especially under the circumstances, would be completely acceptable, especially in moderation. But, if anyone has ever sat down with a pint of ice cream, only to hear your spoon scrape the bottom of the cardboard container about 15 minutes later, you understand that moderation can be an “issue.” For me, I would spend two hours running, all the while counting the calories I was burning… trying desperately to figure out what that translated to in ice cream… joyfully anticipating my reunion with Ben and Jerry at the end of my run. A reunion, that at times, meant sitting down to enjoy almost TWO pints of ice cream at one setting!
My point in sharing this is to illustrate the concept of biblical licentiousness, or deliberately sinful behavior. Putting gluttony aside, the act of eating ice cream, in and of itself, is not a sinful behavior. However, look at the context of my eating habits. Instead of using my running, the burning of those calories, as a way to train and shape my body for the benefit of competing, I was using it as a license to partake in… to over-consume… a rather guilty pleasure of mine.
As Christians, we understand that God’s grace is ours, if we choose to acknowledge it. It’s a gift that equates to unmerited forgiveness of our sins. However, some of us distort that gift into a perversion… a license to actively participate and live in our sin because we are “covered” by His grace. This is biblical licentiousness… and it is NOT covered by His grace. Beth Moore, a renowned women's ministry leader, recently said in a video for her James Bible Study that God’s grace does not cover our disobedience… and she’s correct. When we choose to live in our sin… when we refuse to repent and turn our back on it… we are being disobedient. Licentiousness goes a step beyond that… it’s rationalizing our disobedience. It’s acknowledging our sin, but remaining steadfast in our disobedience because we wrongfully believe that God’s grace will take care of it. Pornography, reality television, salacious romance novels, speaking harshly to our spouses and children, gossiping, the list is limited only by the number of sins that exist. The horrible truth of licentiousness is that it allows you to think you’re free, when you’re solidly wrapped up in bondage. And the result of this bondage will surely inhibit your growth as a Christian and your walk with Jesus.
Ask God to reveal any area of licentiousness in your life. Maybe you’re already aware of some areas in your walk with Jesus that are suffering because of this. Spend time with our Savior and ask Him for help in these strongholds. The worst thing we can do is try to solve the problem by ourselves. We need His guidance and His strength to bring about His resolution for His glory.