The theme of this series is Freedom from captivity.  Today, we examine the end result of becoming spiritually captive.  When we become captives to the culture our lives exhibit behavior that more reflects that culture.  We practice false living rather than the true freedom of life in Christ.

Kerby Anderson writes: “Our culture bombards us with ideas on what behavior is acceptable, what should be celebrated, what should be tolerated. Most of those ideas are counter to the truth presented to us in the New Testament.”

Exactly what is happening in the lives of young Christian adults?  We gain important insight from the book Cultural Captives, by Stephen Cable:

  • When the general population of young adults were asked how they are living in regard to pornography, casual sex, sex before marriage, and divorce, the following results were discovered.
    • Among those who are not born again, less than 5% follow a biblical standard.
    • Among those who said that they are born again, 15% ascribed to the standards for sexual purity clearly taught in the Bible.
  • When emerging adults were asked what they thought about abortion, homosexual activity, homosexual marriage and suicide, the following results were discovered.
    • Among those who are not born again, 4% had ideas or beliefs consistent with a biblical position.
    • Among those who said that they are born again, 45% of agreed with a biblical position.

Do you notice the inconsistency?

  • 45% of Born Again emerging adults agree with a biblical position
  • 15% of Born Again emerging adults live according to a biblical position

It is concerning that only 45% of born again emerging adults possess a biblical world view. It is even more concerning that only 15% of born again emerging adults actually live according to a biblical world view.

Christian Smith, in his follow up on book to Souls in Transition, entitled Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood, pointed out five areas of concern they discovered from their research.  The five areas were:

  1. moral aimlessness,
  2. materialistic consumerism,
  3. intoxicated living,
  4. deep troubles from sexually liberated behavior, and
  5. lack of interest in civic and political life.      In Cultural Captives, Stephen Cable affirmed these characteristics and added three more:
  6. cheating,
  7. pluralism and
  8. lack of meaningful spiritual activity.

Young adults today face a GREATER CHALLENGE than did their parents or grandparents. 

 ALL of us experience the struggle between the FLESH and the SPIRIT.  Romans 7:15, 19-20.  “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. . . . For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”   But this struggle is MORE DIFFICULT when culture seduces us to live according to its standards rather than God’s standards.

Understanding these challenges, how can young adults move from a RELIGION of COMFORT and CONVENIENCE to a LIFE OF CONVICTION and REALTY?

First, let’s gain a biblical perspective. In Ephesians 4:17-24 and Ephesians 5:1-14, PAUL ADDRESSES THREE BEHAVIORS that characterize the UNSAVED WORLD.

Notice Ephesians 5:3.  “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” (Ephesians 5:3, ESV)

The first characteristic of the unsaved world is IMMORALITY.  The Greek word is pornia πορνεία.  It means all forms of sex outside of marriage.

Although we think of immorality as being wide spread in our world today, let’s not forget some of the evil practices of the First Century.  Widely accepted practices included Temple Prostitution.  It was common for pagans to engage a prostitute (male or female) at their pagan temple as part of their “worship experience.” We look at that as bizarre and grotesque, but it was common accepted practice in the first century.

During the first century it was a common practice for a man to have a concubine slave for sex.  This was a person usually taken in war.  The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament describes this.  “Even the married man was permitted extra-marital intercourse as he pleased so long as he did not violate a civil marriage.[1]” TDNT

The issues of the first century are not the issues of immorality today.  We face different issues that are just as widely accepted today as temple prostitution was in the first century.  Some of these sins are living together, premarital sex, homosexuality, and  pornography. These sins are accepted.

The second characteristic of the unsaved world in Ephesians 5:3 is IMPURITY.  This is the Greek word akatharsia ἀκαθαρσία.  It comes from the word for refuse, the contents of the grave that causes impurity.  This word is about spiritual impurity. 

The vices of the FIRST CENTURY were concerning ceremonial impurity…  things not ceremonially cleansed.  The sins today would include anything impure, moral impurity, or spiritual impurity.

The third characteristic of the unsaved world in Ephesians 5:3 is COVETEOUSNESS.  This is the Greek word pleonoxia  πλεονεξία.  It means greediness over material things. 

This is a characteristic that is hard for us to imagine in the context of the first century.  We know of all the material things in our world and recognize how pervasive materialism is in OUR world, but we don’t think of the first century world as having anything about which to be materialistic.

But there was materialism in the first century world.  It related to things like stored food in their houses, the amount of money a person had, the niceness of someone’s house, the number of servants they had, or their position in life.

Today, there seems to be many more temptations of materialism in our every day lives.  We can become covetous over someone else’s phone, car, grades, good looks or their success.  We are saturated with advertising aimed at causing us to be dissatisfied with our current possessions and to upgrade to the newer, cooler model.  Coveteousness resides in our hearts, and no matter the century in which you live, it is a characteristic of the the unsaved lifestyle we lived before coming to know Jesus.

We want to be victorious Christian!  We want to resist captivity to the world!  So how do we do it?  Let me provide the ABC’s of not being taken captive.  These principles are described in Ephesians 5. 

 AUTHENTIC.  The Lord is calling us to COUNTER-CULTURAL CHRISTIANITY.   “Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light(Ephesians 5:7–8, ESV).  The sinful practices of the first century were widely accepted.  The Church is called to SEPARATE from them.

BOLD.  Don’t be afraid to STAND UP and SPEAK UP.  “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.(Ephesians 5:11, ESV).  Let your godliness shine to others.  Don’t be silent.

CONSISTENT.  “For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.(Ephesians 5:12, ESV)It’s time to BLUSH AGAIN at things that are evil! 

Make the Most of our time!!!  Eph 5:15-16  “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15–16, ESV)


[1] Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 582–583.