1 Thessalonians 4:1-3
1 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality;
God’s standards regarding sin are high in action, thought and attitude. He calls for holiness, which includes sexual relations. The Scriptures are clear that the Lord has created sex only for the context of marriage to a member of the opposite sex.1 In 1 Thessalonians 4:1-3, Paul urges his brothers to live in order to please God, and goes on to say that it is God’s will that you should be sanctified (made holy, growing in holiness). In calling us to be a people for Himself, He has called us to be a people that resemble Him. Paul goes on to give us some examples of how we should live in order to please God, saying, “That you should avoid sexual immorality, that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him.” 2
If we truly surrender ourselves to the Lord, we will have a pretty good idea of what we should and should not do.3 We not only need to avoid sexually immoral activities, but also we need to focus on controlling our bodies in a way that is holy and honorable to God.
Why should we do this? 1 Thessalonians 4:6-8 goes on to say that the Lord will punish men for all such sins, that He did not call us to be impure but to live a holy life. Because we have been given Christ’s righteousness, let that be what motivates us to pursue holiness in our lives.
God commands us to do things so that we can understand how to be more like Him and also so we can see His great love and care for us. Behind every negative command are positive principles for our delight. Specifically, God’s commands to wait for sex until marriage is given to both protect you and provide for you. Just as a mother tells her son not to touch a hot iron so that he does not burn himself, God gives us boundaries and limitations for our benefit. Such is the case in sexual activity before marriage.
|Your mind from the images of past relationships.||Freedom to enjoy your future spouse without distracting mental images.|
|You from mistrust and suspicion in relationships.||A foundation of trust for your current and future relationships.|
|You from confusing the intensity of sex with the intimacy of love.||You with intimacy: True knowledge of the other person outside of the physical.|
|You from the fear and consequences of sexually transmitted diseases.||You peace of mind as you enter a marriage commitment.|
|Your Christian testimony.||Integrity in your Christian witness that ministers to others.|
|Your fellowship with God.||The abundant life.|
- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
What is sexual impurity and when do we know when something is sin? There are things in Scripture that are clearly sin, which will not be addressed here because they are clear (all types of sex before marriage, adultery, etc.). However, there are more gray areas than rules in our pursuit of purity.
Specifically, what about holding hands? What about kissing? What about being alone together? There are three important questions to ask yourself as you decide whether or not you should do these and other gray areas.
- What Are My Intentions? There is a distinct difference between trying to be holy and trying to find loopholes.
- Does This Honor God? In your heart, can you feel comfortable doing this? Touch is not inherently evil; it is lust and not being able to control your body that dishonors God.
- Does This Cause Me or My Boyfriend/Girlfriend to Stumble? This is key because often a small touch on the hand will not lead to sin, but greater amounts of touch (even on the hand) can lead to increased temptation for sexual activity. It is important to know that in relationships, as emotions grow for one another, the desire for physical intimacy grows. This is important to take into account in order that we understand the reality of this increasing temptation for sexual impurity.
Asking these questions allows us to understand how we can honor God and our fellow man in our relationships. In these gray areas, we need to seek God and follow our convictions. At the same time, we need to give people freedom to have different convictions in these gray areas.
Fleeing Sexual Immorality
Sexual purity is very difficult and it is easy to compromise. As God’s children submit to His ways, trust Him and grow in His likeness, they are taking steps to flee sexual immorality4 and it greatly glorifies God. God cares about our heart and mind, not just the outward action.
In Matthew 5:27-30, Jesus says that even looking at a woman lustfully is adultery, and that His disciples need to take this seriously, even gouging out our eye or cutting off our hand to avoid adultery. He uses dramatic speech to make His point; that He takes sin seriously, and that people who do not take sin seriously are not his disciples – (we know this because 5:29 & 30 says they will be thrown into hell namely, those not taking sin seriously). We have been given the power of the Holy Spirit to flee sexual temptation.
- 1 Corinthians 10:13
Forgiveness – A New Start
One of the greatest mistakes people can make is to assume that since they have failed to keep God’s command regarding sexual purity, God wants nothing to do with them. This is simply not true. God is well aware of our sinful tendencies – that is why Jesus Christ came.
For King David, what began with a stare led to adultery, unwanted pregnancy, and murder. This is about as bad as it gets. But consider what happened next. David admitted his sin and asked God for forgiveness. Like David, we can receive God’s complete forgiveness and receive a clean start.
- Psalm 51
Some Important Steps to Take:
- Confess the Sin. Specifically name your sin before God and ask His forgiveness 5
- Forgive Yourself. If you are not willing to forgive yourself, you are saying two things to God: that Christ’s death was not enough for your sins and you are a higher judge of what can be forgiven than God is. God’s grace is extended to you out of His heart of love. When you do not forgive yourself, you throw God’s grace right back into His face. If God’s grace cannot cover your sin, it cannot cover any sin.
- Yield Yourself to God. Ask God to fill you with his power to honor him with your body and to say no to future temptation, and trust His Spirit to work in your life.
- Bear Fruits of Repentance. Repentance means turning around, changing one’s mind. This might mean breaking off a relationship or perhaps making a decision not to be alone together. Whatever it is, your actions should show you have changed. The individual who professes to be a Christian but who continues to practice sin should realize that he or she might not be a Christian at all. 6
God’s complete love and forgiveness enable us to make a clean start and to live a life pleasing to Him.
Sexual purity is not taken lightly by God. He is perfectly just. He knows what is best for your life and He has made His laws clear. By following God and aligning your life to His ways, you are bringing great honor and glory to Him. Sexual purity is not easy. Always keep your intentions in check and know that God is faithful. He will always provide a way out and will never give you more than you can bear. 7
- How does your view of God affect how you live out your sexuality?
- How does your view of yourself before God affect how you live out sexuality?
- Think of your current situation (single, dating, married) and ask yourself how far you can go in pursuing holiness?
- Are there areas you would like accountability?
Appendix: Sexual Purity for Men
Proper View of Women
- Most images we lust after portray women as sexually animalistic and physically perfect.
- But in reality, women’s sex drives are highly relationship-dependent, and their bodies are not nearly as idealistic.
- Pornography, therefore, has its roots in fantasy, not reality.
- But fantasy seeks to make the deluded one believe he has found truth, and it does so by using seemingly believable distortions of reality.
- Hence, feeding our fantasy lives is dangerous – it removes us from reality.
- Choose wisely
a. Are there observable qualities in her that I desire in a life mate?
b. Are we running at about the same pace spiritually?
c. Are there any obvious red flags in her life that would make me uncomfortable pursuing her before God (present disobedience, immaturity, etc….)
d. Is it obvious that Christ is the Lord of her life?
e. Does she carry herself in an honorable and respectable way?
f. Am I myself walking closely with God at the time I seem attracted to her, or am I far from Him relationally when I think of her?
g. Do I enjoy being around her?
- Check your motives
a. Why am I pursuing her?
b. What is it about her to which I am attracted?
c. Am I more interested in getting to know her physically than I am socially, emotionally, or spiritually?
d. Do I feel comfortable being honest with God about my intentions towards her?
e. There are plenty of physically pretty women out there – it is the one that is beautiful because of who she is that you want.
- Clearly communicate your intentions
a. Puts her at ease, in that she knows where you are coming from and why you have suddenly started paying so much attention to her.
b. Shows her respect – you are being up front and honest with her.
c. Compliments her – you are valuing her enough to pursue her and communicate your intentions.
d. It places you in a leadership role, which is where godly women want you to be.
Foster the Friendship
- Take your time and have fun with her. Marriage is about spending your life with your best friend. So when you are picking a mate, it is wise to be most concerned with seeing what kind of friendship you can foster with her.
- HANDS OFF!
a. Physical escalation is effortless; deceleration is nearly impossible.
b. Becoming extremely physical while dating can have extremely adverse emotional and spiritual effects on the woman you date.
c. The Question – Am I diligently avoiding evil, or walking the line?
1 Thessalonians 4:3-6
1 Corinthians 10:13
1 Corinthians 6:18-20
How does this study reinforce your belief in the gospel?
- Genesis 2:24; Leviticus 18
- 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6
- Romans 12:1-2
- 1 Corinthians 6:18-20
- 1 John 1:9
- John 14:21; 1 John 2:3
- 1 Corinthians 10:13