The Importance of Purity

God gave man and woman the joy and pleasure of sexual relations within the bounds of marriage, and the Bible is clear about the importance of maintaining sexual purity within the boundaries of that union between man and wife (Ephesians 5:31). We take this to extremes, outside of marriage and it causes all sorts of troubles. The secular world’s philosophy of “if it feels good, do it” permeates our culture to the point where sexual purity is seen as archaic and unnecessary.

Let’s look at what God says about sexual purity.

You should be sanctified: 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. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, 7).

This passage outlines God’s reasons for calling for sexual purity in the lives of His followers.

We are “sanctified” and for that reason, we are to avoid sexual immorality.

  1. The Greek word translated “sanctified” means literally “purified, made holy, consecrated [unto God].”
  2. As Christians, we are to live a purified life because we have been made holy by the exchange of our sin for the righteousness of Christ on the cross and have been made completely new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
  3. Our old natures, with all their impurities, sexual and otherwise, have died and now the life we live, we live by faith in the One who died for us (Galatians 2:20).
  4. To continue in sexual impurity (fornication) is to deny that and doing so is, in fact, a legitimate reason to question whether we have ever truly been born again.
  5. Sanctification, the process by which we become more and more Christlike, is an essential evidence of the reality of our salvation.

We see the necessity of controlling our bodies.

  1. When we give in to sexual immorality, we give evidence that the Holy Spirit is not indwelling us because we do not possess one of the fruits of the Spirit—self-control.
  2. All believers display the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) to a greater or lesser degree depending on the length of time they have walked with God.
  3. Uncontrolled “passionate lust” is a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:19), not of the Spirit. So controlling our lusts and living sexually pure lives is essential to anyone who professes to know Christ. In doing so, we honor God with our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

We know God’s rules and discipline reflect His love for us.

  1. Following what God says can only help us during our time on earth.
  2. By maintaining sexual purity before marriage, we avoid past emotional entanglements that may negatively affect present relationships and marriages.
  3. Further by keeping the marriage bed pure (Hebrews 13:4), we can experience unreserved love for our mates, which is surpassed only by God’s enormous love for us.

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God Calls us to Sexual Purity

Last year about this time we began challenging the congregation to read the Bible in 90 Days. As we went through the Old Testament, there were some pretty “R” rated (if not “X” rated) passages. I heard about one family traveling on a trip with the grandchildren, reading the Bible aloud while the other was driving. They had to stop reading out loud because the kids where listening! Grandma just couldn’t read certain passages and speak the words aloud. Leviticus 18 is one of those chapters. As I work with men, statistics tell me that when it comes to sexual purity, men who are in church are not too much different than men outside of the church. Purity is a desire, but impurity is a great temptation.

Leviticus 18 contains a series of laws that have to do with sexual expression (except for Leviticus 18:21, which forbids child sacrifice, which is really a whole other topic). We might wonder why God didn’t simply say, “Have sexual relations only with your spouse,” rather than offer such detail in the form: “Do not have sexual relations with… (you name it).”

The answer to this question comes in Leviticus 18:3. God is leading the Israelites out of Egypt, where various forms of sexual immorality were common, into the land of Canaan, where the people do the very things Leviticus 18 prohibits. As Leviticus 18:27 explains, “All these detestable activities are practiced by the people of the land where I am taking you, and this is how the land has become defiled.” God was concerned that the Israelites would easily be tempted to imitate the Canaanites’ sexual impurity, so he spelled out graphically the relationships in which sexual activity was forbidden. He knew that his people were like young children who needed specific instructions and prohibitions.

Although our context differs a lot from that of the Israelites, we face a pretty similar situation. We live today in a culture that endorses unimaginable sexual activity. Even though our society still agrees with Leviticus 18 about some things, like the wrongness of sex with a close relative, our world presents us with new challenges to our sexual holiness, like readily available pornography.

The New Testament does not really offer an updated list of sexual “don’ts,” like a new rulebook for Christian sexual conduct. Rather, it calls us to holiness in every part of our lives, including our sexuality (see 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). We should not imitate the ways of our world when it comes to sexual expression, but we are to devote our whole being to God, which includes our bodies. We are to live each day with the realization that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). So, we have the obligation and privilege of honoring God with our bodies. When we take this calling seriously, each day we will desire to dishonor God with our bodies less and less. We will seek to give him all that we are, all the time, giving Him honor.

Application: In what areas of life are you tempted to compromise in the are of purity? How have you come to realize your weaknesses? What safeguards have you set in place? What in our culture tempts you to set aside God’s standards for sexuality? What helps you to live according to God’s standards? What lures you to adopt the ways of our fallen culture? What has been your track record over the past few months? If you wish to start over, what prevents you from confession, restoration and commitment to purity (1 John 1:9)? Who is the man who holds you accountable? Whom are you holding accountable, your neighbor, brother, son, co-worker?

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