How to Maintain Sexual Purity

We have now come to the fourth command in this Adult Stage or Equip Level of disciplemaking, on how to avoid sexual indiscretion and maintain sexual purity. Our passage comes from Matthew 5:27-32. We will find these commands: TEAR it out, THROW it (Matthew 5:29), CUT it off, THROW it (Matthew 5:30), CUT it off, THROW it (Matthew 18:8), PLUCK it out, THROW it (Matthew 18:9), CUT it off (Mark 9:43, 45), CAST it out (Mark 9:47).

It is illustrated in the book of Acts (Acts 15:20, 29, 21:25) and amplified in the epistles (LUST = Romans 1:24, 6:12, 7:7-8, 13:14, Galatians 4:16, 24, Ephesians 2:3, 4:22, Colossians 3:5, 1 Thessalonians 4:5, 2 Timothy 2:22).

Group Questions:

1. Have you ever struggled with impure thoughts? If so, how did you get victory over it?

2. Have you ever had a friend who committed adultery? What were the consequences?

3. What was the penalty for adultery in the Old Testament? (Exodus 20:14, Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 5:18, 22:22)

4. Are we to take Jesus’ example in John 8:1-11 to mean that the God of the New Testament does not condemn adultery?

5. What is the technical definition of adultery?

6. How did the Pharisees interpret breaking the seventh commandment? (Matthew 5:27) The Mosaic Law clearly prohibited adultery (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18). A person might be proud that he had never broken this commandment, and yet have his “eyes full of adultery” (2 Peter 2:14). While outwardly respectable, his mind might be constantly wandering down labyrinths of impurity. So Jesus reminded His disciples that mere abstinence from the physical act was not enough—there must be inward purity.

7. Does Jesus condemn the inadvertent, accidental glance at a woman? (Matthew 5:28) The law forbade the act of adultery; Jesus forbids the desire: Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. E. Stanley Jones caught the import of this verse when he wrote: “If you think or act adultery, you do not satisfy the sex urge; you pour oil on a fire to quench it.” Sin begins in the mind, and if we nourish it, we eventually commit the act.

“Whoever” includes both men and women, married and unmarried. Jesus condemns fornication as well as “adultery,” which involves voluntary extramarital sexual intimacies (Matthew 5:32).

Regarding Matthew 5:32 (divorce and causing her to commit adultery): “Sexual immorality” translates the Greek porneia. Various meanings are exhibited in the N.T. for porneia, the context making the significance clear:

  1. It may refer to voluntary sexual intercourse of an unmarried person with anyone of the opposite sex (1 Corinthians 7:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:3).
  2. It may refer to all forms of unchastity (John 8:41; Acts 15:20, 29; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; Ephesians 5:3).
  3. It may refer to prostitution (Revelation 2:14, 20, 21).

Here the exception clause may refer to a situation in which those married are already closely related and whose marriage, according to Jewish law, would technically be sexual immorality (cf. Leviticus 18:6–18; Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1). The word moicheuthenai (Gk.), “causes her to commit adultery” (Matthew 19:3–9), described adultery, extramarital sexual infidelity. Porneia and moicheuthenai later came to be used interchangeably.

8. Is it a sin to be tempted? If not, when does it become sin? (James 1:13-15)

9. Although a woman does not lust in the same way as a man, how might she participate in its guilt? (2 Kings 9:30, 1 Timothy 2:9, 1 Thessalonians 4:4, 6)

10. When does the man commit adultery? (Matthew 5:28)

11. Give an example of how an adulterous heart can manifest itself by seeking out an object that can fulfill its fantasy.

12. It Jesus saying there is a physical remedy for a heart problem? (Matthew 5:29-30) – The two examples Jesus gives call for radical action to prevent and eradicate sin. However, they are merely hyperbolic and shouldn’t be taken literally. He maintains that we should be cautious concerning the avoidance of sin, making every effort to remain pure. The severity of the demand illustrates the radical nature of Jesus’ ethic and our radical need. Jesus is not advocating self-mutilation; not the eyes or hands cause lust, but the heart and mind. Christians must not only avoid the act of adultery (“hand”), but also those things that would lead to a lustful attitude (“eye”).

13. What does Jesus command us to do in this passage?

14. What sort of steps can we take to perform this radical surgery in our lives?

15. Describe the consequences of committing adultery: (Proverbs 2:1-22, 5:1-23, 6, 20-35, 7:1-27, Hebrews 13:4b, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 2 Peter 2:14, 1 Corinthians 5:1-12, Revelation 2:21-23, 22:15, Psalm 32:1-7, 57).

16. What are the things in your life that are nurturing adulterous thoughts?

Avoiding Sexual indiscretion: (Proverbs 22:3 – the prudent sees evil and hides himself, Proverbs 2:11 – Discretion will guard you).

“Sexual affairs don’t hit out of the blue. They are the end result of underlying problems. And usually there are sign of trouble long before the affair occurs, although they aren’t recognized as danger signals.” Doctors Minerth and Meier

There are steps that lead to adultery, usually by not developing behavioral guidelines. Discretion is personal judgment in setting personal boundaries in the way we behave with the opposite gender. When we are in denial, we are close to falling and tend to underestimate the need for boundaries.

Personal Boundaries:

  1. I will not counsel a woman behind closed doors.
  2. I will not drive somewhere with a woman not my wife.
  3. I will not take a woman out to eat.
  4. I will not hire a secretary that my wife hasn’t interviewed.
  5. I will not allow my secretary to do something personal for me.
  6. I will not use a computer behind closed doors or late at night.

People who lack discretion ignore warning flags and move ahead despite the warnings of the Holy Spirit.

Here are some steps toward indiscretion:

  1. Emotional Delight: There are some people that we just naturally like to be around, it’s called chemistry. This is a yellow flag if the person is a woman.
  2. Extra Time Together: Spending extra time with that person brings emotional delight. There is nothing improper, just spending a little time together after the meeting or volunteering to work on a project together. While this may be legitimate, this is feeding step number one and needs to be a warning sign and check you motives.
  3. Excessive Touching: The red flag is now up. It’s a hug rather than a handshake. A lingering hug or touching the arm during a conversation. Touching leads to more touching.
  4. Secret Meetings: Maybe it’s getting together for breakfast or taking a walk together during lunch break to talk about personal problems, hold hands, or comfort one another.
  5. Infatuation: Now we are past the red flags and into addictive craziness. If someone should see what’s happening and intervene, it is met with “get off my back, there’s nothing going on.” These two are committed to each other. Unless God intervenes, adultery is almost inevitable. There is never a good excuse for an affair. At this point, he will not listen to reason or logical arguments. The bottom line: adultery is stupid (proverbs 6:32-34).

Steps that Jesus Prescribes to Avoid Sexual Indiscretion:

1. Keep the Seventh Commandment (Matthew 5:27, Exodus 20:14, Proverbs 6:32-34). Remember the punishment for adultery (Leviticus 20:10). We live in a flirtatious culture where this behavior is acceptable but we are to show discretion with the opposite gender (Proverbs 2:10, 16).

The Pharisees were concerned only with the outward act while Jesus gets to the heart of the matter. They quoted the OT correctly but missed the point of the law.

2. Make a Covenant with Your Eyes (Matthew 5:28a, Psalm 119:37, 101:2b-3, Job 31:1). “Look” refers to the continuous process of looking (present tense) referring to “intentional and repeated gazing with the intention of lusting.” Both genders struggle with moral purity, it is not just a male thing.

One way a woman struggle with moral purity is by the way she dresses so that men will look at her, by dressing immodestly. While temptation is not a sin, when a man sees a woman dressed provocatively, Satan will tempt the man with lustful thoughts. There is no sin if the temptation is resisted. David was not at fault for seeing Bathsheba bathing (2 Samuel 11:1-4), his sin was the second glance and the plotting to have her.

We must take thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and turn our eyes away (Psalm 119:37, 101:2b-3). Sex starts in the mind.

3. Guard Your Heart (Matthew 5:28b, 15:19-20, Proverbs 4:23, 23:7, Psalm 24:3-4, 66:18). Some Pharisees recognized they could not control their thought life so they would close their eyes when a woman walked by, and proceeded to walk into walls (the blind leading the blind).

4. Take Radical Steps to Keep Yourself Pure (Matthew 5:29-30, Romans 13:13-14). “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out [aorist imperative] and throw it [aorist imperative] from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. “If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off [aorist imperative] and throw it [aorist imperative] from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.”

5. Keep Your Marriage Covenant/Vows (Matthew 5:31-32, 1 Corinthians 7:1-3, Proverbs 2:16-17, Malachi 2:14, Ecclesiastes 5:1-5).

  • Adultery and Frequency of Sex in Marriage: when sex in marriage increases, divorce from adultery decreases.
  • Possible Causes: when a man gets sex at home he is not looking for it elsewhere, his needs are satisfied at home.
  • Statistics: 92% of the cases studied when divorce stemmed from adultery occurred when there was abstinence at home.

How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage:

  1. Don’t compare the incomparable (2 Corinthians 10:12 NKJV) comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
  2. Choose your friends carefully (Leviticus 20:10 – adultery with his friend’s wife…) and Deuteronomy 13:6-9).
  3. Protect yourself on the job (Genesis 39:1-15) REFUSE, REBUKE, RUN).
  4. Avoid entertainment that lowers inhibitions (Jude 1:8 – dreamers defile the flesh, Romans 13:13-14 – make no provision for the flesh).
  5. Meet your partner’s sexual needs (1 Corinthians 7:1-5) stop depriving one another.
  6. Make a covenant with your eyes (Matthew 5:27-28, Job 31:1).

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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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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