Walk His way

One day, Frederick the Great of Prussia was walking on the outskirts of Berlin when he encountered a very old man walking in the opposite direction. “Who are you?” Frederick asked his subject. “I am a king,” replied the old man. “A king!” laughed Frederick. “Over what kingdom do you reign?” “Over myself,” was the proud old man’s reply. This old man was on to something. Each of us is “monarch” over our own lives. By that I mean we are responsible for ruling our actions and decisions. To make consistently good decisions, to take the right action at the right time, and to refrain from the wrong actions requires character and self-discipline. To do otherwise is to lose control of ourselves—to potentially destroy our witness or disqualify ourselves from ministry. When we are foolish, we want to conquer the world. When we are wise, we want to conquer ourselves. This begins when we do what we should, no matter how we feel about it.
Today, in 1 Thess 4:1-12 we will learn how to do what we should. It is important to recognize that we have arrived at the center of the book of 1 Thessalonians. To clearly see this, it will be helpful to return to the theme of the letter found in 1:9-10. In these two verses, Paul summarizes the three components of the argument of his book. He writes, “(1) For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols (2) to serve a living and true God, and (3) to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” The first section entails 2:1-3:13; the second section deals with our present text (4:1-12); and the third and final section encompasses the remainder of the book (4:13-5:28). The structure of the theme verses in 1:9-10 point readers to the center of the letter: “to serve the living and true God.” Or as I shall suggest, “walk His way.” In the twelve verses of 1 Thess 4:1-12, Paul exhorts us to walk His way by being sexually pure, loving other believers, and working not meddling.

1. Serve God by being sexually pure (4:1-8).
In these first eight verses, Paul explains that God’s will is for us to become holy (“sanctified”) like Jesus. In 4:1-2 he writes, “Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.” Paul begins this chapter with the word “finally.” Have you heard the latest definition of an optimist? It is someone who believes the preacher is almost finished when he says “finally.” From a purely statistical point of view, it is interesting to note that in chapters 1-3 there is a total of 43 verses, and in chapters 4-5 there are a whopping 46 verses to add to the total! So the question is, “What does Paul mean when he says ‘finally?’” I would suggest it is almost like a change of gears as he moves into overdrive. He ups the ante. He raises the stakes. The word “finally” serves as the punch line. In chapters 4-5, Paul moves from the theological to the practical. Paul continually affirms believers in their position and encourages them in their practice. In 1 Thessalonians, he affirms that the Thessalonian believers are positionally chosen (1:4), yet he exhorts them to practically live out this positional truth by walking in obedience (2:12). In this passage, he encourages the Thessalonians with their present “walk”—their lifestyle of faith. The Christian life begins with a step of faith, but that step leads to a walk of faith. Christianity is not a sprint; it is a walk of perseverance along the way marked out for us by Jesus Christ. The biblical metaphor “walk” is an appropriate term that most likely came into use because Christianity was originally called “The Way” in Acts. What is of particular interest here is that Paul uses the word “walk” to bookend this section. The Greek word peripateo (“walk”) is used twice in 4:1 and again in 4:12 where the NASB renders it “behave.” Hence, the thrust of this passage is that you and I would walk with God, which entails seeking to please Him by receiving His instruction and obeying His commandments. Will you make a conscious decision to walk His way? It will be difficult, if not impossible, to continue to work through this passage unless you choose as an act of your will that you are going to obey God, whether you like it or not and whether you feel like it or not. I urge you with all that I am to walk His way.
Now the $6 million question is, “How do we please the Lord and walk His way?” There’s a simple answer—by doing the will of God. In 4:3-8, Paul insists that Christians must maintain their sexual purity. In 4:3-6a, Paul gives three specific instructions.
o Abstain from sexual immorality (4:3b).Paul bluntly states, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality.” The word “abstain” means “to keep as far away from as possible, to have nothing to do with.” As believers we should never ask how far we can go and not step over the line. Instead, we should attempt to do everything to stay as far away from the line as we possibly can. This leads to an obvious question: What does Paul mean when he uses the phrase “sexual immorality?” In brief, the answer is everything immoral! Sorry about that! I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s what the Bible says. The phrase “sexual immorality” comes from the Greek word porneia, which is a broad word that includes premarital sex, extramarital sex, homosexuality, and every form of pornography. This term covers sins of the mind, body, eyes, ears, and lips. Paul forbids all expressions of porneia because he is concerned with our “sanctification.” The word “sanctification” means “to be separate to God, to be distinct.” This word occurs in its various forms four times in 4:3-7. Sanctification does not mean saying “no” to anything that is fun; it means progressively growing to be more like the Lord who said, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” In 4:3, Paul clarifies a very important aspect of God’s will: Christians are to avoid sexual immorality like the plague. Certain things in the Christian life are not open to debate. Many Christians ask, “What is God’s will for my life?” in the midst of practicing sexual immorality. I would dare say that God will not clearly reveal His will to those who are practicing sexual sin. If we want to walk His way, we will abstain from sexual immorality.
o Control your own body (4:4-5). Paul writes, “[The will of God is] that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God.” Paul states that it is God’s will for us to be able to sexually control ourselves—to “gird up our loins.” In our flesh, our natural tendency is to say, “I just can’t help myself” or “I’m a guy or I’m a gal” or “I am in love.” Do you know what I find so interesting about these justifications? In the most intense heat of the moment, any one of us could bring our passion to a screeching halt. If a police officer walks up to your parked car and knocks on your steamed-over window, I bet you could stop. If an angry husband armed with a shotgun walked in on you with his wife, I would guess you could stop in a hurry. We can always stop what we are doing…the issue is one of motivation. Paul expects us to live in “sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God.” Many of us have been far too hard on those who do not know God and too light on those who do know God. I don’t know about you, but I expect pagans to live sexually immoral lives. Sinners are supposed to sin, it’s a part of their job description. What’s unacceptable is when saints live sexually immoral lives. Our problem is not with our society; our problem is with our church and the church of Jesus Christ throughout our country. Many believers need to be told, “Either be pure…or stop calling yourself a Christian!” If we want to walk His way, we will learn to control our own body.
o Protect other men and women (4:6a).Paul writes, “[The will of God is] that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter.” The word “brother” in this context indicates any person. The point is, God cares for people. He doesn’t want us to take advantage of any of His creations. Sexual sin steals from others. It steals both from the person and from their present or future mate, parents and other family members, and present or future children. This is no different than stealing someone’s property. We have no more right to have sex with someone’s spouse because they are attractive to us than we have a right to steal their car because it appeals to us. This phrase is a sign saying, “Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted.” If we want to walk His way, we will protect other men and women.

Young people and singles are thinking, “What kind of sick humor is this? God puts this sex drive in us then says, ‘Oh, but you have to wait.’ It’s cruel.” This is kind of like buying your 16-year-old son a brand new Lamborghini, parking it outside, and then saying, “It’s yours. It’s paid for, but there are no keys, and you can’t drive it.” So every day he has to walk by and look at it, sit in it, but cannot drive it. He has the car but nowhere to go. Is God crazy? No, He is very smart. God understands there are consequences to premature oneness. His design is for you and me to have this beautiful thing called intimacy and oneness in marriage, where two become one for life. When we choose to ignore God’s design, there are consequences.
[Tear off a single piece of scotch tape, and begin sticking the tape to different people’s pants, shirts, and foreheads.] Each time I stick this tape on someone, when I pull it off, pieces of that person’s clothing stick to the tape. The more people I stick the tape to, the more adhesive was lost. This piece of tape is designed to stick things together, yet the more I use it on people’s clothing, the less sticky it becomes. The same thing happens with our sexuality. Sexuality is who we are. We want to be able to stick together through thick and thin so that we can enjoy the oneness waiting for us. When we go outside God’s principles, our stick-ability in marriage is diminished. Many of us are married and wonder why we don’t have the ability to have a cohesive relationship. This may be the reason why. God is not a killjoy. He’s just smart. He said oneness is what we are to pursue.

In 4:6b-8, Paul shares three incentives to pursue sexual purity.
o Avoid God’s judgment (4:6b). Paul writes, “[Abstain from sexual immorality] because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.” In the course of his ministry in Thessalonica, Paul has warned these new believers that they must be men and women of purity. For those believers who choose to be sexually immoral, Paul warns that “the Lord is the avenger.” The word “avenger” (ekdikos) is only used here and in Rom 13:4, where it refers to the governing authorities that bear the sword and will pour out wrath on the one who sins. The leading Greek dictionary defines this term as “one who punishes.” This is a very scary word! Paul probably has in mind the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10) when Jesus Himself will elevate our sexual purity or lack thereof. It is also likely that God “gives us over” (Rom 1:24, 26, 28) to the consequences of our sin in this life. Believers who cheat are often cheated upon by someone else. What goes around comes around! An immoral Christian teenager may learn the hard way that condoms fail 20-30% of the time. In today’s culture, this is playing Russian roulette with our lives. A gun will give you one in six. A condom will give you one in five, or less. Gals, you may get pregnant and guys you may get a venereal disease. Another severe consequence can be the memories that will stay with you for the rest of your life. There is a chemical called epinephrine in your brain. It is released during physical contact, and what happens is people get married to a wonderful person and all of a sudden the memories of previous encounters come flooding back. There is a term for this called “sex ghosts.” Can we get over some of these consequences? Yes, with God’s grace we can; however, in Gal 6:7 Paul writes, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” God is an ethical God. He keeps books on sexual issues and He is a very good accountant. These are all the laws of the harvest. If we want to walk His way, we will take the avenger dead serious.
o Fulfill God’s call (4:7). Paul writes, “[Abstain from sexual immorality] for God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.” God “calls” us to both salvation and sanctification. He takes the initiative in both our everlasting life and our spiritual growth. We simply respond to His work in us. Throughout the course of our Christian experience, God issues an upward calling, a high calling, a calling to sanctification, to ministry, and to heavenly reward. We fulfill our destiny by heeding His call and walking His way.
o Honor the Scriptures and the Spirit (4:8). In the final verse of this first section, Paul issues a warning: “So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.” Paul says, “If you don’t like what I’ve written, please understand that your “beef” is with God. You are rejecting Him and His authority. Likewise, if you do not like what I have said, your problem is not with me, it is with God. I am just the mailman…I deliver the mail. I am the doctor, I give the prescription.” Before you complain too much, please understand that sexual immorality was even more prevalent in Paul’s day. In the first place Thessalonica was a seaport, which meant that people from all over the Mediterranean world stopped there in transit from one place to another. The sailors and visiting merchants brought with them the usual desires for sexual gratification. More importantly, the Greek religions of that day practiced sacred prostitution. That involved hiring a prostitute at a pagan temple as part of your acts of worship. The famed orator Demosthenes described the moral climate of ancient Greece this way: “We keep prostitutes for pleasure, we keep mistresses for day to day needs of the body, we keep wives for the begetting of children and for the faithful guarding of the home.” So long as a man supported his wife and family there was no shame whatsoever in extra-marital relationships. Given the moral atmosphere of the day, there must have been enormous pressure on those young Christians to lower their standards to conform to the world around them. But Paul will have none of it. He orders them to abstain from every form of sexual immorality. Fortunately, 4:8 ends with a very hopeful phrase. It mentions “God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.” The word “gives” is a present tense verb. In this case it means that God gives and keeps on giving the Spirit to you. You have the Holy Spirit always within you. Therefore, when God commands you to abstain, He also gives you the power to obey. What a wonderful thought. You are not in this battle alone! Your weakness is His strength. Do you need help? You’ve got it!
Perhaps, you’ve found yourself lost in the above instructions and incentives. If so, here are some other suggestions that may be helpful to you.
o Recognize your position in Christ. You are a “saint” who is dead to sin.
o Ask God for grace and mercy. Acknowledge “it” could happen to you. Plead the blood of Jesus.
o Saturate yourself with Scripture. Read God’s Word to shore up your strength.
o Pray when you are tempted. Satan flees when we pray.
o Have an accountability partner. Make sure he or she asks you brutal purity questions.
o Beware of raunchy music. Research proves that teens who listen to music with sexually graphic or degrading lyrics are far more likely to be sexually active (51% vs. 29%).
o Exercise with a vengeance. Cardiovascular workouts will so tire you out that your drive can be diminished.
o Refuse to live together before marriage. Data from Rutgers University now suggests that 90% of couples who live together before marriage will end in divorce.
o Invest in your marriage. Pour your time and energy into your spouse. This is the best distraction.
Before we move on, I really want you to hear that it is never too late to walk with God. Many of you have already sinned sexually. It is God’s will that you move on. God makes it clear that He will welcome you back and restore you to fellowship. As we trusted the finished work of Christ for salvation, so we trust His finished work on the cross for our sin (1 John 1:9-2:2). What Paul is saying in this section is that through our relationship with God, we can have the power and the discipline to stay sexually pure; or if we have already messed up, we can begin right now. God is simply waiting for you to confess your sin, receive His forgiveness, and go and sin no more. Or, if you prefer, walk His way.
[Why should you serve God by being sexually pure? For the simple reason that God loves you and wants the best for you.]
2. Serve God by loving other believers (4:9-10).
The transition from holiness to love is not a difficult one (cf. 3:11-13). God’s love is a holy love, so our love for God and for one another ought to motivate us to holy living. The more we live like God, the more we will love one another. If a Christian really loves his brother, he will not sin against him (4:6). Paul writes, “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more.” In these two verses, Paul reminds the Thessalonians that they should demonstrate “the love of the brethren.” The Greek word behind this phrase is philadelphia, which means “brotherly love.” In the New Testament it is used exclusively of the love Christians are to show to each other. Outside of the New Testament philadelphia is used only of love for blood brothers or sisters. The idea seems to be that believers should have a fondness for one another. This only occurs when the agapelove of 4:10 is first implemented. The word “love” (agapao) in 4:10 is a different word for love than in the first phrase of 4:9. The word here is a self-sacrificing love produced by the Holy Spirit. This requires believers making a conscious decision of their wills to love and forgive one another. Paul reveals that the Thessalonians are exuding love for not only one another but all the brethren in their entire region. They are a model church, yet Paul urges these believers to “excel still more.” How can we accomplish this? First, it is important to recognize that the church is made up of individuals and families. Therefore, it is essential to love believers closest to you. If you don’t love those people closest to you, you won’t love the body of Christ at large. So if you are married, the most important person in your life is your spouse. You need to love your husband or wife with every fiber of your being. Obviously, you can do this by being sexually pure. But you can also listen to your spouse, verbally affirm your spouse, and support his or her dreams. If you have children or grandchildren, you must love those precious souls with unconditional love. One way I have found of doing this is adopting an area of their interest. If they like a sport, a type of music, or a particular hobby, do that with them—even if you don’t like it. If you are a student or a single, you are called to first and foremost love other believers in Christ. This means prioritizing your friendships with those in youth or college groups above those of your coworkers or friends. As a church, we are called to love people within our body. One of the most tangible ways you can do this is by simply reaching out to people on Sunday morning. This is as simple as greeting someone who looks new or lonely and seeking to befriend that person. Additionally, we are expected to love those believers outside of our church walls.

What does it mean that our love should “excel still more?” It means that we should increase in our sympathy for those in need, patience for those who are struggling, and tolerance toward those with whom we disagree. We can’t be satisfied with our past performance. We must excel still more in our love for others. Research shows that when the unchurched are asked what they are looking for in a church, the answer is always the same: They are looking for a caring church. Not just a friendly church, a relevant church, or a church with plenty of programs for the kids. As good and essential as those things are, they don’t touch the deepest heart cry of this generation, which is for a place where they can be loved truly and deeply. When the people of the world find such a place they stand in line to get in. This was the primary attraction of the early church. They had no buildings, no fancy programs, no large budgets, no radio, no TV. They had none of the things that we consider essential for success. Yet nothing could stop them. In just three centuries, Christianity conquered the Roman Empire. How did this happen? It was said of the early Christians, “Behold, how they love one another.” If we want to walk His way, we will love other believers.
[Why should you serve God by loving other believers? It pleases God and serves as a witness to the world.]
3. Serve God by working not meddling (4:11-12).
In this third and final section, Paul argues that our work is a witness. People are watching. We are witnesses! He puts it like this: “And to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave [“walk”] properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.” These challenging words should be understood in the context of 4:13-5:11, which teaches Christ’s return. Furthermore, in 5:14 there is yet another warning against slackness.
o Lead a quiet life. Paul states “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” It is a life that does its best to avoid unnecessary contention and to be at peace with all men insofar as it is humanly possible. The word translated “make it your ambition” (philotimeomai) can also be rendered “aspire.” Paul’s point is: There is a time to share Christ, but more often than not, it is better to listen and draw others out. Don’t have pat answers for all the suffering in the world. Seek to learn from others. Have a pleasant demeanor. Do not have fits of anger or jealousy.
o Mind your own business. Do not be a busybody. Don’t meddle in other people’s affairs. Say no to gossip and slander. You don’t need to know the latest and greatest news on someone else. You have enough to be concerned about yourself.
o Work with your hands. The upper classes of Rome and Greece despised manual labor. That’s why they owned so many slaves. They hated to work with their hands. But Christianity brought in a new ethic based on personal responsibility and hard work. Jesus was a carpenter and Paul himself was a tentmaker! It’s important to understand that Paul isn’t being metaphorical here. He literally worked with his hands as a tentmaker whenever he could so that he could support himself while he preached the gospel. Even though he was highly educated, he didn’t mind hard work in the least and he didn’t find manual labor embarrassing. So Paul says “work with your hands” so that you can provide for the needs of your own family and not give the gospel a black eye. If you’re looking for true welfare reform, it begins right here.
The point is this: God longs for us to use our work as a witness. He wants us to represent Him in our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. As we do so, we will see others drawn to Christ.
Let me say it again: Walk His way. When you walk His way life is not usually easier but God is glorified in and through you, and eventually the world sits up and takes notice. Will you be a Christian who is characterized by sexual purity, love for the brethren, and a godly work ethic? If so, you can change your world. For when you learn to conquer yourself and allow God’s Spirit to reign in and through you, your life and the lives of others will be changed for eternity. Walk His way.

Having a SEXcessful marriage

This would make a great book title—How to Have a SEX-cessful Marriage. In our world, a book with this title could sell millions. Of course, if I ever write such a book I would have to credit the apostle Paul in the acknowledgements. If he were still living, I would also have to share my royalties with him. But truth be known, I would be guilty of plagiarism because I would simply write all of Paul’s ideas in 1 Cor 7:1-5. In this passage Paul is going to answer several questions: What is God’s answer to my sex drive? How do I handle my struggles with self-control? When sexual temptations arise, how can I defeat them? Paul answers all of these questions and more in 1 Cor 7:1-5. In a nutshell, he will command us to satisfy and protect our spouse.

In these first five verses, Paul throws his weight around and exhorts us to fulfill our sexual desires through a loving, sacrificial relationship with our spouse. Paul begins with these words: “Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman” (7:1). Chapter 7 begins a new section of 1 Corinthians. The words, “Now concerning” prepare the reader for Paul’s response to the Corinthians’ question. In the first six chapters of this letter, Paul has been dealing with sinful struggles in the life of the church in Corinth that he had heard about through Chloe’s people (cf. 1:11). But now, beginning in 7:1, Paul is going to respond to a whole series of questions that were addressed to him in a letter from the leadership of the church in Corinth. They were questions about practical issues like marriage, divorce, singleness, food offered to idols, spiritual gifts, public worship, what happens to our bodies when we die, and finally, a concern about an offering to be taken for some believers in Jerusalem who were in poverty. Paul will devote the rest of this letter to answering these questions.

In 7:1b, Paul cites a line from the Corinthians’ letter (“it is good for a man not to touch a woman”), which he intends to qualify and correct. The phrase, “it is good for a man not to touch a woman,” has nothing to do with a hug, a handshake, or any other manifestation of fellowship or friendship. To “touch a woman” is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.  Consequently, various English versions just drop the euphemism and translate “sexual relations” (NET, ESV). The phrase “to touch a woman” is translated “to marry” in the NIV, but this is weak. (The NIV does provide a better alternate reading.) Introducing the idea of marriage confuses the point that the Corinthians were promoting. The mindset of the Corinthians went way beyond issues of marriage or even celibacy. Some were promoting abstinence in the marriage relationship. The natural question is, “Why would the Corinthians not be interested in sex in the context of marriage?” We cannot know for certain, but the most likely suggestion is that there is an aesthetic group in the congregation. They believe that the highest plane of spirituality is to forgo sex.

While this idea seems a bit odd to those of us who live in a sex-saturated society, it coincides with the doctrinal beliefs in Corinth. The Corinthians adhered to a Greek philosophical dualism that prioritizes the spirit over the body. Thus, in 6:12-20, the Corinthians justified sexual immorality because what they did in the body was not as important as what they did in the spirit. But dualism can also lead to a strong asceticism. Those who esteem the soul can argue that it is best for one to deny as many physical needs as possible. Obviously, both of these extremes are unbiblical. Paul compels us to satisfy and protect our spouse.

In 7:2, Paul gives the basic command: Continue to have sexual relations with your spouse. Paul writes, “But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.” The word “but” expresses Paul’s disagreement with the proposition quoted in 7:1. Paul vehemently disagrees that married couples should abstain from sexual pleasure. Paul is not anti-sex; he is pro-marriage! This is confirmed by his use of the verb “to have,” which is a euphemism for sexual relations. In other words, rather than abstaining from sexual relations, Paul’s expectation is that husbands and wives continue in normal sexual relations. Moreover, the word “have” is a present tense command that implies “keep.” Thus, Paul commands, “Let each man live sexually with his wife, and let each wife live sexually with her husband.” The Lord’s provision for sexual immorality is to get married and have frequent sex. Marriage is the answer to immorality of all kinds. Satisfy and protect your spouse.

Paul continues his exhortation and clarification by explaining each spouse’s sexual responsibilities in marriage. In 7:3, he writes, “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.” What does this verse mean? It means what every man hopes it means! For many of us this is one of the greatest verses in the Bible. It is a duty that we delight in. It is the one job that we want to spend overtime at. But before we get too carried away, I want us to notice a number of things: First, Paul begins by addressing husbands. He says it is the husband’s duty to fulfill his wife. Now many of you husbands are saying, “Now this is one Bible verse I’ll be glad to take literally.” Hold your horses! Paul begins with husbands because we are the ones that are ultimately responsible for the sexual relationship. We are the spiritual leaders! Husband, here Paul indicates that you must “fulfill” your wife. This doesn’t just mean sex. It means finding out what she needs, when she needs it, and how she needs it. Of course, I realize that you don’t have a clue how to do this. That’s where communication comes in. You are responsible for facilitating communication with your wife. Ladies, this means that you have to tell your husband how he can “minister” to you. If you do not communicate and respond to him well, he will become disillusioned and frustrated.

Second, Paul begins with husbands because they often neglect to fulfill this command. In marriage counseling, more men struggled to fulfill their duty than vice versa. A big misnomer is that women are the ones that always have a headache. This is not always true. Some men are too tired when it is time for sex. Many men are addicted to porn, which takes away a husband’s sexual drive for his wife. Often, it is just a matter of laziness. Some men know that sex can take a while and they are just lazy, so they fail to fulfill their duty to their wife. Yet, women experience intimacy through sex. Furthermore, when you deprive your wife of sex, she is left feeling like you don’t find her attractive. Husband, satisfy and protect your wife.

Third, Paul honors and elevates women. So many people like to suggest that Paul is a male sexist pig. However, I wonder if these individuals have carefully read the Bible. Like Jesus, Paul always takes a high view of women. In this context, Paul is moving away from the usual Roman norm in which the husband dominated the wife. In Christian marriages, there is a mutuality of relationship. He clearly elevates women and also declares them to be sexual creatures that have desires and needs. Husbands, this means you must meet the sexual needs of your wife. This includes her emotional, mental, and spiritual needs as well. When you put your wife’s needs first, by God’s grace, your sexual needs will be met as well.

Now, wives, this verse also applies to you. You are commanded by God to fulfill your husband’s sexual needs. Paul also makes a point here of using the word “fulfill,” meaning “to make full, to bring to completion, to develop the full potential.” The word fulfill is a present active command. This means that you should ensure that your husband is fully satisfied and vice versa. Ladies, whatever your husband wants that is not immoral or illegal, give it to him. Make sure that your marriage bed is so hot that your husband will not ever go looking elsewhere! There is nothing dirty about this; it is entirely biblical. Why should the world have the greatest sex? The greatest sex should be among married couples who are devoted to Christ. Wife, satisfy and protect your spouse.

Now, please understand, this verse teaches that sex is a delight, but it is also a duty. A “duty” is a moral or legal responsibility or obligation that arises from one’s position. It is the duty of each married person to meet the sexual needs of his or her partner. This means sex should never be used as a bribe or reward for good behavior, or as something to be withheld as a threat or punishment. It is a “duty!” The spouse who withholds sex sins against God and his or her partner.

For instance, let’s say the husband makes sexual overtures to his wife. The Bible teaches that it is her responsibility as his wife to have sex. Why? Because in this case, the husband has a sexual drive, seeking fulfillment and it’s her duty to make sure his needs are met. Therefore, whenever your spouse initiates sex in your direction, make sure you keep in mind that you are under God-given direction to meet your spouse’s sexual needs. This is what you signed up for. You made this commitment before God and mankind. Therefore, before a couple gets married, the question needs to be asked, “Are you willing to be sexually available to your spouse till death do you part?” If the answer is, “Well, I’m not so sure about that,” I would suggest that the couple postpone their marriage or not get married at all.

Let’s catch our breath and pose a question: Which of the two marital partners must be the one to decide if the sexual drives or desires are completely satisfied? The one initiating sex. In other words, the only way a husband can know if he has “fulfilled his duty” as a husband is to ask his wife, “Are your sexual needs fully satisfied? Do you feel loved?” This means, in the bedroom of a married couple anything goes—short of illegal or immoral activity.

How often should sex occur? If the average couple has sex 2-3 times a week, should Christians who are filled with the Holy Spirit and called to live supernatural lives have sex more or less frequently? I’ll give you my personal bias. The more frequent your sex, the stronger your marriage bond.

Why should married partners always fulfill their duty to their spouse? This is a legitimate question that Paul answers in 7:4. “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” God sovereignly takes something away at the point of marriage and gives it as a heavenly wedding present to your spouse. The Lord doesn’t ask you if He can take it, and the Lord doesn’t ask you if you want it. Sovereignly, the Lord takes the authority you have had over your own body as a single individual and removes it from you for as long as you live. The term “authority” in this passage literally means to have rights over or exclusive claim to. In uncomplicated terms, God gave my body to my wife and I have nothing to say about it.

Note that Paul was careful to give both husband and wife equal rights in these verses. He did not regard the man as having sexual rights or needs that the woman does not have or vice versa. So if your wife wants to feel your muscles, let her feel them. If your husband wants to grab your bottom, let him grab it. This principle applies in the sexual realm; however, I also think there is great application in other areas of life. Several examples come to mind: tattoos, piercings, facial hair, length of hair, attire, birth control, body appearance, etc. are all decisions that your husband or wife can veto. We ought to ask, “How can I look better to you? What do you want from me? How can I serve you?”

Paul frequently uses the term “body” (soma) in its broadest, fullest, richest sense. It’s everything we are physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We’re designed by God to be an instrument of communication verbally, nonverbally, emotionally, physically, and sexually. The physical expression of sex as communication is enjoyed in the larger context of verbal communication. The greatest sexual fulfillment comes gradually over the long haul in a marriage, as a couple learns to talk about anything, any time; when there’s heart-to-heart communication, not just talking at each other, but listening actively and sensitively, caring deeply about the communication. How are you doing in these areas today?

If I were to ask your spouse, what would he or she say? Would your spouse be fulfilled and pleased by how you are treating her body or his body?

Our passage closes in 7:5 with these potent words: “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” The word translated “stop depriving” literally means “do not rob one another,” or “do not do fraud to one another.” The word means to cheat somebody out of what is properly theirs. If you withhold your body when your partner seeks sex, it is biblical fraud. We have failed to satisfy and protect our spouse.

Paul writes that we may deprive each other of sex under only four conditions. First, sex can be withheld when you both agree. You can’t decide by yourself to deprive your spouse of sex. Both of you must agree not to have sex in order to fit into this exception. Here’s how this may work in real life: Let’s say that last night your spouse rolled over in bed and made a sexual advance. Because you had a long and exhausting day, you said, “I’m really tired tonight. Would it be alright with you if we waited until tomorrow night? If not, sweetheart, you know that tonight is okay too. What would you like?”

Biblically speaking, who has the final say in this decision? The initiating partner always has the final say. If your spouse wants sex, even after hearing your request, he or she still has authority over your body. However, just because your body belongs to your spouse doesn’t mean you don’t have the freedom to negotiate! When the initiating partner hears a willing but tired attitude of acceptance rather than rejection, understanding should be forthcoming.

Second, sex can be deprived when you both agree to delay it for a time. Whenever a couple mutually agrees to deprive one another of sexual intimacy, the two must agree when they will have sex. To agree only to “not tonight” would not be following the biblical pattern. Scripture uses a very specific Greek word (kairos) for time here, which means a specific period of time.

Third, sex can be set aside to devote yourselves to prayer. This certainly presents a clear and rather unusual freedom for depriving yourself of sexual relations in modern society. The only biblical purpose for depriving yourselves of sex is to devote yourselves to sharing a spiritual focus in your marriage.

Finally, sex can be deprived until the two of you agree to come together again. The Bible quickly brings us back to the reality that sexual intimacy is to be the norm and never the exception. Always remember, we are called to satisfy and protect our spouse.

Now, there are two important realities to keep in mind. First, if you deprive each other you open yourself to attack. Paul blatantly states that in sexual matters, you must come together after an agreed upon time of sexual abstinence, or you will open yourself up to satanic attack. After a period of time without sex, you are to come together again. If you don’t, Satan will come against you with temptations to commit sexual immorality. The longer sex is postponed in the marital partnership, the greater the risk of temptation.

Please take this very seriously. Satan is not a pushover. He is real and he is powerful. He holds millions firmly in his bondage. And he is seeking more all the time. In one of his sermons, Pastor John Piper tells a story of the experience of one of his members. On an airline flight, the person sitting next to this individual turned down a meal, and when asked why he said that he was fasting and praying to Satan. When asked what he was praying for, he said, the breakdown of ministers’ marriages. If you were a Satan worshiper, and you wanted to know what the goals of your master were so that you would know how to pray, where would you go to learn? You would go to the Bible, because the Bible gives a true picture of what Satan is about in the world. And you would learn that, among other things, he is about the destruction of marriages. He is totally committed to adultery, and all the personal problems that lead to it. When you battle with sexual temptation, you battle against Satan. Not because he creates the desire, but because he so powerfully and deceptively uses the desire.

As married couples, we must guard our marriages from Satan. He is seeking to devour the marriage bed. Therefore, don’t let him into your bed. Imagine this common scenario: A couple in bed with their back turned to each other and plenty of space in between. Guess who can slither right into the marriage bed? A simple way to avoid this is being close before you drift off to sleep. Roll over and cuddle your partner every night. Put your head on his or her chest or shoulder. Play “footsies.” If these intimate moments lead to making love…wonderful. But regardless, you’ve shared some intimate moments and are taking one additional step to protect the marriage bed.

Second, you lack self-control when you deprive each other of sex. What happens to married individuals when they don’t have sex for a period of days? Satan tempts you, taking advantage of your lack of self-control. Depriving your spouse of sexual relations results in more than immediate, short-lived frustration. Continued postponement of sexual relations within a marriage places very real and unnecessary pressure on a spouse.

Sexual response and impulse touches us more than physically, it also touches us emotionally and spiritually because God made us that way. We have to avoid two opposite evils: on the one hand, the Victorian prudishness that wants to deny sex, call it something dirty, and lock it away; and on the other hand, the more modern hedonism that tells us sex is an absolute good and that we ought to pursue our sexual impulses no matter what.

If we Christians ignore sex, we will surrender it to those very cultural perversions and give the impression that sex itself is bad because it’s so abused. But you can’t fix what is wrong by simply negating or ignoring it. Nobody lives in the world of “no.” We all have to know how to say “Yes” in the right way. It’s not enough to be people who hate evil; we must also be people who love good, and we must teach our children to love good. A pastor mentioned recently that he heard a non-Christian describe Christians as “people who say ‘No’ to everything and go to a lot of meetings.” Ouch. We’re much better at saying what not to do than what to do. Sexuality is deeply perverted in our culture. But we have to do more than negate the negative. We also have to articulate powerfully the joy of God’s way, to show the beauty of holiness.

Taking care of God’s bod

As of October 2006, there were three times as many professional tanning parlors in the U.S. as there were Starbucks. In 2013, about 20 percent of high school girls and 5 percent of high school boys had sought out some form of indoor tanning at least once in the previous year, according to the latest poll. This represented a drop from 25 percent of girls and nearly 7 percent of boys who had done so in 2009. On their own, these numbers may not seem surprising or even noteworthy. But they become dangerous when placed in the light of a recent medical discovery. Since 1975, the occurrence of melanoma—the most lethal form of skin cancer—has doubled in the United States among women ages 15-29. The World Health Organization is also taking notice. It estimates that 60,000 people die each year around the world because of excessive UV exposure, and urges youths under the age of 18 to avoid indoor tanning.

But many experts fear that teenagers will not change their behavior, even in the light of such dangerous consequences. In a Time magazine article from last August, two 16-year-old girls were interviewed. One girl said, “All the girls who are really tanned all through the year—they’re the popular girls. Guys are always complimenting girls on their tans.” Another girl who visits a tanning parlor several times a week acknowledged that she is willing to risk her health for short-term rewards. Her rationale, “It may make my skin wrinkle a little bit earlier, but I’m going to look good while I can.”

Short-term pleasure leads to long-term disaster. Nowhere is this truer than in the area of sexual immorality. For a few minutes of pleasure, countless men and women will throw their lives away. Just think for a moment about the potential consequences of sexual sin: loss of fellowship with God, divorce, disease, pregnancy, guilt, estrangement from family and friends, psychological and financial loss, damage to one’s reputation, and countless others. Indeed, there is no sin in this life with such brutal consequences. This reality ought to keep us from sexual sin. Yet, if we are honest, most of us assume that we will be the exception to these consequences. Honestly, we believe that these things will never happen to us. So we go on our own merry way, sinning. Therefore, the apostle Paul uses another approach in helping us overcome sexual immorality. He uses a positive affirmation: “Your body is God’s body.” In 1 Cor 6:12-20, Paul provides two ways that we can honor God with our bodies.

  1. Refuse to be mastered by your body(6:12). In this opening verse, Paul shares a principle that governs this entire passage. He argues that he and the Corinthians have certain freedom in Christ, but these are to be used for our good and God’s glory. Paul writes, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” In this verse, Paul seems to be adapting and qualifying (“but”) a saying for his own purposes. Twice Paul writes, “All things are lawful for me.” There is a sense in which this is true. God’s world is to be enjoyed. Everything created by God is good, including sex. Yet, sex outside of marriage is not profitable and can lead to being mastered. Paul wants the Corinthian Christians to feel free to enjoy God’s world. But he does not want them to press their freedom so far that they do damage to themselves. Immorality breaks marriages, shatters homes, brings agonies of guilt, and damages usefulness beyond repair. We are free, but sin still has serious consequences. We must constantly ask ourselves questions about what is expedient. Will what I am planning help my health? My emotional state? My spiritual sensitivity? My understanding of God and His Word? Will it damage someone else? Will it damage another person’s conscience? Will it affect the church’s testimony?

Freedom does not mean the absence of constraints or moral absolutes. Suppose a skydiver at 10,000 feet announces to the rest of the group, “I’m not using a parachute this time. I want freedom!” The fact is that a skydiver is constrained by a greater law—the law of gravity. But when the skydiver chooses the “constraint” of the parachute, he is free to enjoy the exhilaration. God’s moral laws act the same way: they restrain, but they are absolutely necessary to enjoy the exhilaration of real freedom. [God wants to be glorified in your body and He wants the best for you, so He urges you to refuse to be mastered by your body. For your body is God’s body.]

  1. Refuse to dishonor God with your body(6:13-20). In these eight verses, Paul argues that sexual immorality is an offense against God the Father (6:13-14), the Lord Jesus Christ (6:15-17), and the Holy Spirit (6:18-20). In 6:13-14, Paul argues that sexual immorality is an offense against God the Father. He launches into this discussion by explaining the two ways to a man’s heart: food and sex. He writes, “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.” This passage is not about food; it is about sexual immorality. Nevertheless, Paul contrasts the two to emphasize how God values the human body. Unfortunately, many Corinthians did not believe in the resurrection of the physical body, so Paul devoted an entire chapter to this doctrine in 1 Corinthians 15. Here, he simply insists that food and the stomach are temporal, but the physical body is eternal. Paul states that our bodies are designed for the Lord. We can no longer talk about “my body.” Your body is God’s body. And God will one day raise your earthly body. This means what we do in our bodies in this life matters greatly to God.

In the following verses we will be especially reminded that the sexual revolution was not invented in the 21st century. Believers in this first-century church in Corinth also had to struggle with how to be faithful to God in a totally permissive society. In 6:15-20, Paul will use the rhetorical question, “Do you not know” three times. He is going to urge you and me to live out what we know. In 6:15-17, Paul will explain that sexual immorality is an offense against Jesus Christ. Paul writes, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be!” Three times in this one verse, Paul uses the word “members.” He reminds us that the moment we believed in Jesus Christ we were grafted into His body. We are now members of Christ. Hence, it is unthinkable to Paul that we would ever be sexually immoral. Since we are members with Christ, we take Christ with us wherever we go and whatever we do.

You may be saying to yourself, “Paul is talking about paying a prostitute for sexual favors. That’s disgusting. I would never do that. There’s no love involved—just lust. But there’s no way you can compare that to the relationship I have with my boyfriend or girlfriend.” Fair observation, but I don’t think it releases you. Even though there is undoubtedly a moral distinction between a one-night stand with a street-walker and a passionate interlude with a steady date, sin is still sin. I don’t think anyone would want to argue that since armed robbery is worse than shoplifting, petty theft is OK. Yes, it is true that Paul is addressing the specific issue of prostitution in 6:15-16, but the theme of the whole passage is clearly broader. The Greek word for “immorality” (porneia) deals with all kinds of sexual immorality.

In 6:16-17, Paul continues his argument and writes, “Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, ‘THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.’” But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” The word “joins” or “unites” (NIV) is used in each of these verses. The Greek word was used for gluing. An immoral man glues himself to an immoral woman. A believer, on the other hand, should glue himself to the Lord. Why do you think the word “glue” is used of sexual relationships? After all, aren’t many sex acts purely physical, without any real personal involvement? No. Paul says it is impossible to have a physical-only sexual relationship. There is no such thing as casual sex, inconsequential sex, or recreational sex. The sexual act is such an intimate act that it involves and affects the whole person. And he quotes the Old Testament to prove his point. In Gen 2:24, God says of the sexual act, “the two will become one flesh or one personality.” We dare not dismiss sex as inconsequential. Your body is God’s body. When you have a sexual relationship with someone who is not your spouse, you glue yourself to another instead of God.

The last three verses bring tremendous encouragement about the resources God has given us to live a life of sexual purity. It starts with two warnings in 6:18: “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.” Verse 18 offers the first command of our passage: “Flee immorality.” It is a present imperative and should be translated, “Keep on fleeing” or “Make it your habit to flee!” The Bible’s advice for avoiding sexual immorality is simple: stay as far away as possible from the persons and places and things likely to get you in trouble. Real men and women run! They don’t stand in and fight. How can we go about guarding ourselves from temptation? The following commitments will definitely help keep us pure.

Watch television and movies selectively. It is nearly impossible to watch anything on network or cable TV without being bombarded by sexual content or images. In 2006, Time magazine reported a 96 percent increase in TV scenes with sexual content in the past few years, according to a survey of programming from a broad sampling of shows. When you go back and see the reruns of “Cheers,” “Seinfeld, and “Friends,” you can see the steady increase in overt and covert sexual material. Now zero in on shows out today and you wonder how much more gratuitous can it get. And we tend to anesthetize ourselves to it. Thus, if you are going to watch TV, do so with a purpose. Do not just aimlessly channel surf. When you go to a theater, make sure you’ve read the reviews on the movie you are going to see. When you go out of town on business trips, it is wise to watch TV blocking out the adult movies in the hotel room.

Monitor your Internet use. Internet pornography is the most insidious sin of our day. Every man, woman, and child is vulnerable to Internet pornography. The Justice Department estimates that 9 of 10 children between the ages of 8 and 16 have been exposed to pornography online. Software Company Symantec found that 47 percent of school-age children receive pornographic spam on a daily basis. And representatives from the pornography industry told Congress’ COPA (Child Online Protection Act) Commission that as much as 20 to 30 percent of the traffic to some pornographic websites is children. We must always be on guard! Wise parents do not allow their children to have their own computer in their room. It is also appropriate to have your computer in a visible part of your house. Additionally, it is wise to put a moral filter on all computers through www.xxx.church and www.covenanteyes.com.

Find an accountability partner. It is nearly impossible to stay pure without having an accountability partner. Every Christian needs a godly person of the same sex to ask the hard questions. One such question is, “Are you feeling attracted to anyone at work, church, or anywhere else?” The goal must be to answer this question honestly. It is better to feel a twinge of embarrassment than to find yourself in an emotional or physical affair. If your accountability partner knows who you are attracted to, he or she can help keep you away from that person at church. Your accountability partner may also help by encouraging you to change jobs or change offices to flee a person who has a grip on you. Note: In accountability relationships, it is wise to occasionally ask, “Have you just lied to me?” It is so easy to justify immoral behavior in our own minds or just flat-out lie to save face.

In 6:18, Paul is putting sexual sin in a category all its own. All the sins in the world are put in one column and sexual sin is put in another. All sins are outside the body except sexual infidelity, which alone is a sin against one’s own body. While immorality is not necessarily the worst sin, sexual sin is unique in its character. Like a malignant cancer to the body, immorality internally destroys the soul like no other sin. Therefore, we must flee from it. If we allow ourselves to succumb to immorality, we will be guilty of destroying our own body and the bodies of other partners. We must purge ourselves from the sins that do bodily damage.

Paul closes our passage in 6:19-20 with the crux of his argument: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” There are three important points in these last two verses. First, we are a temple of God. In 1 Cor 3:16-17, the local church is called the “temple.” Here, the same Greek word (naos) is used of the individual Christian. The term used in both passages for “temple” is not the word for a pagan temple, or even for the Jewish temple structure and grounds; rather, it refers to the Holy of Holies, the most sacred place for the people of God in the Old Testament. Paul is saying that God Himself is resident within us. Your body is His mailing address and P.O. Box. He dwells in YOU!

You would probably never consider committing an act of sexual immorality in a church sanctuary, right? But the fact is, as disgusting as that would be, it would be no worse for a Christian than committing the same sin anywhere else. A church building is never called a Holy of Holies, but the believer’s body is. What a difference it would make if we lived with this realization. If the body is a house for the Holy Spirit it should only be used for the very best purposes. We should not allow anything or anyone to spoil it or misuse it. We should keep it in good condition. The Christian is to have a certain “pride” in his or her body. It is a sacred house, a dwelling place for God. To glorify God is to acknowledge God, to bring Him honor, to get others to see how glorious He is.

The best place for sex education is the home. The second best place for sex education is the church. Sex education in the church might begin by seeking to cultivate a deep awareness of the indwelling presence of God.  This is a far greater motivator than the scare tactics that Christians have used down throughout time. The best motivation is to encourage Christians to seek a greater good—God’s glory.

The second word of good news is in the middle of 6:19: We have been given the Holy Spirit as a gift. We have received Him, and He lives inside of us, ready to help us in our battle against sin. One of the words for Holy Spirit in the New Testament is parakaleo, which means “counselor” or “helper.” We have been given a divine resource in the battle against the flesh and against sexual sin. We don’t have to be in bondage, because we have the power of the Spirit of God within us to supernaturally help us resist temptation. It is possible to live a life of sexual purity, especially as we rely on the Holy Spirit who gives us strength to abstain from our fleshly lusts.

Finally, we have been bought with a price, and we’re not our own. Paul’s image does not picture a slave being sold to a god and being set free, but being transferred by sale from one owner to another. Formerly, we were slaves of sin, now we are slaves to God (Rom 6:16-23; 7:6). Your body is God’s body. So we have no right to pervert or misuse our bodies sexually, because they don’t belong to us to do with what we will. We’re not the masters of our bodies anymore. Your body is God’s body. Verse 20 teaches that we have been purchased by God at tremendous cost, the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross for us. And that blood has cleansed us from sin. In light of this great purchase price, Paul commands us to glorify God through sexual purity, out of gratitude for what Jesus did. This means to show God off, to make Him look good.

So we have the privilege of living lives that honor God physically, emotionally, relationally—in every possible way. Being sexually pure does affect our relationships with each other, but ultimately it’s about the Lord. He is the only one to whom we owe adoration and ultimate obedience. This is an amazing reality—God can be glorified in the choices we make in expressing our sexuality. The Lord is honored when we resist sexual temptation. And He is also glorified when we express our sexuality in beautifully appropriate ways, in the marriage relationship. The call in this passage is to renounce dishonoring God with our bodies, and to rejoice in and to embrace what we’re called to, in glorifying God with our physical bodies. And God is committed to working in us to make us sexually pure, consistent, integrated, whole people.

But you may say, “Wayne, this is an impossible expectation. We live in a sexually saturated society. Lower the bar. Give me something realistic to shoot for.” My flesh might like to, but the Bible will not permit this. Instead, the Bible exhorts us to strive for perfection.

One of the greatest examples of a man of purity and conviction is former NBA player A.C. Green. At 6’9” 224 pounds, Green is the epitome of strength and stamina. He holds the NBA record for consecutive games played. He is an “iron man.” More importantly, Green was an iron man in his sexual purity. He married at the age of 38 as a virgin. In the fast and loose world of the NBA, where gorgeous young women are a constant temptation, that’s a remarkable record.

During his rookie year with the Los Angeles Lakers, A.C.’s teammates said he’d never be able to keep his vow to save sex for marriage. “We’re going to give you six weeks,” they told A.C., according to a Sports Illustrated article. “You’ll see this girl come into the Forum. You’ll start getting your paychecks.” A.C. has seen plenty of girls and paychecks—and remained abstinent all along. “Abstinence before marriage is something I very much believe in,” A.C. says. “Responsibility is the main issue, being responsible for the decisions that you make, realizing that every decision has a consequence.” Green said, “I made the decision as a teenager to be abstinent. I wanted to take control of my future. It wasn’t a popular decision then, just like it can be an unpopular decision now. It doesn’t always make me more friends. But the friends I have are true friends. True to themselves and true to me. We know each other’s goals and dreams and we encourage each other to achieve them. It isn’t easy. But every single day I say ‘yes’ to abstinence, it becomes that much easier. If you make a decision, and you practice it, that practice turns into a habit and the habit becomes a lifestyle.”

Today, Green has his own ministry that teaches abstinence in the public schools. If A.C. Green can be sexually pure living life as an NBA player, by God’s grace, we can remain pure.

Now there’s a final issue we must touch upon. It comes in the form of a question: What should I do if I have already blown it? I’m sure many of you wish you had heard this truth earlier, or perhaps even more did hear it and wish you had obeyed it. A message like this can bring painful memories to the surface and perhaps a great deal of guilt along with it. Married person, if you’ve already committed adultery; men, if you are in bondage to pornography; women, if you are living a fantasy sex life through soap operas or romance novels, let me suggest three important things you can do.

  1. Confess the sin; God is able and willing to forgive you. The first and most important one to confess to is God Himself. Sin against God is so much greater than the sin against anyone else that the other victims pale into insignificance. The question of confession to others besides God is a difficult one. However, I do believe it may be wise to write a letter to those people you have been sexually immoral with and state 1) I have sinned against God. 2) I have sinned against you. 3) Will you please forgive me? After writing such a letter, sever all ties with this person. This may bring the closure that you need.
  1. Purpose in your heart to quit now. Some people are tempted to say, “I’m already guilty. I’ve blown it. What difference does it make now? One more act of fornication isn’t going to make me any worse.” Don’t kid yourself. Sexual sin is cumulative in its damaging effects, much like carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide stays in a person’s system for a long time, with the result that a non-lethal dose can sometimes kill because of the accumulation of poison in the system. A second act of immorality is not a freebee—it compounds the sin of the first one, spreads the cancer a little further, and eats away at a little more of one’s personality and spirit. The only way to deal with such sin is immediately, radically, permanently, and in complete dependence upon God. Covenant with God that you will never let it happen again. Ask Him to give you strength. Become accountable to someone.
  1. If not guilty yourself, be willing to forgive others who are. “But you don’t understand, Wayne, my wife’s infidelity was a breach of faith so traumatic I will never be able to forgive.” “My husband’s addiction to pornography has been so degrading I will never be able to trust him again.” I have just one question for you: “How much has God forgiven you?” Was this sin in the life of your husband, wife, child, closest friend, any worse than the cumulative sins you have committed? And has God forgiven you? You may not think you can forgive, but the Lord can change your heart. Forgiveness is not just a feeling; it is a decision to do what God does for you every day!

Sexual allurement is extremely enticing and powerful. It promises nothing but pleasure and satisfaction. But it rarely delivers what it promises. It claims to be real living but is actually the way to death. I want us to take a few moments this morning and individually do business with God. No one knows your heart but you and God. If you need to confess something to God, if you need to flee, or if you need to forgive, now is the time to make a commitment to do exactly that.