‘If one part suffers, every part suffers with it…’ (1 Corinthians 12:26 NIV) This scripture has huge implications when it comes to sexual purity in the church. It is not possible for half of the body to be free and not the other. Police don’t have to bind the whole body to take someone into custody. Cuff the hands and they can usually control the rest. While lust has some of us in custody, it has all of us in custody. Sexual purity is everybody’s business.
It is important to realise that only grace can save us. We haven’t got it within ourselves to win this battle. All society is against us: movies, TV, advertisements, music, videos… We receive grace for sexual purity when we pray for someone else’s freedom with the same concern and fervency we have for our own. When this type of prayer is accompanied by responsible accountability God’s grace abounds. Responsible accountability fosters an atmosphere of holiness and approaches failure with genuine concern. Accountability is ineffective when the people involved casually swap weekly lust stories without alarm or unease.
Good definitions also play an important part in the fight for sexual purity. The ambiguity of
pornography has allowed it to sneak into many lives. Porn is not ‘out there’, it’s within. Our heart and mind are where porn lives, not in the Playboy Mansion or xxx websites. Sexual imagery and associated acts are simply food for the pornographic mind. Consider a man being tempted in front of a computer screen. Do the images desire him or does he desire the images? Who is doing the consuming? His desire is where the issue is.
It’s no secret that a man can mentally undress a woman, therefore, porn can be any image. The pornographic mind is not restricted by clothing or conscience. Titus 1:15 tells us, ‘To the pure all things are pure’. The opposite is also true, ‘To the impure all things are impure’. The pornographic mind can gather images from church on Sunday as easily as from the beach on Saturday. The whole aim of lust is to consume. There is no ‘other’ in lust; there is only itself and the object it seeks to devour. Once lust has started to feed it will ask for more. It is unable to be satisfied. And this is where things get serious. Left to run its course, lust will eventually consume everything: your respect, your dignity, your time, your job, your money, your marriage and family relationships, maybe even your life.
Lust isn’t always obvious. It can subtly hide in ‘clicking on’ stories about certain models and
celebrities, reading the ‘Body and soul’ section of the newspaper, ‘keeping an eye out for specials’ in the Saturday clothing catalogues, that ‘second look’ while walking through the shopping centre, attention to certain TV commercials, and that all-time favourite, ‘I’m just appreciating the female form’. We must see lust as any sexual gratification taken from anything or anyone other than your wife.
Honest people know their limits. They know what situations will make them stumble and avoid them with the seriousness Christ demands of us. ‘If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out… if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off…’ (Matthew 5:29-30). – Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners, p. 51
Sexual purity requires Matthew 5:29-30 obedience. We must ‘pluck out’ and avoid the things that cause us to lust. If we have to remove the internet cable, then we must do it. If we have to cancel pay TV or get rid of our TV altogether, then we must do it. If we have to stop going to water fun parks, then we must do it. We must learn to ‘bounce the eyes’ every time. If all this seems a bit extreme we need to realise these are extreme times. The must-read book Every Young Man’s Battle says it well: ‘A search for the comfortable middle ground is an inadequate approach to God.
We must count the cost of purity – and pay it. If we don’t kill every hint of immorality, we’ll be captured by our tendency as males to draw sexual gratification and chemical highs through our eyes.’ (WaterBrook Press, p. 52-53) Sexual purity has a deep connection with worship. Sexual purity, especially in our culture, is probably the greatest act of worship a man can offer. According to Genesis 22, the core of worship is obedience and sacrifice, not music. ‘Worship’ is the word verse 5 uses to describe Abraham’s costly decision to obey God and sacrifice his son Isaac. It’s important to note: if it’s easy to do, it’s not a sacrifice.
Something can only be a sacrifice if it costs us; the word is meaningless otherwise. Think of sexual purity in the context of Abraham’s worship. Does it require radical obedience? Is it
difficult? Sexual purity fits the criteria for worship big time! James 1:14 warns that each one of us will be ‘dragged away and enticed’. Emotional altar calls, concerts and conferences will not stop James 1:14 from happening. Using Abraham’s definition of worship can help us immensely in times of temptation. When we see our enticement as an opportunity for serious worship we will find the strength to sacrifice our desires.
Sexual purity is a grand opportunity to worship God. Our sexually charged society is seeking to take us captive. More than ever, it’s time to close ranks and pray for each other. It’s time to practise responsible accountability. It’s time to worship.