Wise vs. Wild Contrast #10: Sexual Conduct
Her sexual behavior
Girl-Gone-Wild: Impure & Dishonorable
Girl-Gone-Wise: Pure & Honorable
Girl-Gone-Wild: “… and kisses him.” Proverbs 7:13
Girl-Gone-Wise: She controls her body in holiness and honor, and does not wrong her brother in this. 1 Thessalonians 4:4-6*
The moral climate in the Roman Empire was not healthy. Sexual promiscuity was common. People got divorced on a whim. The Roman philosopher Seneca observed, “Women were married to be divorced and divorced to be married.” Romans traditionally identified the years by the names of their consuls-but fashionable Roman women identified the years by the names of their husbands. One historian quotes an instance of a woman who had eight husbands in five years.
Promiscuity and adultery also saturated Greek culture. One writer admitted, “We keep prostitutes for pleasure; we keep mistresses for the day-to-day needs of the body; we keep wives for the begetting of children and for the faithful guardianship of our homes.” There was no shame whatsoever in extra-marital relationships.
It was to new believers in this sex-crazed Roman and Greek culture that Paul wrote the following passage:
“Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.
For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”
1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
The young believers in the church in Thessalonica were trying to figure out what their new faith meant. Some undoubtedly had promiscuous sexual histories and were carting around a bunch of sexual baggage. They reasoned that they ought to indulge their passions and pursue sexual pleasure, and that it was completely acceptable to do so outside the confines of marriage. Though they had accepted Christ, they still had a very ungodly perspective on sex.
Paul challenges them to bring their thinking and behavior in line with the gospel of Jesus Christ. He reminds them of 5 things the Lord wants believers to do:Â 1) Abstain from sexual immorality, 2) Aim for increased sexual purity, 3) Control your body in holiness and honor, 4) Don’t sexually defraud others, and 5) Don’t disregard the importance of sexual conduct.
1. Abstain from sexual immorality
Immorality translates the Greek word porneia, from which we get our English word pornography. It means sexual unfaithfulness. It refers to any type of illicit sex that takes place outside of a (heterosexual) marriage covenant. Paul tells the believers to abstain from sexual immorality. In other words, he says, “Christians don’t sleep around outside of marriage! Staying out of bed with someone you aren’t married to is the bare minimum, Christianity 101, baseline sexual standard for followers of Jesus. If you’ve been sleeping around, stop sleeping around. Abstain. Give it up. That’s what Jesus expects you to do.”
2. Aim for increased sexual purity
The Lord doesn’t just ask us to refrain from illicit sexual intercourse. He asks us to aspire to increasingly higher standards of sexual purity. That’s why “How far is too far” really isn’t the right question. He doesn’t want us to ask how close to immorality we can get without crossing the line. He wants our sexual conduct to become more and more holy. Paul encourages the Thessalonians to pursue sexual purity-and to “do so more and more.”
Sexual impurity is a sin that the Lord often lists alongside the sins of immorality and sensuality. The word literally means “uncleanness.” It means dirty, common, and ordinary. Â Purity is the exact opposite. It means clean, uncommon, and extraordinary-set apart. As we grow in Christ, our understanding of and desire for sexual purity will also grow. It won’t happen overnight, but as we are sanctified to become more like Jesus, our sexual conduct will become increasingly clean, extraordinary, and set apart for Him. The Lord doesn’t want you to settle for dirty, common ordinary sex. He wants you to reach higher. He wants you to nudge the bar up from where it is now.Â He wants you to constantly aim for increased sexual purity.
3. Control your body in holiness and honor
Sexual purity takes self-control. It requires that we don’t mindlessly follow our sexual passions, like people who don’t know God. The Lord wants us to control our sexual impulses. He wants us to intentionally rein them in and submit them to Him. He has bestowed His Holy Spirit upon us-the Spirit of power, love, and self-control-to help us discipline ourselves, and control our bodies and sexual passions in a holy and honorable way. (2Timothy 1:7)
4. Don’t Sexually Defraud Men
Paul advises the Thessalonians to ensure “that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter.” The Greek word is also translated “defraud.” It means to overreach or overstep; to go beyond. It carries the implication of selfish personal gain. Defrauding a brother is overstepping the line to take something that is not yours to take. The Girl-Gone-Wild of Proverbs 7 defrauded the young man. She seized him and kissed him when she had no right to.Â His compliance or approval is inconsequential. She still wronged him. She wronged him when she overstepped God’s idea of what was appropriate. Whenever you interact with a man who is not your spouse in a way that you should only interact with your spouse, you not only sin against God, you also wrong your brother.
5. Don’t disregard the importance of sexual conduct
Sex is a big deal to God. Paul warns the new believers not to underestimate or disregard the importance of their sexual conduct. He told the believers in Corinth the same thing:
“The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body . . .Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:13-20
Wrongful sexual conduct violates your covenant relationship with Jesus. It’s serious stuff. It has serious consequences. Paul implies that it has greater consequences than other types of sin. Over my years of ministering to women, I have found this to be the case. Because sexual immorality is an assault on your womanhood, it damages you in a way that other sins do not. When you sin sexually, you sin against your own body. You fracture your God-given identity. There is always great hope in the power of Christ’s redemption. But those who engage in sexual sin dig themselves into a very deep pit from which it is often exceedingly difficult to climb out. In my experience, Satan capitalizes on sexual sin and establishes spiritual ties, footholds and strongholds that require extensive spiritual warfare to overcome. So if you haven’t wandered down the path of sexual sin, please don’t. If you have, realize that God has the power to heal, and that He will fight with you to redeem what you have lost. But realize too, that the scars will remain for some time, and that you will face battles that you would not have had to face had you remained sexually pure.
© Mary A. Kassian
This is a pre-publication excerpt from “Girls Gone Wise in a World gone Wild,” © Mary A. Kassian to be published by Moody Publishers in 2010. All rights reserved. You are welcome to link to this post, but please do not copy and/or reproduce this copyrighted material without express written permission of Moody Publishing.