God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor— not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways…God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8
When I was growing up, it was pretty much a given in my circle: sex outside of marriage was wrong. Live pure. Stay pure.
I know not everyone (probably way more than I even realized in my little naïve mind) lived by my morals, but it seems those days have fallen by the wayside. Instead of expecting that kids—and adults, too—will live a pure lifestyle, the expectation is that no one stays pure. The expectation is that you have sex outside of marriage, that nothing is unacceptable.
As I lived the single-again life for most of the last decade, I realized just how sex-saturated our world had become…even in the Christian circles in which I ran. Singles groups I attended were more like a meat market or a hook-up group. Online dating? I was too scared to stay long. Even the “Christian” online dating sites scared me away, with men making lewd comments from the beginning.
I wondered where the days of living holy, living in honor, holding our bodies and our sexuality in high esteem had gone.
But they are gone. Long gone.
Pornography is at our fingertips every moment of every day. Television and movies are filled with steamy love scenes and we don’t blink an eye. Some movies even seem to glorify sexual abuse (Ok. I admit. I’ve only seen the trailer for Fifty Shades of Gray and I couldn’t even watch it without squirming in my seat.). There’s no escape from sex in this openly sexual world in which we live.
And yet, God in His infinite wisdom calls us to be different from the world, different from our culture. He calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, to live as strangers and aliens in this world. And that’s exactly how this world sees us if we are choosing purity as a lifestyle.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. … The body, however, 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 himself? … Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
I love that. I have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial. Our bodies are meant for the Lord who is in us, who has bought us with a price. Isn’t that motivation and reason enough to live holy, pure, blameless?
I hope it hits you as much as it does me. God loves us, and He knows that living by the standards of this world is not beneficial for us. It causes a fracturing of the soul when we give ourselves away, when we make sex cheap instead of the amazing gift it was meant to be.
Let’s be honest, though: living in purity is hard. Really hard. Even if we choose to protect our minds. Even if we flee every type of sexual impurity. Even if we set no wicked thing before our eyes. Even if we set our minds on Christ and living His way.
It’s still easy to let that hint of sexual impurity slip in, to steal away our greatest of intentions, our solemn choice to live God’s way.
I get emails all the time.
“I messed up. I had sex with this man.”
“My husband left me, and I can’t believe what I did.”
“What now? Am I condemned to a life of celibacy because I failed to follow God’s standards?”
“I didn’t mean to, but I let it go too far. I mean, we didn’t have sex but we were awfully close…”
Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. Psalm 51:1-2
I get it. I totally get it.
I don’t think I was prepared for the battle after my divorce. Before I was married the first time, it was actually pretty easy. Very little temptation.
I’m not sure exactly what it is after you’ve been down that road, but it’s much harder. I don’t know if it’s the loneliness, the loss of physical touch, or something else. I do know anger at God and uncertainty about living for Him played into it for me. Regardless, I know living in purity was much harder for me the second time around.
But it is possible.
Are you one of those that missed the mark, that has walked the road of sexual impurity? Are you struggling with where you fit in God’s plan now that you’ve gone too far? Are you wondering about your future?
Here’s what I have to say to you:
Forgiveness is an amazing gift! I love Hosea 6:1! My paraphrase is simply, “How can we experience His healing if we’ve never experienced pain?” The same goes for forgiveness. How can we experience His great mercy, His unfathomable grace, His immeasurable forgiveness if we’ve never experienced the grief, the pain, the remorse of coming face-to-face with our sins, with our failures in this life. The waves of His grace flow over us as we drown in the ocean of His forgiveness. There’s no gift more precious, more valuable, than the forgiveness that He offers us by the blood of His Son. And, maybe, just maybe, it takes some great sin to help us understand the value of His forgiveness.
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me— now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Psalm 51:7-9
Forgiveness is total and complete. God doesn’t do anything partially; He only extends full and complete forgiveness. His forgiveness removes our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and He remembers our sins no more (Isaiah 43:25). He makes it as if we never sinned before, making us as pure as we were before we were tarnished by our sins. There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
Forgiveness completely restores your standing with God. When our sins are completely wiped away, we have the freedom of standing in the presence of our all holy God, knowing we have been made pure, complete, right with Him. He restores our hearts, our minds, our joy. He takes our sins and our guilt. He allows us the privilege of basking in His presence. What an incredible gift!
Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. … Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Psalm 51:10-12
Can I just tell you that falling to impurity is not the unpardonable sin? Just like greed or anger or hatred or bitterness or gluttony or pride, sexual impurity is sin. Sin is serious business, but sexual impurity is not worse in God’s eyes than any other sin. He has the power—and the desire—to wipe all of our sins away and give us a fresh start.
But, when you experience His forgiveness, don’t forget to thank Him by living His way.
I will be careful to live a blameless life—when will you come to help me? I will lead a life of integrity in my own home. I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them. Psalm 101:2-3
Maybe you’ve stumbled, fallen, done a full-blown nose-dive into the sins of sexual impurity. Let it be the springboard to a beautiful future basking in the grace of our Savior.