“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)
I was talking with one of my single readers yesterday who said that it was no trouble to stay celibate. But just refraining from sex isn’t enough if we are to follow these instructions from the Lord, given to Paul. We must guard our eyes whenever they wander to another’s body, in a magazine, on TV or in real life. We must also watch our thoughts when we’re watching movies with sexual scenes, and run from the temptation to dwell on these kinds of pleasures that may lead to sin. Our conduct is only the tip of the iceberg of holy obedience since all behavior flows from what is in our hearts (Matthew 23:27). Under the surface of our actions lies sinful emotions, desires, attitudes, and our will. It is not enough to restrain ourselves from sinful sexual encounters. We are expected to honor God with our bodies, minds, emotions, desires, and choices since God has called us in holiness, and has given us the Holy Spirit, who lives in us.
Whether we are single, widowed, married, or divorced, as Christians, we are called to holiness. Not only does this include sexual morality within marriage, it includes discernment for spouses to control their bodies. Holiness is a keyword in verses 4 and 7: “each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor…God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.” At the end of the passage, Paul proclaims that to reject our call to holiness is to deny the Holy Spirit. If we have been converted by God through the work of the Holy Spirit, we will not want to reject him. So, logically, only those who believe that they have been regenerated without a work of God are able to sin without remorse against the Holy Spirit. Everything—every word, action, desire, choice, and decision comes back to our belief and trust in Jesus Christ, who works in us through the Spirit. Our faith directs the way we dress, the things we say, what we watch, how we choose to act, and why we do what we do because of what we believe.
Do you have trouble with sexual desires, thoughts, or self-control? Will you confess freely to God and ask your spouse to help you? Is there something in particular that you can change together that will help you be holier in your marriage? Singles, what do you need to do to be less affected by the sometimes overwhelming emphasis on sex in the media? (For addition meditation on this see Romans 1 and Colossians 2:6-8.)