For this is the will of God, your sanctification. -1 Thessalonians 4:3
This Sunday we will take up the difficult topic of purity in our Life in the Church series. Our text will come from Hebrews 13:4: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” We live in a world that considers purity a vestige from a bygone era. Something men and women might have practiced in Victorian England in the 19th century (sexual immorality was rampant in that era too), but certainly something that we as enlightened people today realize only holds people down and creates unnecessary burdens in life.
God, it would appear from Scripture, has a decidedly different view on the matter, which really should not surprise us in the least. Our text above from 1 Thessalonians goes on to describe, at least in the apostle Paul’s mind as it related to the church in Thessalonica, what “sanctification” meant. He says this as verse three continues: “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.” Now, sanctification includes many concepts in the life of the Christian. We know from Scripture that part of our sanctification (be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ) includes things like learning to be thankful people, suffering for Christ, loving one another, growing in both faith and knowledge, and living out our faith in tangible ways, to name a few. Nevertheless, here Paul is very direct. God wants us to be sanctified – it is his will for us. The sanctification he has in mind includes learning to control our lusts and demonstrating our breach with a world (“not like the Gentiles who do not know God”) that does not acknowledge God’s right to tell us when and how we can involve ourselves in sexual situations. The sin is not in the sex. We were created male and female - as sexual beings by a good and loving God. There is a place for our sexuality to be realized and expressed, and there are places where it is not to be expressed. Being formed by our Creator as male and female is a good thing - God declared it to be so (Gen. 1:31). However, like all the good things that God formed and the purposes for which they were created, God set limits and expectations. Our world does not appreciate limits and expectations, so it tends to ignore them, deny them, or attack them, and any who would accept them and call on others to do the same.
Sunday we will talk about some of those expectations that God has set forth for us in Scripture. I will try to do so with propriety, understanding that there are children present, but this truly is an area (like all other areas of our lives) that needs to be placed under the Lordship of Jesus. Apparently in Thessalonica, Christians were taking sexual liberties with others within their own fellowship of believers and making a mockery of the faith, as the church in Corinth was also known for, sadly (1 Cor. 5:1-2). We do not want to find ourselves in that place.
I suspect that most of us at LifePoint will agree wholeheartedly with Paul in his letter to Thessalonica and the writer of Hebrews. The problem, of course, for most believers is not trusting that God’s word is true, but in applying that word to our lives in a world awash in sexual perversion and the celebration of that perversion. The goal Sunday will not be condemnation, but confrontation and application. Something, I expect, we all need. We will also speak about ways in which we can combat this powerful sin in our lives in effective ways.
I am profoundly grateful to be able to lead in ministry in a church that desires to know God’s truth and apply it in our lives, not only for our good, but for the good of others as well. Although some of the topics we address on Sunday mornings here are not always pleasant to talk about, I never feel as if our church family is growing tired of hearing from God, both in pleasing and not so pleasing ways. On behalf of our entire pastoral staff, I want to say “thank you” for your very kind words and gifts to us for Pastor Appreciation Month. We are all blessed to both serve you and to walk with you through this incredible journey of faith!
Grace and peace,