[Oct 01]—Intimate Union, Part Three

            As you can see from the reading, we’re going to skip over to a short passage in 1 Thessalonians before we finish with 1 Corinthians chapter 6.
            I remember when I was teaching a Bible study several years ago with several people of varying degrees of maturity in the faith. There was one dear gentleman who’d been a believer for maybe six months, and I just casually mentioned the term “sexual immorality,” and alluded to God’s plan for us in this area. This man hesitatingly raised his hand and asked “Umm, so it’s wrong for me to have sex with my girlfriend?” And he wasn’t joking. He really didn’t know. My jaw dropped, but I tried to quickly recover and gently tell him that no, this wasn’t acceptable to our Lord, that sleeping with your girlfriend is not compatible with being a follower of Jesus.
            My point with this story is that a lot has changed on this issue just in the short time I’ve grown up, and most of it bad. A generation or two ago, it was taken as a given that Christians don't have sex outside of marriage, that they don’t commit adultery nor fornication (sex in which neither partner is married). The very fact that I feel the need to define the word "fornication" is a bad sign. It’s certainly not used outside Christian circles, and it’s rarely used even within them. A generation or so ago I could take it as a given that although a lot of Christians don’t live up to God’s standards (and in the mental arena, 99% of the guys fall short re: Jesus’ standard in Matthew 5), but at least they knew about the standard. I can’t take that for granted anymore.
            That’s why we’re spending so much time on this. I really believe a good Bible teacher addresses the areas in which the Bible runs contra the zeitgeist that the teacher is in at that time, and I reiterate: There is no area I know of which is more relevant, an area in which the Bible runs more against the common thinking of the day. If I was living a hundred years ago, I hope I’d be preaching/teaching about racial equality, about the incompatibility of racism and following Christ. A hundred years from now it might be another area in which the Church has to swim against the stream of public opinion. But we need to let Scriptures address the here and now.
            Let’s take a look at 1 Thessalonians. People sometimes ask “What’s God’s will for my life?” Well, the first place you need to look for answers to that question is in your Bible. Paul here tells you the will for everyone. Focus on that, and then you can be less concerned about whether to take this or that career path or whether or not to marry this or that person. God’s will for you is that you stick to his plan for sexuality: Complete abstinence (in thought and deed) before you get married, then complete faithfulness (in thought and deed) once you get married, and marriage according to God is between one man and one woman for life.
            His will is that you control your body, not give in to every desire that comes along. Your sexual desires need to be channeled towards your spouse. If you’re single, then actively look for the spouse that your Father has for you.
            Let me get off on a side-note just for a moment. I know that some well-meaning people say “Don’t look for a spouse, just wait for God’s timing.” With all respect, I heartily disagree. If I was looking for a job, then I wouldn’t just wait for the Lord to drop it into my lap. I’d actively and prayerfully search for it. I’d go to interviews. I’d network. I know that the Lord provides all my needs, but he has normal means of doing so. The normal way for the Lord to provide for my financial needs is for me to actively look for a job, and he provides one. The Lord might lead someone to just passively wait for a job or a spouse, but I think that’s the very rare exception.
            Getting back to the passage, Paul says something counterintuitive in vs. 6: God wants us to avoid sexual immorality and that “in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.” What does this mean? By indulging in adultery or fornication, whom exactly am I “taking advantage of” or “wronging”? Well, there are some different interpretations I’ve heard, but to me here are the best two: 1) By indulging in this before marriage, you’re harming your sexual partner. The pleasure lasts for a few moments, but the physical, emotional, and spiritual effects last a lifetime. 2) You’re also harming the future spouse of that person. You’re stealing the virginity that belongs to someone else, something that a person can only give away one time.
            Whatever Paul’s referring to, let’s not miss the point that we tend to forget regarding this: Sexual activity outside of marriage is not a victimless sin. Even if the activity is completely consensual between adults, people are hurt.  If you’re telling yourself “Well, I’m not really hurting anyone with this,” you need to recognize it as the lie from the Enemy that it is.
            I’ve said it so many times that you’d think I’m getting a commission on it, but it’s never been more applicable: No one in the history of mankind who did things God’s way ended up regretting it. And the converse is just as true: Everyone in the history of mankind who didn’t do things God’s way ended up sorely regretting it.
            I promise you, he’s not giving us these standards because he’s a killjoy; our Savior literally loves us more than life itself, and one of the main reasons he gives us instructions on this is because he cares for us. He invented sex, so he’s the best authority on how to enjoy it.
            Let’s trust him on this, shall we?
            Let me a say a final word about guilt. As we go through this, it's probable that folks will feel guilty about their past lifestyle. If you're a believer and are currently involved in sexual immorality and aren't taking steps to get it out of your life, you should feel guilty. You are guilty. Sexual immorality is a sin. You need to repent of it.
            But if we're talking about past sin that you've asked forgiveness for and have repented from, then that sin is forgiven and forgotten as far as the Lord is concerned. There's might be some lingering issues you need to deal with concerning that, but guilt before God is not one of them. If you have some questions or problems in this area, I've written about guilt and relief here

Father, this is where I need it the most to ask you not to lead me into temptation. My head is a dry cord of wood smothered in gasoline, and the world is filled with lit matches. Help me to love you, and my wife, as I need to, and as I’m supposed to. By your grace. 

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