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Monday, June 25, 2012 | Comments (3)

by John MacArthur

You probably hear a lot about how much our society has progressed. Whether it’s technological or scientific advancement, breakthroughs in medicine or manufacturing, or any other area where progress can be measured, we’re eager to see how far we’ve come.

At the same time, the culture is willfully blind to how it’s regressing. Sexual perversion and deviance run rampant, and all kinds of immorality are promoted and paraded as if they are something to be proud of.

Our society looks more and more like the no-shame culture of the ancient Roman world—a world devoted to fulfilling perverse lusts and deviant desires. Believers in the New Testament world faced the same kinds of daily temptations we face—perhaps even worse.

But in the midst of that wicked society, Paul gave believers a clear command to abstain from immorality and live holy lives. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3, he wrote, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality.”

People often say they’re confused and frustrated with the struggle to find God’s will for their lives. In this passage, Paul spells out God’s will in no uncertain terms. His will is for our sanctification, our spiritual growth. He wants us to be separate from sin—and specifically, sexual immorality.

Those basic instructions would have flown in the face of the common sexual mentality in Thessalonica, just as they contradict the mindset of our modern culture.

Today we’re told that people are basically good, and since they're basically good and sex is a part of being human, sex is an acceptable way to seek pleasure. We’re also told it’s a fundamental part of our humanity—that it’s a biological need that we shouldn’t deny ourselves. By that skewed definition, casual sex isn’t just a legitimate recreation—it also fulfills our needs.

The same kind of reasoning gave endless license to the no-shame culture of Paul’s day. Prostitutes, concubines, mistresses, homosexuals, transvestites, temple harlots, adulterers, and adulteresses—even pedophilia was permitted in the Roman world. That was the perverse and deviant culture in which Paul commanded believers to “abstain from sexual immorality.”

It’s not a flexible command, either. There’s no room left for interpretation. It’s not a question of “How close can I get without sinning?” You can’t afford to play those kind of games with temptation.

It’s a command for total abstinence from all immorality—not just physical. “But I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). We’ve got to be vigilant to stamp out temptation, even if those temptations are never consummated. The point isn’t to get as close as you can and still avoid it—it’s to stay far enough away that you can be completely separate from it.

And it's not as if God hates sex—He designed it. Hebrews 13:4, "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled.” There is no defilement or immorality in that relationship in all its God-intended design. But apart from that, abstinence is what God commands. As the writer of Hebrews makes clear at the end of that verse, “Fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”

It’s a difficult command, especially in a culture so given over to pleasure seeking and shameless excess. But it’s a command that comes with built-in encouragement. The Lord wouldn’t order us to abstain from sexual sin if we weren’t able to obey. Next time we’ll look at Paul’s instructions for following God’s command.


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#1  Posted by Steven Hamer  |  Monday, June 25, 2012at 8:23 AM

Thanks Brother John How we need this exhortation to keep pure in a sexual perverse world!!! Sex is plastered everywhere, even in music videos that encourage sexual immortality, a tv programme in the UK called Hollioaks totally promote teenage sex. Homosexuality is being rammed down our throats and even forced upon children. they can force homosexuality but not our faith. I know you quoted 1 Thess 4:3, but it was good to read the whole seven verses to get the whole picture on being holy, "For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness." (1 Thessalonians 4:7) as I read Matthew 5:28, it was even more challenging because even though we may not be sinning outward but God still says it is adultery when we have sexual lusts in our hearts. May God keep us pure, and may we look unto our Lord Jesus Christ who, "For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;" (Hebrews 7:26). "...he is altogether lovely..." (Sos 5:16) The only we way to keep ourselves pure is daily reading and meditating on God's Word, as Psalm 119:9-11 says, " Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word...Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." (Psalms 119:9&11) Amen

God bless you brother John and your family.

#2  Posted by Mark Robertson  |  Tuesday, June 26, 2012at 6:56 AM

Thank you for the reminder that God's will is not secret in this area.

#3  Posted by Derrick Ochago  |  Tuesday, June 26, 2012at 10:06 AM

In Uganda, sex is rampant. I mean, you turn right, left and center and there you will see something sensual. The sad bit is when you go to church, and the sensuality prevails. It get sickening that a year will go by and you will never hear a sermon on sexual sin and it's implications- in a country where 70% of the population are below the age of 25, implying that majority of the people who go to church are youth. Getting to visit this site, accessing the different resources such as the sermon(not to forget the sermon notes), different bible studies and the blog, have helped open my eyes to what Christianity really really is.

Unless our righteousness surpasses that of the teachers of the law, we won't in enter the kingdom of Heaven