Ok, so I just learned that this is the name of a Salt-N-Pepa song that came out in 1990. A friend of mine enlightened me on that.. by singing it for me.. in public.. at a very busy restaurant. Thanks Tim. That was awkward. So for those wondering, it's not the inspiration behind this blog post title nor the corresponding sermon title that I just shared at C3 Los Angeles.
The true inspiration is that I want to be able to bring light to a subject that many times the Church shies away from because the scriptures seem to stand in such contrast to the sex ethic of our culture. That misconception is where I believe the problem of our hesitancy begins. Because the sex ethic of the scriptures is not counter to our culture. It's counter to our flesh. To limit the confronting nature of it as particularly challenging for our day and age is to do ourselves a great disservice and begin the conversation from a platform of fear. No conversation is ever fruitful when fear is the starting line. The truth is that the sex ethic intrinsic to the gospel was just as counter to the culture of the people of the Roman Empire as it to the people of today. A study of the Roman sex ethic will reveal that pretty quickly. Therefore if they could believe the gospel and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, have their thinking about sex transformed, the same impact of the gospel can be had on people, on you and me, today. The contrasting nature of truth does not decrease or increase over time because truth is always in contrast to our natural human desires and inclinations.
That truth is able to transform us over time in our journey of following Jesus because God has given us the powerful gift of choosing repentance. Repentance is simply the changing of our mind. "I used to think this way about something, but now I am choosing to change my mind and think this way." That might sound simplistic, but repentance is an act of faith and the outworking of faith is often found in the determination to do something before you feel like doing it. The scriptures tell us in 1 Corinthians 2:16 that "..we have the mind of Christ." I'm not sure about you, but I do not wake up each day thinking overwhelmingly Christ-like thoughts. In the secret place of prayer however, I choose to change my mind, to repent, of certain thinking that day and thus access the mind of Christ I have been given. It's as though repentance is the corridor through which I travel down to leave old, dead thinking behind and enter into the life-giving, empowering thoughts of God. The same practice is required of us in a broader sense. As we walk with God, He will begin to put His finger on certain places in our thinking to let us know, "I don't think about that the way you do." That's His prompting for us to repent, to change our minds and discover His truth on the matter. God's sex ethic is precisely one of these areas in which we need to humble ourselves and allow Him to teach us His truth.
It's of great importance we allow this to happen because God's will for our lives is purity or as the apostle Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:3. "For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality." Sanctification means holiness which in essence is the state of being pure and undefiled by anything. The reason God desires our purity is because God desires relationship with us. And in being totally pure Himself, He cannot intermingle or coexist with that which is impure. That was a problem He Himself overcame by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to defeat the power of sin (impurity) on the cross. In that the perfect purity of Jesus has been given to us as a free gift, so that even though we do not often feel pure and holy we understand that we are in the process of becoming what God already calls us. He call us pure in Christ, and so we are. Therefore our eternal relationship with Him is secured. That means that our lives, after having received that free gift, ought to be evidence of that gift. In other words the arc of our story should be informed by what He's called us for all eternity, by what we are and are becoming. In 1 Thessalonians 4 Paul gives us some very helpful steps we can take to live that kind of story.
In verses 4 and 5 Paul continues the thought of our sexual purity with this, "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;" This is like a safeguard that Paul is helping us to construct around our purity. A few key things that we can take away from this is that our purity is protected when we have self-control. That's the kind of control Paul is talking about here. That's great news because that means we are not talking about sheer determination or personal will power. We're actually talking about a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Self-control is counted among the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 which means it's something produced by continually be filled with the Spirit. (see previous post about being filled with the Spirit). That self-control then allows us to treat our bodies in holiness and honor. Holiness again is purity. Honor is value. Self-control will help you to manage your whole body in purity which includes your eyes, ears and mind. The idea is that you safeguard yourself against impurity by practicing purity in your head before you're even presented with the opportunity to give in to impurity with your body. Self-control will also help you treat your body with honor, with value. The way to do that is by doing what Paul says unbelievers don't do which is to know God. The more you get to know God the more you discover your worth and value in His eyes. Time with God will always lead to you feeling more valuable, never less.
The final safeguard we see in this passage is in verse 6 where Paul says, "that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter.." This is perhaps the most confronting thing in this passage because we tend to view what we do with our bodies as personal and personal alone as long as it is not harming anybody else. This statement in the scriptures flies in the face of that view for the Christian because it tells us that what we do with our bodies sexually actually impacts our fellow believer. This post is not about the body of Christ, so we will not dive into that teaching, but suffice it to say for now, we are all much more impacted by one another that we often realize, and that truth does not stop being true when it comes to our sin. I see this verse as more of an opportunity than a burden. Because what it invites us into is perhaps the greatest safeguard against impurity, and that is a life sold out to serving others. If we focus on serving one another then we will be less likely to give in to the temptation of gratifying the desires of our flesh. In fact in our servanthood of others, we are actually strengthened to fight against the desire to serve ourselves.
Choose today and each day that your response to the gospel of Jesus Christ will be to live the life of a servant. His Holy Spirit is in you to help you overcome all temptation. And when you give in, grace is there. Jesus is there. He will help the story of your life to be informed by what He's been calling you since the day He died on your behalf. Holy and pure.
See you in church!