By this point in your life, you’ve probably taken the time to reflect on your faith and how it relates to your personal life. There’s a possibility that some of you have questioned the standards by which you were raised. You may be reading to further solidify the moral foundation established by your parents, your pastor, and your teachers. Others are reading because they feel caught between what they think they know and what they might not know about sexual purity and the biblical stance on this subject. As you read the biblical perspective, you will have a moral choice to make apart from the similarity or dissimilarity of the decisions of your peers or the group to which you belong. However, this decision has the power to affect your life and the lives of others in more ways than you can currently imagine. Before we even dive in to this subject, allow me to challenge you to put aside your limiting belief that self-reliance and self-determination instead of the wisdom of God can somehow catapult you into high morality and heavenly blessings. Allow the Bible to aid your consideration of these important spiritual decisions and to establish both the consequences and rewards for the decisions you have to make.
One of the great debates in our post-modern society seeks to define appropriate morality regarding sexual activity. Our culture has been inundated by permissive and promiscuous attitudes that have permeated every facet of our country. From the billboards on the street to the bedrooms of our homes, sensual images streamed through TV, movies, magazines, and advertising influence our assessment of morality. Stories abound about single parents raising broken families amid unfulfilled promises of “true love.” Deceptive promotions of “safe sex” swarm around young people to heighten the allure of pleasure allegedly without the risk of the receipt of a sexually transmitted disease or of an unwanted pregnancy. In popular films the hero may win the day and save the world, but he is only truly crowned with victory when he “gets the girl.” Our society bombards our hearts and minds with immorality that glorifies the momentary pleasures of pre-marital sex while never revealing the grievous damage that results from such behavior. There are many who may relish in this type of lifestyle, but Christians should not be participants in a lascivious lifestyle. Nevertheless, many Christians among us today are questioning the possibility of living a life of purity within the bounds established by God our Creator and Savior. Every Christian should take heart in the knowledge that God not only expressed His desire for our purity, but has also made provision for our victory over this great area of struggle. It is not only the will of God for you to avoid sexual immorality (I Thessalonians 4:3); it is also the work of God in your life to help you gain and maintain sexual purity regardless of the dictates of culture (Philippians 2:13).
Every person in society will inevitably experience singleness for some period of time. For many people that period of singleness will end with marriage, but some will remain single by choice for one reason or another. The longevity of one’s singleness is difficult to determine, and some will either marry quickly or cohabitate in order to alleviate the symptoms of loneliness or the pressures (whether cultural or self-imposed) to engage in sexual activity. While many singles will search for fulfillment in a potential “hook-up” or even a potential spouse, the Lord Jesus Christ should be recognized as the preeminent source for completeness in one’s life (Colossians 2:10). Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus took a very high view of singleness and declared that such a state allowed Christians to devote greater time and attention to ministry (Matthew 19:12). The Apostle Paul emphasized this teaching as well when he instructed the Corinthian believers to not seek a spouse but instead dedicate themselves to ministry (I Corinthians 7:7, 32-35). Based on these statements, singleness is not only accepted but also preferred (I Corinthians 7:9). Jesus so elevated the kingdom of God to the place of supreme significance that He demanded from his followers a loyalty that exceeded even that required by one’s natural family.
Despite these teachings, singleness remains an undesirable state for many singles, but many biblical examples standout to model godly, single, Christian living. In the Old Testament, Joseph exemplified godliness during his period of singleness. While serving in Potiphar’s house, Joseph was tempted daily by Potiphar’s wife who wanted to sleep with him (Genesis 39:10). For a young man who was far from the comforts of home, you can imagine that such an offer could have been a major temptation for him. Regardless of the allure of sex and the possibility of the “satisfaction” of his needs, Joseph recognized that such an action would be “wickedness” and “sin against God” (Genesis 39:9). Joseph took the action that every young man in the midst of temptation should take – he ran! He may have lost his cloak, but he kept his character (Genesis 39:12).
Some of you may question, “What’s the harm in Joseph sleeping with this woman? If two consenting adults engage in sexual intimacy that is their business.” Biblically, sex outside of the bounds of marriage, whether pre-marital or extra-marital, is an explicit violation of God’s commandments (I Thessalonians 4:3). Sex places people into an illegitimate one-flesh union that should be reserved only for marriage (Genesis 2:23-24). It circumvents the public and mutual pledge of lifelong marital fidelity, trust, and love. Until this union is affirmed in the presence of God and by public declaration, sexual abstinence prior to marriage is the biblical expectation (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:8-9; Genesis 2:23-24; I Thessalonians 4:3).
Based on these biblical precepts, it is clear to see that the will of God for your life is to abstain from sexual immorality. While the demands are high, the grace of God can assist any Christian who looks to the Lord as their source of strength and satisfaction. The Bible has not left us with commandments only, but has also equipped us with counsel to help implement practices and procedures for living in purity.
Let’s begin with the men (don’t worry; I’ll harp on the ladies in just a moment). Young men need to learn self-control and guard themselves against sexual temptation. Men must recognize their dependence on God to give them victory over temptation (I John 5:4). The best demonstration of this humility and dependence is evident in one’s prayer life. Do you portray trust in God by walking with Him daily? The Lord desires to help you during any temptation (Hebrews 2:18)! Secondly, ensure that you grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ by taking heed to His Word (II Peter 3:18, Psalm 119:9-11). It is the only way you can “cleanse your way” and live purely in this ungodly culture. Develop self-control by memorizing and applying appropriate Scripture in each moment of your temptation. For example, use the Scripture of Job 31:1 to help you “make a covenant with your eyes” so that you will not look upon and lust after a woman. This will help you ensure that you “keep your heart with all diligence” (Proverbs 4:23) as you apply biblical counsel in those moments of strong desire. Be warned: the devil is constantly seeking to devour you – don’t let him! You must resist the call to sin at all costs (James 1:15-16; I Peter 5:9; Romans 6:16). This does not mean that you must live as a recluse free from any social interaction. I’m sure you’re thinking that you might just die if that had to happen! Fortunately, this is not the case. I encourage you to do two things further: seek the accountability of other like-minded male believers (I John 1:7), and interact with women as though they were your mother or your sister (I Timothy 5:2). Hopefully, the women with whom you socialize will be ones that model godliness and not Gucci.
Ladies, just like the men you must learn to have self-control. Inwardly, the only way to gain control of your purity and glorify God is through dependence upon the Lord. For this to take place, your dependence upon God must begin in your prayer closet. Outwardly, your control is manifested through a modest lifestyle (I Timothy 2:9-10; I Peter 3:3-6). Modesty in your attitude and your appearance is paramount to the stability of your moral character. A godly woman’s attitude will avoid aggressiveness (flirting, for example) and body language that is suggestive. Additionally, your display of clothing is reflective of the inward attitude of your heart. Immodest dress slanders any good name you may have because it detracts from godly character. Leaving little to the imagination will draw attention only to your flesh. This doesn’t mean that you can’t dress stylishly, but it does indicate that you should not dress revealingly.
Furthermore, if women could see through the mind of a man for just five minutes it would completely change the way they dressed. Men are highly attracted (and distracted) by what they see (hence my exhortation earlier for men to guard their eyes). Men who are primarily drawn to you because of your flesh rather than your godly character will not be suitable husbands. Beauty is a gift from God, but such beauty must be viewed as a stewardship from God that should be protected with wisdom and discretion (Proverbs 11:22). A good rule of thumb for clothing is to ensure that it is tight enough to show that you’re a woman but loose enough to show that you’re a lady. This will help you project your feminine identity while preserving your reputation. A virtuous woman who fears the Lord will adorn herself in modest dress in order to draw attention to her God rather than to herself (Proverbs 31:30).
By this point, many of you are wondering if such a lifestyle of purity can bring fulfillment. “Can I truly be content living such a lifestyle?” is a question you may be asking yourself at this very moment. Many people will demand, “I don’t need to feel lonely! I need to feel happy!” However, happiness is not found in a man or a woman; it is only found in the presence of the Lord (Psalm 16:11). Some of you may be disillusioned by culture because you believe that you have sexual needs that must be fulfilled. Despite the message of popular culture, sex is not a necessity in life. The great necessity for the Christian is to glorify God in their body and in their spirit, which are God’s because of the redemption graciously afforded to them through the blood of Christ (I Corinthians 6:20). Singleness may seem undesirable to some, but the Lord can be your source of fulfillment and give you contentment throughout this experience (I Timothy 6:6; Philippians 4:11). Jesus is more than enough to meet your every need, and His grace can help you through any temptation (I Corinthians 10:13). When you allow the Lord to fill your heart with joy and to direct your personal affairs, you will portray the sufficiency of Christ during this challenging period of your life.
However, it must be acknowledged some have succumbed to the temptation to participate in pre-marital sexual relations. Perhaps some have experienced the heartache that comes from the complications that arise from broken relationships. If you have yielded yourself to sexual sin, please know that forgiveness is available through the Lord Jesus Christ (I John 1:9). Perhaps you are reading today having never accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior. I invite you to learn the way to receive the forgiveness for all of your sins. If you are a born-again believer who has gone astray into sexual sin, forgiveness is available for you as well. Allow me to encourage you to not use this forgiveness as a license to sin (Romans 6:1-2). Confess and forsake your sin (Proverbs 28:13) and allow the Lord to direct your personal relationships by setting godly parameters, seeking and applying the wise counsel of the Bible, and trusting the Lord to lead you in each moment of your life.