Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Spiritual Discipline and Sexual Purity

The promise of God is that He will give us new life.  This is true and eternal life. We receive this life when we have a connection with Jesus. In John 15:5 we read that Jesus told His apostles; “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” (NLT). Similarly the apostle Paul wrote, Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him, so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with thanksgiving for all he has done (Colossians 2:7; NLT). We draw our life from Christ Jesus, and so it is vital that we remain connected to Him.

We need to remember what our true source of life is. We cannot live the life God created us to live apart from Jesus. Try as hard as we might and erect as many laws as we can and we will still fall short of what God intends our lives to be. Sexual purity is so hard to maintain because if we are not connected to Jesus all of our boundaries and rules will eventually fail us. Remember what Jesus said, “For apart from me you can do nothing”, and that includes remaining sexually pure.

You may be wondering, “Why does sexual purity matter?” This is a very good question since it would not be worth the struggle if sexual purity wasn’t an essential part of living the life God has created us to live. Sexual purity matters because pre-marital sex and extra-material sex rob us of the life that God designed us to live. Rather than bringing us closer to God sex, when done outside of the bounds of marriage, takes us further away from God.

At least that has been the case in my life, and think the testimony of many other people would confirm this reality. Let me clarify, I have never had sex, but that doesn’t mean that I have always held sex in the sacred place it deserves. In the relationships that I have been in we have established appropriate boundaries, yet I always wanted to push those boundaries. To be brutally honest the reason I wanted to push those boundaries had nothing with showing her my love, but had everything to do with gratifying my selfish desires. This led me to see her, not as a person, but as an object to satisfy my lust. In a very real sense my actions led me to dehumanize the woman I was with.

The spiritual life that God wants us to live should lead us to do the opposite. As followers of Christ Jesus we are to bring dignity, respect, and love into the lives of people. In other words we are to treat people as image-bearers of God and not objects that we can use for our enjoyment. Sexual purity is important because it helps us to treat people the way God intended us to treat them.

It is hard to be sexually pure when there is so much fighting against us in this commitment. I don’t need to tell you what a cesspool our culture is in regards to sex. We all know that sex is every where, and it is often being pushed right in our faces. We can’t even go to the store without 20 different magazine covers declaring that they have the secret to a happy and exciting sex life (the fact that magazines feel the need to keep offering this advice should tell us something: THEY DON’T HAVE THE SECRET!). For honesty sake we have to admit that the world is opposed to our desire to be sexually pure, and therefore this is not going to be easy. Yet, I am also fully convinced that sexual purity is the best way to live life.

With so much against us, how can we remain sexually pure? First, it begins with an understanding of what is truly important in life. A poor person who is greedy will spend his/her time thinking about and scheming to get money. They do this because they believe that money is the most important thing in life and if they only had money then they would be happy. Many of us act the same way when it comes to sex. We don't have it, but we act like it is the missing part of the happy life. We have to come to an understanding that we don’t need sex to have a happy and fulfilled life, and so we don’t need to think about all the time or scheme to find loopholes so we can see how much we can experience of it without going all the way. To come to this realization requires three steps.

First, we will have to get rid of the media that fuels our hearts and minds. We have to be ruthless when it comes to getting rid of movies, TV shows, and music that lead us to fantasize and thus lead our desires and thoughts astray. I took time last year to go through my DVD collection, and when I picked up a movie if the first thought I had about it was a sex scene or a female in some sexy outfit I threw that DVD away. We get enough of the “just do it” message from living in the world, we don’t need to make things harder by intentionally bringing that message into our lives. Along this same line we need to establish other limits for protection. On my MacBook and iPod Touch I have a filter system called Safe Eyes. Not only does it filter out unwanted content, but it also allows me to establish time limits on my internet access (because even the best filter will allow filth in). If we are not intentional about setting boundaries for what we allow into our hearts and minds then we will discover that so much of what consumes our thought life is impure and unhealthy.

Second we have to intentionally find ministries to which we can volunteer our time. Ministry (we could also call it service) is vital for our spiritual lives. It reminds us that the world doesn’t revolve around us and our lives, and that there are people in this world who are in tremendous need, whether that need is physical or spiritual. When we serve we are expressing our love for people, and though the process God reminds us that there is a higher calling on our lives than sex, and that is making a difference for His Kingdom. Not only does ministry remind us that there is a call upon our lives, but it also puts us into experiences where sex isn't front and center.

Third we have to devote ourselves to our spiritual lives. Too many of us neglect the spiritual side of our lives, and thus we lose the vital connection we need with Jesus. In order to maintain a connection with Christ Jesus we need to establish certain disciplines in our lives. One of the fundamental disciplines that we need is prayer. While we can pray anywhere and at anytime there is something that is essential in having a time we have set aside to spend time alone with God. Two things have proved helpful to me in this. First, is to have a private place for prayer. Second, is to pray aloud. I have found that this helps me to stay focused and actually talk to God in the way I would talk to a person.

To go along with prayer we need to be in God’s Word. This isn’t just about reading the Bible, but it is about getting God’s Word into our hearts. When we go to the Bible the agenda isn’t about how much we read, but planting God’s truth into our hearts. This will also require times of quiet meditation or reflection in order to concentrate on what God is communicating through the Bible. It also requires memorizing Scripture so that we are able to recall God’s truth and promises as we go about our day.

There is so much more that could be said, but I want to end with this thought: Sexual purity is the result of our pursuit of holiness. If we desire sexual purity but don’t desire holiness in other areas of our lives we will not be sexually pure. The spiritual disciplines, those actions which keep us connected to Jesus, are the ways we train our bodies in the way of holiness. That is why sexual purity isn’t just about making a decision (of course that is where it starts) but it is about training our bodies to obey God’s will for our lives. We will not do that unless we see sexual purity as something worth fighting for, and only then will we devote our entire lives to prepare for that fight.


Luke said...

Great comments! Great thoughts. Thanks for passing this along.

Paul said...

Thanks Luke for the comment. While this is a topic that gets a lot of attention I still think that it is important to be reminded that it is sexual purity is hard and that there are certain behaviors we can do to help us in the quest.

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