NOTE: This is an article I wrote that appeared in Fusion Magazine, August 2013.
I was driving downtown recently to attend a basketball game at my alma mater, when I hear Brynnan, my 8 year-old, say to her sister, who was seated next to her in the backseat, “Cover your eyes, Bailey! Don’t look at the naked dancing people!” No, she wasn’t referring to one of those clothes-less flash mob moments. Instead, she was warning her sister to avoid looking at the 40-foot-high, 10-ton bronze sculpture of five naked woman and four naked men called Musica, which is located on Music Row, an extremely popular route through one of Nashville, Tennessee’s most traveled tourist areas. Her warning to her sister was one my wife and I often hear from her as we travel the “Roundabout” to watch Belmont University play basketball. And unfortunately, like us, millions and millions of people each year drive by this very public and large display of nudity.
This is just one of countless examples of a society seemingly enamored with becoming more and more pure-less! And, unfortunately, it’s not just about statutes. The onslaught of sexual impurity today is incessant. Many TV commercials are so skin-driven that it can be confusing to get what it is that some companies are really trying to sell. Of course, the internet and social media now make it possible to download just about any type of sexual impurity you desire, all with the click of a button while in the privacy of your own home. And, need I remind you it is virtually impossible to walk through a mall anymore without seeing skin. Stores such as Abercrombie, Hollister and, of course, Victoria’s Secret – - by the way, what’s up with this name…there’s no secret to Victoria! – - can easily cause some to struggle as they look into these store-front windows.
These aren’t merely struggles of the tweens, teens and unmarried today, but for anyone, of any sex and of any age. Sexual impurity knows no boundaries. Whether an actual physical affair, cyber affair or battle of the mind, for many it can simply be a thought or a glimpse at an image or person that leads them to a very dark place of impurity. I have counseled with many God-loving, church attending, happily married men and women who struggle with impurity in one form or another. Many of these people feel trapped, guilty and desperate for help and hope. Yet many, consumed with shame and embarrassment don’t know where to turn.
Before taking a bite of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve needed not to worry about their clothing. As Genesis 2:25 explains, the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame. It wasn’t that the two of them didn’t know they were naked. Instead, there was no shame in their nakedness. But after the fall, everything changed! Unfortunately, as a culture, it seems we are reverting back to the “no shame in nakedness” mentality. But, for all the wrong reasons! So, how does one strive to remain sexually pure in what seems to be an ever-becoming shamelessly impure culture?
First, it’s important to state the obvious – God has created you as a sexual being. He wants you to enjoy your sex life. I mean really enjoy it! This is what Song of Songs talks about in the bible when he describes in intimate detail his longing to be in the chambers of his bride, the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. He says, “How beautiful you are, your eyes like doves. Your hair like a flock of goats. Your lips are scarlet, your mouth is lovely. Your breasts like two fawns. Your lips drop sweetness like honey. Your tongue like milk and honey. My fingers dance all over you. Your stature is like a palm tree, your breast like its fruit. I will climb the tree and take hold of the fruit.”
Wow! That’s some pretty steamy stuff. Any idea who wrote this stuff? The author is King Solomon. Yes, the King Solomon in the Bible. Can you believe this is in the Bible? When I think of how beautiful my wife is, I’m not sure that “a flock of goats” comes to mind. But weird metaphors aside, this graphic description of two lovers is in the Bible for a reason: It tells us that God thinks sex is an awesome gift. And when we stick with His plan of sexual purity, it’s pretty amazing!
But God doesn’t just reveal the sensual side of sex to us in the Bible. He knows that His great gift can be seriously misused. So, He’s also got some very clear advice for us about sex. In 1 Corinthians 6:13, He gives us four really important words: Flee from sexual immorality. Let’s break down this verse into two parts.
1. “Flee from”…
Obviously you know what “flee from” means—get the heck outta dodge as fast as you can. In this verse, God doesn’t sugarcoat His intentions for your sex life. He doesn’t say, “Stop and think about it,” or “Rationalize and work to justify it,” or, “Just don’t get to close to it.” Nope. He gets right to the point and says, “Flee!” In other words, “Take off! Escape! Put on your running shoes, lace ‘em up, and sprint full speed in the opposite direction!” It’s clear that God doesn’t want you to have anything to do with sexual immorality. But for many, this is where the trouble begins.
In today’s culture, “whatever works for you” has become the new definition of morality. It makes it really hard to know just what you’re supposed to flee from. The lines get blurred, and you can start making mistakes. That’s why it’s crucial for you to understand exactly what God is telling you to flee from. Which leads us to the second part of this verse.
2. “…sexual immorality.”
So, the obvious question is, “What defines sexual immorality?” Sex before marriage seems like the most obvious answer, right? But lots of people I’ve counseled, particularly those who aren’t married, or, those who wonder have far is too far think that as long as you just don’t “go all the way,’ then everything else is okay.
Yes, in 1 Corinthians 6:18, God is saying “don’t go all the way.” But if you think that’s all He’s saying, then you’re missing God’s truest intentions for your sex life. When God says to “flee from sexual immorality,” He’s not just saying, “Don’t have sex before marriage.” He’s saying to run away from any sexual impurity – jokes, thoughts, feelings, and even how you dress! We read a similar theme in Ephesians where Paul, the writer, says that we should not even have a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.
This is extremely important when it comes to the battle of the mind. Satan knows how to trip us up in this area. He has a customized plan for each of us, and he works like mad at trying to convince us that there are all kinds of loopholes in God’s rules, particularly as it relates to what is pure and impure. But he’s wrong. Dead wrong. God’s word is clear: Impurity is off limits.
Sexual immorality equals sexual impurity. And, sexual impurity equals sin. Period. No matter the situation. No matter the circumstances. No matter how in love you feel. No matter the emotion involved. No matter how good you are at justifying, rationalizing or convincing yourself that you deserve to indulge.
I know that just because I write it, and just because you read it, doesn’t make it easy to do. This is tough stuff here. It takes a commitment and a determination to living pure in a pure (less) society. It takes realizing Satan hates you and he wants you to blow it! So, you have to take action, and do so now. Here are 7 actions steps:
Choosing a life of purity is the first step. You’ve got to decide that you don’t want to live under the stronghold or guilt that impurity creates and choose to get serious about defeating it.
2. PROTECT YOUR MIND’S EYE
The struggle with impurity often begins in your mind. So, you’ve got to think practically when it comes to temptation. Make a promise to yourself to look the other way when walking in a mall that has those storefront windows or driving by those landmarks in your community that you know can trip you up. Turn the channel when a commercial, video or show airs this stuff. Work not to look at anything that might send impure thoughts racing through your brain.
3. KNOW WHAT YOU CAN’T DO
Different people have different things that flip that switch in their minds. Maybe using the Internet late at night when you are alone tempts you. Or, it could be something much simpler, like watching a movie or thinking about someone you really like. Only you know what gets you going, and only you know where to draw the line.
4. KNOW YOUR WAY OUT
Have a plan of action that you’ll use when you’re tempted. The key is to get your mind on something else.
I know you’re probably thinking, “Sure Jeffrey…I’m going to actually recite a verse when my mind starts going to that place!” Well, it may sound ludicrous. But Psalm 119:9 reminds us that we can live clean lives by obeying God’s word. I encourage you to find scriptures that work for you and write them down. Hang them on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror at home. Memorize them. Make them your screen saver at work and repeat them out loud whenever you feel tempted.
6. HOLD YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE
Rather than making excuses like a lot of people do, choose to take action! One way to do this is to find a friend you can talk to openly about your feelings, frustrations, temptations, and setbacks.
7. BE ALERT!
Be wise enough to realize that though there may not be 9-bronzed naked people dancing in your neighborhood, the traps Satan sets are everywhere. Have a plan before you ever get in the moment of temptation. Clearly articulate your intentions to strive for purity to your friends, spouse or dating partner. And, be determined not to let Satan trap you!
If you are struggling with impurity, know that it is never too late to get it right with God. Confess and give this problem to God. Ask for forgiveness from God. Ask God to give you courage to apply these seven steps.