Character Versus Comfort   Leave a comment

We live in a sex-mad culture that indulges itself in every conceivable sexual activity and when it gets bored, it branches out from there. Sexual sin is tolerated in any form by large segments of the population. It’s promoted and marketed through every form of media available. We know this! Christians are not supposed to be of this world, but it’s hard be in this world and not know that we’re a sex-mad culture.

And the church isn’t doing a whole lot different from the world. A pastor friend says that 75% of the Christian young people who come to him for premarital counseling have already been sexually active. Many of them live together prior to marriage. The numbers are higher for older adults.

The secular world will tell us that sex is an animal function, an itch you just must scratch for your own physical and mental health. If you don’t satisfy that physical demand, you’re going to end up on a counselor’s office with repression issues. Anyone who says other wise is a prude and a tyrant.

But there are some interesting statistics that go against this. Studies have shown that couples who engage in premarital sex or who live together prior to marriage are more likely to divorce than couples who were virgins at the time of marriage or at least had not lived together prior to marriage. There’s a great deal of controversy about the meaning of these findings, but several studies have noted the correlation.

It might come as a surprise to some to realize that Paul was writing to a culture very much like ours. Hugh Hefner would have been a popular guy in Greco-Roman culture circa First Century. At the time Paul was writing the world he lived in had experienced a sexual revolution that included homosexuality, pedophilia, transvestism, and every form of fornication and sexual perversion you can imagine today. Koinin Greek had many words to describe sex with a partner who was not your spouse because it was an extremely sexualized society.

Along came Christianity and introduced a new way of thinking into the culture. When the apostles brought the gospel to Gentiles, they were bringing it to pagans who had been deeply steeped in the culture, who were involved in religious sexual practices in the temple, concubinage, mistresses, harlots and homosexuality and pedophilia. When they came to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, they did not suddenly forget their past practices. Paul wrote his letters to the church at Thessalonica because he’d only been there a few weeks before he had to leave and he understood the pressure exerted by the wicked culture that was going to affect the church.

Paul spent the early part of the first letter defending his ministry and the integrity of the church and reminding the Thessalonians of what he had previously taught them. Then he turned to a list of issues he wanted to address. First on the list … sexual sin.

Paul’s message was clear. Despite their cultural habits and old personal patterns, Jesus does not tolerate sexual sin. It doesn’t matter how the world lives; the church cannot live like the world.  Just because the world is wallowing in muck doesn’t mean Christians can dive right in. There is no New Testament clause for relative morality. The Bible sets an absolute standard on the subject and it doesn’t fluctuate in comparison to the surrounding society. All forms of sexual gratification may be indulged by a society, but not by the church … not by Christians.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8.

“This is the will of God, your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality.” That’s not an unclear statement. It references “the will of God”. If you want to please God, do His will. To do His will, Spirit-controlled Christians are (among other things) to abstain from sexual immorality. Later in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul encourages his readers to be satisfied in the will of God. It’s important to look in verse 3 again at that word translated “sanctification”. It means “separate, apart, set apart, holy” … in a sentence “set apart from sin to God’s use.” God’s will is that you be set apart from sin for His use.  Then Paul sets out the first step in that process of being Spirit-controlled – abstain from sexual sin.

But … but … I really enjoy … and … but … but ….

NO BUTS!

God is an absolute sort of deity. He doesn’t change with our personal concept of Him or our society’s view of Him. He is who He is at all times.

As Jesus explained in the Sermon on the Mount, you have to stop short of the impure thought and lustful passion. The question isn’t “How far can I go and not quite violate God’s will?” The question should be “How can I be holy, separated from sin, pleasing to God?”

And, no, it’s not easy to live like that in today’s world. It wasn’t easy to live that way in 1st century Thessalonia. It doesn’t matter. God cares more about your character than your comfort.

Do you?

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