You will notice that I am doing a part of the passage I did yesterday. I didn't want to ignore what Paul actually has to say about "sanctification," "sexual immorality," and "transgressing and wronging our brother."
1 Thessalonians 4:3-7
"For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 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 no know god; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness."
Verses that stuck out to me are:
"For this is the will of God, your sanctification...abstain from sexual immorality...control [your] body...[do not] transgress and wrong [your] brother...because the Lord is an avenger...God has...called us...in holiness."
"The will of God is for you to live a holy life. You need to stay away from all sexual acts that are wrong. Treat your bodies with respect by learning how to control yourselves. The world lives by uncontrolled desires because they don't know God. You do!! Do not intentionally sin in this way for when you do you hurt each other. We warned you before and we will warn you again. God will take vengeance on anyone who does these types of things. God didn't call you to be like the rest of the world, he called you to be different from it."
What is God saying?
What is sanctification? The word means to be holy or, more literally, set apart. If something is holy it is has been set apart from all other things for the express purpose of being used only in conjunction with a god. For instance. Zoroastrians worship in fire temples. Within these temples are holy fires. The sole purpose for their existence is to give Zoroastrians and "image" of God to worship. They are used for no other purpose but this. They don't cook on them, they don't use them to light candles, etc... It is kept burning solely for its purpose. It has been sanctified.
So how does that apply to human beings? When God called us out of the world he called us to be separate from it. Now you and I know that being separate from the world doesn't just happen over night. There are those who try but end up failing miserably. Being separate from the world is a process that Jesus takes us through. Paul writes elsewhere that we are being perfected or completed. It's a process. Does that mean we can intentionally sin? By no means! We still have to try and stay away from doing what the world does.
The next question I would pose concerning this passage is does being sanctified only mean abstaining from immoral sexual acts? A casual glance at this passage might lead me to believe this, but I think Paul is addressing an issue that Timothy might have reported on when he came back from his visit with the Thessalonians. Paul starts out reminding them that God wants them to live a holy life and then focuses on one aspect, that of living sexually pure.
Sexual purity is one of the BIG issues that plagues mankind no matter where you are or what age you are in. Sexual temptation is huge!!! Among both guys and girls. Guys tend to look at it as instant gratification whereas I think girls look at it as a way to "connect" with a guy, although in today's society the issue for younger girls may be they look at it as a way to find love through getting pregnant and having a baby.
No matter how you look at it, it is big!! We Christians try to hide the fact that we struggle with temptation and sin. We think, for some reason, that once we become Christians we should be perfect, but the fact is, if we were perfect we would no longer need Christ. One of the biggest sins that causes pastors to fall is sexual sin. We have to be honest with ourselves and admit that we struggle.
Sexual immorality takes on different forms but the one that Paul specifically seems to address is adultery. I've never talked to people who have committed adultery so I have to admit that I am pretty ignorant when it comes to the reasons why, but as a pastor I am supposed to know a little something about this sin. In what I've read and heard adultery usually starts at home. It is the becoming unhappy with one's spouse. It is the feeling of rejection, no love and disrespect. I would say that for the most part people don't look for a person they can cheat with, but when someone starts showing the struggling spouse the attention they don't feel they are getting from home they begin to develop feelings for this other person. Feelings can lead us into a train wreck when we let them go unbridled. Remember what Paul just said about the world. They live by the passion of their lusts.
Usually the person that one cheats with is someone that is close to the family or a coworker. With this in mind is it any wonder Paul says that when we do these types of sin we are actually wronging our brother. I can see how in the church setting it would be very easy to develop feelings for another man or woman who exhibits the traits they wish to see, or fail to see, in their spouse.
God has called us to a higher standard of living. Sexual immorality is rampant in our culture and we need to be the ones to set the example. We need to guard ourselves in such a way that it minimizes sexual temptation and helps us to keep our minds where they should be. God wants us to have a plan of action when it comes to sexual temptation (or really any kind of temptation).
What is God saying to me?
This is such a personal question for a blog!!! Let me say this. I am a guy who struggles like every other guy. It is important that people understand this. Like I said, there are too many pastors out there who want to deny that they struggle with sexual temptation and then end up falling. I never want to be one of those guys. I can say this, I have one accountability tool in place, but I need to develop more.
Okay, so I said I had one tool in place. The tool is Covenant Eyes. This is an internet tool that monitors the websites you go to. You install it on your computers (laptop, home computer, etc...). It doesn't limit the websites you go to, but just monitors them. At the end of a period it sends an email to people you have designated as accountability partners letting them see the sites you have accessed. I have two people designated as my accountability partners. There should actually be a third one, my wife. I've been a little afraid to make her one because I know that she will hold me to closer accountability then the other two guys, but I think it is time to designate her as one. So that is what I am going to do.
Father, I don't want to be like the people of this world. I don't want to be ruled by uncontrolled passions. If there is one uncontrolled passion that I would want to be ruled by it would be an uncontrolled passion for you. Please help me to "control my own body." Help me to continually develop systems that help me to avoid temptation and giving into temptation. You are my God and I want to fully serve you. If I continually give into temptations and sin I know I cannot fully be serving you. Jesus said that we can only serve one master. You are the master that I choose. Direct me please. Thank you for listening to my prayer.