Sexual purity is a process. It’s not something you get right once and forget about. Nor is it something that you lose in a moment. We create who we are with every daily thought we entertain and with every daily decision that we make. 1 Corinthians 10:12 says “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” And Proverbs 24:16 says, “For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.”
Pastor David Ireland understands process. He’s now been married to his wife for over 30 years. And he has been a Christian for about the same time. I’ve transcribed a sermon clip of his on walking in purity. In it, he talks about how our minds are the prism through which we see the world. When the mind is not right, perception of reality gets distorted. He also talks about the importance of having role models in the faith. And the biggest one for every Christian is Christ. Asking “What would Jesus do?” can straighten us out when we feel uncertainty about a particular course of action.
David D. Ireland, PhD, is the founding and senior pastor of Christ Church, a 7,500-member multiracial congregation of over 40 nationalities in New Jersey. Diversity consultant to the National Basketball Association, Ireland hosts seminars nationally and internationally on an array of topics, including leadership development, marriage and family, race and diversity, and prayer. (source: Goodreads).
Second secret–sexual purity is a process. Verse one says “Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God as, in fact, you are living.” So Paul commends them, “You guys are really pleasing God how you’re living.” He doesn’t stop there, but he says, “Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.” In other words, sanctification, or the growing in Christ-likeness in internal and external signs of holiness, is progressive. You don’t get there overnight.
When I first came to faith in Christ–I’m not where I am today where I used to be 31 years ago. I’ve grown in Christ. As I’ve worked out, as Paul says, my salvation with fear and trembling. And when I blew it, I learned to say “God, forgive me. I want to make sure I please you, not only in what I do but in how I think.”
You don’t want to be around people–their mind is so dirty. A psychologist who was working with this guy–he’s a sex addict. And the therapist was trying to help him get free. The therapist said “Look, I’m going to draw you some pictures to move you along.” “So he drew a picture with a vertical line with a cross, a line straight down, a line across.” The therapist said to the guy, “What do you see?” He said “I see a woman laying cross-ways on top of a man.” So the therapist drew an X. He said “What do you see?” He said, “I see a man laying cross-ways on top of a woman.” The therapist said to the man, “You’ve got a dirty mind.” “Me? You’re the one drawing dirty pictures.”
Sometimes when we get to the place where our minds are consumed with junk, we tend to see junk everywhere. And I’m saying that sanctification is a process. Now how do you get clean? Spend time in God’s word. God’s word will get you free from sin, or sin will keep you away from God’s words. Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” Then he answers it. “By living according to your word.”
You learn how to live a godly life, that’s how you understand sexual purity is a process. When I first came to faith in Christ, I didn’t know how to live a pure life, so I would ask myself. I would ask myself the simple question, “What would Jesus do?” Whatever Jesus would do, that’s what I would do, and it really helps you a lot because when you don’t have the answer for tough things, you say “What would Jesus do?” And you know what to do.
I remember leading this fellow to Christ, and a couple weeks later I saw him. I said “Hey, man, how is everything?” He said, “Oh, man. Praise God. This weekend I was at the racetrack and the Lord blessed me.” I laughed like you did, because I’m thinking somehow–though I couldn’t give him Bible and verse, I was only 3 months old in the Lord myself. I didn’t know the Bible, but I did know something’s not right with this racetrack. So the only question that came to mind was “Something’s not right with that.” He said “There’s no problem with it.” I said let me ask you a question, “Could you see Jesus standing next to you at the racetrack saying ‘Go Lucky 7. Go Lucky 7. Go Lucky 7.'” He laughed, and I said there’s your answer.
When it’s too theoretical to ask what would Jesus do, I ask what would Billy Graham do? He was somebody I admired, he carried himself with integrity, so I asked what would Billy Graham do? We need to ask ourselves those questions as well. See, if you learn how to live a godly life, it’s going to take a process, but you also connect with strong believers, because you learn how to walk in a strong way when you’re around strong people. A disciple is someone who is a disciplined follower of Christ–is strong in the Lord. And discipleship is a learned process. We learn because others can show us the way because they have first learned the way.
Would you hang out with people that are involved in all kinds of stuff that you know is not right? They may say, “I’m walking with the Lord, it’s OK.” They’ve got a woman on the side, they’ve got a girlfriend on the side. This one has a child over there. Their wife is over there. And you’re thinking “That’s how you do it?” That’s not how you do it. That’s how they do it, but the joy of serving the Lord is walking in purity.
Let me tell you something. For a man that’s married for 29 years, the joy is not in having these sexual partners out there. The joy is deepening your sexual relationship with your spouse for 3 decades. There’s a deeper joy that you get from that than being a player.