I was driving downtown recently to attend a basketball game at my alma mater when I heard Brynnan, my eight-year-old, say to her sister, “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, ten-ton bronze sculpture of five naked women and four naked men called Musica, which is located on 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 drive by this very public and large display of nudity each year.
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 statues. The onslaught of sexual impurity today is incessant. Many TV commercials are so skin-driven that it can be confusing as to what 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 without seeing skin. Stores such as Abercrombie, Hollister, and Victoria’s Secret can easily cause some to struggle as they look into these storefront windows.
These aren’t merely the struggles of the tweens, teens, and unmarrieds, but anyone, of either sex, and of any age. Sexual impurity knows no boundaries. 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.
God’s View of Sex
Before taking a bite of the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve did not need 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-more shamelessly impure culture?
First, it’s important to state the obvious: God has created you as a sexual being. Within the confines of marriage, He wants you to enjoy your sex. I mean really enjoy it! This is what the writer of Song of Solomon talked about in chapter 4 when he described in intimate detail his longing to be in the chambers of his bride, the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. He said, How beautiful you are! Your eyes are like doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats. Your lips are like scarlet, and your mouth is lovely. Your breasts are like two fawns. Your lips drop sweetness like honey. Your tongue is like milk and honey.
Wow! That’s some pretty steamy stuff from King Solomon. Yes, the King Solomon in the Bible. Can you believe this is in the Bible? When I think about the beauty of my wife I’m not sure “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 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. He knows His great gift can be seriously misused. So, He also has very clear advice for us about sex. In 1 Corinthians 6:18 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 out 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! 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.
You may be questioning, “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 how far is too far—think that as long as you 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, inappropriate flirtation, and even how you dress. We read a similar theme in Ephesians 5:3 where Paul said we should not even have a hint of sexual immorality or any kind of impurity 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 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.
A Plan for Purity
But just because I write it, and just because you read it, doesn’t make it easy to do. 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. You have to take action, and do so now. Here are seven actions steps to help you in the process:
1. Decide NOW that you will live a life of purity
Making the decision to live a pure life is the first step. You have to decide you don’t want to live under the stronghold or guilt that impurity creates. Choose to get serious about defeating it.
2. Guard your mind
The struggle with impurity often begins in your mind. You have to think practically when it comes to temptation. Make a promise to yourself to look the other way when walking by a store that has those displays or when driving by those landmarks in your community that you know can trip you up. Turn the channel when a commercial, movie, or TV show airs this stuff. Do your best to avoid looking at anything that might trigger impure thoughts in your brain.
3. Know what is nonnegotiable
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 who is not your spouse. Only you know what gets you going and only you know where to draw the line.
4. Plan your escape
Have a plan of action that you’ll use when you’re tempted. The key is to get your mind on something else.
5. Memorize Scripture
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 we can live clean lives by obeying God’s Word. I encourage you to find Scriptures that work for you and write them out. Hang them on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror at home. Memorize them. Make them your screensaver at work and repeat them out loud whenever you feel tempted.
6. Embrace accountability
Rather than making excuses, choose to take action! One way to do this is to find a mature Christian friend you can talk to openly about your feelings, frustrations, temptations, and setbacks.
7. Be alert!
Be wise enough to realize that although there may not be nine 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 Him. Ask for His forgiveness and ask Him to give you courage to apply these seven steps.