Killing an Increasingly Tolerated Sin


Every generation is marked by sin. From forced sterilizations to internment camps to sentencing disparities for drug convictions—every day is exceedingly evil.

One of the prevailing iniquities of our time is the increasing tolerance of pornography. Men used to hide their smut in the trunk of their cars or keep it buried deep under a workbench in their garage. Today, visiting a strip club is a viable conclusion to an evening business meeting, erotic novels become bestsellers and eventual blockbusters, porn actors are celebrities, lingerie fashion shows are nationally televised, and nudity in cable dramas is the norm.

We’ve gone from scandalous secrecy to open acceptance.

The temptation for the Christian is to redefine sexual purity according to the shifting standards of morality. What does it mean to be pure: Monogamy? Not engaging in a physical sexual act? Thankfully, God’s Word is our authority on sexual purity, our unchanging roadmap to joy and fulfillment.

Consider 1 Thessalonians 4:1–7:

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 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 not 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.

The apostle Paul expected the church to remember his earlier teachings on Christian living and to be growing “more and more” in purity.

This instruction to purity might seem obvious. But in a promiscuous society like Thessalonica—one like our very own—it requires counter-cultural living. So these believers needed the exhortation not to go with the current, but to live and please God.

For believers in Thessalonica and believers today, the Bible charts for us the path to purity.

First, we’re told to abstain from sexual immorality.

This means not engaging in any kind of illicit sexual activity outside of biblical marriage.

We make fun of the old-time saints who outlawed dancing and going to movies. But do you ever wonder if our generation has gone way too far the other way? Have we overcorrected and made allowances for the flesh?

Today, if you talk about something being foolish or dangerous, you’re become a legalist trying rob a brother or sister of their freedom in Christ. But the Bible is clear: Christians ought to flee sexual immorality. And we don’t have to wait until something causes us to sin before we recognize a temptation as dangerous.

We’re weaker than we realize, not as strong as we think. So we must be humble and vigilant.

Second, the Bible says we must control our body in a way that is holy and honorable.

The verb translated to control (ktasthai) in classical Greek ranged in meaning from being proficient in something, such as music or poetry, to exercising lordship over slaves. [1] Likewise, we must control our bodies. Sin’s desire is for you but you must rule over it (Gen. 4:7). By the Spirit, you reckon your members to be instruments of righteousness (Rom. 6:13).

Proverbs 25:28 says, “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” An ancient city without walls opened itself to attack. In the same way, the person who lacks self-control puts their guard is down, and they’re open to the assaults of temptation.

We must build up walls of protection. Perhaps an accountability software “wall” or a fasting “wall” or a meditating on the Word of God “wall” or a confessing my sins and asking for prayer in the community of believers “wall” or a prayer “wall.” Whatever the wall is, you must build it and tend to it.

For married Christians in particular, we must cultivate intimacy within marriage. This will help to keep us from being overwhelmed by temptation.

Third, the Bible says don’t be controlled by the passions of lust like people who don’t know God.

Why does being distinct from the world matter?

First, as Paul teaches, it pleases God. Our Creator made us for a clear purpose. He has called us to a holiness that requires more than external righteousness, but inward transformation. God is pleased when we fulfill that purpose and reflect his character to the world.

Second, being distinct makes us a light for Christ in a dark world. This is becoming more and more the case. What may have been mistaken as “good, old-fashion morals” 60 years ago has since become a noteworthy and intriguing way of life. The guy who insists on clean fun for his bachelor party now stands out. We should pray that our purity will cause unbelievers to examine the claims we make about Jesus.

Fourth, purity is important for our happiness.

True joy is found in the will of God. The world lies and promises that we’ll be happy and free if we just let go of our prudish ways and follow our passions. As someone who has sat with people who have gone down that that path, let me tell you what waits for you at the end: pain, brokenness, and despair.

Don’t believe the world’s lies. Jesus offers us something far greater than the lesser pleasures of this world. He gives us himself. God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, and the delight of knowing God and living according to his purposes offers a more exhilarating and fulfilling pursuit.

[1] Green, G. L. (2002). The letters to the Thessalonians (p. 191). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos.

Vergil Brown

Vergil Brown is the Lead Pastor of Redemption Church in Portland, Oregon.

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