1Th 4:1 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.
1Th 4:2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
1Th 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;
1Th 4:4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,
1Th 4:5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;
(bold italics and parenthesis mine)
Yes, I’m going to go there. It’s a delicate subject to deal with because who of us is perfectly controlled in mind or action in the area of ‘sexual immorality?’ Also, if it’s that taboo in Christian circles…then it deserves to be part of the conversational carousel. My encounters with dear Christian brothers are usually like this:
“Shannon, it just seems like I’ll never get victory in this area, sexual temptations I’m constantly fighting, constantly being wounded, stimulations are attacking my mind on the inside and out, I feel spiritually trapped, and after a while it’s hard to keep fighting against something when you keep losing”
Paul’s caution to the church regardless of what period of history, or however promiscuous or prude our culture tends to be, is to “know how to control your body.” That’s a bold command, not an optional one. This is our sanctification (v. 3), the process of a Christian being set apart to look like Christ, which is the will of God, because as verse 1 suggests, it pleases God. We should better understand that verse 4 suggests that a lot of ‘knowledge’ goes into the discipline of ‘controlling our passions.’ And isn’t this true to some extent in other disciplines? Athletes must ‘know’ what they put in their bodies, and how to diet. Politicians must know the pulse of voters on controversial subjects. Salespersons must know how to best price their product. When you know how to do something, it’s like riding a bike; it becomes a habit, even if not to perfection, it becomes a conviction, something you can handle confidently and with a righteous passion!
Sexual temptations are tricky though, like all bodily cravings, for hunger and thirst, for motion, for speaking, for breathing, these are all natural cravings…but unlike those other ones, sexual pleasure is a unique form of bodily pleasure given by our Creator (and within the proper context) for good. However, the evil one has pulled down the holy boundaries, and shoved in our faces illicit sexual gratification as the best way to feel completed. It’s globally woven into websites, movie trailers, sports, books, common speech (it’s normal to refer to even non-sexual things as sexy or hot!), comedy and style of dress. But, let the Christian know the means of how to conquer sexual temptation. Some advice:
- Know how to dislike and distrust the sin of sexual immorality. See the world’s propaganda on sex as a ‘lie’ and a ‘counterfeit.’
- Know what kinds of things can trip you up and avoid them.
- Know how to habitually say, “no” in your heart. This is a constant work of the Holy Spirit in us.
- Know how to be disciplined as a believer in every area of life, so that this area is no different
- Know how to pray before lust is aroused.
- Know how to tame your inherent passions. It’s a restless evil inside of us, but he can be tamed, he must be tamed!