Some years ago a group of visitors arrived at the gates of a coal mine. The management had agreed to give them a tour of the site, and the visitors were interested to learn all that they could about the workings of a mine. As they began their tour, they were surprised to discover a pure white plant growing by the entrance to the mine. It amazed them that such a clean-looking plant could be found growing in such a dirty environment where coal dust was constantly being blown by the wind. Seeing their interest, the guide took some coal dust in his hand and threw it over the plant, but not one particle stuck to it. The visitors did the same, and again the coal dust fell harmlessly to the ground. Not a single speck seemed able to remain on the snow-white leaves of the plant.
That day, those visitors not only learned about the workings of a coal mine but also made an interesting discovery in the realm of botany. For Christians, that incident suggests something more. Like that plant, we find ourselves living in an increasingly ungodly and impure world. Filth pours forth through the media, ungodly co-workers often punctuate their speech with suggestive innuendoes, and Christians can feel that such a barrage of evil influences is almost too great to withstand. Although we are told to keep ourselves “unspotted from the world” (Jas. 1:27 KJV), how is it possible to maintain a purity similar to that of the white flowering plant outside the coal mine?
God’s purpose for His children is that they should remain pure in an impure world. In his letter to his younger friend Timothy, Paul wrote, “keep thyself pure” (1 Tim. 5:22). The Thessalonians were told, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication” (1 Th. 4:3). God is holy, and He wants us to be holy too (1 Pet. 1:16). In practical terms this means we must avoid all that is unholy and therefore displeasing to Him.
There are many warnings relating to sexual immorality in the Bible. In the book of Proverbs Solomon counsels his son to keep away from the immoral, seductive woman (Prov. 5-6), and to beware of the lure of the prostitute (Prov. 7). The stark warning is given that “whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul” (Prov. 6:32). The New Testament goes even further, making it plain that adulterers will be judged by God (Heb. 13:4).
Examples abound in Scripture too, alerting us to the way that other men fell. The sad account in 2 Samuel 11 begins with king David relaxing in Jerusalem while his army was engaging in conflict on the battlefield. Soon David found himself engaged in a different kind of conflict. From the roof of his palace he saw a very beautiful woman. Although he was informed that she was already married, David still proceeded on his reckless course and took Bathsheba and lay with her. The remainder of the chapter describes the lengths to which David went in order to hide his sin. In the next chapter we find God convicting His servant of his sin – which was the first stage in the process of David’s recovery.
David’s own example did not pass unnoticed. Repercussions were felt in his close family. His own son Amnon lusted after Tamar, a half-sister. Unable to restrain his burning passion, he “forced her, and lay with her” (2 Sam. 13:14). With the sexual adventure over, Amnon found that lust gave way to loathing for he “hated her exceedingly” (13:15). The pleasures of sin did not provide Amnon with the lasting satisfaction that he had anticipated. As we read on we find ruined lives in the wake of that uncontrolled moment.
In the beginning God created one man, and from him He made woman. He purposed thereafter that a man should “leave his father and his mother” and be joined to his wife, becoming “one flesh” with her in marriage (Gen. 2:24). The Lord Jesus made it clear that this principle has never been revoked (Mt. 19:4-6). Sexual relations outside of marriage are wrong – whether it is fornication which takes place between two unmarried people, or adultery which occurs when one or both partners break an existing marriage bond. Sexual relations between two people of the same sex are also forbidden by the Word of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10). God’s unaltered purpose is that a man and a woman should commit themselves to one another in marriage, and for life. The Bible clearly teaches that all sexual relations must be kept within the context of that unique, established relationship.
Corinth was an idolatrous and immoral city. Many of the believers there had been converted from lives of shame (1 Cor. 6:9- 11). Through the work of the Holy Spirit they had been brought into God’s kingdom and had become “members of Christ.” knowing this, Paul explained that their bodies were now temples of the Holy Spirit in which God should be glorified. The one who commits an act of immorality sins against his own body. For this reason he urged them to “flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:15-20). The word that Paul used means to flee as a fugitive would. Try to picture one who is in danger and is escaping for his very life. When you are in that kind of situation you do not linger, you get away fast!
Consider Joseph. Sold by his brothers, he found himself in a position of trust and responsibility in the house of Potiphar in Egypt. Potiphar’s wife soon noticed that Joseph was a handsome young man and wanted to have an affair with him. With her husband away from the house, nobody would know. But Joseph would not be seduced. He knew that the experience would mean sinning “against God.” And when she physically restrained him one day in order to force him to lie down with her, Joseph fled from her presence (Gen. 39:1-12).
When confronted by sexual temptation, like Joseph, we should flee from it. Young people face particularly strong desires, and Timothy was told to “flee … youthful lusts” (2 Tim. 2:22). However, it is not only the young who are vulnerable. If we think we are standing securely, we must take heed lest we fall (1 Cor. 10:12). All the days of our lives we need both to keep ourselves pure (1 Tim. 5:22) and to keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21). This is a great responsibility, but we are not left to “keep” ourselves in our own strength. Divine help is at hand, and Scripture tells us that we are also “kept by the power of God” (1 Pet. 1:5).
There is an old saying that you cannot stop birds from flying over your head, but you can stop them from nesting in your hair. Temptations will come, but we need not yield to them. There are some positive steps that we can take to make it more difficult to fall into temptation.
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). Be careful, therefore, what you allow to enter your heart and mind. Don’t watch films or television programs that do not glorify God. Apply the standards of Philippians 4:8 to your viewing and ensure that you only look at things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. Don’t allow any unclean “birds of thought” to lodge within your mind.
The story is told of a king in ancient times who wanted to employ the best-qualified chariot driver he could find. Three men, considered the best in the kingdom, were chosen and then were each tested. The king took them up to a wide road that ran along a high cliff more than a thousand feet above a sheer drop and asked them to drive the chariot along the rugged road. The first two men wanted to impress the king with their skills and drove their chariots as fast as they could and as close to the edge as they could. The third man drove fast but kept his chariot well away from the edge of the cliff. This man was the one who was chosen to be the king’s chariot driver. The lesson is this: keep well away from danger. Do not run any risks. Avoid temptation. Do not play with fire.
Someone reading this article may feel convicted. Perhaps at some time you have engaged in fornication or adultery. You know that God is not pleased with what you did. Is there any hope for you? Yes, there is! Scripture says, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13). You can never cover your sins from the all-seeing eye of God. However, if you confess them to Him and turn away from them, in mercy He will forgive you. Confession must be genuine. Any sinful relationship must be abandoned. David truly repented and knew the joy of his sins being covered – not by himself in self-defense, but by God in His forgiving grace (Ps. 32:1). You can discover the same forgiveness.
One day the Church will be delivered forever from this sinful world and will be presented to Christ as “a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Eph. 5:27). Paul’s desire was that the believers at Corinth might be presented “as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2). As we anticipate the moment when we shall meet our heavenly Bridegroom, we can do no better than adopt the humble and earnest prayer of David in Psalm 19 (below). Recognizing our own need, we ought to seek the Lord daily for His cleansing and for safe keeping.
By Martin Girard
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org