Let me ask you a question. Are you sexually pure? There is a good chance you don’t even know how to answer that question. Does your purity have to do with whether or not you had sex before you got married? Or whether or not you’ve ever sought out pornography or cheated on your spouse?
I have bad news and good news for you. The bad news is that you’ve blown it. God’s standard of purity, sexual and otherwise, is so high that you cannot possibly keep it. Jesus made this point: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:27–28). With this statement, Jesus moved the achievable standard of sexually pure behavior to the impossible standard of absolute purity in our sexual thoughts.
My husband and I did not have sex together before we got married. Yes, I was technically a virgin. But as my understanding of God’s design for sexuality has expanded, so has my awareness of how terribly I’ve missed that mark, both before and within marriage.
The Bible clearly reminds us that none of us can ever become “pure” because of our choices to avoid sin. “There is no one righteous, not even one. . . . All have turned away, they have together become useless” (Rom. 3:10–12). The “purest” people in Jesus’ day were the religious leaders. You’ve probably heard them called “Pharisees.” They would have been the ones harshly judging people who admitted to masturbating or sleeping around. The Pharisees followed the rules of the Bible with meticulous care. They were also the people to whom Jesus had the most critical things to say. They looked good on the outside, but they didn’t realize the rottenness of their own hearts. It’s ultimately not an affair, premarital sex, or pornography that makes us impure. Those actions are the symptoms of a disordered heart that has rejected God.
“Being a Christian truly means that we become new people in the eyes of God.”
That’s the bad news. Give up on purity because it’s impossible.
But there is actually some great news. I am totally and completely pure (sexually and otherwise), and you can be too! My purity hasn’t been accomplished by following the rules, but through the fact that I have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as my sole source of purity. It is only by faith in Jesus that any of us can be pure, and when we trust in Him, we take on His purity in exchange for all of our sin.
You may have heard this message before, but do you really believe it? Let’s compare two people. One has never looked at porn, saved sex for marriage, and thinks only sexually about his or her spouse. The other began having sex at the age of thirteen and has had more sexual partners, male and female, than you could count. Sex for this person has been a stumbling journey toward understanding God’s design in marriage. Both of these people place their trust in Jesus Christ, repenting of their sins and giving their heart to God. Is one more sexually pure than the other? The answer is no!
In 1 Corinthians 6:11, Paul tells us that we all came out of various sinful lifestyles. That is who we were, but no longer who we are in Christ Jesus: “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Do you feel self-righteous because you saved sex for marriage and your spouse didn’t? Or do you feel like you are forever tainted, undeserving of love because of your past sexual sin?
Being a Christian truly means that we become new people in the eyes of God. In fact, we are told to not look at people (including ourselves or our spouse) in the light of how the world sees things. Instead, we realize that our worth, our purity, and our salvation comes through our relationship with God. Everything about our old lives is gone! Forgiveness and freedom are real!
So many men and women see themselves as “second-class Christians” because of their sexual past. This is not an accurate way of viewing ourselves or others. Friend, stop trying to earn God’s favor by cleaning up your thoughts and behaviors.
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul teaches that our new identity in Christ results in a life surrendered to God, including how we steward our sexuality. “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” Without question, God calls His people to walk in holiness, sexually and otherwise. But we steward our sex lives because of God’s love, never to earn it.
by Juli Slattery
Many Christian books talk about sexual issues within broader works on marriage, but few resources comprehensively and biblically guide couples...
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