“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification — that each of you possess your vessel in honor.”
-I Thessalonians 4: 3-4
Sexual purity for the Christian is a mandate, goal and achievement. It’s a mandate because it’s expected by God and reasonably so; it’s a goal in that we strive towards it, and an achievement when we both attain and then maintain it. It’s also way of being and living that runs contrary to so much of what we’re exposed to daily.
The fact that we’re sexual creatures with natural responses can be enough of a struggle, but add to that the ongoing stimulation of billboards, immodestly dressed women and men, suggestive content on television ads and countless other stimulants, and the goal of a pure mind and body can seem like Quixote’s Impossible Dream – lofty, but virtually unreachable.
So does anyone really reach it? Sure, frequently and in large numbers. So who are these saints who learn to abstain from porn, fornication and adultery, and manage to rein in their lust when it goes into overdrive?
Well, they’re nothing special. In fact, they have a lot in common with those who give up and who give in to lust. They struggle; they feel and desire; they experience every frailty and yearning that goes with the title Human. But they do share three traits I’ve seen repeatedly over the years. And when we want to achieve something, who better to emulate than those who’ve achieved it already? With that in mind, let’s look at a trio of qualities found in people who both attain, then maintain, their sexual integrity.
People who stay pure are Planners
If you want purity, you need structure. Without it, you’re doomed to keep falling back into old, familiar patterns. With it, you can put the checks and balances in place that you need to stay on track.
Take for example the guy who’s ready to quit using internet porn. He’s no doubt developed a pattern of indulging, one that he falls into whenever the mood strikes. Well, no matter how sorry he is after the fact, he’ll repeat the same behavior unless some changes are planned, then practiced. He needs to plan when and how he’ll get a filter on his computer; he needs to plan what time of day he’ll institute his prayer and Bible reading time to keep his spiritual fires stoked; he’ll need to plan when and with whom he’ll make his accountability meetings. None of these things happen without practical planning, no matter how good the intentions are. Purity calls for planning, no exceptions.
People who stay pure are Stretchers
The first time I picked up a set of dumb-bells nearly thirty one years ago, my trainer said, “You’ll notice two types of pain. One will be accompanied by fear, and it will feel sharp and destructive. That’s the pain of an injury, which you want to avoid. But the other type of pain feels more like a stretch, as though you’ve pushed yourself further than usual. It hurts, but your instincts will tell you it’s a good hurt.
So it is with purity. When you resist what you’re used to indulging in, you feel some real discomfort, like a good but burning stretch. It hurts, but clearly it’s a hurt you need, because with it comes the proof that you can say no to what you’re used to saying yes to. And that can be, to say the least, a life changing stretch.
People who stay pure are Teachable
If you’ve been making all the right decisions for all of your life, than teachable is a quality you can do without. But if you’re like most of us, there’s a trail of mess-ups on your resume. That’s OK; it only puts you in the company of such notables as Adam, Abraham, King David and St. Peter. But it’s also proof that you can use some guidance. If purity’s your goal, you need to hear from people who understand how hard it is to attain, and you need accountability from others who can speak into your life by pointing out the blind spots you’ve never seen, and the patterns you’ve often ignored. The man who achieves is the man who listens, especially to those who are committed to telling him the truth when truth is a least inconvenient; at most, unpleasant.
I know you want to make it; that’s why you’re here. So take a cue from those who are already making it. Accept the need for planning, embrace the painful but healthy stretch, and keep a humble mind. You’ll be thrilled to see how far those three qualities alone can take you.