Excerpt from last night's sermon on 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8.
But how do we actually battle lust and sexual immorality in our hearts? I guess we could encourage each other with all kinds of practical strategies. And they would be different for those of us at different ages and stages.
- What do you do in the playground when everyone mocks you for sexual purity and suggests you are the weird odd one out? That’s painful, when people label you as a social misfit and outcast, or as sexually inadequate because you are the only 15 year old virgin in the class.
- What do you do when you are a commuter who face salacious images on the tube and in the free London press every day?
- What do you do with TV that all of a sudden gets sexual?
- What do you say when office colleagues are talking about sex in ways that trivialise it – “it’s just sex”? (That's one of the big lies of the age, it's just sex. Have you seen the recent government guidelines for parents on how to teach pre-teens about sex, that say "try not to give your own values when talking about sex, so that children can make up their own minds about rights and wrongs and gender identity in this area. It's just sex. That is a strong idealogical worldview disguising itself as neutral objectivity).
- What about when you are student knowing full well what the people in the rooms on either side are doing every night?
- What do you do when you are travelling on business and nobody knows where you are or what you are doing?
- What about when you become a believer out of a situation of pagan lust or a culture that allows polygamy. We have both of those in Orpington.
There will be different practical strategies that might help us in each of those situations that we could talk about if that would be helpful to you. But there is one main underlying one and it’s in v5. Knowing God. In v4-5 knowing God is what distinguishes sexual desire from pagan lust. Not knowing God is exemplified by lust. Lust is symptom of unbelief. And we fight unbelief by getting hold of God. Battling lust is battling unbelief. Battling temptation to just give in and no longer be the only 15 year old virgin is battling unbelief.
To put it the opposite way unbelief/lust stops you having intimacy with God. You replace that intimacy in your heart with desire for infinitely inferior intimacies, intimacies without honour and holiness. Intimacy that doesn’t know and isn’t guided by the power and beauty of God. Pathetic, flawed intimacy that says of another person, or an image of another person, “you exist for my pleasure but not for my honour, or the good of my soul, or to help my delight in God, or to encourage me to take my eternal future seriously.”
Wrong affections in our hearts only get expelled by the power of better ones. And so the instruction of this passage on how to fight is to receive God who gives the Holy Spirit. And so I urge you whether you are married or single, young or old, to take hold of him in this matter today. To imbibe his word, to think about his greatness every day, to seek him for his help. If I can say it reverently, get your soul ravished by his splendour and perfections and promises rather than by the sordid rubbish the world offers.