Chastity/Restraint vs. Lust

January 24, 2023
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Daily Scripture

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, Colossians 3:1-6, 9-10, 2 Peter 1:3-4, Hebrews 13:4

1 Thessalonians 4

3 God’s will is that your lives are dedicated to him [or holy, sanctified]. This means that you stay away from sexual immorality 4 and learn how to control your own body in a pure and respectable way. 5 Don’t be controlled by your sexual urges like the Gentiles who don’t know God. 6 No one should mistreat or take advantage of their brother or sister in this issue. The Lord punishes people for all these things, as we told you before and sternly warned you. 7 God didn’t call us to be immoral but to be dedicated to him. 8 Therefore, whoever rejects these instructions isn’t rejecting a human authority. They are rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Colossians 3

1 Therefore, if you were raised with Christ, look for the things that are above where Christ is sitting at God’s right side. 2 Think about the things above and not things on earth. 3 You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
5 So put to death the parts of your life that belong to the earth, such as sexual immorality, moral corruption, lust, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6 The wrath of God is coming upon disobedient people because of these things.

9 Don’t lie to each other. Take off the old human nature with its practices 10 and put on the new nature, which is renewed in knowledge by conforming to the image of the one who created it.

2 Peter 1

3 By his divine power the Lord has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of the one who called us by his own honor and glory. 4 Through his honor and glory he has given us his precious and wonderful promises, that you may share the divine nature and escape from the world’s immorality that sinful craving produces.

Hebrews 13

4 Marriage must be honored in every respect, with no cheating on the relationship, because God will judge the sexually immoral person and the person who commits adultery.

Reflection Questions

New Testament Christians lived in a world where lust and sex without commitment were a given. Yet Jesus taught that lust (desiring another person just as an object for our own pleasure) is an inner issue (cf. Matthew 5:27-28). Hearts and minds act immorally before bodies ever do (and technology, of course, has magnified the chances to fall into that kind of thinking). That was why the apostles repeatedly urged Christians to resist temptations and live new, transformed lives (cf. James 1:13-14).

  • Scholar N. T. Wright said a “world of unbridled self-gratification was what the Thessalonians found on their doorsteps, the world to which until recently they had themselves belonged.” * For people raised in the Greco-Roman culture, learning “how to control your own body in a pure and respectable way” was a new idea, not something they just assumed had any connection with serving God. In what ways is our culture different from that? In what ways is it similar?
  • In Roman times, as in ours, many people saw sexual acts apart from committed love as “victimless” (even more if we see them on a screen). Jesus and the apostles said sexually mistreating or taking advantage of anyone is to ignore God, who values and respects all God’s children. And the key is not “gritting your teeth.” We focus on things above, on the power God has promised all God’s children, to live above the world’s immorality. What helps you to do that?
Prayer

Lord Jesus, you created us with, well, hormones. Yet you made us able to direct those potent feelings and urges in ways that serve love, not self-gratification. Whatever my stage or station in life, help me find that pathway. Amen.

© 2022 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
References

* Wright, N.T. Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians (The New Testament for Everyone). Westminster John Knox Press, p. 119. Kindle Edition.

GPS Insights

Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory is a volunteer for the worship and missions teams at Resurrection. He helps lead worship at Leawood's modern worship services, as well as at the West and Downtown services, and is involved with the Malawi missions team at home.

In college, I took a spiritual gifts test, but I think mine was a bit different. It was like an expanded spiritual gifts test, so it had some of the lesser-known gifts on there. My two lowest scores were martyrdom, for which I scored 2 points, and celibacy, for which I scored only a single point. The running joke was that I was twice as likely to die than to remain single, and admittedly that proved to be pretty true, so it may be a bit odd that I’m the one now talking to others about chastity and restraint. Regardless, I’ve had to learn some lessons on that, so here’s my take.

I’m married now, and if anyone reading this is looking forward to marriage because it will end the cycle of your eyes and mind wandering, I’ll tell you now: it doesn’t. The eyes and mind will always wander, so learning self-control when you’re young can save you a lot of heartbreak when you’re older.

As with many different areas, holiness begins well before other people notice what you’re doing; holiness begins with intention. What’s the difference between playful banter and flirtation? Intention. What’s the difference between watching a movie that has a love scene and giving into your lust? Intention. You will know you’re doing these things well before anyone else will recognize these patterns in you.

Practicing caution in these areas is also all about intention. My hands tend to swell an abnormal amount, sometimes making it painful for me to wear my wedding ring. But everytime I go to the gym, where my swelling is likely to be at its worst, I put my ring on, because I choose to be cautious. I mostly work from home, but any time I see coworkers in person, I wear the wedding ring for the duration. I don’t ever want to give myself an excuse to take a few steps more than I should away from my marriage, and that starts before I even leave my house.

If you find yourself struggling with lust, you’re in good company—I’ve struggled with that for most of my life, and there’s no way to really rid yourself of that. The goal is to set your boundaries before you test them. If you know you’re taking a step closer to temptation, even if you would be totally justified (to others) for doing so, ask yourself why you’re doing that. You may be the only person able to really gauge that for yourself, and honesty is a much better policy than plausible deniability.