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I believe the Bible teaches that sex is a gift from God to be enjoyed within the boundaries of marriage.

Now, I’m not naïve. I know that viewpoint doesn’t sit well with many people. When it comes to standards of morality, we live in a culture that says, “Hey, you Christians, you need to change.”

Let me share a quote with you and see if you can guess who said it. The person speaking is criticizing the person who tries to establish sexual boundaries …

“He is at variance not only with the license of what our age allows, but also from the customs and concessions of our ancestors. When indeed was this not done? When did anyone ever find fault with it? When was such permission denied? When was it that which is now lawful was not lawful?”

Was that …

  • Cicero (died in 43 BC)?
  • Sigmund Freud (died in 1939)?
  • Hugh Hefner (he’s still alive but looks like the Captain from Captain and Tennile).

It was Cicero, nearly 50 years BEFORE the birth of Jesus, who argued for looser standards regarding sexuality.

Our culture tells us that any two consenting adults should be able to do whatever they want. We hear terms like “casual sex” and “hooking up.”

  • Is there such a thing as casual sex outside of marriage?
  • What is so “casual” about it?
  • Does sexual activity outside of God’s boundaries really have no consequences?

Here’s an important point to remember: When it comes to sex, if you do things the world’s way, you will get the world’s results. If choose to do things God’s way, you will get the results only God can produce.

We live in a society that is trying to throw off sexual restraints; the people Paul was writing to lived in a society that had no restraints.

When Paul wrote to Christians in places like Thessalonica or Corinth, he was addressing first generation Christians who had just come out of Greek or Roman culture.

Do the words “toga party” ring a bell?

1 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. — 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2

“How to live” is the same as saying “how to walk.” Jewish tradition often referred to one’s entire life as a walk. For too many of us, life has become more of a run than a walk … and that’s what often gets us in trouble.

Walking is an attitude more than an action. Paul wants them to give careful consideration as to how they walk.

3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit. — 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8

Let’s explore a few key words and phrases …

Sanctified. This means to become holy as God is holy. Literally it means to be set apart for divine purposes. A sanctified person is not a sinless person; they do, however, try to sin – less.

If you’re single, let me give you a tip: It’s not about you finding the right person. In God’s economy, it’s about you becoming the right person.

Sexual immorality. This one is fairly straight forward. The word itself is porneia – does that sound familiar? It means “having sexual intercourse with someone who is not your spouse.”

Control your own body. In other words, you are not an animal. There is an active role you play in maintaining purity. Holiness doesn’t exclude any sexual activity; it does control how and when it is expressed.

Passionate lust. This particular phrase is one that Paul sets this up as the opposite of self-control. Jesus described lust as a perverted form of love. Paul says this attitude is characteristic of the pagans — people who may know about God but do not know God.

Sometimes I’m asked, “How far is too far?” If you have to ask, it’s most likely what you’ve already done.

People who are seeking to please God are not trying to get as close to the line without crossing it; they are trying to stay as far away as possible.

The truth is, our culture has replaced covenant relationships with convenient relationships.

Sins. This is a word that means much more than just a mistake or problem. Paul calls any sexual behavior outside of marriage a sin.

What is God’s message? If you keep experience sex within his well-defined boundaries, it can be a wonderful gift of intimacy.

Outside of that and it can cause all sorts of problems.

If I decided to build a fire, that alone may or may not bother you. It would depend on where I decided to light the fire. Inside my fireplace or in a camp setting would be fine. In the middle of a theater, not so fine.

The problem isn’t with the fire itself but where I’ve decided to burn it. Why? Because the real question is whether I can contain it based on where I’ve chosen to use it.

When it comes to sexuality, passions aren’t the issue; containment is. God doesn’t condemn you for what you feel. It’s our enemy who tries to convince you to misplace your passion.

The truth is, passions need parameters.

Sexual activity apart from marriage is out of bounds, not because sex is bad, but because God made it so good.

Here’s what you can expect to hear when you argue for God’s standards of morality: “You’re not normal.” Here’s what I would say to that: “Normal not’s working.”

Some of you might be thinking, “I agree with you but it’s too late for me. I’ve already gone too far.” But is it really too late? Or is that another lie of the Devil?

Listen to these words from Paul to Timothy and know that they also apply to you …

3-8 It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come — an eternity of life! You can count on this. — Titus 3:3-8 (Message)