Published February 5, 2015
1 Thessalonians 4:3-8
Bible Studies for Life, Feb. 15
Talking about pornography is as awkward as standing in an elevator trying to start a conversation brief enough to end before the next floor and long enough to be a good Christian neighbor.
Pornography has been labeled a billion-dollar industry by the media and makes some people rich because many are caught in this world of lust. We would think that everyone is constrained by the love of Christ, yet, we live in the real world, where Satan has presented a perverted short-term substitute for pleasure.
Some want out but are afraid to escape or just cannot get free. Others have never experienced the wonderful grace of God and think their lifestyle is as good as it gets. Our responsibility is to point to the Gospel so the Holy Spirit can show the majesty and freedom of life in Christ.
I Thessalonians 4:3
In these verses, Paul gives instructions for dealing with fornication, including pornography, and the first command is to “avoid” sexual immorality. This sounds elementary, but Paul stated it because we have so much trouble avoiding disaster.
The secret place of a man and woman married to one another is where God intended sex to take place, but society has brought sex into the living room for all to witness. That makes it easy to see and hard to resist.
Obviously, Christ has to be the strength and power to resist, which is sufficient reason for Paul to call for purity. We have our weaknesses and must avoid any situation where temptation is present.
Paul emphasizes the call for purity further, by stating it is the will of God for sanctification. For us to be in the will of God, we must avoid and resist pornography.
I Thessalonians 4:4-5
The second simple instruction is to use self-control. The lack of self-control has all to do with selfish passion and you may be faced with a person unwilling to sidestep pornography. For this person, the heart is the problem that causes the sin. Convincing this person is an impossible task, so they need a witness of the Gospel to change the heart.
Note that Paul indicates our responsibility to control our bodies comes with knowing God personally. He says the Gentiles do not know God, so they do not have self-control. Christians belong to Jesus and want to please Him. Many who are controlled by pornography simply need to meet Jesus.
Pornography, however, for many is a secret impulse and can be hidden, to a certain degree, from other people. Secrets are never healthy in these situations, because individuals on their own cannot control the flesh. I am awestruck at how we strive to control everything around us, but fail to use self-control.
If we want to help a person caught in this trap, we can kindly be a friend by offering support. God has given us one another to comfort, encourage, and keep one another accountable.
Humans have the capacity to fall into any trap at any time so we need support from fellow Christians.
I Thessalonians 4:6-8
The third instruction is found in verse 6 when Paul says to not take advantage of others.
Sexual immorality is a basic disregard for human life as God designed it and frankly, verse 8 says it is a disregard for God himself. Paul finishes the passage by saying the God we are disregarding has given His Spirit to convict and convince us of the right way to live.
Many sad stories have come from people involved in sexual addictions. For Christians, it harms our testimony and subsequently detours people from the Gospel. Families can be broken from giving attention to self-passion.
At a conference for youth, Johnny Hunt said pornography can cause a person to lose his or her soul. He was referring to the identity that God has given within our relationships, our satisfaction, our view of sex, and our misconception of how God intended us to act. An old friend told me once that every person was born with a purpose, and pornography is witnessing the degradation of men and women who were born for something else. So, God says to regard Him and the people around us with a pure lifestyle.
Look finally at two important questions for those ready when pornography controls and those being controlled by it.
How can I help when pornography controls?
You may be disgusted at discovering a person close to you is struggling with pornography, but you must help them seek forgiveness. Talk about Paul’s instruction to avoid pornography. Support people in the battle to control the urges. Be an example by using self-control and being accountable to another person.
Help individuals see the harm in the sin of pornography. If a person is unwilling to change, pray and continually point to the grace of Christ with words and actions.
Is God finished with me?
This question has to be addressed briefly, because many Christians who are caught in the act feel like life is over. Paul wrote this passage because people have sexual urges. If there is a warning label, someone has tried what we were warned about before the label was printed. You are not the first person to struggle with sin.
Even though we have a call to purity, we still are tempted and fail. We do not have to sin and should not want to, but sometimes we do. Repent and seek the help of trusted believers. God has not thrown you away, and can use you to encourage others who are struggling.
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