Apparently, sexual purity was a popular topic in the early church. Almost every book in the New Testament addresses sexuality in some way. I was reminded of this recently while reading the apostle Paul’s instructions to the young church in the ancient city of Ephesus. He writes, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Ephesians 5:3). Those who have been made pure and holy through faith in Jesus Christ should pursue lives of purity, especially sexually.
These words of warning in Scripture are not outdated admonitions from a previous, less sophisticated age. The need to pursue sexual purity in our culture is as relevant today as it’s ever been. We live in an over-sexed environment where fresh distortions of God’s design for sex are being constantly invented, threatening to derail followers of Jesus from living out their identity through the gospel. We must fight for purity.
Here are a couple ways I’ve learned to pray in the midst of the lifelong battle for sexual purity:
1) Ask God for the faith to believe that obeying his commands is the most satisfying existence you were made for.
Living a life of sexual purity is actually in your best interest. And God has your best interests in mind! Our lives are filled with all kinds of boundaries and fences. Take for example stop signs, speed limit signs, laws against murder, etc. We all understand this. The alternative is a life of chaos and anarchy. God has graciously established fences in our world for human flourishing.
The Bible’s sexual ethic could be described as God-given fences for human flourishing, not fences that are meant to rip us of our freedom and enjoyment. Life is meant to be joyfully lived as we run within the God-given boundaries that our Creator has designed. God has created sexual intimacy with your true happiness in mind. We need God to grant us the faith to believe these things.
2) Ask God to change the desires of your heart so that you hunger for holiness and purity.
I’ve spent a lot of time in my life, maybe like you, creating safeguards and accountability structures to help me pursue purity. In the fight for purity, these are good and necessary ways to protect your heart. The Bible urges us to guard our hearts with diligence (Proverbs 4:23). But, the way to grow in holiness is not merely to build a bigger fence; it’s to develop a bigger love for God. So pray, “God, as I delight in you, help me to desire holiness. Help me to want to be pure.” As we find our satisfaction in God, we’ll pursue satisfaction less in the deceptive pleasures of sin.
As a follower of Jesus, you are part of the kingdom of God. You have an unshakable inheritance. The pursuit of purity must be undertaken not by the power of the law, but through the power of grace. Grace is much more powerful, and it actually leads to real and lasting transformation at the heart level.