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Christian Living

What Is Sexual Immorality?

The Bible Calls Us to Live a Life of Purity and Avoid Being Sexually Immoral

In studying Revelation for my upcoming book, A New Heaven and a New Earth, two recurring phrases are sexual immorality and sexually immoral. The Bible decries this is something to avoid. But that begs the question: what is sexual immorality?

No Moral Absolutes?

The world teaches us that there are no moral absolutes. It asserts that it’s up to each person to determine what is morally right for them. This sounds nice; it’s accommodating, but remember what the Bible says in Judges when everyone did what was right in their own eyes? That is, everyone did as they saw fit (Judges 17:6).

This attitude of each person choosing their own moral path separated them from God, and they fell victim to a series of oppressors as a result. We can’t define what morality means at an individual level and expect our determination to please God.

Since it’s not going to work to decide for ourselves what it means to be sexually immoral, let’s look at what the Bible has to say.

Sexual Immorality in the Old Testament

Though we might assume this is an Old Testament concept, warnings about sexual immorality occur mostly in the New Testament.

There is one lone verse in the Old Testament about sexual immorality. You may guess it’s in reference to Sodom and Gomorrah, but it’s not. Ezekiel says that Sodom’s sin was their failure to help the poor and needy, Ezekiel 16:49. He doesn’t mention their sexual practices.

The one Old Testament reference to sexual immorality occurs when the men of Israel engage in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who use sex to entice the men to worshipping their gods instead of the true God. The Lord Almighty is not pleased (Numbers 25:1-3).

This doesn’t mean that the Old Testament is silent on the concept of sexual purity. The law of Moses repeatedly lists—with squirm-producing unease—the relatives who people can’t have sexual relationships with (Leviticus 18:6-23). I’d have been much more comfortable with Moses simply saying to not have sex with a close relative and left it at that.

Sexual Immorality in the New Testament

In the New Testament, Jesus warns against sexual immorality, Luke covers it in the Book of Acts, and Paul writes about it to the various churches—especially the Corinthians. And John’s epic end-time vision addresses sexual immorality too, making it abundantly clear that it’s something we should avoid.

What Does the Bible Say?

In the NIV, Scripture prohibits adultery (sex between a married person and someone other than their spouse), mentioning it forty-five times. The Bible decries prostitution (sex for money or personal gain), mentioning it thirty-six times, with prostitute showing up seventy-four more times. Rape (forced or nonconsensual sex) appears nine times. The evils of incest (sex between closely related relatives) is directly mentioned once, but the concept shows up repeatedly.

Though not mentioned in the NIV, the KJV speaks against fornication (sex between unmarried people) thirty-five times.

Lest there be any doubt, these two hundred various mentions of sexual conduct never occur in a positive manner in Scripture. We can, therefore, use these biblical passages to show us what it means to be sexually immoral.

Sexual immorality is sex outside of marriage. Click To Tweet

It’s clear from all these verses that sexual immorality is sex outside of marriage.

If our determination of sexuality doesn’t align with what the Bible teaches, then we’re out of step with what the Word of God proclaims and what God desires for us.

Even if society applauds us for doing so, God does not. In the end, it’s God’s opinion that matters, not the world’s.

What About Matters of Conscience?

The Bible makes it clear about what sexual behavior is acceptable and what is unacceptable. Paul, however, does make an allowance for conscience, but it may not be what you think.

Paul allows believers to pursue an even higher standard. Abstinence. Paul models this and recommends it as an ideal, but he doesn’t command it. He makes sure we realize it’s optional (1 Corinthians 7:1-7).

Given All This, What Is Sexual Immorality?

In the delusion of an anything-goes worldly mentality, as followers of Jesus we should adhere to the biblical teaching that sexual immorality is sex outside of marriage.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Do You Ever Wonder If Your Right Behavior Is in Vain?

Keeping Our Heart Pure Is Hard, Especially When God Offers Us Grace and Mercy

There are at least twelve psalms in the Bible written by Asaph. Psalm 73 is one of them. Asaph’s having a bad day. He’s going through a difficult time. It’s a rough season for him. He’s discouraged and pours out his angst to God in this Psalm. His words are honest and real, gut wrenching and agonizing. We feel his pain. His pain may be our pain. His questions may be our questions.

At one point he wonders if his efforts to maintain his purity are in vain (Psalm 73:13). I get that.

Sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing. It requires effort and involves sacrifice. And toward what end? There is no reward in sight. There is no “well done good and faithful servant.” Is it all in vain? Taking the easy path seems the easy thing to do. So why not? After all we have God’s mercy and grace to rely upon, so do our actions really matter? I think that’s where Asaph is at.

This is wrong thinking, and I often struggle with it.

God gives us a life worth living, a future to anticipate. Our right response is to adjust our behavior out of gratitude. Click To Tweet

We shouldn’t do good things to gain God’s attention, receive his favor, or even hear his praise. If we do something good for God in expectation of earning something from him in return, we have it backward. That’s man’s thinking, not God’s way.

Instead our right actions, our purity of word and deed, should come forth in response to what God has already done for us. It’s our thank you gift to him. God gives us a life worth living, a future to anticipate. Our right response is to adjust our behavior out of gratitude.

Thanking God through our actions and purity is not in vain. It’s the right thing to do and what he deserves.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Psalms 71-75, and today’s post is on Psalm 73:13.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

What Does God Think of Prostitutes?

While I can’t definitively answer this question about prostitutes, the Bible does give a clear indication—and the answer may surprise you.

Through the prophet Hosea, God says: “I will not punish your daughters when they turn to prostitution…because the men themselves consort with harlots and sacrifice with shrine prostitutesa people without understanding will come to ruin!”

In economic terms, there needs to be both supply and demand for a “market” to exist. This applies to prostitution. Although both society and law enforcement tend to focus on the “supply” side of the prostitution equation, God’s focus seems to be on the “demand” side.

In God’s book, it’s the guys who are at fault and the guys who will come to ruin over prostitution. While sexual purity is a reoccurring theme in the Bible, in this case the ladies are offered mercy, but not so much for the guys.

Isn’t God wonderfully surprising?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Hosea 1-4, and today’s post is on Hosea 4:14.]

Learn more about all twelve of the Bible’s Minor Prophets in Peter’s book, Return to Me: 40 Prophetic Teachings about Unfaithfulness, Punishment, and Hope from the Minor Prophets

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

What Are Spiritual Disciplines?

Spiritual disciplines are things we do to draw us closer to God or to honor him. But if we do it out of obligation or in response to guilt, we miss the point. To be of real value a spiritual discipline is something we enter into willingly, with joy and anticipation.

Unlike spiritual gifts, which the Bible lists, scripture doesn’t delineate spiritual disciplines. But it does hint at the practices of certain spiritual disciplines throughout its pages. However, making a list is more a matter of opinion than fact.

Therefore there is little agreement about what constitutes a spiritual discipline.

A quick online search of a half dozen sources revealed the following composite list of seventeen spiritual disciplines. Some people use different labels, so similar items are combined:

Bible Reading

We regularly read the Bible. This is tops on many people’s list of spiritual disciplines.

Bible Study

Reading the Bible is good, but studying its words is even better.

Chastity

Chastity or celibacy is living a life of moral purity.

Community

Hanging out with other Christians (and spiritual seekers) to form spiritual connection. Some people call this fellowship or a soul friendship.

Confession

Confessing our acts of disobedience. This can be to God or to others.

Evangelism

Telling others about Jesus.

Fasting

Going without something, usually food, in order to give more attention to God.

Prayer

Talking with God. Prayer is so much more than sharing our wish list with him.

Sabbath

(take a Sabbath): Follow the Old Testament tradition of a Sabbath rest, be it on Saturday, Sunday, or another day.

Sacrifice

Giving up something to help others or something that keeps us from God.

Secrecy

Do things in secret to benefit others, such as giving gifts or doing things for others without letting anyone know. (Our reward for this comes from God.)

Service

Serving others.

Simplicity

Committing to a life of simple existence. (Some might use the label of poverty, but that seems extreme.)

Solitude

Being still to connect with God or seek him. this can go by various labels: meditation, personal reflection, silence, listening, and seeking guidance.

Stewardship

Using our blessings to bless others. This includes giving and tithing.

Submission

Yielding to others for God’s glory.

Worship

Approaching God with joy and awe. Celebration.

A spiritual discipline is something we do to draw us closer to God or to honor him. Click To Tweet

Other Possible Spiritual Disciplines

What about going to church, tithing, silence, and suffering? Can these be spiritual disciplines too?

In looking at this list I can smugly check off some of these items, while having others confront me. The key thing to remember about spiritual disciplines is that we must pursue them willingly and not out of obligation or guilt.

[Check out this book about spiritual disciplines.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Are You a Theologian?

A friend recently insulted me; he called me a theologian. What gall. I know he meant it as a compliment, but I was taken aback.

To me, a theologian is someone who intellectualizes God, sucking all the life and vitality from who he is and turning him into something dry, boring, abstract, and inaccessible.

I’ve heard these people speak, and I’ve read their writings—and I want nothing to do with them or the religious thought they represent.

When I hear “theologian,” the phrase “whitewashed tombs” comes to mind. Regarding this, Jesus said,

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law…for you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity,” (Matthew 23:27, NLT).

I am understandably turned off by that perception of the word theologian.

However, consider that theology simply means “the study of God.” Therefore, a theologian must be “one who studies God.” In that respect, perhaps I am part theologian—at least in a practical, non-theoretical sense.

But even more important than being one who studies God, however, is to be one who loves God, one who knows God, and one who follows God.

That’s how I’d prefer to be known.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.