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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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Christian Living

Are You a Person of Integrity?

Righteousness is Another Word for Integrity

Someone once surprised me, catching me off guard by calling me a “man of integrity.” Though honored by their perception, I shook my head. Yes, I aspire to be a person of integrity, but I’m not there. I have a long way to go and will never fully arrive. Still it’s a worthy pursuit.

Do You Cheat at Solitaire?

I recall someone saying that integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking. I suspect most of you have never played solitaire old school, using a deck of cards, but it’s an easy way to understand this idea of integrity in private.

As someone who has played solitaire with cards, I understand this too well. Holding cards in our hands makes it all too easy to peek at what lies ahead. Yes, there have been times of integrity when I refused to cheat. And there have been other times when I gave in because I felt that peeking was my only chance to win.

That’s a lack of integrity.

How we play solitaire seems like a small thing with little consequence. But it’s indicative of the whole person. If we maintain our integrity in small things that no one sees, we’re much more likely to do so with the important things that people do see.

It takes conducting both our private and public life well to be a person of integrity.

Are You Honest and Moral?

Two key components of integrity are honesty and morality. Honesty speaks truth even when it’s difficult to do so. Dishonesty can occur by saying what is untruthful. But it can also occur by not saying what needs saying. Withholding needed information is just as dishonest as speaking lies.

Morality is doing the right thing. It means living the right way. The Bible calls this righteousness, which is not a very popular topic in today’s culture. In fact, morality is not very popular either. But both honesty and morality are integral requirements for a person of integrity.

Do You Wrap-up Things Well?

I’ve often said that a person reveals their true character by how they leave a job. Do they quit without notice, leaving their employer in a difficult situation? Or do they give their two-week’s notice and then work hard until the last hour, striving to wrap up their projects and leave on the best possible terms?

That’s integrity.

But this goes beyond ending well each time we leave a job. It’s finishing everything with excellence. It’s completing what we start. When you launch into a project do people suspect you’ll never finish? Or do they know they can depend on you to complete what you said you would do?

That’s a person of integrity.

Will You Finish Strong?

The final wrap-up occurs at the end of our lives. Will we finish the race strong? That was Paul’s goal (Acts 20:24 and 2 Timothy 4:7). Too many people coast toward the finish line of life, and some even give up or make a U-turn to head in the wrong direction.

As for me, I don’t want to lose sight of the goal. I want to run hard to get there. I want to finish strong. I want to be a person of integrity when my life here on earth winds down.

Becoming a person integrity is not a grand, one-time decision. It’s a series of little decisions, moment by moment, day by day. Click To Tweet

Be a Person of Integrity

Becoming a person of integrity is not a grand, one-time decision. It’s a series of little decisions, moment by moment, day by day. Each one of these helps us establish a habit of integrity. Each one helps us move toward the goal of being a person of integrity.

The opposite is also true. Each time we fail to do what is right, each time we take a shortcut because it’s expedient, and each time we spew a white lie because it’s easier than speaking truth, we move away from integrity.

These also combine over time to lessen our integrity. We then risk becoming dishonest, immoral, and corrupt.

When I think of integrity, I think of righteousness. The opposite of righteousness is unrighteousness. The Bible talks a lot about that—and warns against it.

Each day I strive toward the goal of righteousness, with the intent of becoming a person of integrity. This is not only to serve as an example to others, but also as an act of worship to God. I long to one day hear him say, “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

May it be so.

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

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Demonstrate Our Faith by What We Do

I enjoy the writing and teaching of James. His words offer concise, practical teaching about being a follower of Jesus.

James talks about the great faith of Abraham, exemplified by his willingness to kill his son Isaac in obedience to God. (Spoiler alert: It was only a test. God didn’t actually make Abraham follow through with it. See Genesis 22:1-18.)

Anyone can say they have faith, but their actions prove it. Without a tangible demonstration, the existence of faith remains in doubt. Faith is not cerebral or an introspective endeavor. In truth, our actions speak louder than words.

Faith produces activity, action that shows obedience to God and love towards others. James concludes by writing that faith-prompted action is true righteousness, that is “right living.”

We live right when we express our faith by our actions. As such, our actions speak louder than words.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is James 1-3 and today’s post is on James 2:21-24.]

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

Who Needs a Doctor?

In the accounts of Jesus’ life, there’s a curious exchange he has with the religious leaders. Although he has many such interactions, this is perhaps the most perplexing.

He tells them healthy people don’t need a doctor. True. Then he makes a parallel assertion that his purpose isn’t to help good people (the “righteous”) but bad people (the “sinners”).

What does this mean?

Is he implying the religious leaders are healthy and in no need of his help, that they’re doing fine by adhering to their traditions? While it’s true that following their laws could be sufficient, they would need to do so perfectly. This is humanly impossible.

This could be a sarcastic statement, calling them good (righteous) when everyone—including themselves—knew it wasn’t true, that they fell short of God’s standard as well.

Jesus could have meant, that since the religious leaders considered themselves to be healthy, there was nothing he could do for them. Although they were really sick, he couldn’t be their doctor until they admitted they were ill.

We all need a doctor, but are we willing to admit it?

[Mark 2:17, Luke 5:31-32]

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 Need a Doctor?

Jesus said, “It is not healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus came for the sick. (Since he came to heal and to save, we may be able to comprehend this both literally and figuratively, that is, the physically sick and the spiritually sick.) Jesus came for sinners—those who miss the mark.

Conversely, Jesus did not come for the healthy, the righteous. What exactly does that mean? Perhaps:

  • People who are righteous (good and law-abiding) don’t need Jesus. (Is Jesus implying their path is through the Old Testament covenant and following the Law of Moses?)
  • People who think they are on the right track will never know they need Jesus, so he is dismissing them.
  • Everyone needs Jesus, but some people delude themselves, thinking they are the exception.
I need a doctor and his name is Jesus. Click To Tweet

None of these ideas is an adequate explanation for me of what this text means. Although the first one seems heretical, it is also the most direct understanding of Jesus’ actual words.

The other two responses require an interjection of ideas, some assumptions to be made—of basically reading the text through our own theological glasses.

Fortunately, I don’t need to understand this text completely. What I do know is I need a doctor—and his name is Jesus.

[Mark 2:17, Matthew 9:12-13, and Luke 5:31-32]

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’s Your Motivation for Holy Living?

Lately God has been prodding me through his Word and his Spirit to pursue a more holy lifestyle. To me, holy living means right living, what God calls righteousness.

Sometimes I make progress towards fulfilling this call, but most times not so much. I’m okay with that; I’m on a journey and the important thing is to be making progress. What I am not okay with is my attitude.

To my chagrin, during my moments of better behavior I have increased expectations of God. I act as if he owes me something, that I deserve his provision and blessing, and that I’ve earned his attention.

However, when I fail in my pursuit of holy living—as is often the case—I have no such expectations. Whatever God does for me—which is a lot—I receive with great joy and much appreciation.

Pursuing a holy life should be because God asks us to and as a response to his love for us. Acting holy simply to get something from him is just wrong.

[Read more about holiness at A Bible a Day and in the Bible.]

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

Jabez Was More Righteous Than His Brothers

One final reflection on the prayer of Jabez.

In the scant bio for Jabez, it describes him as a good man, saying he “was more righteous than his brothers.” Righteous is a word that we don’t use too often nowadays, but means to be morally upright. Jabez then was a good, morally upright person.

Now, consider that characteristic with the final phrase in this passage, “So God granted him what he requested.”

That begs the question of causality. Did God give Jabez what he asked for because Jabez was good or was Jabez good because God gave him what he asked for?

The answer, I suspect is “yes”—to both questions—which certainly gives us something to contemplate in respect to our prayers and relationship to God.

[Read more on The Prayer of Jabez; 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 NKJV]

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.