A crucial evidence from the Word of God of a life in step with the Spirit is that a person is pure and holy in the area of his physical passions. Now we could talk about all of a person’s physical passions, including his most basic desire, which is for food; for certainly there is a lack of self-control in this area in our day, in all of our lives. But let us focus on perhaps the most serious and wide-spread problem regarding physical passion in our day—the problem of sexual sin.
Sexual immorality is endemic in our day, even in the church—and particularly among men. All of us have to admit that we have failed miserably in this area; some of us, perhaps even many of us, after we have been truly converted. It is a wonder indeed that God has not wiped out the entire church on account of this one sin, as he threatened to wipe out the churches of Pergamum and Thyatira (Revelation 2). May God indeed grant us repentance and a return to vital purity in this area of our lives. How desperately we need such in our day.
Surely we need not be reminded or convinced of God’s will in this area. As we all know, sexual passions are to be fulfilled and expressed only within the bounds of God-sanctioned marriage (Hebrews 13:4). Anything other is either the sin of fornication, or that of adultery. Furthermore, we are to avoid lust at all times; in other words, it is not true that within marriage anything goes. As I Thessalonians 4:4-5 tells us, our bodies (or wives in this verse) are to be maintained in “holiness and honor” at all times. We are never to leave off the godly grace of self-control, even in the fulfillment of God-ordained desires.
Now we could wish that all such sin was confined to the improper expression of passion within the bounds of marriage; tragically, however, this is not the case. Married professing Christian men, even pastors, admit by the hundreds today of habitual immorality—either in their thoughts, through looking at pornography, or through actual physical immorality. The church has even become infamous for this in the world, and its witness has been, in the eyes of many, irreparably damaged. What a tragic situation this is, for our Lord Jesus called us to absolute purity in this area, reminding us that in God’s eyes a man is guilty of serious sexual sin if he even looks upon a woman with lust in his heart (Matthew 5:28). How far we have fallen from such a standard!
How shall we be recovered? We must first of all remember our Lord’s words that “if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out” (Matthew 5:27-30). Our Lord’s warning in this passage is sobering: if we do not overcome this sin in our lives, and obtain real, thorough purity in heart, mind, and life, then there is the possibility that we may not enter the kingdom of Heaven. It is just that simple. Thus it is better to actually lose an eye or hand, our Lord Jesus tells us, than to be cast whole-bodied into hell. Our Lord is in absolute earnest here; appeals to hyperbole in this passage, in my opinion, may be a bit misguided.
There is not enough Spirit-empowered eye-plucking or hand-severing in the church today. We must pray for heaven-sent, Holy Spirit-empowered fire to baptize our souls daily and consume us with God’s presence and grace. We must cultivate the Spirit in our lives, being careful not to sin and grieve him away; for as we have seen, only by his strength can the flesh be put to death.
We must open the Word of God and pray over it until God is so real, and the things of eternity so urgent, that all else fades away. In particular, we should meditate on verses that pertain to this issue, praying over them until the Holy Spirit burns them into our very souls. We must in fact do whatever it takes; we must as well lock arm-in-arm with our fellow brothers and sisters of the faith, that we may help each other. We must truly give our all to defeating this or any other sin.
The Spirit of God is holy; his first task, and his primary aim, we could say, is to make us holy—that is, to conform us to the character and will of God. Unless and until this happens, we cannot make any claim to have been born again, and we certainly cannot expect the Spirit to assist us in any work of God. May God grant the church repentance in this crucial area.