It is inconceivable to think that Jesus would give his life for the church, set high standards of holiness and purity for it, and then not leave it with the means to live a holy life. The Lord would be mocking us in expecting us to win the difficult battle against impurity by our own heroic efforts. How then does he enable us to be obedient to these instructions?

  • "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people" (Ephesians 5:3)
  • "For it is God's will … that you should avoid sexual immorality… For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life." (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7)
  • "… do not think how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature" (Romans 13:14)

The Power to Win

Having told the Christians in Thessalonica that sexual immorality was to have no part in their thinking or behaviour, Paul concludes by saying, "Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit." (1 Thessalonians 4:8) God's Holy Spirit empowers us to win the battle against sexual impurity.

Through the prophet Ezekiel God foretold a time when he would change the hearts of his people. This is referring to the new birth when we become a new creation in Christ Jesus. "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." (Ezekiel 36:26-27) With a new heart, we are now sensitive to his will. Furthermore, we have the Holy Spirit who moves us with a 'divine nudge' filling our heart with holy desires to be obedient. We now find ourselves longing to do the will of God.

Paul picks up the theme of Ezekiel's words when he tells the Christians in Philippi, "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed -not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence - continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Philippians 2:12-13) This is one of the most extraordinary statements in Scripture, namely that God, the creator of our world, is at work in us! And what is God doing? He is creating in our hearts holy desires and empowering us to live victoriously over impurity and every other sin. This thought is repeated again in Scripture: "May the God of peace … equip you with everything good for doing his will and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Hebrews 13:20-21) We can do God's will because he equips us for the task. God works into our hearts what is pleasing to him and we work this out in our lives.

Living by the Spirit

To the Roman Christians Paul says, "Do not think how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature." (Romans 13:14) How can we not think impure, lustful thoughts? The Apostle Paul gives us the answer: "Live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature." (Galatians 5:16) There are consequences to the way we live: "For if you live according to the sinful nature you will die." (Romans 8:13a) But Holy living brings vibrant life: "But if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live." (Romans 8:13b) All the willpower in the world will never enable us to live a pure life. Our best efforts are doomed to failure. We are too weak and sin is too strong. But, and this is most important, if we acknowledge to God our own inability and cry out to him to help us never to lust, never to be impure, the power of the Holy Spirit will bring that prayer to a reality in our life. We will, by the power of the Spirit, put to death those evil desires. That's a guaranteed promise from God.

We don't have to be immoral in word, thought or deed. We do not have to be a victim of the sinful deeds of the body. Divine power is available to us and it's there for the asking. Didn't James say, "You do not have because you do not ask God?" (James 4:2).