The apostle Paul likened marriage to the relationship between Christ and the church, teaching that a husband desires respect from his wife, and a wife desires to be loved by her husband (see Ephesians 5:31-33). Still, our culture is performing an all-out assault on this covenant, exploiting the desires of both genders. Since a man is attracted by sight, he risks falling prey to the pandemic of porn that is infiltrating western males, both young and old, at an unprecedented rate. Because a woman is attracted by what she hears, she risks an attraction to chat rooms or another male who will listen intently to her feelings.
Paul taught desires are not for our gratification, not our elimination, but for our transformation. God’s design is that we would experience His desires: holy, sanctified, and fully surrendered to Him (see 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8). This transformation process begins by fully surrendering our desires to pleasing God with our lives: “Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2).
Paul preached that desires are not for our gratification: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified; that you should avoid sexuality immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Avoid meant “to empty out.” Sexual immorality, porneia in Greek, implied both fornication prior to marriage and adultery during marriage. In essence, it is any sexual gratification outside marriage. The writer of Hebrews reminded his readers to keep the marriage bed pure, free from sexual immorality, meaning no foreign substance would be brought into the holy place of intimacy (see Hebrews 13:4).
For the purpose of illustration, let’s examine the process of an electrical transformer. An electrical transformer either steps down or steps up the voltage it receives as determined for its use on the other side. This is a picture of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit who either steps down or steps up the electrical current that we bring to Him. Sanctification, or holy, hagiasmos in Greek, is used four times in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8. Therefore, Paul is communicating that, in order to be holy, we need to take sexual temptation to the Holy Spirit who will step down the voltage and transform it to empower us to avoid sexual immorality. To believers in Rome, Paul taught that they should not conform to the world, but be transformed to God’s holiness (see Romans 12:1-2). This has always been in the heart of God for His people. Peter referenced the Old Testament law when he wrote: “I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16; cf. Leviticus 11:44).
Is there any sexual temptation at the forefront of your life? Are you clicking where you shouldn’t? Do you take extra time with a co-worker that’s leading to more and more of a physical attraction and an emotional connection? Surrender that temptation to the Holy Spirit who will transform your desires for your spouse, or future spouse if you are single, and empower you to avoid sexual immorality.