Father, some people say Jesus was in agony in the garden that night because of us. That is truth, but it’s way more than that. Jesus’ agony, from my understanding, is the knowledge that, for the first time ever, when all our sin came to His shoulders, His Father would turn His back to Him in utter rejection. He agonized the load of sin without the Father’s smile. Then He warned His disciples against falling to temptation. Why? Perhaps to spare us the experience of life with the Father’s smiling face taken from us as His back turns to us. Father, perish the thought! Protect me from temptation by causing Your smile to be my greatest desire. In Jesus, amen.
“Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to HOW YOU OUGHT TO WALK AND PLEASE GOD (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. For THIS IS THE WILL OF GOD, YOUR SANCTIFICATION; that is, that you ABSTAIN FROM SEXUAL IMMORALITY; that each of you KNOW HOW TO POSSESS HIS OWN VESSEL in sanctification and honor, NOT IN LUSTFUL PASSION, like the Gentiles WHO DO NOT KNOW GOD; And That No Man Transgress And Defraud His Brother In The Matter Because The Lord Is The Avenger In All These Things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, HE WHO REJECTS THIS IS NOT REJECTING MAN BUT THE GOD who gives His Holy Spirit to you” ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8.
Sexual immorality is rampant in our day, even among those who belong to God. Adultery, fornication, incest, pornography, homosexuality, rape and molestation of innocence: all these are addressed in God’s Word as being against His will for us, and we see it all in our day, in ever increasing prevalence, even among the people of God. I believe all these perversions of God’s ideal way sicken the heart of God who calls us to sanctification that has a vital purpose.
The institution of marriage and the act of marriage, as God intended it to be, is a picture of what our relationship is supposed to be like with our Holy God. It is the giving of oneself fully to one person, able to so greatly trust that person that we can be “naked” – fully exposed before them. Such intimacy is not meant to be shared with any other than the one we are intended for, the one we are to spend our life with. In likeness to our relationship with the One True God, we are to be saved and kept for the one we are meant to be with for all time.
Even to look on another so as to lust after them, which is the business of pornography, is to sin against God and against His holy institution. Premarital experience and fleshly lust rob of experiencing God’s best for us in our relationships and it hinders our ability to trust each other, which is vital to true intimacy. I know this for a fact, not only because of what the Spirit has taught me in God’s word, but unfortunately because of personal experience.
I was sexually active in my youth, not having anyone to teach me these things. I married unwisely to get out of that lifestyle and that marriage ended in divorce. When God brought my husband into my life – and He did! He has made this clear to us in many ways through our years – I struggled over my past as I began to learn the truth of God’s ideal. It hindered our intimacy for a long time, until God healed me of the consequence of my sin, delivering me from the guilt and shame, and set me free indeed. It is my hope in sharing these things that I can spare some of you the pain and struggle.
The pre-marital impurity done by or to those still waiting for their mate-in-Christ is the commission of sin against our Holy God and that intended mate. It is also sin against one’s own flesh, and I am not just talking about STDs or out of wedlock pregnancy.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases and the potential for pregnancy are just part of the consequences we can face. Sexual intimacy with another gets into the depths of our being. When we do find our mate, flashbacks of previous experiences can hit our hearts to bring us to shame. It can keep us from satisfaction with our mates and hinder our healing from that past.
With every act that is not sanctified and set apart in keeping self for one’s future partner, we do harm to these vital relationships as it affects our very personalities and expectations for marital relations. Needing to “practice” so we will be ready for our mate, knowing how to satisfy them, is a lie straight out of hell.
No two people are alike. What one likes and expects, another will abhor. If you “practice” with one and like certain things, then marry another who does not like those same things, you will be constantly dissatisfied with your mate, ill-equipped to satisfy them, and frequently tempted to go back to where your desires can be met. Sexual relations is one area where ignorance is bliss. If you come together in innocence and learn to please each other, you will be satisfied together. When you grow in your intimacy together, learn what each likes, and minister to each other’s needs, that very intimacy satiates desire and makes you one flesh together, protecting you from desire for another.
Realize, beloved one, that until a couple marries, they do not yet know that they will be married. Anything can happen to stop our plans for marriage between the proposal and the “I do”; so “we are getting married” is not a license to take to ourselves the privilege of marriage before we are legitimately wed together. TRUE LOVE WAITS! This false belief that “engaged” is the same as “married” has ruined the gift of purity for many young couples. From the instant of that first kiss of longing that makes one want to touch, all the way to the actual penetration, all of that act of intimacy is sex! It is a gift to be given on the wedding night, AFTER the “I do” is done. Scripturally, marriage does not begin until the parents give the bride to the groom and all human legalities that define marriage are fulfilled.
The next portion of our passage, “That No Man Transgress And Defraud His Brother In The Matter Because The Lord Is The Avenger In All These Things” speaks to me of the insult we do to others through failing to possess our own vessels in sanctity for our marriage partner.
Defraud: to use deceit, falsehoods, or trickery to obtain money, an object, rights or anything of value belonging to another. From the premarital encounter that destroys the gift of purity meant for another, to rape, sexual immorality done with another’s mate or against one’s own mate, any sin of immorality that is done by force against another ~ all of these are transgressions that defraud another. And all of these defraud God, for in that instant we insult the One who loves us most and rob Him of our wholehearted intimacy with Him as God and Lord.
If we are His child, such acts grieve and quench the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. Since God is always with and for the believer, we cause pain to His Holy Presence, who is made to experience our sin by virtue of His intimate knowledge of us. Such acts do great harm to our relationship with Him. And it is an act of blasphemy, as it gives God’s name in us, “Christian”, a bad reputation.
I believe the “brother” in this statement toward those we defraud could be translated “brethren,” which would mean: our brothers and sisters in Christ; our family and those we are kin to; those of the same people group; any people whose lives are touched by our sin. Even the angels in heaven who are watching God’s people and the triune-God with whom we are one are adversely affected by our sin.
When we commit adultery, we sin not only with the person we partner with in the act, but we sin against their present or future mate, their children, and all who will be touched by the pain of the consequences brought about by the sin done and exposed to light. And what does it say? “The Lord is the avenger in all things.” So the consequences that come against us because of our sin come from the very hand of God. STDs that destroy our bodies; out of wedlock pregnancies that sideline our plans for the future; marriages ended because of hurt and lack of trust; these consequences and more are allowed by God because of our sin. HE WHO REJECTS THIS IS NOT REJECTING MAN BUT GOD.
Pray as God leads you today for yourself, those you love, and all God brings to your heart today. If you have committed these sins already, repent, stop what you are doing, get right with God and seek godly council to help you correctly deal with the sin done.
Pray for the body of Christ to be sanctified and set apart in purity, delivered from perversion, and to know how to possess their own body in obedience to the Father. It is better to be a eunuch by choice than to commit acts of such sin and face the wrath of our Holy God.
If you are one who has been hurt by such sin, forgive for your own sake, so that you can be in right standing with God, able to get His perspective on the issue, and seek godly council to help you find healing and strength to carry on. Unforgiveness, bitterness and anger will hurt you! Do not hold on to these but seek the healing power of God to equip you to entrust these hurts to Him.
Whichever side of the insult you are on, beloved, whether the sinner or the one sinned against, God will heal you. He will enable you to love and to trust again as you seek His face and His grace, which is sufficient for ALL THINGS. And, as I can attest to, His healing can establish your ability to experience true intimacy with your mate, renewing the gift He intended you to give to each other alone.
Begin by rereading our focal passage ~ James 1:12-20.
In our last post we covered the path to protection from temptation as we looked at watching our love walk, especially love for God; remembering secondly that evil is not God’s desire for us—evil being anything less than God’s desire, will and way; and third, God’s idea of good is His ideal for us, so follow the good. Continuing the seven guiding principles to victory in our endurance that withstands the trials and temptations of life, thus achieving the righteousness of God as we choose faith in Him, we press on to the fourth aid to our journey:
Fourth: God leads by the way of truth.
God’s truth sets free indeed. Those who hear His voice and follow Him will walk in the truth of God and be set free from the stress of trying to keep the laws in their own strength. My missionary friend said something the other day that struck me as odd until I thought about it and realized the truth of his words.
My daughter brought a cookie cake in with her. I said, “O, she is tempting us.” He said, “You tempt yourself.”
What he is saying is that though Satan sets something before us to bring temptation to us, it is only because he knows our lusts. It is our own lusts that tempt us. “…for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust….” It is a truth I needed to hear, and ponder. Satan sets traps intended to test our love of God, and/or challenge our emotional responses, and/or tempt us to our lusts. It is our choice whether we are tempted and given to fall into his trap.
“All the paths of the Lord are lovingkindness and truth to those who keep His covenant and His testimonies” ~ Psalm 25:10.
“It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect” ~ Psalm 18:30-32.
Fifth: be quick to hear.
STOP when temptation comes:
S ~ Set your mind on the things of God
T ~ Take a moment to inhale Him and get His thoughts and His heart
O ~ Observe His ways by walking in Obedience to His leading
P ~ Pause to listen for Him before pressing forward, then do so with assurance of God’s will and way set before you
“…Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren…” our focal passage warns us. God’s desire for us is good. Therefore we must take time to hear Him and do the good. Just as we can avoid relational discord by taking time to listen with hearing ears, so we can avoid fleshly struggle that falls in the trials of life by taking time to hear from God. And God is not one to leave us in confusion. He desires our best and speaks clearly to the listening ear that is ready to receive.
“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’ Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:33-34.
“…God is not a God of confusion but of peace…” ~ 1 Corinthians 14:33.
Sixth: be slow to speak.
One thing my missionary friend is working on is listening: listening to what others are saying while visiting with them, but also listening to the Spirit to know how, when and if he is to respond. It is a good practice to have when our desire is to encourage one another in the Lord. Why? Because…
“Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well…” ~ James 3:1-3 (I highly recommend that you prayerfully read through James 3-4).
Learning to listen before we speak protects us from temptation to speak foolishly. And keeping self from speaking foolishly avoids a lot of the trials of life. It is a good habit to have at all times, protecting us from running into temptations trap wherever it may be found. Taking time to listen for God and align ourselves with Him gives us time to get our desires under control before we speak up to get something we really don’t need, including protecting us from setting a bad example in our actions and reactions.
Seventh: be slow to anger.
Here we are told to be slow to anger, especially over the words of others. Anger is but one emotion we can give ourselves to that will defeat God’s purpose for us, so I will add here to “be slow” to give yourself to emotional responses. Any emotional response in the leading of our flesh will quickly lead us to sin against God. Endurance, taking time to STOP with faith in God to lead us, getting hold on God’s heart and response to the issue at hand, saves us from giving ourselves over to the lordship of our fleshly emotions.
“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” ~ James 3:13-18.
Beloved, faith-filled endurance perseveres under trial, and it practices these seven steps to successfully walk in victory over difficult times in life, thus enabling us to help others have knowledge of God and His ways. Without faith’s endurance in the midst of trials, our foolish hearts deceive us, our fleshly lusts temp us, and our ungodly emotions to easily rule us. Thus we must remember that we are His workmanship, created for good works, set in the places we find ourselves so we may be His ambassadors, the first fruits of His purpose in creating us; and part of that is to achieve the righteousness of God in the earth, thus bringing glory to His name.