Overcoming Immorality

His bond-servants ye are whom ye serve.overcoming

Neither fornicators. nor idolaters, nor adulterers … shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Bernard Hicks

Immorality is the state or quality of being immoral; wickedness, sinfulness, evilness, especially: unchastity. God creating man in his image and likeness, giving man his law, and man falling into sin and death due to disobedience to God’s law, identifies sin as the main culprit of immorality (Genesis 2:17, 3:17-19).

Types of Immorality

Immorality has existed since the fall of man, and has been fueled by man’s depravity and imperfection. It began with man’s fall, then wickedness of the first world before the Flood, the failure of the nation of Israel to keep their covenant with Jehovah, the idolatry of some of Israel’s kings, and the evilness of the Gentile nations.

One kind of immorality is idolatry — the worship of other gods, or giving anything a priority before Jehovah. God warned Israel that if they married or intermingled with other nations that they would eventually worship their gods (Judges 3:5-7). Idolatry has been diabolical in shredding the faith of some of God’s people. The Nation of Israel worshipped other gods and mingled with other heathen nations, even after accepting the law covenant that God gave through Moses (Jeremiah 3:8).

God’s written word identifies certain immoralities that are against the body of Christ, and against one’s neighbor. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 the apostle outlined some of these: fornication, idolatry, adultery, effeminacy or homosexuality, thievery, covetousness or greed, drunkenness, reviling, and extortion. The Apostle Paul addressed this message to believers in Corinth, advising them that they would not inherit the Kingdom of God if they do these things. Paul enumerated specific immoralities that are against the spirit of the consecrated, calling them the “lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16-21).

Thoughts, feelings, and intentions contrary to the word and spirit of God are mental immoralities and are as displeasing to God as external ones. Jesus spoke to the multitude in the sermon on the mount, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). Similarly with hate, anger, jealousy, arrogance, rudeness, and self-seeking.

First Steps

Overcoming immorality begins with an accurate and reliable resource. Our Heavenly Father, creator of all things including the laws that govern all things, is the supreme authority in truth: His words are absolute, true, and will accomplish what He says (Isaiah 55:11). Because we are imperfect beings, God has provided us with his inspired written word to live a godly life. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We must have complete trust and faith in what God says, leaning on His understanding and not ours (Proverbs 3:5-6).

After recognizing and using the Bible to address an immoral lifestyle, one must identify and acknowledge that he is a sinner due to the fall. The only way to get back into harmony with God now is by faith in Jesus as the redeemer from sin and following in his steps.

This will ultimately take place in all of mankind, “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22). Jesus gave his life as a ransom, or corresponding price, in the place of Adam. He did this in order to redeem Adam and his fallen progeny and bring us back into harmony with God (1 Timothy 2:6). What a blessed assurance!

Acceptance of Jesus as one’s personal savior is an essential step in overcoming immoral ways. The Bible tells us that we must be justified, or “made right,” to be acceptable to God. This happens when one repents, stops sinful behaviors, and puts full faith in God and His plan (Acts 17:30). For justification to be complete, our Lord and savior instructs the believer to deny himself, pick up his cross, and follow Him. This requires the believer to deny his own will, take on the will of our Lord, and lay down his justified life sacrificially. He was speaking to those who truly love him and are willing to follow in his steps. When the believer gives his all to God and God accepts it, he is given the holy Spirit, the true mark of sonship, and a guide for a holy life that is pleasing to God (Matthew 16:24, John 14:26).

 The Battleground

After the believer commits himself fully to God and is guided by the holy Spirit, the real battle to overcome sinful, immoral tendencies begins. Immorality attacks the heart, mind, and will of the believer. Even Jesus, after consecrating his will to God, being baptized and being driven by the spirit into the wilderness, was tempted by Satan to sever his consecration to God (Matthew 4:1). Those who follow in Jesus’ footsteps will experience such trials and temptations in order to prove their loyalty to God.

The heart is the first and most important battleground, because all immoral thoughts and behaviors spring from there (Proverbs 4:23). Jesus preached and exemplified the importance of having a pure heart in order to become pure and pleasing to God, those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, they defile the man” (Matthew 15:17-19). Many Christians become frustrated in their struggle to overcome immorality because they never seem to achieve lasting purity. A main reason immorality is not defeated as quickly as they desire is because they misunderstand the location of the battle. The physical manifestation of immoral practices is simply the outworking of what has already been going on in the heart for some time.

Internal Fight

How does the Christian overcome and defeat immorality? The heart is the battleground where immorality begins; therefore, subduing the old mind, selfish ways, and bringing it into harmony with the will of God is a priority. How does one bring the mind into subjection to the will of God? From a biblical standpoint the heart or mind is the center of life, a symbol of our affections, including the will. Our will relates to everything we do. Whoever of the Lord’s people wills to seek more and more to purify himself, will become more and more alive in Christ. If one is pure in heart, he desires to live righteously and soberly in the present life.

How does one gain control of his mind or will to follow God? The believer is advised, “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). We notice “not conformed to this world,” but “transformed.” What is he saying here? We do not conform ourselves to this world, but submit ourselves to God through the word of truth. Repetition is the mother of all skill, and when we repetitiously think, meditate, and renew our thoughts on God and his plan, a transforming effect will take place in the heart.

Yielding to the guidance of the holy Spirit with thoughts on holy things, things above, will bring about a transformation of character that is pleasing to God. This change is transforming and renewing, meaning that it is a process to transformation of mind and not an instantaneous action. Paul further guides us in the transformation of a holy mind, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). Victory can be won in the heart if we bring into captivity, every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

External Fight

Attacks also will come externally against the consecrated to pull one away from his faith and walk in the narrow way. Immorality runs amok in our culture, and others, as it did in the apostle’s day. Temptations to depart from God’s sure path of blessings in the realm of sexuality are epidemic. The anonymity of the internet and wireless technology allows people, even our children, to pursue sexual immorality more than ever before. Today, pornographic images and movies can be viewed with ease, sexually explicit music is common, and extramarital sexual activity is seen by many as normal. Perhaps more than at any time, promiscuity both in thought and deed is accepted, condoned, and even glorified.

How can the Christian defeat these outwardly manifestations and stay holy? Monitor what we and our children watch on TV and the music they listen to. If we have given ourselves fully to the Lord and live in the spirit we will be on guard to defend against any attacks. Satan is the God of this world and transforms into an angel of light to deceive; even though he is a fallen spiritual being, he and his ministers still have a lot of power, and their main objective is to sever the faith of the consecrated through deception and discouragement (2 Corinthians 4:4, 11:14). Many people, although innocent, get into trouble by being in places where they should not be, what is termed today, “guilty by association.” This is equally true with Christ’s followers; we are forewarned to stay away from people and places where immoral, sinful behaviors are practiced-lest they be a snare for us and we too become entrapped.

The best way to ward off external immoralities is to stay away from all immoral people, places, and things. Out of sight is out of mind! “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? … Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:14, 17). Because we have interaction with people on a daily basis, most of the challenges will come from being around immoral people. True, there will be certain situations where one cannot avoid seeing their immoral behaviors — work, unconsecrated family members, and worldly people; but by purifying one’s heart and mind, their immoral behaviors will not conquer us.

The spirit of the world with its philosophies, theories, evil deeds, evil thoughts, ambitions, and hopes is another device Satan uses to lure the consecrated from their narrow walk. The believer must stand strong in his faith, avoiding the world’s spirit at all cost. James tells us how God views this matter: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world is an enemy of God” (James 4:4). Jesus reminds us that we cannot serve two masters, the world and our Lord: “No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other” (Matthew 6:24).

Other Influences

The use of alcohol and drugs has become widespread in our society and others as well. Abuse of these substances is mostly used to cope and escape from one’s problems. Consumption of alcoholic beverages has demolished lives, families, relationships, health, employment, and relationships with God (Proverbs 23:20-21). While the scriptures may not forbid Christians from drinking alcohol, the scriptures do urge us to be cautious: “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18 NASB). Be filled with the spirit of God instead of spirits. Paul advised Timothy regarding his sickness, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomachs sake, and thine often infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23). Timothy was to use some wine for medicinal purposes. Today we have medicines that will not cause intoxication or dependence.

As for other drugs of abuse, including prescription drugs, the Christian must follow the same advice to be pleasing to God. There is a myriad of drugs available on the streets, and by prescription, that can cause dependence. In our society today, people have fallen so far away from God that they have used drugs to make them briefly feel good and at peace, in-place of the true God who gives everlasting peace and comfort. We have been bought with the precious blood of Christ, adopted as sons of God, and through grace we are in the body of Christ.

Summary

Initially, one must recognize one’s own immorality. The battle against it begins in the heart. We must transform our minds to dwell on pure things — the Lord’s work — and minimize our exposure to impure environments.

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