Celibacy, Chastity and Purity

Dallas Willard Part 6 of 11

Dallas Willard teaches through a variety of disciplines at the church where he, as he later admitted, got his start as a Christian teacher.

§

Dallas: Thank you again for coming. I was just thinking this afternoon about my experience in teaching on these subjects. I don’t think I have ever seen a group of people so willing to listen and study these topics as this group and I am very grateful for your attention and your interest in them.

I think that perhaps your response indicates a growing sense of the need for these kinds of discussions. For too much of the past decades, we have treated growth in grace as if it were something that were poured on your head in Sunday School or regular church attendance or something of that sort and it just doesn’t happen that way. And I believe that there is a growing realization of that but I was also thinking how I believe that 10 years ago, if you had attempted to speak in almost any Protestant church about these disciplines, you might well have gotten run out of town or certainly accused of all sorts of foul things. [1:15]

Well, in any case, I am very glad to see you again this evening. Let’s bow together in prayer. “Lord, we are thankful indeed for having the opportunity to open your Word and to look into it. We pray this evening that you will instruct us out of it and that you will suit to every heart and every mind and every body the things that are needed for our edification in the life which is in your Son. Cover us all with your sacrificial life and blood. Fill us with your Spirit to hear and learn and then to do, to obey, to walk as you walked in this world and show forth the grace of God as lights against the black darkness of the sky. Give us that grace. In Jesus’ Name. Amen. [2:06]

Now, to continue the unity of our theme, let us remember Paul’s statement, his cry, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24) And those depressing, yet truthful statements that he makes about the body in the 7th chapter of Romans—“the sin that is in his members” and how he finds a law that when he would do good that evil is present with him and how that he would not be able to do what he wanted to; he is constantly in a bind between the pulls and tugs that was in his body and the law of Christ which more and more laid hold of his mind. We are talking about the way in which you come to bring the body into subjection to the righteousness of Christ. [3:08]

Now, I thought this evening I would give you a kind of parable or image that is in tune with the season. I love to fool around with fruit trees and some of you may also like to do that and you know if you go to the nurseries this time of year, you find lots of trees. And if you look at them, the fruit trees, the plums, the peaches, the apples and so on, you will find an interesting thing about them. They all look like they have two natures. Did you ever look at the tags that are on them? They will say things like, “Alberta Peach on Wild Cherry” or there is something called “Nemguard,”now, I think. I don’t know what Nemguard is but obviously, I suspect it is some kind of wild peach or wild plum and the roots of these wild trees are much stronger—much healthier—they have a lot of life in them. The only trouble is they don’t have much fruit in them that’s worth eating and so what the nurseryman does is graft a good fruit onto a strong trunk. [4:17]

I’ve drawn a little something here. [Refers to the board] Perhaps you can see it. The position here indicates where the graft is made. [4:22 through 5:04 He walks away from the microphone and it is inaudible.] There is a very key parable in Proverbs 15 now about the life that we have in God.  We are commanded to put off the old man and put on the new. We are commanded to let all these things that are in us—the natural power that runs through all of our faculties—physical, psychological—we are commanded to put that through Christ, to put on Christ.

Paul speaks of the “engrafted word” which is able to save your soul and he uses the figure of a graft elsewhere when he speaks of the Gentiles being grafted into the Jewish root. Grafting is a Biblical metaphor and it’s very rich because you see what has happened to you, if you have been born of the Spirit is, there has been implanted in your old trunk, a new kind of life. [6:10]

Now, you have to watch this. [6:12 Walks away from microphone again and is somewhat inaudible until 6:33] . . . where that lemon came from and sure enough, I have not been minding my business as a horticulturist and I had let a shoot grow from the old trunk and the shoots that grow from the old trunk, you always have to pull them off because you will not get any good fruit off of those. This is like the Disciplines of Abstinence. We have to take off the shoots that grow from the old trunk and direct the energy of the natural vitality that is in us by God’s creative act through the Christ branch.

I hope you will think about this. Now, I know that today many people do not know much about fruit trees and so on but on the other hand, it’s a very simple diagram. I assure you of its truth and hope that you will be able to use this picture when you are dealing with the old man or for that matter, with the old woman. [Laughter] [7:57]

What we have to do is force the life of the natural roots and I’ve tried to distinguish the roots on this figure from the trunk that is formed in a fallen world. If you try to look at all of the basic drives of the human being, after they have been formed in a fallen world, you don’t get a fair appreciation of what they were meant to be—food, sex, possessions—all of these things were meant to be good but if you look at the way they are distorted in a fallen world, you might well wonder whether they are or not and we are going to talk this evening principally about sex, and I’ll tell you for all of the songs about it, it has a very bad reputation. And many, many, of the people who have wanted to be religious have thought maybe we ought to just do away with it. [Laughter] They have said at least, “Is sex necessary?” Because you see, it’s a very powerful force and it has been distorted in the world in which we live so that we don’t understand or have a fair picture of what it should have been. I’ll try to say a little bit about that this evening. [9:34]

All of the natural drives of the human being are distorted in a fallen world. So that instead of a man and a woman being the helpmate, the Lord in a good sense, you have the war of the sexes.  It gets very bitter, very poisonous, even in our Christian circles. It doesn’t have to be that way but it is so I’ve tried to distinguish here the old man and the old trunk and I want to say that the roots God created life all good. It’s all good; food—the enjoyment of food; power, possessions, sex—all of these things are good. But—and then you have to add all the qualifications—what has happened to them in our world?

Now Paul, for his part, took stern measures with his body. He fasted. He lived a frugal life. He warned against entanglement with the affairs of this world. He said to Timothy, “No man that wareth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life.” (2 Timothy 2:4) We are in a war. Paul said, “Let us be content with food and raiment knowing that we brought nothing into this world and can take nothing out.” [1 Timothy 6:7) Knowing that godliness with contentment is great gain and in general there is a remarkable statement—I am not for sure if you have paid much attention to it and I want to call attention to it just in concluding our introduction this evening. [11:34]

1 Corinthians 9:27; Paul here is likening the life which we live in Christ as a race and he says in verse 24: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? . . .” All of them run but only one wins.

“ . . . So run, that ye may obtain (win).”  See, he doesn’t say, “So run that ye may get by”—it’s “so run that ye may win.” So, run that ye may win the prize. “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate . . . ”—a

kind of discipline or moderation. He is not under the power of anything. He is temperate. [12:28]

Temper is the capacity to hold the line in the face of pressure. A piece of metal that has the temper gone out of it is malleable and will not serve the purposes for which metal is used in commerce and in machines and all sorts of things like this. It’s lost its temper.  The temperate person is able to “hold the line” and the verse we studied the other night from Paul, “He is not under the power of anything.” [13:01]

Now, they do it to obtain a corruptible crown but we an incorruptible. Now Paul’s testimony, “I therefore so run not as uncertainly so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body . . .” and other versions will give you “I buffet my body.” I buffet my body. I use it as a punching bag.

“ . . . I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (1 Corinthians 9:26-27) You see the Pauline theme once again of the body and his recognition of the fundamental importance of the body and having not only a spirit, which is willing but a body, which is willing.

Now we are going to see more about that tonight in connection with fornication and misguided sex, but I wanted to set the theme once again and keep before you as clearly as possible Paul’s doctrine of the body and the relationship of the disciplines to that. [14:17]

Now, I hope that you may be able to think over this tree and its graft in the light of Paul’s statements and that it might become something very meaningful to you. This is to be a way of working for each of us individually. A way in which we may run not as one who runs uncertainly—a little bit this way and well, a little bit that way. Did you ever watch a race in a field and track meet? These people have no doubt about which direction they are going, do they? If they do doubt for a second, it’s all over. Right? [14:58]

Paul does not fight as one who beats the air. If you are going to win in a prizefight, as we used to call it, you have to be sure you hit something besides air. That’s what we want to do as Christians and we want focus therefore on our bodies, to make our bodies a living sacrifice. [15:17]

Now, there is one element in Paul’s statement that I want to warn against and that is his statement, “I buffet my body” could be taken as a statement that he is torturing his body—seeking suffering for it’s own sake—and you always want to distinguish Christian discipline of the body from asceticism and Paul was not an ascetic, and contrary to the suggestion which might come over in the English formulations of his words, he was not punishing himself just for the sake of punishment. He was disciplining his body. He was schooling it. He was teaching it. He was shaping it. He was molding it to serve the purposes of God.

Now, we come this evening to talk about celibacy, chastity, and purity. I’ve given you three words there to catch three dimensions of our topic and let’s just first of all try to say what they are. [16:20]

You will understand I’m sure what celibacy is. Celibacy is the choice of a single life; the choice of an unmarried state and the implication is of course that it is the choice of a state without sexual relationships.

Chastity is not quite the same thing.  In fact, chastity is a little difficult to describe. Chastity does not refer to abstinence from sex. It refers to restraining oneself within the bounds of proper sexual relations. Chastity mainly refers to the external behavior. [17:08]

Purity refers to the insides of the soul. Purity refers not only to external behavior but also to the condition of the heart. All of those dimensions of sexuality have to be understood and properly handled if we are not to hurt ourselves one way or another in dealing with sex in the Christian life.

Now let’s, first of all in approaching this topic admit to ourselves, what a powerful force we are talking about. You must not deceive yourself about the power of the sexual force in human life and you can almost say this without any exception that it is going to have its due one way or the other and there is a way of abstaining from sex which is very harmful as well as harmful ways of indulging in sex. [18:27]

Jesus pointed out in Matthew 5 that if you only—let us speak loosely—if you don’t do it, okay; that doesn’t mean you are okay.  Just not doing it does not mean you are okay. In fact, you may have real problems. Now, Jesus was specifically talking about the person who was impure inside. These were very chased individuals but they were impure inside and that impurity can be so bad that it will make you mentally and spiritually sick.  The Proverbs says, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick . . . ” (Proverbs 13:12) And desire, which is simply denied—simply denied may do great harm, and this is why Jesus’ teaching about the righteousness in the Kingdom of God goes so much deeper than external behavior. [19:42]

You remember, He contrasted over and over what the Pharisees taught as righteousness and what was real righteousness and in each case and if you haven’t studied the 5th, 6th, & 7th chapters of Matthew, you must by all means do that and look at the contrast and in each case, when Jesus states what true righteousness is, it’s always a matter of what is in the heart and He recognizes that you can be alright on the outside and ruined on the inside. We are dealing, when we speak about sex and love with one of the most powerful forces in human life.  [20:31]

Now, next thing let’s remember—basically, it is a good thing. Sex is a good thing. Let’s go back to Genesis 2:18 and re-read a verse with which I’m sure everyone is familiar but now I want to make sure that you understand the dimension of love and sex in this verse. I don’t know what we thought about when we read that so many times, verse 18: “And the Lord God said, it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” Well, I suppose we might think what we wanted there was someone to have supper ready when he got home. Hmmm? (Laughter) Or something to sort of help him mow the lawn? No, dear friends, that is not just what he is talking about. [21:26]

Look what he says. The word “help meet,” I think, by the way has misled many of us here because it suggests an idea of a helping relationship and some of your other versions are really somewhat better on this. It talks about someone who corresponds or reflects or mirrors him, who answers to him. It’s the idea of someone who talks back of being there, you know. You are not just talking to the wall but there is a respondent but notice it says, “ . . . It is not good that the man should be alone. . . ” (Genesis 2:18) and I have some friends who tell me that it is not good for women to be alone.

Being alone is a hard life, isn’t it? It’s really hard. Jesus recognized this and we are going to come to some of His statements about it in a moment. It is not good to be alone and the full meaning of being with the other person between a man and a woman includes sexuality and it is in the sexual embrace and the embrace of love that men and women fulfill this good which God saw when He said, “It is good that a man and a woman should be together.” [22:52]

Now, listen, I want to be very frank with you. Sometimes I think around church, we get so busy trying to keep people from “doing it” that we aren’t about to admit that it’s any good and we just better not do that. You want to understand the goodness of sex. You can do a lot of harm and you can hurt a lot of people, including yourself if you don’t acknowledge the goodness of sex. That doesn’t mean you go do it. Right? I mean, the fact that lemon pie is good doesn’t mean I go jump in the middle of it, right?

But we don’t want to get in a position of distorting God’s truth about our nature. And above all, we want to make sure that in whatever ways are appropriate, our children don’t accept the abusive, exploitive model of sex which is presented to them in their schools and in their back alleys and in the movies and on and on and on, because it is presented as a very exploitive, harmful, almost degrading relation and that’s why we use the four letter words in the way they are used, right?  They are used as a means of degrading people and they refer to the sexual act as a degrading kind of thing. [24:42]

Now, God meant that it should be a loving thing. It should be an act of love. It should be one of the highest moments: perhaps THE highest moment for man in the natural level. It’s a good thing. It is not good that men or women be alone.

Let’s carry on that with Ecclesiastes 4:12. Here’s a lovely passage I like so much. Ecclesiastes the 4th chapter and the 12th verse and following and here we are told—and you want to cross reference this to Genesis 2:18, “two are better than one.” Now, that’s not always true. If you are talking about two flats, [Laughter] two bounced checks, or two headaches, of course. Two are not always better than one but this is referring to two people. It is better to be together. Two are better than one. Look at the reason. “ . . . because they have a good reward for their labour.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9) [26:01]

What do you suppose that means? Two people who are together, when they work, they appreciate one another, don’t they? They have a good reward for their labor. There is something they are working for. “For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth . . .” I’ll tell you, of all the heart rending words in the Bible, those are among the most heart rending to me. “Woe be to him that is alone when he falleth.” And there are so many people that are in that condition.

“ . . .for he hath not another to help him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:10)

Here’s you a good homey case. “Again, if two lie together, then they have heat, but how can one be warm alone?” (Ecclesiastes 4:11) Hmmm? My wife says that electric blankets have ruled this out. [Laughter] But I don’t agree with that. I don’t agree with that at all. I am all for electric blankets but— [27:06]

Now, that really is putting it where we live. We live right at that level and if we are not alienated from our bodies and the conditions of life, we recognize that this man is talking about something that is very fundamental “and if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

God meant us to be together. He meant us to live in one another’s arms and in one another’s lives and there are such tremendous limits to how much can be done for anyone once the initial shell of family is non-functional or isn’t working. I so often look at the people who walk the streets of this city of ours or other cities and I’ve seen so many people, as you have, who just have no one and there is a limit as to how far one can go in helping people of that sort. Of course, you want to do everything you can but initially one just has to say that the kind of living cocoon in which we were all meant to live has been broken. And that is one of the primary effects of sin is to break that social shell which was meant to be the temple of God and which is only restored in the church. It’s not good to be alone. It’s not good to be alone. [28:42]

Now, we have to be careful with one thing and that is the pleasure that is associated with all of God’s gifts. Let’s change the subject a moment to eating. You need to eat in order to live but if you don’t watch it, the fun of it will get in your way, right? Now, there is a deep principle here that we have to understand. In God’s creation, He has made it so that we all have certain basic needs and associated with the satisfaction and gratification of those needs is pleasure.  [29:27]

When we are healthy and when we are right, the need to learn—you ever watch a little child learn? A little child, if you promise to teach them something, there is nothing they more delight in until they—sometimes they learn about school and then is stops.

But, I can remember when our children were little, and I’ve seen it in so many little children—before they learn that learning is bad news, there is nothing as much fun as learning something. You promise to teach a kid something and he will run his little legs off getting there. Learning is fun! Discovery, seeing, experience—all of these are fun! Exercise, when it doesn’t reduce itself to some of these callisthenic sort of things, is fun! Now, after we are so out of shape that we can hardly do it, it isn’t fun any longer. [30:22]

There is a pleasure in sexual gratification and it is one of the most acute pleasures [Tapes stops from 30:29 to 30:38] . . .Theresa of Calcutta says that the leprosy of the west is loneliness. The deepest need of natural man is to be with another person, and to that need pleasure was connected.

The pleasure comes because of the gratification of the need. The need is not fundamentally for the pleasure but for the other person.

Now, I am talking about some stuff here this evening that I hope you will give a lot of thought to. The whole idea of union—of person with person—not just as a sexual matter and I hope you’ll not understand me to be just saying that. That is one case and one very important case but the need to be with other people, the union of human beings in God’s plan—that’s what I am really stressing. [31:43]

Now, because there is pleasure associated with this just like with food and possessions and power and all of these things; in a fallen world, where we are basically out of joint and unhealthy and not hooked up right, we are apt to go for the pleasure and forget about the health that is involved in food, in power, and all of the others things; and sex likewise. And so then, you get a huge pitch for the pleasures of food, the pleasures of sex and so on and so. And the function of all of these appetites in the economy of the body and of the Spirit and of the soul and of society in general, that’s lost because now, the only thing is “get pleasure.” Just “get pleasure.” When that happens, we are set upon a fool’s errand because the only thing we know then is more of the same—more pleasure, more pepper in your chili, more of whatever it is and the limits of that are very soon reached. [33:11]

In sexuality, this is one of the main motives into perversion—is the finding of more and different pleasures associated with sex. But it also happens with the drive to power, with possessions; so many people that are just into possessions and into the pleasures associated with them and what they have are not good for them. It isn’t glorifying God. They are not even happy with it and yet they are just after more, more, more, more, more. You see, when any of our basic natural appetites lose their place in the economy of God, there is nothing to do but get more and of course that is the course of debauchery because what happens is that very soon towards the end, the things which we sought to give us pleasure no longer give us pleasure.

And what we see and know to be the case in drug addiction is true of all of the addictions. You see, addiction just means that you are under the power of a particular appetite or pleasure. That’s all it means. And you may be addicted to sex. You may be addicted to romance without sex. You know, that’s one of those curious little perversions that we have. [34:51]

The book of Jude speaks of—and excuse me ladies, because it could be equally said of men, but it speaks of “silly women, silly women lead astray by diverse lusts” and I hope that there are no more people like that around today but the truth of the matter is I know a lot of men and a lot of women who are just the playthings of their lust. Just the playthings of them and so we have to be very careful with this principle of pleasure that is connected with sexuality.  We have to recognize it for what it is. Recognize it to be a good thing but understand that it is not what makes our life. It is one thing in an economy established by God. [35:53]

Now, one might say, “Well, why don’t we just do without? Just quit.” Have nothing to do with it and here we have to acknowledge a difference between the sexual drive and the drive to food.  If you don’t eat at all, you will die. If you won’t have sex at all, you won’t die. In fact, you might be better off. [Laughter] If you don’t even think about it, you won’t die. So, there is a difference. [36:30]

I would like for you to look at Mathew 19 with me for just a moment and then we will go to some wording by Paul on abstinence from sex. Matthew 19 and the topic of discussion in this passage is what should we do about getting rid of a woman who is our wife but we don’t want her any longer? [Laughter] And, the idea was, well, Moses, verse 7 of chapter 19 commanded to give her a writing of divorcement and then put her away and Jesus explains that Moses did this because of the hard heartedness of men, not because it was a good thing. Now, the response of the disciples in verse 10 is well, if we can’t get rid of them, maybe we’d better not marry. See, he says, “ . . . If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.” (Matthew 19:10-11)

Now, I would like for you to notice the categories of people and of course, we are talking here about women as well as men—the categories of people that Jesus enumerates. He says, “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born form their mother’s womb: . . .” That is, nature has made it impossible for them to be anything but eunuchs. There are some eunuchs, which are made eunuchs of men; for example, Daniel was a case of that. It was very customary in Biblical times and before to treat men who were captured in battle or elsewhere much like we might treat an animal now; simply sterilize them or neuter them, as we say today and that was very common. There were many people who were emasculated in that way and so they were eunuchs for that cause. [36:39]

Then  “ . . . there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake . . . ” That’s another category. (Matthew 9:12) And this is one certainly that is recognized by Christ as something that might be given to an individual. Now, let me say at this point, celibacy is never commanded in the Bible but it is obviously recognized that there are some people who will have this as their calling.  Right?  To some, it will be given.

Now, I want to stop and emphasize something at this point. Today, in general, not so much with reference to marriage, though it still is true in some measure there but also with reference to sex. You will find many people who feel that they have had a tremendous deprivation if they are set-aside in one of these ways and are not able to get married or to engage in sexual relations. You will find that many young people in your church and elsewhere—many Christian young people are tremendously troubled about this and feel that somehow, if they are not in on the action, there is something wrong with them.  This is because of the environment in which we live. [40:06]

If you could step out of the 1940’s into your living room and watch your television, your eyes would drop out. We are so used to looking at it now that we don’t see it. It’s there and it affects people. It affect us and especially young people but the jiggle and giggle shows, the shows that have no giggles, detectives and all of that is just a constant display of sex—sex selling, automobiles, orange juice, everything you can think of and if I may say so, it is sometimes used, I think to sell a little Christianity. You don’t have to look very hard to see it. We are just immersed in it. We are just immersed in it and since we don’t have very good teaching as to how to handle your mind in the face of all of that, people are victimized by it and they can easily come to the view that if they are not operating sexually, they are somehow missing the boat. [41:18]

Now, I just want to say that isn’t so. That isn’t so. But we have to understand what is good about a pure life and present that in such a way that people will see it and appreciate it and not just content ourselves with denials.

Listen, sexuality is something you have. It is not something you do. You are a man or you are a woman and your manhood and your womanhood does not depend on your performance. There is a lot more to it than that and if you never have a sexual relationship in your life, you can still lead as good a life, as full a life as anyone else but there’s got to be something else going on than just you’re not doing it. Okay? There has got to be something else. Pure negation will not handle this matter for you. You see, Jesus said, “ . . . some are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heavens’ sake . . . ” (Matthew 19:12) [42:50]

All right. Let’s go to some of Paul’s statements now to supplement these with. 1 Corinthians 7—and I really wish I had a lot of time to work through 1 Corinthians 6 and 7 and if you haven’t read this lately, then perhaps in conjunction with the study, you could do that. Pauls’ teaching, for example, about fornication being a sin against the body in chapter 6 and the discussion of sex in relationship to the body as the temple of the Holy Ghost is awfully important for you to try to digest at some point.

But I’d like to look at 1 Corinthians 7:1-6 first: “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: it is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.”

In other words, it isn’t in her power to say, “No” without any qualification and likewise also the husband. It isn’t in his power to say, “no.” In other words, what he is saying is, this isn’t something you just decide by yourself. Being married is a matter of being with another person. So you don’t just up and decide that. [44:24]

“Defraud ye not one the other . . .” That is to say, defraud has too strong a meaning for contemporary language. It means, don’t deprive. It means, don’t deprive one another. “ . . . except it be with consent. . .” In other words, agreement.  “ . . . for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” (1 Corinthians 7:5) [45:04]

Now, Paul goes on to say, “But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.” (1 Corinthians 7:6) In other words, Paul is saying I’m telling you what I think is best for you. God didn’t tell me to say this. He didn’t dictate this but I’m telling you what I think is best. And what he is saying is, don’t lead your sexual life as if you had control over it if you are married. You are in union with another person and the needs of that other person is something, which you have to recognize and work with. That’s a part of being together; that’s a part of loving one another.

And he says, expressly, it is his opinion that people should not deprive themselves of sexual union in marriage for a long while and if they do so at all, they should do so for a good reason, like fasting and prayer. [45:58]

Now, I want to take advantage of that verse to make a slightly more general point. And that is, you see, I hope the connection between abstention from sex and abstention from food in order to give one’s self to prayer. We are going to talk about prayer in a few weeks and when we do talk about it, we will be talking about it as something one engages in as a work. It is a work.

Now, the key to all of our appetites is that we should not be in their bondage, that we should be their masters, not their slaves and sometimes in our religious life, Paul is thinking about the life of a man and a woman who are living before God and serving Him as their chief occupation and he is recognizing that sometimes it will be appropriate to suspend food and sex in order to concentrate on prayer. [47:05]

Now, I don’t want to be mean to you but let me just put it to you as bluntly as possible. If you don’t know why that’s true, you’ve got a lot to learn about prayer. If you think you can pray effectively and just do anything that comes into your head, you don’t know about prayer yet. You are finite. You have a limited amount of energy and if you direct that into cooking fifteen tier cakes and steak and eating them, I’ll tell you, your prayer life is going to suffer. Not because you did something mean or wrong or sinful in that cooking that cake—that might have been fine. You are going to be worn out by the time you get that cake fixed, right? You have 24 hours a day and so much energy and one of the greatest things you have to learn to do is steward that energy and that time.

Now, let’s return to sex. If you have a roaring love life, it’s going to take up a lot of your time. [Laughter] You better recognize that and understand that you cannot carry on with that and do certain other things. Now, that’s the key and I want to give you a verse to go with that, okay? 1 Corinthians 7:28—well, let’s see, I don’t think I’m going to have time to work through all of this so let me just look here for a moment and to decide which parts I want really to dwell on. Yes, let me, I’ll just skim 28 in order to get down to verse 35.

1 Corinthians 7:28—now, Paul is talking to a condition here in the early church where, as he says in 26, “the present distress,” he thought it was good that people should not get married and the reason was, he thought they had too much else to do. He says, “ . . . if thou marry, thou hast not sinned. Nevertheless, such shall have trouble in the flesh . . .” but all right he says, I let you off on that. By “trouble in the flesh,” he doesn’t mean that they will pester one another, he just means that they are gonna have a lot of other things to take care of that they wouldn’t have to take care of otherwise. Okay? That’s what we are really talking about here. [49:44]

“But this I say brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as thought they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that used this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away. But I would have you without carefulness.” I would have you without carefulness. “He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.” (I Corinthians 7:29-33) I hope he cares about that. If he doesn’t, he shouldn’t be married, should he? [50:30]

“There is a difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit, but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you . . .” (1 Corinthians 7:34-35)

It’s so lovely to see how Paul is so thoughtful and so delicate. He keeps saying, “I’m not trying to put a burden on you. It isn’t as if I am laying something on you but I am trying to say something that will help you. And I may say that I don’t think Paul is saying that this is the way it has to be between a husband and a wife and ideally, it would not be that way but he was a realist about the conditions under which we live in this world and he knew how much time would go into simply caring for what hubby’s stomach demands and the other way around. [51:27]

So now here is the key in verse 35—“And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.” (1 Corinthians 7:35) “ . . . that you may attend upon the Lord without distraction.” I say it again, “ . . . that you may attend upon the Lord without distraction.” [51:57]

Now, we are greatly distracted by sexual matters today. It is in the church as well as outside of it. You know, I’m sure every one of you know many stories of which you could tell about how this happens and the things that have happened even sometimes to outstanding leaders and teachers that you may have known. We are tremendously distracted with this today. It is time for those who are disciples of Christ to take a sensible stand on these matters.

We have to begin by recognizing that you cannot allow everything that is running around in the world to run through your mind. I sometimes think that we let our minds function like the old towns in the old west where they just drive the herds right down the main street. We just allow our minds to be open and perhaps we were too narrow in decades past but now, we are too liberal. We allow too much! We have magazines in our homes, which should not be there. We have television programs and movies, which simply shouldn’t be there. I’m not coming out for censorship. I’m coming out for, if you wish, sensible-ship. I am not a prude and I hope you are not either. That’s not the point. [53:23]

The point is just realizing that if you allow certain things to go on in your mind, you’ve got trouble. You’ve got trouble and there are many, many of us in the church, devout people who really would like to serve the Lord but they are being defeated by their romantic longings and their sexual confusions. We have to facer those things head on and some of us are going to have to say, “My dream of love is never going to be realized and I’d better stop chasing it and I’d better get realistic and understand that God has greater things for me than that.” That’s one of the places that we have to discipline ourselves with reference to sex. We have to take control of our thoughts. We have to take control of our time. We have to take control of the people we listen to and surround ourselves with. [54:25]

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:15—“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.”  Suppose you had a choice of whether or not you would allow a dignified, intelligent, lovely person to come and live in your house or whether or not you would allow a bunch of pigs to come and live in it? Who would you choose? You wouldn’t choose the pigs, and we have to say to the young person or the old person or the middle sized person or whatever who is troubled with this business of why be pure? We have to point out to them what the glorious alternative is. That’s what we have to do and our problem in dealing with sex in the church today is primarily that we are not presenting a radiant alternative. Hmmm? [55:40]

So, then when the young person or the old person or whoever says, “Why be pure?” The answer is obvious—“So that I can be the resplendent temple of the Holy Ghost.” Only in that way can we come to the place to where we understand why restraint is justified and why saying “No” is a good thing.

When we learn the sucker and the nourishment of our fellowship with God, and the result of that—pure and holy relations with other people, untroubled by sexual thoughts and questions— [56:28]

A friend of mine, a lady whom I had counseled with for some time and had known quite well once remarked to me how exasperated she became at a certain point because she said, “Well, I was just always looking. Everyone I met, I would think, is this the one?’ “ See, our minds are so clouded and steamed up that we cannot have simple, straight forward relationships with people and once we understand the goodness of the pure life, how it adds to the simplicity and the power of a life in Christ, then we know the answer, why be pure? What’s so great about purity? That’s the answer—the radiant alternative life is the answer. The life where complete transparency, complete truthfulness, love without any question marks about it, the readiness to help without any nagging wonders as to what’s going on where, just pure, simple love. [57:41]

Now, in the world it’s almost impossible to achieve anything like that but the church should be the place where it flourishes and if we are wiling to take a stand, both negative and positive on the meaning of purity and chastity for sure and if we are by our circumstances or by the call of God led into a life of celibacy; if we are ready to see that, to be the glorious thing it was meant to be under God and to accept that and serve God without distraction, all the questions will be answered. [58:29]

Let’s bow together. “Lord we have talked about some pretty heavy things this evening and I pray that you will help all the folk here this evening and myself to continue to be open and to think and to inquire into these matters and above all, to recognize that we are dealing with something that must have an honest, thorough, intelligent response. Help us to search our Scriptures; to pray and to do everything we can to understand what is right in these matters, in Jesus’ Name, Amen. [59:06]

Now, next week we begin on the other disciplines. You may notice that I have put the different verse by those, “Arise take up thy bed and go thy way.” (Mark 2:11) These are Disciplines of Engagement. We have been talking about the Disciplines of Abstinence. We have to pull the old suckers off of the old man or old woman there but now we are going to be talking about what goes into the new man, the life of Christ.

Thank You. [Talking with students]

Listen to all parts in this The Disciple, the Disciplines, the Triumphant Life series