How can a Christian student glorify God on the college campus? It may not be easy when one considers the climate in which he/she will be thrust. Sexual activity is staggering at the university these days. With the advent of the internet, said activity is on the rise with 87% of students polled saying that they have had virtual sex via instant messenger, webcam, or telephone according to "Protect Your Kids." One should hardly be surprised in light of the stance the universities themselves now take on this issue. Consider the controversy brewing at Clemson University over required reading for incoming freshmen.
According to WYFF, almost 3000 first-year students are required to read Truth And Beauty: A Friendship, by Anne Patchett, a book that is too sexually oriented for young people according to Clemson alumnus, parent, and member of the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, Ken Wingate. "The explicit message this sends to students is that they are encouraged to find themselves sexually," Wingate said. Moreover, "The book talks in graphic terms about pornography, about fetishes, masturbation and about multiple sexual partners and seducing fellow students." Most objectors consider the book to be pornographic.
In addition to reading the book, the students must write a review of it and attend a lecture given by the author herself. The book will be referred to all four years of the students' college careers and will form the basis of dialogue about their own sexuality. While Wingate and a number of other parents want the students to be given an alternative, despite the controversy, the university has no plans to change their policy.
The Clemson controversy is but one example of this massive problem among others that are sexually related. Suffice it to say that Christian students must think long and hard about their role on campus before God. Concerning sexual activity a few implications are in order.
First, it is God's will that Christians should be sanctified and abstain from sexual immorality. God wants Christians to be practically different from the world and He wants them to be progressively different throughout their lives. Paul wrote, "For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thes. 4:3)."
Sanctification in its primary sense refers to being different or set apart: it refers to being holy. Further, sanctification is a work of God in the individual Christian. At the same time, there is a progressive dynamic for the believer in that the process of putting off sin and putting on righteousness continues throughout life.
With reference to practical sanctification and sexual immorality, the word Paul uses is the Greek word porneia from which we get our word pornography. It refers to any form of inappropriate sexual activity and is usually translated fornication. Christians must abstain from porneia.
Second, it is God’s will that Christians should know how to abstain from sexual immorality. Every Christian has that responsibility. Paul says "that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor (v. 4)." The phrase "each of you" makes it clear that all Christians, even college students whom the world expects to be sexually active, have an obligation to be sexually pure and thereby glorify God before a sexually impure world.
His meaning then is this: it is God’s will that believers avoid sexual immorality, that each one of them should know how to take control over their own bodies, and that they be set apart for God and honorable purposes. A saved college student will want to glorify God with his or her body.
Further, Paul refers to knowing how to possess one's body in sanctification. How indeed? The answer is in v. 5: "not in passion of lust." Even this connection makes Paul's meaning plain. Christians are to possess their bodies in an honorable way by not being lustful and immoral. How does one possess his body in honor? Don't lust.
So, negatively, the way to possess your body as God wants is to take control of your body by being different and avoiding sexual immorality. Positively, one must engage in activity that is honorable. Christian students should be an example to their peers at the university.
Ultimately, one must deal with the heart. Thus, the way to possess your body as God wants is to take control of your body by killing lust through the Holy Spirit. Paul expands his thought and reaffirms that Christians are to control their bodies, "not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God (v. 5)." In other words, Gentiles do not control their lusts and they do not control their lusts because they do not know God. They are not saved. Christians are to be different: sanctified. They are to be different because they are different: they are saved, that is, they know God. By virtue of knowing God, they have His Spirit in them to empower them to live holy lives even in the midst of the sexually charged climate on campus.
Thus, we might ask, how does one possess his body in honor? Don't lust. How then does one avoid lust? One avoids lust by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Third, it is God's will that Christians should not wrong their brothers through sexual immorality. In v. 6, Paul injects three additional thoughts to shore up his rationale for this command. He wants the saints to be holy and pure "that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified." Paul does not want believers to defraud one another by engaging in sexual immorality. Several implications are in view.
The first implication is that engaging in improper sexual relations with another Christian is to defraud that Christian. Paul uses this same language in 1 Cor. 7:2 with reference to sexual relations in marriage. In that context, to defraud one's spouse is to cease from relations. In this context, to defraud one's brother/sister is to engage in relations outside of marriage.
The second implication is that believers who engage in improper sexual relations are becoming one flesh with prostitutes or improper partners (1 Corinthians 6). That is a fraud and dishonors the Lord and his gift of sexual relations in marriage where the one flesh relationship points to Christ and His bride, not in a sexual way, but in the way of union.
The third implication is that improper sexual relations affects the body of Christ and thus defrauds the brothers. Paul certainly has such in mind when he tells the Corinthians to expel the immoral brother from the church (1 Corinthians 5). Christian students should not defraud the larger body of Christ by engaging in sexually immorality in the university setting.
Now, Paul says that "the Lord is the avenger of all such." In other words, the Lord will judge those who engage in sexual immorality. A believer may be chastened or suffer unwanted consequences. Further, while a genuine believer cannot lose his/her salvation, the one who continues in a lifestyle of sexual immorality indicates that he/she is not truly a believer and is subject to the eternal judgment of God. In this instance, Paul wants the saints to abstain from sexual immorality and thereby prove their salvation and thereby avoid the judgment of God.
Paul had warned them before in regard to this subject. He simply notes, "as we also forewarned you and testified." He had been a witness for Christ concerning this issue and its importance. Apparently, some had not heeded the apostle's warning so he warns them again. This is indeed a warning even to students.
Suffice it to say that Christians should please God by obeying His will. They should be different from the world and avoid sexual immorality. They should act as children of God, not defraud their brothers in this area, and in so acting, glorify God, even on the college campus. Let not Christian students be swayed by Patchett’s book Truth and Beauty: A Friendship. Let them remember that friendship with the world is enmity with God (Jas. 4:4) and that the only truth and beauty that matter in this context is the truth of God's word and the beauty of sexual purity.
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About Paul Dean
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
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