To quote once again from John Piper, “not only do all the misuses of our sexuality serve to conceal or distort the true knowledge of God in Christ, but it also works powerfully the other way around: the true knowledge of God in Christ serves to prevent the misuses of our sexuality. So, on the one hand, sexuality is designed by God as a way to know Christ more fully. And, on the other hand, knowing Christ more fully is designed as a way of guarding and guiding our sexuality.”
Today I want to focus on the second part of Piper’s thesis while asking the question – what does knowing Christ have to do with guarding and guiding our sexuality?
Most Christians are familiar with Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 5:3. “But among you there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” We all know that sexual purity is of the utmost importance to Christian living, but we also know that it is a challenge to be pure and holy given the toxic culture that we live in. There are temptations all around us and it’s not hard for our purity to be compromised. What I believe is missing among Christians is a proper understanding of how sexually purity is best accomplished. It has been my observation that Christians often try to remain sexually pure in their own strength using their own means. Not surprisingly, this strategy always fails to produce the intended results. Ironically, even though we are attempting to please God through our sexuality, we don’t see our desperate need for God. As with every aspect of Christian living, until we see our own poverty of spirit and depravity of heart, we will never seek God’s grace in our lives. Therefore, we must come to the realization that the best path to sexual purity is through “knowing Christ.”
In Romans 1, we see the tragic outcome of not knowing God, or we might even say, rejecting the knowledge of God. “Therefore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.” (1:26) Earlier in that chapter, Paul fills us in on “what ought not to be done” looks like: “God gave them over to shameful lusts.” (1:24) In other words, because they did not know God, they in turn did not guard their sexuality and did as they pleased. This describes us all at one point in time. Before Jesus Christ came into our lives and redeemed us from our own corruption, we lived for our own pleasure and gain. But following the saving work of Jesus Christ in our lives, a change occurred – purity and holiness came into focus. As Paul writes, “This is the will of God, your sanctification: That you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles, who do not know God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5) Notice how at the end of that passage we are told that the Gentiles “do not know God.” In contrast, those who know God are committed to sanctification – to growing in holiness and to pleasing God in everything they do, including their sexuality.
As Piper concludes, “If the Scripture teaches that truly knowing God – truly knowing Christ – guards and guides and governs our sexuality in purity and love, then we may be sure that anyone whose sexuality is not governed and guarded and guided in purity and love does not know God – at least not as he ought.”