We may think of our culture as saturated with temptation—but Israel entering the promised land, faced a similar situation. Exodus 20:14 was part of what God equipped his people with to encourage them to be faithful to him.
Be aware of the danger around you. Listen as God’s Word speaks to your life. You may be told that God’s standards are “old-fashioned.” “Everybody is doing it today.” Don’t believe it! It is not that the Bible needs to be made relevant. Rather, we need to listen to what it has been saying all along. Note how God’s Word transcends cultural and temporal barriers, 1 Corinthians 10:8-13. Like Israel in Joshua’s day you live in a culture that often seems obsessed with sex. Like Israel you need to learn to live pure, clean lives in an X-rated generation.
Don’t be enticed away from your covenant relationship with God. God gives marriage his special blessing. This commandment reflects his protection of that relationship. Marriage was established by God in Eden before the Fall. Even in the time of the Patriarchs, before Sinai, God’s people recognized his call for sexual purity, see Joseph, Genesis 39:9. In both Testaments God uses marriage to picture his relationship with us, Isaiah 54:5-8; Jeremiah 3:8; Ephesians 5:22-33; Revelation 21:2. As God’s people, we (whether as individuals we are married or single) are the bride of Christ. We live in a marriage relationship with him. “God did not fish around for some image to use to show his people what his love is like, and then stumble on marriage as the best one to convince them to return to him in covenant devotion. He did not recognize the power of married love and determine to use sexuality as the strongest figure. No. God planned it the other way around. The Lord placed in us at creation deep sexual emotions so that we might understand the jealousy his love for us and the joy of jealousy for him.” (Edmund P. Clowney, How Jesus Transforms the Ten Commandments, p. 95). The pattern established by God is marriage between one man and one woman until the relationship is broken by death, Matthew 19:1-9. Sexual immorality and idolatry are related, Numbers 25:1-3, 1 Corinthians 10:8. Sexual immorality today usually involves a form of idolatry, the worship of self or pleasure. Without expanding on the topic, the church needs to be willing to call homosexual behavior sin, not only because it violates specific provisions of God’s Law (Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1), but also because of the profound replacement of God with mankind at the center of life. The concept of fluid gender is ultimately an effort to de-throne God. Instead of being his creation, one who is responsible to live to his glory and according to his Word, humankind has decided that I can be whoever I want to be. Mankind, not God, is sovereign. Rosaria Butterfield’s The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert is a helpful, but challenging book to read.
Positively, be pure in heart and life. Rejoice in the beauty of God’s creation. You as a person, male or female, are made in God’s image. Though God is a Spirit and neither man nor woman, our sexuality is a result of being made in God’s image. Sex is not sinful! The Bible is not prudish in speaking about it, but rather discusses it in a frank, honest, and even joyful manner. Views that marriage is incompatible with holiness, or that God tolerates it as a lesser good are notions drawn more from Greek philosophy than the Word of God. God calls you to use and enjoy sexual activity with the bounds of marriage, Proverbs 5:15-20. “What then is the place and purpose of sex? God intends, as the story of Eve’s creation from Adam shows, that the “one flesh” experience should be an expression and a heightening of the partners’ sense that, being given to each other, they now belong together, each need the other for completion and wholeness (see Genesis 2:18-24).” (J. I. Packer, Keeping the 10 Commandments, p. 84). Young people, prepare for marriage. Keep yourself pure. Choose friends carefully. You don’t fall into love, you climb in! Be selective in what you watch and listen to, recognizing our culture’s preoccupation with sexuality. Couples, strengthen your relationship to the glory of God. Reflect the loving, caring relationship which exists between Christ and his church. Consciously strengthen that relationship. Are there practical things you can do? Start out by coming up with one thing you can do today to show your husband or your wife something of the love of Christ. “Drop my demanding tone, the one that comes across as though I think I’m a princess to be served.” “Fix that leaky faucet that has been bugging her.” “Block out an evening of time for each other.” Singles, walk in obedience and trust, recognizing that, at least for a time, God has called you to live without a spouse. Being single is not a lwoer calling than being married. Maintain the purity of your life as you develop as a person who has special opportunities to serve your Savior. It is the path the Apostle Paul walked for the sake of his Lord and the church.
Flee temptation! Beware of the powerful temptations around you. You are told, “Everyone is doing it.” Films, advertizing, TV entertainment, literature, and music have a powerful, if sometimes subliminal effect. Understand how subtle temptation is. While the Pharisees saw themselves as innocent, Jesus pointed out that this command involves not just the overt action, but the attitude of the heart, Matthew 5:27-30. Husbands, guard your eyes (Job 31:1). If need be, put software guards on your computer. Wives, look out for the temptation to think, “Why did God give me this husband?” Flee temptation! Joseph’s response is worth following. Paul advises the same, 2 Timothy 2:22. Consciously avoid the situations which particularly tempt you. Use the off button. Cultivate a healthy relationship. Enjoy the company of Christian friends, who share your commitment. Build up your marriage. Watch your language and attitudes. “Sexually active” today usually does not refer to a monogamous marriage relationship. “Adult” covers some very immature behavior and material. “Gay” mis-names a very sad and sinful life-style. Be willing to call sin sin.
Grow in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Be sure you have the right foundation. Recognize that you have sinned. No matter how overt or private your sin may be (and when you understand what Jesus is saying in Matthew 5:27-30, you realize that you have sinned), remember that the death of Jesus provides forgiveness for your sin, including these sins. The church has no place for hypocritical condemnation of others, for self-righteous attitudes, for it is made up of forgiven, repentant sinners, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Renew your covenant relationship with God. Joshua repeatedly called the people to remember the covenant that God had made with them. Your worshiping together as a family today, in a service that calls you to a renewed walk with God, does, as a side effect, strengthen your marriage. As God’s covenant people remember that you are a new creation in Christ Jesus. Your standards are not those of “everybody else” in the world. Live a clean life in the x-rated (adulterous and sinful, Mark 8:38) generation in which you live. Keeping this commandment is not just doing the homework I suggested. It’s not just guarding your eyes and your thoughts, important though all of those are. At heart it is loving your God with all your heart, entrusting yourself to your faithful Savior, reveling in his sacrificial love for you–and then reflecting that love to those closest to you.
God calls you, the church, to live as his bride, to make sure that your lives reflect his holiness and purity. He calls you, not only corporately as the church, but also as individuals and couples, to prepare for that day when the church will descend from heaven like a bride adorned for her husband, because that is what you are—the bride of Christ.