A Willing Heart Trusts and Obeys
The essence of obedience is not simply doing the right stuff. Rather, the essence of obedience is the heart, and what must live in the heart of the obedient person is a willing submission to God’s authority. Obedience that is not willingly submissive is not obedience. If you must force, cajole, threaten, or guilt others into obedience, you have to do that precisely because they are not obedient. They lack the willingness that is at the center of every obedient life.
Sexually pure people are pure because they have a willing heart, and because they have a willing heart, they are ready to say no to powerful desires, raging emotions, and seductive temptations, turning and doing what God has called them to do. The person who fights what is right, who constantly questions it, who looks for ways around it, and who occasionally even mocks it will not be sexually pure for very long because he does not carry around within him an obedient heart. He will not be able to stand against the daily temptations he will face in this world gone sexually insane, and he will not say no to his quickly wandering desires.
This willingness of heart causes me to have a “what-has-God-commanded?” way of looking at my life. I don’t mean that I live a legalistic, rules-bound existence or that I live tentatively and fearfully. I am saying that I have a boundaries way of thinking about life. If God is in charge, and if he has decided what is morally right and wrong, and if he has clearly communicated that to me, then there are moral boundaries of heart and behavior inside of which I am called to live. Inside those boundaries is a life of beautiful freedom and happiness. Outside those boundaries are danger, destruction, and death.
Fenced-in for Your Good
Think of the word picture of boundaries. Pretend you are living in a yard that contains every good, true, and beautiful thing a human being could ever want, and around the yard is a twenty-foot-high chain-link fence. And consider further that outside, on the other side of the fence, is a world of real danger, full of things that will cause your death. If you accepted that what is inside the yard is really very good—things that give you life—and if you accepted that what is outside the fence is really very bad—things that lead to death—wouldn’t you be thankful for the fence? And wouldn’t you be willing to live inside the fence with contentment and joy?
But think with me: if you looked at that fence every day, thinking about how you could get through it or over it, if you touched it or shook it to test its strength, if you tried your best to look through it until you had fence marks on your face, wouldn’t you be doing all that because you believe that the good stuff may be on the other side of the fence? You see, you have much more than a behavior problem; you have a boundary problem. You don’t believe that the fence is there to ensure that you have what is good. No, you have come to believe that the fence is in the way of good, and the minute you allow yourself to believe that, you are on your way to finding a means of getting to the other side of the fence.
Laws Can Give Freedom
In my sexual life I am willing to submit to God’s commands because, deep within my heart, I really do think they are good. I really do believe that God’s laws give life and freedom; they don’t rob me of it. I really do believe that God is wise, good, and trustworthy. I really do think that it is best to live inside his boundaries. So I willingly, in my heart and with my hands, do what God has commanded me to do with my sexual self. I’m not staring at the fence wondering if the good sexual stuff lives out there. I am not haunted by thoughts of what I am missing. I am not unhealthily curious about the lives and sexual exploits of people on the other side of the fence. And I don’t feel disadvantaged because I’ve been chosen to live inside the fence.
Rather, I turn my back to the fence and joyfully celebrate all the rich and good things I’ve been given that I would never have had the sense to choose for myself. I wake up each morning feeling not restricted but blessed, and I surely don’t equate freedom with having my own way. I know I need fences in every area of my life, including sex, and I know that without God’s boundaries I would wander into dangers that would be my doom. God’s boundaries do not inhibit a joyful sexual life; they are the only context in which it can be fully experienced.
This is a guest article by Paul David Tripp, author of Sex in a Broken World: How Christ Redeems What Sin Distorts. This post originally appeared on crossway.org; used with permission.