God opened my eyes to the glories of the gospel and I started devouring theology books. It seemed like if you were a guy who loved theology and reading a lot the next step would be seminary. So I started taking classes at a local seminary. I loved taking the classes, loved the camaraderie, and loved my teachers. But I went into seminary with bright eyes.
I got a lot of good advice going into seminary. All of the advice was well needed. The church must come alongside seminarians in many ways as they grow and learn.
With that said, I heard a meager amount of admonition on sexual purity. Seminarians, I want to encourage you today. As you pursue your studies with all your heart. As you delve into Greek declensions. As you pull all-nighters to cram for your exams. As your strive for work, family, school balance. As you plug into church ministries. Pursue the love of God more than anything and pursue the purity that results from that love. Here are six ways to do that.
- Make Scripture Reading and Prayer a Priority
Sometimes we roll our eyes when somebody else recommends Scripture reading to fight sin. However, don’t get comfortable with it and fail to take action. Scripture reading is critical for two reasons. Reading Scripture enables us to abide in Christ. John the Apostle says, “Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 Jn. 2:4-6).
The only way you can keep his words and walk in the same way Jesus walked is to read Scripture. If you’re doing it another way, you’re making Jesus into your own image. John says if we are doing these things that we abide in him. Abiding in him empowers your fight for purity.
Second, prayer is the act of making war on our self-reliance. I struggle with prayer. It’s the Christian discipline I find most difficult. Reading comes naturally to me. Spending time in silence praying. Admitting I can’t do it all and laying down everything at the feet of Jesus is difficult. Self-reliance and pride lead down a path of destruction so we must make war through prayer. Prayer defeats sexual sin because it’s admitting we need the Spirit to kill the sin of lust in our heart.
- Make the Church a Priority
Seminary isn’t church. Chapel isn’t church. Getting together with a group of seminarians to talk theology isn’t church. Place yourself under the authority and discipline of a local church. Let them invest in you and you invest in them.
Hopefully, you’re in the denomination that provides this kind of accountability organically, but if not, pursue it. The local church is where we hear God’s call to worship. The local church is where we collectively as the body of Christ receive the gospel through songs and Psalms, Scripture reading, preaching, and the sacraments. The local church is where we are sent out with the blessing of God on a mission into our neighborhoods, homes, and seminaries. The local church will come alongside you as you fight for purity and can restore you if you fall.
- Gather Around the Gospel for Accountability
Pursue more intimate relationships where you can pursue purity. Fight for your faith with each other. Make the central focus Jesus Christ and what he’s accomplished and be humble enough to listen as people rehearse the gospel in your life. Listen as they correct, encourage, and counsel, and be bold enough to do the same.
- Using Every Resource at Your Disposable to Block Pornography
Purity doesn’t boil down to, “Do you watch pornography?” If you are attending seminary and are regularly watching pornography, repent and seek counsel from a pastor or biblical counselor. They’ll probably tell you this, but you need to invest the money into setting up filters on your internet connections and installing blocks on all your internet ready devices. It’s a matter of prudence in our current culture. Is your call to the ministry worth making accessing sexual content difficult?
- Take Care of Your Physical Body
You may be thinking, “What does taking care of your body have to do with purity?” I’ve found in my own life that when I’m run down, tired, and not exercising I am more susceptible to sin. We are not a spirit in a body or a body with a spirit. We are image bearers made of body and soul. They are intertwined. You neglect the one and you will neglect the other. Find a routine that works for you. Pursue discipline with your physical body to help discipline your spiritual body, and fight sexual sin.
- Schedule Time to Rest and Enjoy Life
Don’t burn out. You only have so many hours in the day. Seminarians are not exempted from resting. You may disagree with me on exactly if/how the biblical sabbath continues. I’m not a strict Sabbatarian, but I do believe setting aside intentional time to rest is more than just prudent. It’s an important part of maturing as a disciple of Jesus who also regularly rested during his earthly ministry.
- Kill Sin Before It Kills You
Stop putting off killing sin in your life especially sexual sin. Kill it before it kills you. You may think watching a few porn videos a week is insignificant, but these are sins Christ died for and these sins will blossom into much more damaging sins if you do not root them out today. If you do not pursue purity now, you may realize you are farther down the path to sexual immorality than you thought possible in 3, 6, or 9 years.
You may not realize you have dragged a matured family and thriving church with you down that path. It will be more difficult to kill the sin then so kill it now. Kill your sexual sin now by pursuing purity before it kills you by pursuing God in all things and with all your heart.
Mathew B. Sims authored A Household Gospel: Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and We Believe: Creeds, Confessions, & Catechisms for Worship (as well as worship guides for each Protestant tradition) and contributed in Make, Mature, Multiply (GCD Books). He completed over forty hours of seminary work at Geneva Reformed Seminary. He also works as the managing editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship and the project manager for CBMW’s journal. Mathew offers freelance editing, book formatting, and cover design services. He is a member at Downtown Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC.