Part eight of an eleven-part series on “Habits of Highly Successful People”
Habit #7 – A Successful Person Remains Pure in Both Attitudes and Actions
By Kevin Riggs
Radio personality Paul Harvey tells the story of how Eskimos kill wolves. The account is grisly, yet if offers fresh insight into the consuming, self-destructive nature of sinful lusts . . . the sin at the heart of the Seventh Commandment:
First, the Eskimo coats his knife blade with animal blood and allows it to freeze. Then he adds another layer of blood, and another, until the blade is completely concealed by frozen blood. Next, the hunter fixes his knife in the ground with the blade up. When a wolf follows his sensitive nose to the source of the scent and discovers the bait, he licks it, tasting the fresh frozen blood.
He begins to lick foster, more and more vigorously, lopping the blade until the keen edge is bore. Feverishly, now, harder and harder the wolf licks the blade in the arctic night So great becomes his craving for blood that the wolf does not notice fie razor-sharp sting of the naked blade on his own longue, nor does he recognize the instant at which his insatiable thirst is being satisfied by his own warm blood. His carnivorous appetite just craves more—until the down finds him dead in the snow. (Quoted from Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching From Leadership Journal, ed. Craig Brian Larson. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993, 146.)
No one sets out to destroy lives through adultery but it happens. Immorality starts slowly until the appetite for more overpowers the will to say no. More than once I have had people say to me, “l didn’t mean for it to happen. We just let ourselves get out of control.”
The Seventh Commandment
Commandment Seven states, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” No explanations and no excuses—just plain, simple and straightforward. The word “adultery” is a specific word referring to sexual intercourse between one man and another man’s wife. The prohibition is not against sex itself, but against the misuse of sex. The absolute truth behind this Commandment is that any type of sexual activity outside of, or in addition to, a covenant marriage relationship is sin.
Jesus said, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Adultery is as much an attitude of the heart as it is an action of the body.
Adultery starts in the mind, continues through flirtation and ends in the bedroom. The person who says, “We didn’t mean for it to happen,” committed adultery long before the physical act.
The Big Question
The question is: Why does God reserve sex for marriage only? The answer goes beyond, “Because God said so.” God has at least two reasons why He reserved sex for marriage.
Once I realize that God loves me, wants what is best for me and doesn’t want to see any harm come my way, I realize all His commands are for my benefit. How does the Seventh Commandment protect me?
First, it protects me from defying God. God created sex; it was His idea. God commanded Adam and Eve to have children; He knew what they would have to do to procreate and He called that act “good.”
Furthermore, since God created sex, He has the right to place it within boundaries. God says that within marriage sex is beautiful, but outside of marriage it is a sin.
Second, God also wants to protect me from defiling myself. Immorality is no worse than any other sin, but no other sin affects me like immorality. All sin destroys, but immorality has the potential to create life. Furthermore, the root cause of many people’s emotional problems can be traced to an abuse or misuse of sex. God knows this and wants to protect me from harming myself.
Third, God wants to protect me from destroying my family, the end result of adultery.
Somehow the union between husband and wife is symbolic of a believer’s union with Jesus Christ. Marriage was designed to teach me about God. Satan knows this; he also knows if he can harm the marriage relationship, he harms my understanding of God.
For example: Through faith I became one with Christ. Through the marriage act I became one with my wife. The latter is an illustration of the former. If I misuse the oneness of sex, I harm my ability to understand what it means to be one with Christ. Marriage is sacred; the oneness of the marriage relationship is holy.
Sex is more than physical; it is emotional and spiritual as well. Within marriage the sexual act draws two people together, outside of marriage it pulls two people apart. In the Old Testament, God used two different words to describe this truth. One word referred to sex within marriage, the other for sex outside marriage.
Within marriage the word used was yadah. The root meaning is “to know,” “to experience,” “to understand” or “to commit oneself to another.” In Genesis 4:1 the Bible reads, “And Adam knewEve his wife; and she conceived.” By using the word yadah, God was saying that within marriage there is an intimacy—a knowledge, an experience, an understanding and a commitment of one another—that cannot be achieved outside marriage.
Outside marriage, the word used was shacab, meaning, “to lie with.” There is no sense of intimacy or closeness in shacab. Shacabis a cold, unfeeling word, nothing more than physical contact. By using these two words, God was saying the result of sex within marriage is one thing—intimacy; while the result of sex outside of marriage is another thing—loneliness.
God desires to provide me with the most loving, intimate, exciting relationship in life. He provides that relationship through marriage where both partners are committed to God and to each other. In that relationship, not only do I grow closer to my wife, I also grow closer to God.
The Seventh Commandment is straightforward, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” The seventh habit is a combination of the Commandment and the teaching of Jesus. The seventh habit states: A highly successful person remains pure in attitudes and actions.
If I desire to be successful, I must commit myself to obeying God’s Word when it comes to my sexuality. I must make the choice to remain abstinent outside marriage and faithful within marriage. If I desire to be successful, I must understand sex to be both a spiritual and physical act. I must guard my thought life, and I must be careful what I watch, read or listen to. If I desire to be successful, I will remain pure and I will hold God’s standard of morality high.
There are few sites more beautiful than the Mississippi River. Every time I cross the bridge in Memphis from Tennessee into Arkansas, I marvel at the power and majesty of that fiver. For centuries it has been the lifeblood of commerce and transportation in mid-America. Most of the time this mighty river flows peacefully and calmly, within its banks, towards the Gulf of Mexico.
Periodically, however, the river rises, causing severe flooding. At times the Mississippi runs wild, overflowing its banks, destroying farms, homes, lives. Within its banks the river has tremendous benefits. Outside its banks it is extremely dangerous.
God’s gift of sex is like that river. When it is kept within the banks of marriage it is holy, beautiful, wonderful. When we let it flood and overflow its banks, it becomes ugly, perverse and dangerous. God loves me and wants what is best for me. He had good reasons to command, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and a highly successful person will obey that command.
Article adapted from Contactmagazine, August 2002.