1 Thessalonians 4:3-4 – For this is the will of God: your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality, that each one of you know how to possess himself of his own vessel in sanctification and honor,
As people, we have been created by God as sexual beings – and it is the will of God that these desires find their fulfilment in the sanctity of marriage.
Yet the desires we have inwardly can burn in ways that have an evil expression, and which will bring destruction and devastation to our lives should they be followed through. This verse acknowledges these desires and gives us a command – that we should ‘know who to possess ourselves’.
The image is of a wild horse that needs to be bridled. Left to it’s own devices it will surely bolt and end up in places that are not good for it. But our job is to ‘possess’ the horse, to ‘own’ it and to bring it under control.
This is not an impossible task – although there are many who have suffered defeat in these areas and have given up hope that they could ever ‘possess themselves’ and exercise control over their own flesh. The Lord, through Paul, gives us this command knowing that we CAN know how to bridle our desires, and make our body obey us! If God says that it’s possible – then it really is possible!
Although this verse speaks specifically of sexual sin, there are numerous ways the desires of our flesh can manifest. Our job is to identify these and work, with the grace and power of the Spirit of God, to bring them under control.