“Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”- John Owen
I found this quote to be true in the battle with sexual lust. God invented sex. He loves sex (Genesis 2:18-25). God commands husbands to delight in their wives’ breasts (Proverbs 5:19) and had an entire book of the Bible written about sexual pleasure and passion that never even mentions God or having kids directly (Song of Solomon).
SEX IS GREAT
Sex, like fire, is one of the most powerful things in the universe. When fire is kept in the fireplace, it does wonderful things for people: warms a house, provides light, cooks food and looks beautiful. Sex in marriage can and should produce intimacy, pleasure, children and beauty.
SEX IS DANGEROUS
Fire outside the fireplace is destructive, possibly burning down your house and consuming human life. Sex outside marriage is destructive and ruins intimacy with God and others. Sex is not the worst sin, yet 1 Corinthians 6:18 teaches that sexual sin is unique. It can’t literally mean all other sins are “outside the body.” Other sins like gluttony, drunkenness, etc… are in our body. But John Calvin says sexual sin “leaves a stain impressed upon the body…not impressed upon it from other sins.” Sex was meant to bind us emotionally, physically, mentally, psychologically and even spiritually to our spouse. It has that same power outside of marriage to bind us to the wrong people, things or experiences.
If you eat too much pizza and drink a little too much beer one time, the consequences will usually be small. However, if you have a five minute sexual encounter with someone you aren’t married to, you could get a sexual STD for life, lose your marriage and your job. The consequences of sexual sin are often greater and harder to dismiss.
Any way you attempt to give or receive sexual pleasure outside of heterosexual marriage is sin. See Ephesians 5:3 and 1 Timothy 5:1-2. (A married person can sin by depriving their spouse of sex or idolizing sex in marriage etc… We won’t cover that here.) Sexual sin includes reading or watching things or people (other than your spouse) that arouse you, any type of intentional physical contact with someone other than your spouse for sexual pleasure, masturbation and even lustful thoughts about sex with someone other than your spouse (Matthew 5:27-28).
Paul tells us to flee sexual temptation (1 Corinthians 6:18, 2 Timothy 2:22). I have a sinful desire to get as close to the line of sin to hopefully enjoy a little sinful pleasure with no consequences. It never works that way. We all reap whatever we sow.
Jesus says to remove from our lives as much as possible anything that causes us to stumble (Matthew 5:29-30). God did not call us to leave the world and live in caves (1 Corinthians 5:9-10). Practically, what should this look like in a world with so much sexual temptation at our electronic fingertips? The answer will be different for different people with different temptations.
Porn was a frequent part of my life from fifth to ninth grade. It continued to be an issue at times for years after that. During those early years, I often stayed awake alone late at night hoping to find something sexually explicit on TV.
God started changing my life in high school and there’s been a lot of growth since then. I’ve been married for almost twenty years to a gorgeous woman and for the most part, we’ve had a very happy and healthy marriage in every way. I'm 40 years old and have been in ministry for almost 20 years. Yet lustful temptations haven’t left. I must take Paul’s command to flee, and Jesus’s warning to “pluck out the eye” as seriously today as I did in high school and college.
Technology brings many wonderful possibilities to our lives but also new ways to sin. Someone said in reference to porn, “What used to be almost impossible to find is now almost impossible to avoid.” This feels true.
I have a computer at home and one at work. Both have covenant eyes reporting software on them that sends a weekly report to my wife and a couple of good friends. They see all I see. I don’t have a web browser on my iPhone. I only have two apps. These apps have no way for me to get to the internet.
We have satellite TV with every channel blocked that might have scandalous material. My wife has the passcodes for the restrictions code for our TV, my phone, my kids’ phones, the PlayStation, the Xbox and her laptop. I don’t trust myself in this area.
I also try to never stay up at night after 11 to watch TV alone. I usually just watch the news. But I find if I stay up late at night alone watching TV, it brings up too many old memories from high school and leads to lustful thoughts.
These steps in my life make about a 95% improvement in fighting against lust. Sometimes I might feel frustrated when someone texts me a web link and I can’t open it on my phone. But it is a small price to pay.
THE MAIN STEP
Lust is mainly about a promise of false joy. The real key to winning this war is meditating on Scripture to see the glory of Christ in the gospel (2 Corinthians 3:18). As I really worship and enjoy Christ and His sacrificial, saving love for me I'm progressively, though not fully, freed from the competing pleasure sexual sin falsely promises.
Sexual sin in all its forms brings powerful shame. But the blood of Christ and the promises of God are much more powerful. “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” (Romans 5:20) True freedom from sexual sin starts with confessing your sin to Christ and trusting His promise to fully cleanse you (1 John 1:9).