Jan 11, 2013
No matter how much you have sinned sexually, how impossible change feels, or how powerfully you are being tempted — there’s good news.
Jesus Christ died and rose again. And so, if you will turn to Him as you are, and trust Him to forgive you, help you, change you, satisfy you — you can know you are completely forgiven, clothed in Christ’s perfect righteousness, and passionately loved by God.
That’s precious beyond words.
But There’s More
God also promises to give you all the grace you need to overcome sexual temptation —
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2Cor 9:8)
And He promises that He will only allow you to face temptations that you, empowered by His grace, will be able to overcome —
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1Cor 10:13)
So through Christ, by faith alone, God will give you everything you need to fight sexual temptation.
We don’t just let go and let God. Jesus calls us to fight sexual temptation.
Here’s how He put it in Mark 9:47 —
And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown in to hell.
Not that your eye causes you to sin. A few chapters earlier Jesus said sin comes from the heart (Mark 7:21). So Jesus’ point is not that we fight sin by gouging out eyes. His point is that IF gouging out eyes would overcome sin, it would be well worth it. Which means we must spare no effort to fight sin.
So how do we fight sexual sin?
A Helpful Distinction
Sexual temptation has two parts.
There’s the physical craving for sexual feeling, activity, and fulfillment. And there’s also the emotional longing for sexual excitement, closeness, and pleasure.
God’s grace helps us deal with each of these differently.
The Physical Craving
Take the physical craving for sexual activity. This craving is not in itself sin, and is something God built into our bodies. But unless we are married and in a setting where this can be pursued in a way that serves our spouse, it must be resisted.
How? By relying on God’s promise that He is worth the discomfort, and by understanding that God has made our bodies so that in time the craving will diminish.
It’s like when you are fasting and crave food. This craving is not sinful. But if God has called you to fast, you must resist it by relying on God’s promise that He is worth the discomfort, and by knowing that in time the hunger will be gone.
The Emotional Longing
The emotional longing is different. This is not a longing we have to live with. This is a longing God promises to satisfy completely — in Himself.
I say that because of Psalm 73:25 —
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
God can so satisfy our hearts in Himself that we desire nothing else. All our emotional longings can be satisfied in knowing Him, beholding Him, and worshiping Him.
So What Can You Do When Tempted?
Joy in God comes from faith (Rom 15:13). Obedience comes from faith (Heb 11:8). The Spirit is provided by faith (Gal 3:5).
So what’s most important is not will-power, computer filters, or accountability.
These have their place. But what’s most important is strengthening our faith in Christ.
Here’s what I recommend:
Come to God as you are. Don’t try to change your heart first. Turn and trust Jesus Christ to forgive you, help you, free you, and satisfy you. By faith alone you can immediately be assured that you are forgiven and that God will fulfill all His promises to you (Luke 18:13-14).
Confess any sin that needs confessing. If you desire sex more than you desire Christ, have had lustful thoughts, or don’t believe He can overcome this temptation — confess your unbelief. Ask Him forgive and cleanse you. He will. He promises (1John 1:9).
Pray for the heart-changing work of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit can revive dead hearts (Isa 57:15), soften hard hearts (Eze 36:26), and free enslaved hearts (Rom 6:17). So pray earnestly for God to increase the work of His Spirit in you.
Set your heart on the truth of God’s Word. The word of God is the sword the Spirit uses to slay unbelief and lust (Eph 6:17). So pray over passages describing God’s incomparable glory, Christ’s all-satisfying love, and the Spirit’s heart-changing help, like Exo 33:18-19; Psa 138:5-6; Gal 2:20; 2Cor 8:9; Luke 18:27; 1John 5:4.
Pray over God’s Word until your emotional longing is satisfied in Christ. God promises that who He is in Christ will completely satisfy every emotional longing (see Psa 16:11; John 6:35; John 7:37-38; 1Pet 1:8). So press in with prayer and meditation until the Spirit strengthens your faith and you see and feel Christ as your all-satisfying Treasure.
Let that satisfaction stir you to resist the physical craving. Sometimes God supernaturally takes the physical craving away. But more often He calls us to endure that craving until it lessens. And what motivates us to endure is the taste of Christ’s all-satisfying glory and the promise of gaining more through our endurance (Matt 5:8; John 14:21). So plead with Him for help. See Him as your treasure. Then go for a walk. Run some sprints. Whatever. He is worth it all.
Do all you can to avoid temptation. We can go places, watch TV shows, and read books that increase the physical and emotional desire for sex. So — for the sake of gaining more joy in Christ forever — don’t. Joseph ran from Potiphar’s wife (Gen 39:12). Join him.
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And here are some related posts you might find helpful —
What Does the Bible Say About Sex Before Marriage?
How Far Is Too Far Before Marriage?
A Take-No-Prisoners Kind of War
How God Helps You Overcome Sin
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