Jesus Christ has the answer for those struggling with sexual sins, “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). God’s will is for your holiness, your sanctification, and abstinence from sexual immorality. God wants you to know how to possess your own body in holiness and honor, and not to become inflamed with lust (1 Thess 4:3–5). Christ can help you with every sinful and addictive behavior. His words are freely provided in the Bible.
Even in a life wrapped in prayers and Scripture reading, many have found themselves enslaved to a behavior that they do not want and even despise. While some Christians may not struggle with sexual temptations as though they have a low desire or fulfilling marriages, many struggle with uncontrolled sexual desires. Urging someone to read more, be saved, go to church, and stop sinning are excellent things to do, but sometimes, believers can still miss how to overcome certain temptations.
Facing sexual temptations is still thought inappropriate to openly address in some churches, but people need teaching on this subject as seen by sexual immorality facing Christ from the first century unto today (1 Cor 5–7). The man who can honestly say that he has never been tempted to lust after a woman is rare. Just as rare is the woman who can say that she has not been tempted to romantically fantasize about man.
There is not any particular person or generation to blame. Christians must become accountable for themselves and each other. Yes, it would have been nice to have avoided any exposure or abuse to such sins. However, we must hold ourselves responsible.
What is sexually immoral? Sadly, many justify sexual sins and irrationally explain away the definition of sexual immorality. However, Christians need to have a clear awareness and strong conviction, so that we abhor this evil (Rom 12:9). Jesus has a very clear definition of sexual immorality. All sexual immorality is behavior outside of the marriage between one man and one woman. The definition of fornication is from the Greek word porneia. This behavior is all sexual intercourse outside of marriage between one man and one woman (Mark 10:6–7; cf. 1 Cor 6:16; Eph 5:31; Heb 13:4).
Jesus openly used the definition of fornication according to the Law of Moses when Jesus spoke to those who were under Moses’s Law. Within the Law of Moses, immoral sexual behavior consists of adultery, extra-marital sex, premarital sex, incest, rape (pedophilia), sex during menstruation, homosexuality, bestiality, prostitution, and uncovering nakedness (lewdness) (Lev 18; 19:29; 20; Deut 22:5, 22–30).
When Jesus spoke of adulteries, fornications, and lewdness, He called these behaviors “evil things” that defile people (Mark 7:20–23). Jesus described adultery that is in the heart as coveting another man’s wife (Matt 5:27–28). Adultery is sex with another person’s spouse. Jesus also revealed that adultery includes divorcing and marrying another person unless one’s spouse sinned by committing fornication — extramarital sex (Matt 5:32; 19:9; Mark 10:11–12; Luke 16:18; cf. 1 Cor 7:10–11).
Without recognizing, thanking, and glorifying God, people can pervert natural desires into strange lusts (Rom 1:20–28). Jesus did not have to specify what He meant by fornication and lewdness with a descriptive list. Despite that Jesus did not specify rape, incest, and homosexuality as forms of sexual immorality, these behaviors are outside the natural union of marriage between a man and a woman. Likewise, Jesus condemned pedophilia when He opposed the abuse of children and alluded to sexual abuses (Matt 18:7–10; Mark 9:42–50).
Christ also spoke against lewdness, which His Spirit defined to mean to “allure through the lusts of the flesh” (2 Pet 2:18; cf. Luke 17:1; Jas 1:13–14). To cause others to lust through tempting speech, revealing clothing, and nudity is lewdness. Jesus also taught to not look to lust (Matt 5:28). Looking at another person with an inflamed craving and lust is adultery in the heart. Jesus revealed, “And I say to that every person looking at a woman with covetous lust for her has now committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:28). Remember Jesus’s words that out of the heart proceed evil behaviors and evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, covetousness, and lewdness (Mark 7:20–23).
“What is happening to me?!” How can someone become enslaved to a sin that a person does not want to do? If you feel enslaved and feel like you cannot control your sexual behavior, the Bible offers freedom from such enslaved behavior. Sexual immorality is an enslavement — an addictive and compulsion sin.
Sexual immorality is a sin against one’s own body (1 Cor 6:15–20). Sexual sin traps many like any habitual sin. Those who struggle with such can relate to these words, “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do” (Rom 7:15). Jesus professed, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38; cf. Matt 26:41). The problem is sin dwelling within one’s flesh, and that person cannot find how to do what is good. The Apostle wrote,
But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. (Rom 7:17–20)
Since the sin is no longer from oneself, does this mean that someone can continue in sin and grace will abound? Certainly not (Rom 6:1). No one can overcome indwelling sin without the indwelling Spirit of God. The Apostle responded to such uncontrolled sin confessing, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:24).
See, there is a way of escape for all. The apostle Paul wrote,
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Cor 10:12–13)
(1) Make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lust (Rom 13:13–14). Christians must set a perimeter in one’s life and in one’s mind. The follower of Christ must not stay around temptations. They must find a way to stay away from private temptations of secret sins. Many Christians simply miss this point. Even when a Christian sets one’s mind on Christ, that must include avoiding all forms of evil and fleeing from temptations.
Remember Solomon’s warning to not go near the street of the adulterous woman at night (Prov 7). Christians must make no way for private and hidden sins. Romans 13:13–14 states, “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (emp. added). From here, believers grow in Christ and in His virtues for the rest of your life (2 Pet 1:4–11). This is a war, and Christians must fight the good fight. “[A]bstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Pet 2:12). Lusts are trying to deceive everyone (Jas 1:14–15). Doing nothing is not going to aid anyone in overcoming these sins. Therefore, Christ’s followers must remove the temptation to sin. Jesus proclaimed in Matthew 18:9, “And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, and cast it from you: it is good for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into the hell of fire” (cf. Mark 9:43–48; Matt 19:12). Read more in the addendum at the bottom.
(2) Escape temptation to bear it. God is faithful giving a way to escape for everyone to bear their temptations (1 Cor 10:12–13). Therefore, one must escape and bear the temptation. “Escape fornication!” (1 Cor 6:18). The Christian must escape like Joseph escaped temptation (Gen 39:8–13).
Jesus did not give into temptation to overcome temptation. Giving into sin will not stop temptations or sin. Christians must escape and bear temptations. They must work diligently to have this mindset always. Remember that when Satan tempted Jesus that He countered the temptation with a better thought from Scripture than trying to ignore the temptation (Luke 4, cf. Matt 4). God’s grace is through His Word. Believers should carefully avoid thinking that guilt comes from being tempted. The evil one tempted Jesus. Sinful desires will tempt everyone, and those urges may not completely go away. Will giving into these help you resist the next temptation (1 Cor 6:18)?
Believers must set the mind to know when they feel strong urges to avoid them and do not give into the urges. The Scriptures teach Christians to kill the evil desires in the flesh (Gal 5:24; Col 3:5). The temptations can and will eventually diminish. The urges will weaken. Christians must avoid the deception to believe the lie that urges will keep growing and not stop until giving into sin. “Therefore subordinate to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas 4:7). The Bible teaches that tempting urges can stop naturally. Knowing the path of sin that “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (Jas 1:14), believers can endure the urge without giving into the temptation (1 Cor 10:12–13).
Enduring temptations will make believers happy, and the light of a new day will fill their souls more than any worldly pleasure. For “Blessed [happy] is the man who endures temptation” (Jas 1:12; cf. 1:4). The Christian must fear God, escape, and then endure with prayer. Christians are able. Followers of Christ do not have to give into the temptation. Giving into temptations will only make temptations worse and increase sin upon sin (Rom 6:19).
(3) Look to things above; look to better things. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1). How is this important to overcoming sin? Consider verse 5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you.”
Remember that evil thoughts and imaginations feed the lusts of the flesh. Wherever someone is spiritually, one must start disciplining the mind and become aware that God sees you and He knows your thoughts. The Christian must set the mind on the Spirit and become spiritually aware of what lies behind the lusts of the flesh. “[Y]ou must put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Eph 4:22–23). Romans 8:5–6 informs, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
By setting the mind, the Christian must always see through desires and temptations to see that on the other side of temporary pleasure is evil, guilt, regret, devastation, and ruin. This mindset is essential: observe the results of giving into sins at all times and especially before you sin. The grass is never greener on the other side of sin. A Christian must see that sin is an enslavement (Rom 6:15–23). Listen to Christ’s Spirit, “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death” (Rom 6:20–21). What do people gain from sin? What is left after temporary pleasure? Slavery is on the other side of giving into sin. Jesus proclaimed, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). For which Jesus revealed, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
James 1:21 declared, “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (cf. Eph 5:18; Col 3:16). This is the work of the Spirit to change you through the indwelling of God’s Word (Rom 8:5–6, 11–13; 2 Cor 3:18). Therefore, think on those things that are truthful, honorable, just, pure, loving, respectful, virtuous, and praiseworthy (Phil 4:8).
In offering one’s body as a living sacrifice, Romans 12:2 commands, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The follower of Christ must change one’s mind (Rom 1:28; 8:7; Eph 2:3; 4:17–24; Phil 3:19; 4:8; Col 1:12; 2:8; 3:1–5ff; 1 Tim 6:5; Titus 1:15; 2:11–12; Jas 1:8; 4:8; 1 Pet 1:13).
(4) Pray. Jesus told His disciples on the night of His betrayal, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt 26:41; Mark 14:38). Jesus warned His disciples, and yet that night, they all fled when they said that they would not (Mark 14:26-31). As Luke’s Gospel describes, Jesus said, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:40, 46). Was Jesus wrong about prayer?! These are not useless words! Would prayer have helped deliver these disciples? Yes, it would. If prayer against temptation was not useful and powerful, why would Jesus have commanded His disciples to pray? What if they would have prayed three times that night? Take an example in this to pray constantly (1 Thess 5:17). Wake up praying against temptation, pray throughout the day, and pray before bed. Pray David’s repentant words in Psalm 51. Pray daily for the rest of your life and do this in setting your mind on the Spirit. Christ taught His followers to pray, “Bring us not into temptation” (Matt 6:13; Luke 11:4).
(5) Walk in the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
The Spirit of Christ says, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal 5:16–17). God’s Spirit commands that Christians to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18). This is a choice and an action. Sin and lies have deceived many to think the Spirit dwells in them when they continue to sin.
A Christian must open one’s eyes to see the victories and conquests when walking in the Spirit. They should give attention and reproduce that pattern of living everyday. Therefore, fill your life with Christ, His life, His words, His love, and His commands given to His Apostles and prophets found in the Scriptures (cf. Eph 3:3–5; Col 3:16). These are all from the Spirit of God. Walk in Spirit, and you will have the fruits of the Spirit, which include self-control (Gal 5:22–23). Believers must diligently grow and add virtues to faith (2 Pet 1:5–11). They must counter temptations of sinful desires, cravings, and urges by walking in the Spirit.
To live by the Spirit, a believer must die with Christ, be buried with Him, and rise alive with Him. If a believer do not do this, then that person is not regenerated. Those who are of Christ crucify the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal 5:24). No one is saved by grace until God gives life raising that person into the newness of life with Christ (Eph 2:4–6; cf. Phil 3:9–10). With an obedient faith, a believer is only made alive with Christ through Jesus’s resurrection when that believer dies to sin and is buried with Christ in baptism (Rom 6:1–7; Col 2:12–13). Only from baptism is a repentant believer raised into the newness of life. This is the Gospel by which God saves all believers (1 Cor 15:1–4; cf. Rom 1:16). Jesus commanded baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit after He rose from the dead (Matt 28:19; Mark 16:16). This baptism is an immersion in water and Jesus’s name (1 Pet 1:3; 3:21; John 3:5; Titus 3:5; cf. Acts 2:38; 10:47–48; 22:16).
Christians crucify themselves with Christ and remain alive in Him (2 Cor 5:14–15; Gal 2:20; cf. John 15:13). Christ’s followers know the love of Christ by Jesus’s selfless sacrifice (1 John 4:9–10). God dwells within Christians when those believers abide in love, because God is love (1 John 4:16). Thus, the Holy Spirit has poured God’s love into the hearts of Christians (Rom 5:5–8). Only by Christ’s sacrifice can anyone really know love and be compelled by love (John 15:13; 1 John 3:16; cf. 1 John 5:1–3). When God indwells by love, Christians gain their strength from the Spirit (Eph 3:16–19). The believer must have this love in one’s heart, and then Christ’s love will compel that person to overcome. Love is the first blessing listed among the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22–23). True believers increase in that love by abiding in Christ’s words (John 14:21–24).
Remember that God’s grace teaches the denying of worldly lusts (Titus 2:11–12). The Christian must see God’s grace as more than salvation from past sins, but also as salvation from giving into future temptations. Christ has previously forgiven the Christian’s life of sin. Sin may continue to tempt Christians. Why do them again? “Can we continue in sin that grace may increase? Certainly not!” (Rom 6:1–2a). Christians must see the loving grace that forgives sins, so that they truly love God (Luke 7:40–43). Jesus’s love shown through His death compels His followers to live for Christ (2 Cor 5:14–15).
Therefore, Christ’s follower must take up one’s cross daily and follow Christ (Luke 9:23–26). This writer strongly recommends this weekly aid, “How to Overcome Habitual Sins and Addictions through Christ.” May God bless everyone who desires to escape such sexual sin.
Questions and Answers (FAQ)
A. What about God’s forgiveness and grace? What about if someone stumbles in sin again? Everyone sins and everyone stumbles (Rom 3:23; Jas 3:2). The Christian should feel guilty and let that regret help change oneself. Christians should have godly sorrow since “godly sorrow works repentance unto salvation” (2 Cor 7:10). God can forgive everyone if they repent. Jesus taught His followers to forgive when one confesses repentance seven times in a day (Luke 17:3–4). Why? Because Christians are to forgive as God forgives them (Eph 4:32; Col 3:13). What if Christians confess repentance seven times in a day to God? Therefore, as believers walk in the light and confess their sins to the Father, God cleanses them from all sins (1 John 1:7, 9). Christians should let the Word work upon the heart’s conscience to motivate them.
B. How can a Christian manage one’s desires within marriage? What about other natural emissions? God has provided ways to cope by managing sexual desires. The Scriptures refer to nocturnal emissions and staying clean (Deut 23:9–14). When Israelite soldiers were single or away from their wives, they were not excused in the circumstances of war to behave in a sexually immoral way by committing adultery, rape, or any other evil. Married men must know how to manage themselves at specific times in their marriage. This is what God has naturally provided. God gave further instructions to Israelite men to live with a way to control themselves (Lev 15:1–17). Women also have a similar natural function, and they have the same task to maintain self-control. No one has to submit to the world’s ways of addressing these desires by giving into lust.
C. How does a biblical respect for marriage help? Just the simple conviction that sex is an act of love meant only for your spouse changes how some directs one’s desires. All must honor marriage by honoring the marriage bed even if you are not married. A single person can defile the marriage bed too. This is clear by the reference to fornication in Hebrews 13:4, which says, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Spouses must not withhold marital intimacy (1 Cor 7:1–9). Marital affections are due to each spouse. “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband” (1 Cor 7:3). “Do not deprive one another” (1 Cor 7:5). Why? “Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband” (1 Cor 7:2). “[I]f they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Cor 7:9). Husbands and wives are not to deprive their spouses.
D. How must a Christian husband live with his wife? (Greek: thalpo) (Eph 5:28–2; 1 Pet 3:7). He must do this with understanding and without bitterness (Col 3:19; 1 Pet 3:7). Likewise, women must also recognize that God’s ideal for marriage is for a wife to love and respect her husband by subordinating as is fitting to the Lord (Eph 5:22, 33; Col 3:18; Titus 2:4; 1 Pet 3:1). God gave desires for a spouse within the intimacy of marriage and all desires for others that are outside of marriage are perversions. This desire of the flesh can only be controlled by using it properly within marital love. This is all vitally important in understanding marriage and honoring the marriage bed.
E. What about unnatural desires? If someone has unnatural desires like homosexual desires and other forms of paraphilia, these are lusts and temptations given to people who are not recognizing God, glorifying Him and, or thanking Him (Rom 1:18–27). Therefore, recognize that God made each person in one’s specific gender and He made you in His image. This is true even if God has made someone a eunuch (Matt 19:11). Thank God and glorify Him for the traits of one’s gender. They must grow and become strong in the natural qualities of one’s God-given gender. If a man, live as a man and enjoy that life and put away any femininity and restore natural desires by thanking and glorifying God. If a woman, she must increase her femininity and womanly qualities by putting away any masculine tendencies, and she must thank and glorify God. While sin will still tempt everyone, listen to Jesus and become committed for the kingdom of heaven’s sake (Matt 19:12). God made man and woman become one flesh in marriage, and all desires outside of this are outside of God’s will.
F. How can a Christian avoid pornography? Starting with the internet, TV, and magazines. Pornography is probably the most common sin of uncleanness among Christian men. Having the internet is like having a stack of pornographic magazines under one’s bed. The temptation is always there. This is like the street of the adulterous woman as Solomon instructs not to go near (Prov 7). The internet or television can become the street of the adulterous and strange woman. The Christian man must not let her street end at his house. Many find it easy to control their hands from exchanging money for pornographic magazines, but struggle to restrain themselves when thinking they are anonymous online. This sexual uncleanness is an evil thing, and for the married, this is adultery in the heart.
The Christian must get rid of any saved sexual material. This person should remove of the bad cable channels or remove of cable TV all together. They should move the computer in a common room with more than one filter and maybe use accountability software if you want. This is good to protect children. Regarding internet filters, OpenDNS and Family Safety are excellent and free. The Family Safety software also provides a curfew to restrict certain times of temptation. The Christian man should lead and make no provision for the flesh.
G. How can a Christian maintain purity when dating and engaged? Remember “make not provision for the flesh” (Rom 13:14). The Christian should only date someone who he or she would marry, and when they decide otherwise then end the relationship. Double dates and meeting in public places is the best if not the only way to date, but there is something else that can make it easier. Draw a line to not cross.
Physical relationships between a man and a woman progress. The progression of affection is a part of how God has designed man and woman. Romantic passion usually progresses like this: an arm around shoulder, holding hands, kissing, passionate kissing, and so forth into lewdness, uncleanness, and then intercourse. Of this progression, when does one quit thinking clearly? Most would point to passionate kissing. At passionate kissing, rational thinking is often thrown away as the couple becomes “love-drunk.” Followers of Christ can prevent this progression into sin by avoiding passionate kissing.
Sin tempts some couples when they are alone for even an hour. Sexual desires reach a point of sexual intoxication when one cannot think soberly. This is like trying to talk sense into a drunk. How can someone prevent such sensual drunkenness? Christians must keep from the passion of lust. What triggers sexual passion and intoxication? Believers should decide and know exactly when to stop along the progression and let your date know too. If a date passes this point, separate from that person for some time.
H. How Can a Christian better maintain affections within marriage? First Corinthians 7:2 states, “But, because of fornications, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.” Marital affections is an answer to sexual desire. Marriage certainly makes it easier. For those who want more romantic gestures besides physical intimacy should comply with God’s instructions to sexual intimacy first. Now, temptations can arise from not fulfilling marital affections. A successful marriage based on rendering what is due. Also, obeying Ephesians 5:23–31 with husbands loving wives and wives submitting to husbands will usually prevent these sexual sins. Now and all the time, “make not provision of the flesh” (Rom 13:14). Christians are wise not to privately meet with anyone of the opposite sex who is attractive. Temptations for adultery increase by lack of attention, affection, and admiration from the other spouse. A little attention, affection, and admiration from someone else welcomes an affair, and a little attention, affection, and admiration toward one’s spouse pushes such temptations away.
May God bless all who read this.