Jesus Christ is able “to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). Christ can help with every sinful and addictive behavior. His words are freely provided in the Bible. This article gives scriptures for the cause of sexual sins and shows the power of God’s strength to escape sexual sins and endure temptations by following the example of Christ. For a definition of sexual sins, the reader can see “What Are Sexual Sins?“
The Cause of Sexual Sins
Sexual immorality is a sin against one’s own body because the body is meant for the Lord (1 Cor 6:12–20). Sexual sin traps many like any sin that becomes embedded in the flesh (Gal 5:19–21). Those who struggle with such can relate to these words, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom 7:15 ESV). Jesus professed, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38; cf. Matt 26:41). The problem is sin living within one’s flesh, and that person cannot find how to do what is good. The apostle Paul depicted,
So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within 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? This cannot be (Rom 6:1). The apostle Paul responded to uncontrolled sin confessing, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:24). God provides a way of escape for all (1 Cor 10:12–13). No one can overcome indwelling sin without the indwelling Spirit of God. By the Spirit, the faithful are commanded to put to death the deeds of the flesh (Rom 8:13). Paul revealed,
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. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Rom 8:5–8)
God’s Strength to End Sexual Sins
(1) Put to death sin in the flesh by the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul taught, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom 8:13). God gives power by the strength of the Holy Spirit within the inner person (Eph 3:16). Have you ever found strength from God while praying, reading scripture, and contemplating God’s Word? That is the work of the Holy Spirit. Rely on the Holy Spirit for strength. The Spirit is the source of strength to put to death sin in the flesh. Seek God’s strength and find His strength by the indwelling of His Spirit.
The apostle Paul instructed Christians to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18). Paul revealed, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16). Paul exhorted Christians to walk in the Spirit, and they will have the fruits of the Spirit, which include self-control (Gal 5:22–23). Live by the Spirit and the Spirit will produce fruit and fill one’s life with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:16–17, 22–23). Then Paul condemned sexual immorality, sexual impurity, and sensuality as actions that those who practice will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5:19).
Believers must humble themselves before God and plant the Word in their hearts. James declared, “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (Jas 1:21; cf. Eph 5:18; Col 3:16). When believers grow and add virtues, they attain self-control with faith, knowledge, and love (2 Pet 1:5–11).
(2) Pray to God when facing weakness and temptation. 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, yet that night, they all fled when they said that they would not (Mark 14:26–31). Jesus instructed, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:40, 46). Was Jesus wrong about prayer? Would prayer have helped deliver these disciples? Yes, praying to God for help does affect change. If prayer against temptation was not useful and powerful, why would Jesus have commanded His disciples to pray? What happens if they would have prayed three times that night? The Christian must pray for the righteous behavior that will replace the sinful behavior — “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt 6:13).
The apostle Paul instructed Christians to pray constantly (1 Thess 5:17). James affirmed, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (Jas 5:16b). Christ taught His followers to pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Luke 11:4). If one stumbles, the Christian can keep walking in the light having all sins washed away while confessing those sins to God (1 John 1:7–9). King David’s words in Psalm 51 set an example of confession, repentance, and prayer to God. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps 51:10).
(3) Change your thinking. Transformation must take place in the mind. In offering one’s body as a living sacrifice, the apostle Paul commanded, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom 12:2). The Scriptures thoroughly instruct followers of Christ to change and renew the mind (Rom 1:28; 8:7; Eph 2:3; 4:17–24; Phil 3:19; 4:8; Col 1:12; 2:8; 3:1–5; 1 Tim 6:5; Titus 1:15; 2:11–12; Jas 1:8; 4:8; 1 Pet 1:13). Therefore, the Christian must think on those things that are truthful, honorable, just, pure, loving, respectful, virtuous, and praiseworthy (Phil 4:8).
Giving into temptations will not end temptations. The work of the Spirit is for the Spirit to change the believer (Rom 8:5–6, 11–13; 2 Cor 3:18; 1 Thess 4:1–8). Paul urged those following Christ and “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:22–24). This includes replacing sinful habits with good works (Eph 4:25–32). The believer who is struggling with lust and impurity can counter looking to lust with looking to admire purity and goodness in others (Matt 5:27–30; cf. Esth 2:7). The Christian can learn from Job and make a covenant with the eyes by noting the blessings of not lusting and the curses of looking to lust (Job 31:1–8).
(4) Purify the heart. A darkened understanding and a hard heart reveal sensuality of coveting every kind of impure action (Eph 4:17–24). James commanded, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (Jas 4:7–8). One must look to other parts of life, especially to other parts of the heart. Sinful problems of the heart like resentment, guilt, and fearful anxiety demonstrate the state of the heart.
Each person must consider oneself a servant of Christ and not seek to please people (Gal 1:10; cf. 1 Cor 4:1–7). A believer must seek and set the heart to identify oneself as a servant of Christ. For this, one must read Scripture, pray, worship, and assemble with Christians to receive edification in God’s Word, find holy relationships, and stir others to love and good works. A Christian must realize that God loves you unconditionally even while a sinner (Rom 5:8; 8:35–39). However, God’s grace is for those who walk in the light and not in the darkness of continuing to sin (Heb 10:26–31; 1 John 1:5–2:6).
Resentment, guilt, and anxiety reveal a lack of faith and hope in God. When people set their own expectations, these are deceitful and provoke selfish ambitions and coveting desires (Jas 3:13–18). The world often calls these ambitions “goals.” What would God want the believer to do about these ambitions? The Christian must see that following God is the better life, and the believer must replace ambitions with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22–23).
(5) Make no way to gratify desires. Paul revealed, “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:13–14). Solomon warned that one must not go near the street of the adulterous woman at night (Prov 7). The follower of Christ cannot stay in the midst of temptations. They must seek to avoid the temptations of secret sins. Many believers simply miss this point. Even when a Christian sets the mind on Christ, that mindset must include avoiding all forms of evil and fleeing from temptations. If temptations come from friends, places, and exposures, the tempted must keep the good and remove the evil.
This is a war, and Christians must fight the good fight. Peter declared, “Abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Pet 2:11). Doing nothing is not going to aid anyone in overcoming these sins. Therefore, Christ’s followers must remove sources of temptation to sin. Jesus proclaimed in Matthew 18:9, “And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire” (Mark 9:43–48; cf. Matt 19:12).
(6) Escape and endure temptation. God is faithful giving a way to escape for everyone to endure temptations (1 Cor 10:12–13). The strength to endure comes from God’s Spirit. Enduring temptations and urges of the flesh is the only way to put to death such desires. Christians must escape and bear the temptation as the apostle taught, “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor 6:18). The faithful are like Joseph who escaped the temptation of Potiphar’s wife (Gen 39:8–13).
Giving into sin will not stop temptations or sin. Jesus did not give in to temptation to overcome temptation. Christians must escape and bear temptations by God’s strength. They must work diligently to have this mindset always, and they would act wisely to pray constantly for this. When Satan tempted Jesus, Jesus countered the temptation with a holy mind set on Scripture rather than trying to ignore the temptation (Matt 4; Luke 4). Believers should not condemn themselves because sin tempts them. The evil one tempted Jesus. Sinful desires will tempt everyone. Giving in to temptation will not help anyone resist the next temptation (1 Cor 6:18). Giving in to temptations of impurity will only make temptations worse and increase sin upon sin (Rom 6:19).
The Scriptures teach Christians to kill evil passions and desires (Gal 5:24; Col 3:5). For sexual sins, Christians must refrain from sexual impurity that is self-stimulation and all other temptations (Rom 6:19; 1 Thess 4:7). Christians must avoid the lie that urges will keep growing and not stop until giving into sin. James urged, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas 4:7). 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 without giving in to temptation (1 Cor 10:12–13).
Enduring and overcoming temptations bring happiness to believers. The newness of life will fill their lives more than any worldly pleasure. For “Blessed [happy] is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (Jas 1:12; cf. 1:4). Each Christian must rely on the Spirit of Christ for strength to escape and endure with prayer and having set the mind on God’s Word.
Die with Christ to Rise with Christ
Jesus urged that everyone lose one’s life to save it (Luke 9:24). Christians must crucify themselves with Christ to remain alive in Him (Gal 2:20; cf. John 15:13). To live by the Spirit, a believer must die with Christ, be buried with Him, and rise alive with Him. If a believer does not do this, then that person is not alive with Christ. Those who are of Christ crucify the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal 5:24). Jesus preached, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:24). 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). The Scriptures warn all to obey the Gospel (2 Thess 1:7–9). Furthermore, 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).
The Indwelling of the Spirit by Love
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. The love of Christ controls those who have concluded that because Jesus died then they die to themselves and live for the one who died and rose for them (2 Cor 5:14–15). The Holy Spirit produces love as the first of 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).
A New Life with a New Perspective
Christians can see through desires and temptations to observe that temporary pleasure is evil, guilt, regret, resentment, and fear. The grass is never greener on the other side of sin, and temptation is a mirage and sin is enslavement (Rom 6:15–23). The apostle Paul explained, “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from 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, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). However, Jesus revealed, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32).
God’s grace reminds believers to deny 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 forgiven the Christian’s past life of sin. Sin may continue to tempt Christians. Why sin again? “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom 6:1–2). Christians must realize God’s grace in the forgiveness of sins, so that they truly love God (Luke 7:40–43). Jesus’s love by His death controls followers of Christ (2 Cor 5:14–15).
Frequently Asked Questions
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 guilt with godly sorrow and let that godly sorrow help change oneself. Christians should have godly sorrow: “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Cor 7:10). God will 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).
B. How can a Christian avoid lewd images and pornography? Starting with the internet, TV, and magazines. Looking and lusting at lewd images, pornography, and erotic writings are the most common source of impurity among Christian men and women. Having the internet is like having a stack of pornographic magazines under one’s bed. The temptation is always there, so one must put to death sin in the flesh. The conviction of not giving in to the impurity of self-stimulate is essential to overcome these temptations in time. Sexual temptations are 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. The Christian woman must not listen to the smooth-talking man.
The Christian must get rid of any saved sexual material. This person should remove of the bad cable channels or remove cable TV altogether. Every home should have an internet filter set on the router to protect children and delay temptations. Regarding internet filters, OpenDNS and CleanBrowsing are free and set on routers. Filter softwares often provide a curfew to restrict certain times of temptation. The Christian must make no provision for the flesh (Rom 13:13–14).
C. What about 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 natural release is what God has naturally provided. God gave further instructions to Israelite men to live in 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 needs to submit to the world’s ways of addressing these desires by giving into lust and impurity of self-stimulation.
D. What about desires like same-sex attraction? If someone has 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 1:18–23). Without God, sin will dwell in the flesh and take each person captive. These lusts will grow from sexual impurity (Rom 1:24–28). Therefore, they must turn back to God to overcome these unnatural desires and put to death sin by the strength of God’s Spirit. They must recognize that God made each person in one’s specific gender and He made each person in His image. This is true even if someone is born a eunuch (Matt 19:11). Thank God and glorify Him for the various traits of each gender. They must grow and become strong in the natural qualities of one’s God-given sex. If one is born as a male, live as a man, enjoy that life, put away any femininity, and restore natural desires by thanking and glorifying God. If someone was born a female, she must increase her femininity and womanly qualities by putting away masculine habits. She must thank and glorify God. While sin will still tempt everyone, each must listen to Jesus and become committed for the kingdom of heaven (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.
E. How can marriage help a Christian manage one’s desires? God made man and woman to become one flesh (Gen 2:24). God’s design of marriage is why people have sexual desires. A husband and a wife fit together by God’s design. Paul taught, “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” (1 Cor 7:2). The Holy Spirit permitted, “But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Cor 7:9). Spouses must not withhold marital intimacy (1 Cor 7:1–9). Marital affections are due to each spouse. Paul taught, “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband” (1 Cor 7:3). He also instructed, “Do not deprive one another” (1 Cor 7:5).
F. How does a biblical respect for marriage help? Just the simple conviction that sex is an act of love meant only for one’s spouse changes how someone directs personal desires. All must honor marriage by honoring the marriage bed even if you are not married. An unmarried person can defile the marriage bed too by having sex outside of marriage just as Jesus taught (Matt 5:32). Defiling the marriage bed is a reference to fornication in Hebrews 13:4, which says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”
G. How can a Christian maintain purity when dating and engaged? Paul taught, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:14). The Christian should only date someone who he or she would marry. When they decide otherwise, then they can end the relationship. Double dates and meeting in public places is the best if not the only way to date to even avoid accusations.
Physical relationships between a man and 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 the shoulder, holding hands, kissing, passionate kissing, and so forth into petting, undressing, stimulating, and 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 or drawing the line somewhere in the progression toward sin.
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. They would be wise to inform one’s date. If a date passes this point, the Christian can separate from that person for some days or weeks for discipline.
H. How must a Christian live with one’s spouse? The husband must love his wife unconditionally as Christ loves the church and God loves each person (Eph 5:28–31; 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 humbling herself 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 so all desires for others are a perversion of God’s design.
I. How can a Christian couple avoid adultery and better maintain affections within marriage? Paul revealed, “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” (1 Cor 7:2). Marriage is the purpose of sexual desire. Those who want more romantic gestures besides physical intimacy should comply with God’s instructions for sexual intimacy first. Withholding sex for other things is not biblical. Temptations can arise from not fulfilling marital affections (1 Cor 7:4–7). A successful marriage is based on rendering what is due. Also, obeying Ephesians 5:23–31 by husbands loving wives and wives respectfully submitting to husbands will usually prevent these sexual sins. Now and all the time, “make no provisions for the flesh” (Rom 13:14). Christians are wise not to privately meet with anyone of the opposite sex. Temptations for adultery increase by a lack of attention, affection, and admiration from one’s spouse. A little attention, affection, and admiration from someone else welcome an affair, yet attention, affection, and admiration toward one’s spouse push such temptations away.