Jesus Christ has the answer for those struggling with sexual sins, “who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). God’s will is for everyone is holiness, sanctification, and abstinence from sexual immorality. God wants Christian to know how to possess one’s own body in holiness and honor, and not to become inflamed with lust (1 Thess 4:3–5). Christ can help with every sinful and addictive behavior. His words are freely provided in the Bible. The purpose of this article is to give scripture to those seeking answers.
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, many struggle with controlling sexual desires. Urging someone to read more, be saved, go to church, and stop sinning are excellent things to do, but 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 Christians 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 a man.
There is not any particular person or generation to blame. Christians must become accountable for themselves and to each other. Many may wish that they have avoided any exposure or abuse to such sins. However, faith compels believers to pursue freedom in Christ.
Definition of Sexual Sins
What is sexually immoral? Many justify sexual sins and irrationally explain away the definition of sexual immorality. However, this keeps many from seeing how evil sin is and the state of the evil opposing them. Christians need to have an awareness and strong conviction, so that believers abhor this evil (Rom 12:9). Without recognizing, thanking, and glorifying God, people will 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.
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 or for the married to sleep with anyone who is not one’s spouse. Jesus also revealed that adultery includes divorcing and marrying another person unless the divorce was because 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). The definition of fornication is from the Greek word porneia. This behavior is any sexual intercourse outside of marriage between one man and one woman (1 Cor 6:16; Eph 5:31; Heb 13:4).
Jesus did not need to specify that rape, incest, and homosexuality as forms of sexual sins, because these behaviors are outside the natural union of marriage between a man and a woman. However, Jesus does infer to condemn pedophilia when He opposed the abuse of children and alluded to sexual abuses (Matt 18:7–10; Mark 9:42–50).
Jesus also used the definition of fornication according to the Law of Moses when He spoke to those who were under Moses’s Law. Within the Law of Moses, immoral sexual behavior was all extramarital sex specifically adultery, premarital sex, incest, rape (pedophilia), sex during menstruation, homosexuality, bestiality, prostitution, and uncovering nakedness, which is lewdness (Lev 18; 19:29; 20; Deut 22:5, 22–30).
Christ also spoke against lewdness. The apostle Peter defined lewdness as to “entice by sensual passions 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 not to look to lust (Matt 5:28). Looking at another person with an inflamed craving and lust is adultery in the heart. Jesus revealed, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:28; ESV). Looking to lust is within the definition of sexual uncleanness, which comes from within the heart. Remember Jesus’s words that out of the heart proceed evil behaviors and evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, covetousness, and sensuality (Mark 7:20–23).
The Cause of Sexual Sins
“What is happening to me?!” How can someone become enslaved to a sin that a person does not want to do? If someone feels enslaved and feels like he or she cannot control one’s sexual behavior, the Bible offers freedom from such enslaved behavior. Sexual immorality is an enslavement — a compulsive and addictive 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 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 dwelling 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). No one can overcome indwelling sin without the indwelling Spirit of God. The apostle Paul responded to such uncontrolled sin confessing, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:24).
There is a way of escape for all. The apostle Paul revealed,
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 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. (1 Cor 10:12–13)
The Answer to Sexual Sins
(1) 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, and 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 effect change. 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?
The apostle Paul instructed Christians to pray constantly (1 Thess 5:17). King David’s words in Psalm 51 set an example of confession and prayer to God. 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” (Matt 6:13; cf. Luke 11:4).
(2) Make no way to give into 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 mindset must include avoiding all forms of evil and fleeing from temptations. If temptations come from friends, places, or the internet, one must filter these things to keep the good and remove the evil.
Solomon warned that one must not go near the street of the adulterous woman at night (Prov 7). Christians must make no way for private and hidden sins. Paul exhorts in Romans 13:13–14, “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.” 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 the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Pet 2:11). Lusts can deceive anyone (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 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” (cf. Mark 9:43–48; Matt 19:12). The addendum at the bottom expands application of these points.
(3) Escape temptation and bear it. God is faithful giving a way to escape for everyone to bear temptations (1 Cor 10:12–13). Bearing the urges is the only way to learn to weaken and endure such strong desires. Christians must escape and bear the temptation. “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor 6:18). The Christian must escape like Joseph escaped temptation and fled (Gen 39:8–13).
Giving into sin will not stop temptations or sin. Jesus did not give into temptation to overcome temptation. Christians must escape and bear temptations. 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 better thought from Scripture than trying to ignore the temptation (Matt 4; Luke 4). God’s grace is through His Word. Believers should not apply guilt because sin tempts someone or oneself. The evil one tempted Jesus. Sinful desires will tempt everyone, and those urges may not completely go away. Will giving into these help anyone resist the next temptation (1 Cor 6:18)?
Believers can establish an awareness of when they feel strong 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. “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 the urge without giving into the temptation (1 Cor 10:12–13).
Enduring temptations will make believers happy. 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). The Christian must fear God, escape, and then endure with prayer. Christians are able. Giving into temptations will only make temptations worse and increase sin upon sin (Rom 6:19).
(4) Walk in the Spirit. Then you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. The Spirit of Christ says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh,” (Gal 5:16). 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.
Walking in the Spirit also means setting the mind on the Spirit. The apostle 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” (Rom 8:5–6). What are the evil thoughts and imaginations that feed lusts? One must set the mind and become aware that God sees everyone and knows every thought. The Christian must set the mind on the Spirit and become spiritually aware of what is behind the lusts of the flesh. “[T]o 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,” (Eph 4:22–23).
The Christian can see through desires and temptations and observe that the temporary pleasure is evil, guilt, regret, devastation, and ruin. The grass is never greener on the other side of sin, and temptation is a mirage and the 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).
Transformation must take place in the mind. In offering one’s body as a living sacrifice, Romans 12:2 commands, “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 acceptable and perfect.” 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).
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 previously 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 shown through His death controls followers of Christ to live for him (2 Cor 5:14–15).
The Christian must humble oneself before God and plant the Word in the heart. James 1:21 declared, “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant 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).
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 (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).
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 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 Christian can see every victory from walking in the Spirit. The Christian should give attention and reproduce that pattern of living everyday. Therefore, each believer must fill one’s life with Christ — 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. Paul exhorted Christians to walk in Spirit, and they will have the fruits of the Spirit, which includes self-control (Gal 5:22–23). Believers must diligently grow and add virtues like self-control to faith, knowledge, and love (2 Pet 1:5–11). They must counter temptations of sinful desires, cravings, and urges by walking in the Spirit.
The Christian can look to better things. “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? Paul expressed, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5).
May God bless everyone who desires to escape such sexual sin. This writer strongly recommends this weekly aid, “How to Overcome Habitual Sins and Addictions through Christ.”
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: “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (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 avoid lewd images and pornography? Starting with the internet, TV, and magazines. Looking and lusting over lewd images and 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.
C. 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.
D. What about unnatural desires like same-sex attraction? 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.
E. How can marriage help a Christian manage one’s desires? “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). “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. “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband” (1 Cor 7:3). “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 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, “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? Remember “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, 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 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.
I. How can a Christian avoid adultery and better maintain affections within marriage? First Corinthians 7:2 states, “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman 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 no provisions for 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.