Friday, July 3, 2015

Fighting Sexual Lust

In a few months I may have a chance to speak on the subject of fighting sexual lust.  Here is the draft text of my message.  Let me know if you have suggestions on ways it can be improved!

A lion is following you.  This lion wants to catch you and kill you.  This lion has already destroyed many great men.  He killed the strongest man in history, Samson.  He defeated the best king of Israel, David.  And he destroyed the wisest man who ever lived, Solomon.  This lion is sexual lust.

Jesus said, “You have heard that it has been said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  (Matt 5:27,28) It is not enough to avoid the physical act of sex outside marriage.  We must not sin sexually with our eyes and our thoughts.  God can see our thoughts.
Sexual desire is like a fire.  Within a stove, fire is a wonderful tool to cook food and stay warm.  Sex within marriage is similarly wonderful.   But outside proper boundaries, fire destroys.  Like fire, lust is never satisfied, and continues to grow in power and danger.

In the next verses, Jesus says, “ If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”  (Matt 5:29,30) The fire of sexual lust can send us to the fires of hell.  So we must fight it with all our strength.  

But we cannot win the fight if we are wearing chains.  Jesus said, “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”  (John 8:34) A non-Christian cannot stop sinning.  Maybe they can stop certain expressions of sin on the outside, but they cannot change the sinfulness of their hearts.  Only Jesus can break the chains of our sin.  Only Jesus can change us from the inside, giving us a new heart.  Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be truly free”!  (John 8:36)

If you are fighting sexual lust or any other sin, there is only one way to freedom.  Come to Jesus!  

Our sins, including our sexual sins, deserve punishment.  We deserve to go to hell.  We cannot earn God’s forgiveness.  We cannot erase our guilt.  But Jesus died, taking the punishment we deserve.  When we turn from our sin and trust in Jesus alone, God forgives us.  Jesus paid the debt that we owed to God.  Jesus, who never lusted, gave us His perfect record of righteousness.  

We know that Christians do still sin.  “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  (1 John 1:8)  When we see Jesus, then we will never sin again.  “When we see Him, we will be like Him, because we will see Him the way He is.”  (1 John 3:2)

But there is good news for us even before Jesus returns.  Jesus’ death freed us from the penalty of sin, but also from the power of sin.  We don’t have to sin any more.  We are not slaves to sin.  

Did you know that a dead man never sins?  You could hold a pornographic magazine in front of a dead man, and he would not lust.  Romans 6 says, “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.  For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.  So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.” (v. 6, 7, 11)

If you are not a Christian, I can give you no hope in escaping sexual addiction.  But if you are a Christian, you have great hope for change.  God’s Holy Spirit lives inside you.  He will give you the desire and power to obey God.  

If you are a Christian, you have weapons in the fight against the lion of lust.  

Getting married can be helpful.  Paul said, “If they do not have self control, let them marry.  It is better to marry than to burn.”  (1 Cor. 7:9)  By getting married, you can experience sex in a holy and good way, with your spouse.  It is sex with joy, not guilt.  But perhaps you cannot get married.  Or perhaps you are already married and you still struggle with sexual lust.  You have more weapons.

First, get busy!  David sinned with Bathsheba because he didn’t go with his army to the battle. (2 Samuel 12:1-5)  Idleness breeds sin.  Find ways to serve people, especially needy people in your church.  Find opportunities to tell people about Jesus.  The harvest is abundant, and the laborers are few.  

You have the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.  When Jesus was tempted by satan, He quoted Scripture verses to satan.  David said, “I have treasured your Word in my heart, so that I will not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11)  Memorize some verses from the Bible.  Then, when temptation comes, start quoting the verses.  Say them aloud if you need.  God’s Word is powerful!

Lions usually travel in groups.  You can weaken lust by fighting the other sins that travel with it.  Yielding to other sinful passions, like anger, will weaken you against the passion of sexual lust.

Sexual sin is often connected with worshiping idols.  When the Israelites worshipped the golden calf at Mount Sinai, “they sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.”  (Exodus 32:6)  Notice the connection with food also.  Being a glutton weakens you in fighting sexual lust.  

Show honor to your parents.  Listen to their advice.  Do not follow them to sin, but respect their position as your parents.  God can use your parents to speak wisdom to you, that will help you to avoid the traps of sin.  In Proverbs, a father tells his son, “If you receive my words… then you will understand the fear of the Lord… so you will be delivered from the adulteress with her smooth words.”  (Proverbs 2:1, 5, 16)

The biggest reason why Christians fail to defeat lust is pride.  Pride cuts us off from God’s help.  “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  (James 4:6) Our pride is very clever.  It can appear at least four ways.

  1. The “I can keep my sin a secret” pride.  If you hide your sin, you will never defeat it.  “He who covers his sin, will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes it will find mercy.” (Prov. 28:13) “Confess your faults one to another and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)  “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:7)  Don’t keep your sin in the dark.  If you are a man struggling with lust, tell a few other Christian men in your church about it.  If you are a woman, find some Christian women.  Ask them to pray for you and to question you frequently about your spiritual health.  If you live alone, move into a house with other people.  
  2. The “I am strong now” pride.  Becoming a Christian does not mean that you will be able to look at pornographic magazines without lusting.  Don’t think, “Because I am a Christian, I can watch dirty TV and it will not cause me to sin.”  No, being a Christian means you have the power to turn the TV off or even to remove the TV from your home.  If your mobile phone causes you to sin, get rid of it!   “Let the person who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”  (1 Corinthians 10:12)
  3. The “I want to look good” pride.  This is a sneaky pride.  Sometimes people are eager to break their sinful habits.  But they want to be free so that they can respect themselves.  They don’t want to depend on Jesus’ purity, they want to be able to boast in their own purity.  They worship freedom from sin, instead of worshipping Jesus.
  4. The “I will punish myself” pride.  This may be the most clever pride of all.  Some people try to atone for their sexual sin.  When they fall into sin, they loathe themselves. They try to earn God’s forgiveness by rolling in guilt.  But Jesus already suffered for sin.  When we try to earn our own righteousness by punishing ourselves, we tell Jesus, “I don’t need You or Your death.”  

We cannot defeat sin simply by saying “no”.  Holiness is not simply avoiding evil, it is loving good.  You will yield to lust unless you believe that Jesus is more pleasurable and satisfying than sex.  When we take God’s gift of sex and use it outside marriage, we are telling God, “Sex is better than You are!”  We turn God’s gift into an idol.  We worship the creation (sex) instead of our Creator.  Sexual lust is a sin against God.  Jacob’s son Joseph told Potiphar’s wife, who wanted to commit adultery with Joseph, “How could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”  (Genesis 39:9)

The Bible says that in God’s presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).  Do you believe that?  Then you will not fall into lust.  Jesus said that the pure in heart will see God (Matthew 5:8).  Do you believe that?  Then you will avoid looking at naked people so that you can see God instead.  Both lust and God promise you happiness and satisfaction.  But only one of them is telling the truth.  Victory comes when you believe what God promises, not what lust promises.

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