The gospel is…the word about Jesus Christ and what he did for us in order to restore us to a right relationship with God. – Graeme Goldsworthy

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Battling Sexual Lust This Summer (and Always)

I noticed a couple weeks ago that the warm weather was resulting in even more immodesty in women's wardrobe choices. While sexual lust is a year-round battle for every Christian man, there are certain times of the year when the battle is a bit more heated (no pun intended). One could argue that accessibility to internet pornography makes the factor of weather irrelevant on this matter, and I would (generally) agree. At the same time, one cannot deny the fashion industry’s exploitation of the season of summer to reveal more skin on the female anatomy. However, all that said, the primary problem with sexual lust is not a female’s clothing selection – or lack thereof – but the sinful idolatry of a male’s heart.

Consequently, I’d like to encourage my brothers-in-Christ to take what the world, the flesh, and the devil intends for evil in our hearts this summer and fight afresh with the gospel’s power. But “fighting with the gospel’s power” can be vague to many men. Therefore, I want to assist my Christian brothers with what this means practically. To “fight in the gospel’s power” means using the theological and biblical weapons that the Holy Spirit has given us. And Scripture is not silent on such methods. Here are just a few I’ve employed over the years to fight the power of sexual lust in my own heart.

Realize that you can only conquer your sexual sin if Christ first conquered it for you on the cross. Men, the only sin that you can overcome is the sin that God has forgiven you for in Christ (I John 1.5-9). In other words, if Christ did not once-and-for-all deal with the punishment for your fornication and adultery at Golgotha, you will never be able to defeat it through the Spirit’s power on a moment-by-moment basis (cf. Titus 2.11-14). But if you have been born again in Christ, you not only can – but also will – have victory over your sexual lust(s). That’s not just positive thinking; it’s a Biblical promise (cf. Romans 6 and 8).

Remind yourself that adulterous sexual pleasure is temporal, whereas the pleasures of Jesus Christ are (and will be) eternal. Men, we have to think past the moment of forbidden eroticism, tempting allurement, and sinful pleasure that “she” offers to the eternal satisfaction and unending enthrallment we will experience with our Lord and Savior in the new heavens and new earth (Ps. 16.11; Rev. 1.12-18; Rev. 21). “Her” temporal, sexy body will lie dead and rotting in a grave some day (cf. Prov. 5.3-5); but He has risen from the grave and is presently seated in glorious splendor as our victorious Warrior-King (Ps. 2.6; Rev. 5)! In those crucial moments of soul-pulling sexual temptation, this mindset is the weapon of believing that the future grace and glory of our Sovereign Lord is better than the present seduction of our sinful lusts.

Attack sexual thoughts and fantasies with the violence of holy zeal. When pictures of acting out sexually with “her” begin live streaming across the screen of our mind, the Spirit’s war cry of holy zeal must strike quickly before we settle in to take an ensnaring seat and view the movie in the theatre of our heart. Ask – even beg – God to give you the imprecatory spirit of that Christ-like figure, David, to punch such images in the face (cf. Ps. 3.7), and then picture the illicit scene exploding from such a blow. Thrust the sword of the Spirit through the lewd scene with Phineas-style zeal (cf. Num. 25.6-8). The Bible is in full agreement – and encourages – such violence toward our personal sin (cf. Rom. 8.13; Col. 3.5). More specifically, the violence of the cross empowers us to violently conquer our sin (Gal. 5.24).

Imagine all the devastated relationships and lives that would be affected by your sexual infidelity and adultery. In college, a young and gifted professor advised a small group of us he was mentoring with this: “Gentlemen, while it's not the primary reason to forsake adultery, a good deterrent nonetheless is to picture all those you know who would be affected by it – your wife, children, parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, in-laws, friends, and church family.” To illustrate this, my seminary professor shared in a (phenomenal!) sermon (on Moral Purity in Your Marriage) the tragic story of a man he'd known who sat his children down to tell them, “I know that this is wrong: I’m leaving your mother for another woman…but God will forgive me, because that’s what God does...other children have grown up in divorced homes, and you’ll be ok, too.” What was most disturbing about this story was hearing of the screams from this adulterous man’s children in response to their father’s wicked announcement. My prof relays that when he heard this story, he put the phone down and vomited. Brothers, such nausea-inducing (possible) consequences in Scripture are provided by the Holy Spirit to aid us in fleeing from adultery (cf. Prov. 5.4-5, 9-11; I Cor. 6.9; Rev. 21.8). Remember: your sexual sin is not a private matter, but it affects your community of family, friends, and faith (Num. 25.1-9; I Cor. 5.1-6).

Cultivate your love for your bride – or seek out a bride – while serving the bride of Christ. It's common for a married man to complain about the infrequency of sexual encounters within his marriage. However, few of these men pursue their bride in a Christ-honoring way that would (inevitably) warm the sexual fires of her heart. One reason God has given us sex within a monogamous marriage between one man and one woman is to help us avoid the sexual temptations of this world (I Cor. 7.2, 9b, 36). But don’t complain, fellas, that this isn’t a fruit of your marriage when the conduct of your life more resembles extended adolescence than focused manhood. She wants to make love to a godly pastor (of your home), courageous and hard-working provider, and strong and sensitive protector – not a disinterested, selfish narcissist who uses her to fulfill his occasional jollies but cares little for shepherding her heart, their home, and their children (cf. Song of Solomon; Eph. 5.25-33a). Becoming a godly married man in your home is hard – but involving yourself intensely in the work and fellowship of your own local church is one of the chief means of grace to grow into such a man (read I Timothy 3 and I Peter 5 with a male-focused perspective).

If you're single, pray God brings you a spouse, seek to be a man worthy of following, and die to that silly fantasy of a super-model wife (who, of course, has the godliness of Elizabeth Elliot) in your head. While you wait for that woman of character and beauty to be brought along by God’s providence, give your life and expend your energy (outside of your vocational employment) for the building and beautifying of Christ’s bride, the Church (Matt. 28.19; Acts 1.8; cf. I Cor. 7.17, 26-35). Sanctified service unto Jesus' bride is the most fitting earthly training ground to learn how to lead your own future bride, and not a bad place to meet her as well.

In closing, I want to offer a song that will strengthen your resolve to battle lust with faith in the sufficiency of Jesus Christ. I love the warfare anthem it fortifies my soul with each time I listen to it, and I hope and pray it will encourage you, too, in the same manner. Let us "man up" this summer for Jesus, brothers, conquering sexual lust through the power of the cross by using the means God has given us to do so! 

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