Defining the Problem: What is Sexual Sin?
In my opinion there are two different ways to answer this question depending on your world view. The first is that sexual sin is whatever your culture says it is. For example, in the United States we are becoming more and more accepting of sexual behavior that once was deemed wrong such as premarital sex or homosexuality. It is becoming less of a “social sin” to engage in those behaviors in our culture. The other way to answer the question is through God’s word which is my perspective. I view the Bible as God’s word and the truth. That is where I find answers about what sexual sin is. Sexual sin is any form of sex, sexual longing, sexual passion that exists outside of the confines of marriage between a man and a woman. Jesus says in Matthew 5:28:
“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
This sums up what the commandment in Exodus really means, “You shall not commit Adultery” (Exodus 20:14 NIV) . Adultery is synonymous with sexual sin. I am, and perhaps all of us are, guilty of adultery in Jesus eyes. Some spend more time lusting than others. The greek words for sexual sin used in the Bible are these:
- Porneia: Sexual immorality, fornication, marital unfaithfulness, prostitution, adultery, a generic term for sexual sin of ANY kind.
- Porneuo: To commit sexual immorality of ANY kind
- Porne: Prostitue, a woman who practices sexual immorality for payment.
- Pornos: One who is sexually immoral (male or female).
The way that sexual sin is described by Jesus and the words used in the new testament that describe sexual immorality causes tension in our lives. The tension comes from the world that we live in. Our world is one of constant sexual persuasion. Everywhere we look we are lured in by sexual images and word phrases that carry with them sexual connotations. To be free from sexual sin is to disrupt those sexual advances that are constantly bombarding us and redirect them in ways that honor God. In other words, we have to let Jesus interfere in our daily lives so that we can overcome those temptations. That interference is exactly what must happen a man’s heart in order to find freedom from sexual sin. Notice that I did’t say freedom from sexual temptation.
Sexual temptation, as much as I hate to say it, will never go away. That is the world we live in. If we look in scripture we learn that this is not a new problem for men. It has been a part of our struggle since the early accounts in scriptures. If you doubt me then do a search for biblical references to sexual immorality. What you will find is that it’s one of the most warned against and dangerous sins mentioned in the Bible. In 1 Corinthians 6:18 Paul says:
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” (NIV) The message says it like this “Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.”
So lets look at this in the context of how it affects our body: William Struthers, a biopsychologist and more importantly a christian, wrote a book called Wired for Intimacy. In it he describes the neurological impact that sexual immorality has on our brain. Porn acts on our brain chemically the same way that Cocaine and Heroin does. He says that “[p]ornography and our response to it alters our brain in a way that is difficult to undo. Pornography is the consumption of sexual poison that becomes part of the fabric of the mind” (Struthers, 201x, pg. 20). This relates back to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:18 when he said that it is the only sin that acts against our body. When we view pornography, or lust after a woman, we set in motion a neurological freight train. We lay down what Struthers calls neurological super highways that expedites our sexual arousal. It quickly becomes so efficient that when we look at a woman that is attractive to us, it becomes nearly automatic for sexual impulse and lust to take over and it is difficult to go in a different direction. So that is what sexual sin, specifically pornography, does to our bodies, to our mind.
Finding our way to Freedom
This article is not just about how it affects us physically but more importantly how we overcome it spiritually. This is where the textbook discussion ends and where our stories come in. We start with my story, my sexual addiction. I have been involved and addicted to pornography now since I was very young. I think I was as young as 11. Maybe older by a year or two. What matters is that I was young. I grew up looking at porn and as I grew, my appetite for it grew with me. It became such a part of me that my moment-to-moment thoughts were laced with sexual acts. Normal, everyday situations became stimulus for further sexual thought. Normal circumstances always seemed to have some sexual link. I could look at a textured wall and somehow find something that would set my mind off into a depraved and sexually saturated mental fantasy. I could not look at women and see them in any other light than how they could offer me pleasure. My mind became completely and utterly depraved. I could not sit down at a computer alone and keep my fingers from typing in all the familiar links to my favorite sexual buffets. There was no way for my day to be complete without feeding my sexual desire. My life was completely and utterly devoted to it. It was my life…it was my God.
So now that I have allowed my mind to be so focused on these things for so long, I have to fight that much harder everyday to move my mind into “right thinking”. These terms like “right thinking”, “change your mind”, “renewal of the mind”, were so difficult for me to grasp. What do those mean anyway? I had tried to just quit looking. To decide not to look. But what I did not know is that I had physically and chemically rewired myself to do exactly that which I did not want to do. I literally short-circuited my brain so that it has become extremely difficult to see normally. To see things as God wanted me to see them.
What did I do? First I tried to pray the prayers. I would be down on my knees asking God to take away the temptation and desire. Then I would find my self going straight from my kneeling position at the foot of the bed in the hotel room to the desk with an open laptop and being whisked away into porn seconds after I prayed those desperate prayers. I began to ask why God refused to give me the power of Jesus Christ through which I could, supposedly, do all things. Then one day He revealed to me the reason why those particular prayers were never answered (He actually answered the prayer, just not the way I wanted Him to). He wants me to choose a side. He has come as far as he can. If he came any further, then he would remove my free will. He wants me to make a decision. He wants to truly know where I stand.
Armed with the knowledge that 1 Corinthians is true and that this sin physically alters my mind and with the knowledge that in order for me to really find freedom in Christ, I must make clear choices in the direction of Him, I can now fight. I now know what I must fight for. And that is what we have to do. We have to fight. We are spiritual warriors. Scripture tells us that we are. One of the reasons that we must fight is so that we can then fight for others.
How do we become free from sexual sin? How do we keep ourselves from entering into it? We become connected to God through his Word. When we find out what he says about it, we understnand the consequences and find the motivation to run away. This is what I have to do to remain sober. That is the answer to the question of how to deal with porn. There is no magic, at least not for me. I have to make the choice. It is a hard choice to make many days because I know the feelings that I can experience if I go down the road with sexual sin. It feels good…in the moment. The power resides in your decision. God will not decide for you on who your master will be. In Romans Paul talks to us about this. He says:
“…Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:16, NIV)
When we chose to look lustfully at a woman, have an affair, visit a prostitute or whatever way we lead ourselves into sexual sin, we choose to obey our master of sexual sin. We choose that. But we become free by choosing to obey a different master. We have to choose a new pattern and that pattern is found in His word. That is how we renew our mind as it says in Romans 12:2 where it says:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (NIV)
When we begin to digest God’s word and trust in the truth of it, we can find the motivation to become obedient to Christ. We begin to understand that the renewal of our minds means that we choose to reshape our patterns and that by doing so we are performing our true and proper worship. I am telling you today that if you do not pull yourself out of this sin and work with sincerity to remain free, that despite what you say with your mouth, your heart is far from God. It matters what we do. It matters. God knows the sincerity of our hearts and for the longest time I was fooling myself by saying that I was trying to get clean, but in reality I was finding an excuse through grace to continue in my way. Jesus knows this and it is a dangerous place to be…especially for Christians.
We have hope in this, we will find freedom when we are willing and we sincerely seek Him. We may at times fail, but we come back with an honest heart. We must be real with ourselves and know our weaknesses. And when those weaknesses are revealed to us and to our accountability partners, then we can put up armour to protect ourselves. What does this armor look like?
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:10-17 NIV)
- Men you trust who you give permission to tell you when you are going wrong.
- Ravi Zacharias, Character Counts Part 2 Podcast March 23, 2013: Speaking on Wisdom, specifically from the only of the kings that did not call upon the wisdom of the prophets – King Solomon
- “Ladies and Gentlemen my application from Solomon’s life is this…make sure your passions are tamed and one of the ways towards taming them is have somebody in your life who has the authority to challenge you when they see you going wrong. Have a friend to whom you are accountable. Who can look you in the eye and say with all of my respect and love for you and because of my love for you, I want you to know you are playing a dangerous game out here back off!”
- Honest discussion with other believers
- Bringing sexual sin out into the light
These are the things that I relay on to keep walking in purity. When I take my eyes of of God’s word and remove my self from daily and sometimes moment-to-moment prayer, I quickly find myself in danger.
Take this seriously! Let Jesus interfere with your life. That is what He wants for us. He wants us to be Holy, to be separate from the way the world does things. We must be different to be free!