It is a fact of life that most men (and many women) battle against sexual temptation.
God has prescribed the way that He wants His children to live. He tests each of our hearts (not just what is on the outside). Here is what He expects to find:
1 Chronicles 29:17a
I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity
Not only is He pleased with integrity, but Jesus even said several times in the Scriptures, that He expects anyone who follows Him (Christians) to deny themselves, rather than to “give-in” to themselves:
Then He said to them all: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.“
He wants us to put Him first, not our own evil desires. We need to have the attitude of John the Baptist:
He must become greater; I must become less.
So, to help us along in our quest for holiness, I have listed some verses for you to memorize to help you resist sexual temptation. The Psalmist stated the benefits of memorizing Scripture:
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
The benefit is clear: “that I might not sin against” God.
I have memorized each of these passages myself and have found them to be of great benefit
Let’s start off the list with one that states God’s mandate very clearly and directly:
1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
This passage tells me that I am not my own. I can’t just do whatever I want with my body. My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. He is living in me and sees everything I do. Which leads me to the next verse:
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
He sees all and we will have to give account for all He sees. As Ray Comfort commented, “What happens in Vegas stays in God’s mind until Judgment Day.”
For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Am I saying that you’ll be thrown into hell for committing an act of sexual immorality? No. When you were saved, you were justified. All sins, past, present and future were paid for by Jesus’ shed blood on the cross. Yet, we as believers are expected to behave in a way that is “worthy of our calling” (Eph. 4:1). Sexual immorality is definitely worthy of our calling!
God takes sexual immorality – especially the physical act of adultery – very seriously. So seriously, in fact in the Old Covenant with Israel, the penalty was the death sentence for both involved parties:
If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.
However, sexual immorality is not an external, behavioral issue only (such as adultery). This sin starts in the mind with our own evil desires (James 1:13-14). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus raised the standard of purity so that no one can escape the charge of guilt in this matter:
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Jesus is seeking obedience from those that call Him Lord:
“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?“
Don’t be a hypocrite, one day calling Jesus Lord and then another day, committing sexual sin.
Job was a godly man and was certainly aware of this standard as he strove to avoid lust in this way:
I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust upon a young woman.
Daniel was also a godly man, living in exile, in the midst of a vile, wicked, depraved and idolatrous culture. In the beginning of the account, we see his resolution:
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel
Have you resolved not to defile yourself by what your eyes consume? Daniel’s strong resolution here ought to challenge and inspire us to do the same. By resolving, he had made up his mind what he was going to do when he was put in that situation. Don’t just wait until that moment of temptation comes to decide what you’re going to do. If that is your approach, you will fail. Rather resolve ahead of time what steps you’re going to take to avoid defiling yourself in sexual sin.
David, a man after God’s own heart, a man acquainted with moral failure (see 2 Samuel 11), resolved not to let sin come through his eyes:
I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all crooked dealings; I will have nothing to do with them.
We need our minds renewed by Scripture so that we no longer conform to the pattern of this world, which is so full of sexual temptation:
Do not conform any longer 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.
Many of these passages can be summed up in this wise counsel from the Apostle Paul:
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
What have you done to “make no provision” for your flesh? There are many practices and safeguards that one can implement, but the one thing we should all be doing is putting on the Lord Jesus Christ daily – that is the number one strategy in this battle. Don’t make it is easy for your flesh to gratify its evil desires!
And, yes, this is absolutely a battle! It is not a battle against flesh and blood, but at the core it is a spiritual battle:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
And since it is a spiritual battle, it needs to be fought with spiritual weapons from God:
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
We are human, but we don’t wage war with human plans and methods. We use God’s mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds. With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God. With these weapons we conquer their rebellious ideas, and we teach them to obey Christ.
Have you ever considered that when we are committing sexual sin, at that moment, we don’t fear God? Think about that… Even one of the thieves on the cross next to Jesus asked the other thief if he feared God, because it was evident by the way he was talking that he didn’t:
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?”
Unknowingly, the first thief was affirming a great truth of Scripture, often repeated:
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Do not fear anything except the LORD Almighty. He alone is the Holy One. If you fear him, you need fear nothing else.
Jesus told His disciples to fear God because of His ability to throw them into hell:
“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him.“
So, yes, the fear of God is a healthy attitude to have and can keep us from committing sexual sin!
Scripture also states that sin will hinder your prayers:
If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;
Do you stumble into sin? Or do you cherish sin? Our goal should be to avoid both, but worse by far is the one who cherishes (or relishes) sin.
Isaiah echoes the same sentiment about our sin causing separation from God. In the context of the following passage, God was speaking to His “people and to the house of Jacob” (Isaiah 58:1):
Listen! The LORD is not too weak to save you, and he is not becoming deaf. He can hear you when you call. But there is a problem — your sins have cut you off from God. Because of your sin, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.
But God gave us the solution for having our prayers heard again:
2 Chronicles 7:14
If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
The essence of that phrase “seek My face and turn from their wicked ways” is the concept of repentance! There is no change and no transformation without repentance – and God commands it!
Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,
By the way, after reading this blog, you can no longer claim ignorance.
In the midst of admonishing believers not to argue over foolish and stupid things, the apostle Paul talked about people who are held captive by the devil to do his will:
2 Timothy 2:26
and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
As believers, we ought not be held captive by anyone or anything except Jesus Christ (since we are His slaves). We are told specifically:
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
Additionally, we as believers ought to be discerning enough and acquainted enough with our own depravity to know what situations, places and people put us into temptation, and that we need to avoid those:
Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established.
We ought to be able to see the danger ahead and take refuge:
The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.
In addition to pondering where you go and what situations you put yourself into, you need to be intentional about your thoughts:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Sexual temptation requires much more than casual action, it requires drastic action on our parts! Though we may be “pondering the path of our feet” and thinking about “whatever is pure”, we are still “in the world” (John 17:14-16) and therefore it is possible, with the best of intentions, that we may find ourselves in a tempting situation. The following verse tells me what to do when I encounter anything that stimulates lust – RUN!!!
2 Timothy 2:22
Run from anything that stimulates youthful lust. Follow anything that makes you want to do right. Pursue faith and love and peace, and enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts
It is also encouraging me who to hang out with – that’s really important too.
As usual, Jesus ratchets up the response even more with His teaching on how to deal with sin:
If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
The eye and the hand are are certainly used to commit much sexual sin… Jesus is not advocating self mutilation here, but this is to be understood as instructing us to take whatever actions are necessary to limit our access to those people, places, situations and technologies that give us opportunities to sin.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God
Not many places in Scripture tell you explicitly what God’s will is – the above passage is one of them. This passage tells me that I need to learn to control my own body. That tells me that it is not “natural” to control my body. I have to go against what feels natural and control my body. Likewise, Paul says:
1 Corinthians 9:27
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Yes, this requires discipline. It is a spiritual battle and therefore demands your daily and even hourly attention so that you do not get caught off guard! In fact elsewhere Paul reminds us to be on our guard:
1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.
The Scriptures contain many other such warnings. For example, the apostle Peter warns us to be on our guard, using different words:
1 Peter 5:8
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself even strongly admonished His disciples to keep alert, but added prayer as a way to gain victory over temptation:
Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak!
So, how much sexual immorality is acceptable for the child of God?
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater –has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.
The above passage even speaks of God’s wrath as a consequence of these type of behaviors. You don’t want to go there…
The passage below has really helped me. It tells me that as a regenerated follower of Jesus Christ, I do in fact have the power and ability to not let sin reign in my body or to obey my body’s evil desires. What an encouragement that is!
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
The above passage raises the question about who you’re letting reign, in other words, who are you serving? Jesus told us you can’t serve two masters:
“No servant can serve two masters ; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.“
While the above verse is about money, the same principle applies to your illicit sexual desires.
You know that if you ask some people about why they continue to fall into sexual temptation, they’ll claim that that’s just the way God made them. They have these desires and they were meant to be fulfilled. That is human logic – that’s the way of thinking that “seems right”:
Proverbs 14:12 (&16:25)
There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
But that way of thinking really leads to death.
Here’s a good one from Proverbs
He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord, But he who is perverse in his ways despises Him.
This directly ties “upright” behavior to fearing the LORD and “perverse” behavior to despising Him.
Next are some words from Jesus that hit me like a ton of bricks:
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
These words are powerful because, in this passage the “light” which has come into the world IS JESUS. So, when it says “everyone who does evil hates the light”, its saying that everyone who does evil hates Jesus! Wow.
Here is a good one from Paul:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,
This one tells us that God’s grace actually teaches us to “just say no!” to “ungodliness and worldly passions” – that would certainly include lust and sexual sin. But it doesn’t only tell us what to say no to, but it also tells us how to live: “self-controlled, upright and godly lives”. That is a picture of holy living. Notice the phrase “self-controlled”. According to this passage, you have the ability to control your participation in these forms of behavior.
Then, there is the most concentrated teaching on worldliness in all of God’s word:
1 John 2:15-17
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
Notice – this passage talks about 2 things that are directly related to lust and sexual sin: “the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes”. If anyone “loves” this kind of stuff, the love of the Father is not in him. By the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, we need to distance ourselves and reject these kind of worldly affections!
John MacArthur, in his excellent sermon on Romans 7:14-25 says that one of the categories of sin is the “sin of remembrance”. Sometimes, the mind of the believer will wander back to ponder some past sin. We must not allow ourselves to fall into that trap. Peter admonishes us:
1 Peter 1:14
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.
Later on in the same letter, he encourages with the example of Christ Jesus’ suffering:
1 Peter 4:1-5
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do–living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
Notice, that we are not to live the rest of our earthly lives for “evil human desires” – this includes many things. He goes on to list some of those evil human desires: “debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry“. He ends up the passage by indicating that those who live like this will “have to give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead“. If these behaviors are the impenitent, pattern of your life, it indicates you are not saved.
Then, this one from the author of 1 Kings regarding the prophet Elijah’s challenge to the people to “get off the fence“!
1 Kings 18:21
Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing.
How is this applicable to illicit sexual desire? Just replace the phrase “if Baal is God, follow him” with “if [your sexual desire] is God, follow [it]”. That is what we’re doing when we’re giving in to sexual sin – we’re making it our God. Don’t do that!
Did you know that whenever you’re tempted to sin sexually, God will show you a way out? This is an iron-clad promise – you can take it to the bank. The following passage tells us not to be over confident when you’re in a season of strong obedience, but that we should be careful. Then it explains that we’re in the same boat with others:
1 Corinthians 10:12-13
If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin. But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.
Praise the Lord that He is faithful, and that He will not let the temptation become too strong!
Jesus was once asked what was the essential or most important teaching in the old testament:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.“
Notice that He summed up all the expectations of the believer into 2 concepts – Love God and Love others. We cannot do those 2 things while committing sexual sin!
The following verse may not seem to be related to sexual temptation:
They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen.
But if you think about it. Your sexual desire is a created thing. If you worship and serve it (especially in an illicit manner), you are exchanging the truth of God for a lie…
Sometimes, you’ve gotta follow Jesus’ example and just tell Satan to “get lost” if you’re being harassed:
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’“
But notice – we not only should be telling Satan to get lost, but we need to be worshiping the Lord our God and serving Him only!
There is a favorite verse of many people that says:
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Again, what does this have to do with sexual immorality and sexual temptation? Well, if you think of it, you’ll realize that your behavior in the world affects God’s reputation in the world, either positively or negatively. But your behavior does not change whether He exists or whether He is glorious or good. So, if you are behaving in an immoral way you are bringing God into disrepute. Then it can be said of you, as in Romans 2:24 – “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Serious stuff! Don’t do it – you love God too much for that!
Finally, the passage that has been most helpful to me in battling sexual temptation is:
You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
The reason this passage is so powerful for me is that, as a Christian leader and teacher, I receive those words from Jesus as directly applying to me. Especially the finishing line which says “on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness”. That one cuts to the heart. Jesus knows what’s “on the inside” – no one else does. I may be able to fool other people, but I can never fool Jesus. Jesus hated hypocrisy with a holy hatred – probably more than anything else. This chapter records the greatest rebuke he ever delivered regarding sin – the sin of hypocrisy. And sexual sin in the life of a believer makes that person a hypocrite, professing one thing with your lips, but thinking and behaving in opposition to that. So, when I hear Jesus’s rebuke directed at me, my unrighteous desires immediately melt away – its like pouring cold water over me. Paul gives us some very good counsel about how we should be viewing our Christian walk:
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. 2 Corinthians 7:1
Notice that we already have these promises (that he’d been talking about in the prior chapters – especially chapter 5). So, we are not avoiding sexual sin in order to get saved, but rather, now that we are saved (we have these promises), we are to live in a holy manner. Why? “Out of reverence for God”.
Brothers and sisters, I pray that you are convicted and cut to the heart like I am and that you would memorize each one of these passages so that you might be led away from sin when you’re at the moment of temptation. Remember God always provides a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13) if we are willing to take it.
How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.
Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies.
Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.
he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.
To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.
2 Timothy 1:7
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars –their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,
Romans 7:18-19, 7:24-25a,
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…Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
1 Peter 2:24
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.