“Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart,…” Psalm 24:3,4
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8
There are many wonderful aspects of Jesus’s saving, healing and cleansing ministry to those of us on planet earth. One of those is that of making us whole and clean and pure in all things sexual. Only God could do such a thing! But He does it routinely. And great blessing comes as a result.
As we all learn to walk with God, and as we learn to “lay aside the old self” (Eph. 4:22) and “put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph. 4:24), we are going to increasingly see how corrupt this world system is in its thinking and thus behavior particularly in things sexual. And we are going to see how beautiful and clean and freeing it is to be in Christ and to have His heart and mind towards all things sexual.
As we continue our discussion on this topic I want to begin with a word to those who are not yet married, though these passages also apply to married men and women.
God’s Design for Sexual Purity before Marriage
As we look at the six passages below, please note that the will of God for all of us is ongoing sanctification and growth in holiness and righteousness and purity. God expects and has made provision for us to see every person in our world the way He does. Objectifying and assessing the opposite sex or the same sex according to their looks, build, etc., much less violating/engaging sexually with them is no longer an option for a believer in Christ.
For those of you who are not yet married, but will some day marry, God has a spouse being prepared for you. Once He has joined you with him or her, you will have the joy and blessing of enjoying him/her physically and sexually. He will give you increasing attraction for him/her and you can gaze at each other to your heart’s content.
But please know that you have no right to gaze on or assess the looks or body of another. And in Christ you are free from that temptation. You can by His power and grace see and honor every person in your world as He does. And you can by His power and grace choose not to take in all the sights around you. “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6:14
Some say to lust after a woman (if you are a man) is to want to or imagine yourself having sex with her. And thus it is fine to merely look at a woman as long as that is not your motive or desire. I beg to differ with that. I believe in Christ we have the power and grace to either not look in their direction whatsoever, or to only look at them in the eyes - seeing them as one made in the image of God and one for whom Christ died. As the writer of Proverbs exhorted, “Let your eyes look directly ahead And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. …Do not turn to the right nor to the left; Turn your foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:25,27 If in your past life you had little control over where your eyes roamed, overcoming that lack of self control will be a challenge at first. And there will never be a time where you are not required to be vigilant and alert for there will always be those who leave their home dressed to be noticed and looked at. As someone once said “Everyone knows what they look like when they walk out their front door.”
Please now allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you as you meditate on these following passages.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You Shall Not Commit Adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matt. 5:27,28
Jesus’s standard is always far higher than anyone on earth’s. But it is not unreachable. And it is not “burdensome” as the apostle John stated (I John 5:3).
“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints;” Ephesians 5:3
Again a very high standard, but attainable in Christ.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality.” I Thess. 4:3
Paul wants to make sure there is no wiggle room here. The will of God for each of us is full and complete sanctification which includes abstaining from any form of sexual immorality.
“Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.” I Timothy 5:1,2
The call to men is to relate to every young woman as a sister in Christ, bought by His blood, and thus our mind and heart towards her should be pure in every way.
“Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” II Tim. 2:22
Lust is not something to play around with or manage. We must flee from lust (or the opportunity to lust) like Joseph did from Potiphar’s wife (see Genesis 39:5-12).
God’s Design for Sexual Fidelity and Purity as a Married Person
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Gen. 2:24
We were designed by God to only experience “one flesh” or sexual, emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual oneness with the spouse God has chosen and prepared for us.
“I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin?” Job 31:1 “ If my heart has been enticed by a woman, Or I have lurked at my neighbor’s doorway, May my wife grind for another, And let others kneel down over her. For that would be a lustful crime; Moreover, it would be an iniquity punishable by judges. For it would be fire that consumes to Abaddon, And would uproot all my increase.” Job 31:9-12
Job’s example here is remarkable in that he probably lived during the time of the Patriarchs (mid to later Genesis chapters) wherein so little revelation about God’s intentions for marriage existed; and yet he had such sensitivity to the evil of sexual sin outside of one’s marriage. This of course came as a result of his intimacy with God and pursuit of God and righteousness.
Please note in the latter passage above, one spouse’s lusts can open a door for the other spouse to sin or be sinned against.
The Consequences of Giving in to the Lusts of the Flesh/Sexual Sin
In the O.T. – see stories of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18:16-19:1-29 (the literal destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah for their extreme wickedness is mentioned throughout scripture by many different authors including Jesus (Luke 17:29). Peter in II Peter 2:6 and Jude in Jude 1:7 speak to its role as an example for us to live godly lives, knowing the seriousness of sin). While homosexual sin was not the only wickedness among the people of these two cities, it is the main sin emphasized in the Genesis account (see Gen. 19:4-7). See also Ezekiel 16:49,50.
Samson and Delilah in Judges 16:1-21. Samson was called from birth to be pure and devoted to God, but his lust for idolatrous women (women who were not pure and who did not love God) greatly hindered the fulfillment of his call.
David and Bathsheba in II Samuel 11 & 12 – negative impact on his kingdom and death of their baby that came from his adulterous affair with Bathsheba.
Amnon and Tamar II Sam. 13 – Amnon “loved” her, raped her/ “violated” her, 2 yrs. later was killed out of revenge/vengeance from one of his brothers.
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, not the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, not swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” I Corinthians 6:9, 10
The greatest and most horrible consequence of continual sexual sin of course is not inheriting the kingdom of God and thus spending eternity in hell. This is the destiny for those who refuse to repent and turn to God and turn away from their sin.
“Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.” I Corinthians 6:18
While sexual sin is not necessarily worse than other sins, its effect on our bodies and our souls is unlike any other sin, and thus should be abstained from at all costs. This is a strong command. Fleeing will require us at times to “cut off our hand” and “gouge out our eye” per Jesus’s instructions in Matthew 5:29,30 (note the context of that passage = lust). The Holy Spirit will gladly make this command and practice practical and tangible if we are sensitive to His voice and conviction. Many who once felt it was fine to indulge in certain activities that many Americans would see as innocent and normal discovered from the Holy Spirit that they no longer could indulge in it in the pursuit of purity and holiness.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying , drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:16-21
Committing any of these “deeds or sins of the flesh” wars against the Holy Spirit’s work in us, and if not repented of will lead us into the horrors of hell.
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:7.8
Every single time a person (male or female) sins sexually whether via lust, porn, pre-marital sex, masturbation, adultery, etc., etc. they will reap some level of inner corruption of their soul. This corruption often goes unseen for a while, but it will eventually manifest in some destructive way if it is not confessed, repented of, and if not aggressively cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
“Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” I Peter 2:11
Please note that fleshly lusts literally wage war against our souls. Thus total abstinence from them is the only way forward in our pursuit of Christ and His fullness.
Steps Towards Sexual Purity and Cleansing/Deliverance/Healing
1. Learn from good biblical examples: Joseph in Genesis 39:5-12; Moses in Hebrews 11:24-26; Job in Job 31:1-12
2. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the depths and extent of sexual sins you have committed (this will happen in His timetable); and then daily ask God to cleanse you by the blood of Jesus. Ask Him where and how have you been “corrupted” (Gal. 6:8) and “defiled” (I Cor. 7:1) by this evil world system and your participation in it (or perhaps by being a victim of someone else’s violation or abuse). We have a tendency to greatly minimize our sins and their effect on others or on ourselves. We even have a tendency to minimize the effects others’ sins have had on us. Many have not understood the reality that while God has forgiven the sexual sins that have been confessed to Him, the corruption and defilement caused by them still lingers. For instance, if we were sexually promiscuous before marriage in one form or another, we probably asked forgiveness for those sins (as we then understood them). But the result of those sins tends to stick with us until cleansed by the blood of Jesus. This is why the apostle Paul after stating in II Cor. 5:17 that we are “new creatures in Christ”, goes on to exhort us to “cleanse ourselves from all defilement” in II Cor. 7:1.
We feel we should address at this point the role dreams might play in this process. The Holy Spirit has used dreams that both Anne and I have had to help us get in touch with corruption and defilement that is not yet cleansed. We are aware of another pastor and wife where he early in their marriage kept having dreams about adulterous affairs (not his own) and it turned out his wife had had a very promiscuous life prior to their marriage and had never told him about them. Our encouragement is to not attribute all bad dreams as from the devil. They could be from the gunk still lying deep within your soul and spirit.
Note David’s example in Psalm 51 after he saw the depths of his sin and wickedness regarding his adultery with Bathsheba and the attempted coverup. The prayers in that Psalm are prayers to be prayed repeatedly as God helps us see our sins like He sees them.
3. Confess your sins ideally to your spouse first (if that applies); then perhaps to someone who is mature enough to pray for you and help you overcome your sexual sin patterns. Confession with or to your spouse while uncomfortable and painful in the beginning, eventually builds trust and oneness in one’s marriage. And ideally there should be no one more committed to us than our spouse. The goal with confession is healing per James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Confession breaks the back of “hidden” and long term sin patterns. It gets it out into the light and allows I John 1:7 to take place, “If we walk in the Light as He is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.”
4. Sexual sin can have severe consequences, but it is not the unpardonable sin, nor is it the greatest sin. And thus those who have engaged in it should not be treated as such. One of the major reasons it is so entrenched even in believers is because of the shame associated with it, which plays right into the devil’s hands. Please note how it is one of many in various lists of sins in the N.T. – Romans 1:21-32; I Cor. 6:9,10; Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:8.
5. As we fight this fight of faith and purity, choosing wisely who we fellowship with is of uptmost importance “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20 ““Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” II Tim. 2:22 We were never meant to fight much less win this battle alone. We were meant to fight it and win it with those who take God at His word, and who do not seek to minimize God’s righteous standard. We will never overcome lust if we regularly hang out with people who rationalize it away and tell us we are being too hard on ourselves or that we are being “legalistic” or “religious”.
6. Often people who have engaged in sexual immorality in a significant way over a significant amount of time unknowingly have opened up a door to demonic activity. If this is true in your case, you may need to find someone more mature in Christ who can help you get free of demonic oppression. Sometimes people tell us they especially experience this oppression in their bedrooms usually at night, and it can be quite scary. Demons are no match for Jesus and if you seek Him He will gladly and effectively set you free from this oppression.
7. Finally ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the triggers and buttons that have led you into sexual sin in the past. Things like stress, overwork, escapism, generational sin patterns, etc.
May the Lord reveal Himself to you as the great Savior that He is; and may He free you from any and all sexual sin – making you whole in mind, body, soul and spirit for His glory in Jesus’s name. Amen!