Fighting Sexual Sin with Proper Motivation

Sexual sin can create chaos and turmoil in someone’s life. It can cause relational problems, financial problems, legal problems, and inward shame and self-hatred. There are, then, a string of reasons to fight against lust and to overcome temptation. What motivates this effort, however, matters, for not all motives are equal. Understanding the nature of sexual immorality and our union with Christ serve as the best motivators in our fight against sexual sin.

The Apostle Paul addresses the issue of sexual sin in multiple places in his writings. 1 Corinthians 6, however, gives us a particularly robust look at the subject:

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (v. 18-20)

Here Paul gives instruction to “flee sexual immorality” and grounds that command in both the nature of sexual sin and our relationship with God.

We ought to flee sexual immorality because it is a uniquely dangerous sin. It’s not unique in the sense that is more shameful or more serious. All sin is equally sinful in God’s eyes – whether disobeying parents, gossiping, or committing adultery, God sees it all as a punishable offense (Rom. 1:28-32). The distinct nature of this sin has to do with its impact on our body. Paul says that whoever sins sexually “sins against his own body.” That’s peculiar language and discerning the exact meaning of the words is difficult. We can recognize, however, that the combination of spiritual sin and biological response intensifies the impact of sin. Sins that directly impact the body compound their hold upon us. So, greed is certainly sinful, and yet the sin of lust-fueled masturbation has a uniquely physical element to it which heightens its impact on a person. Ed Welch notes that “some idols hook our bodily passions and desires.” He writes:

This group of addictions includes drugs (legal and illegal), alcohol, sexual sin, and food. These idolatries can provide physical pleasure, relieve physical tension, and soothe physical desires. Such payoffs can be difficult to resist. (Addictions, 52)

Paul warns us here, then, that there is something distinctly dangerous about sexual sin. It’s not worse than other sins, but it’s impact is unique. Therefore, we should flee sexual immorality.

Paul also mentions a second reason we should flee sexual sin: we belong to God. He grounds our motivation ultimately in our relationship to God. Sexual sin is serious because it uses our body in ways that God neither intended nor desires, and He is the owner of our body. We do not belong to ourselves if we are in Christ. We belong to Him and He bought us with a very high price. Therefore, Paul says, we should be seeking to glorify God in our body. This motivation is crucial because it has both strong language about ownership and yet it reassures us that God loves us.

Some individuals fight porn and sexual temptation from a position of fear. They are convinced that if they don’t quit this sin then God will hate them. They fight in order to win or earn God’s love. Yet, Paul tells us here that we already belong to God. We are not fighting to win God’s favor, but rather it is because we have it that we must fight. If you are a Christian you belong to God! Sexual sin is serious because it uses the body God bought for ungodly things, but the sin does not make God love you less nor does obedience make God love you more.

The proper motivations make all the difference in our fight against sexual sin. If you struggle with lust or pornography remember both the seriousness of the impact that sexual sin has on you, but more than anything remember the God who loves you and who bought you. Fight from a place of freedom and strength not fear. You belong to God almighty who dwells within you through His Holy Spirit. You are a temple of the living God! A fear-based motivation will point us towards works righteousness and towards despair when the fight is hard. But knowing that I am already loved by God in Christ allows me to keep fighting with hope and joy because my standing is secure.

What motivates your fight with lust? Is that motivation a godly one? Think today about your starting place in the battle against sexual sin and strive to draw on Godly motivations.

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