"And, indeed, this is already sin, to desire those things which the law of God forbids." —Augustine, The City of God
Scripture tells us that sexual desire is controllable and is not to be released indiscriminately toward just anyone. This truth is in direct contrast with our culture. God asks us to control not only our sexual activity but our sexual desire as well, arousing it only within the context of marriage. This guideline also flows directly from the fact that God has created the sexual relationship between a man and a woman as a [reflection] of Christ’s relationship with the church.
Sexual immorality is harmful to our well-being.
When we are firmly convinced that sexual immorality is harmful to our well-being, it loses its grip on us and does not awaken within us sexual desire. Though we are fallen people for whom such conviction comes with great difficulty, it can indeed come. Such conviction takes great faith, but it grows as we embrace the unseen reality of Christ above and beyond what seems so immediately satisfying. We must by faith grasp firmly, and with deep conviction, the truths of God.
We must by faith grasp firmly, and with deep conviction, the truths of God.
- Do we really believe the path of the adulteress leads to death (Prov. 7:10, 27)?
- That God will judge the sexually immoral who do not repent (Heb. 13:4; Rev. 21:8)?
- And that no sexual satisfaction exists apart from living out the image of Christ’s union to his bride?
We must know Christ before we can have faith in his commands.
Yet we will never become convinced of the truth of Christ until we are deeply united to the person of Christ. We must know Christ himself—his heart, his character—before we can have faith in his commands. We must not just believe that his ways are best; we must know that his ways are best. Such knowledge comes only through our personal experience with Christ himself. And such experience comes from our deep spiritual union with him via his Holy Spirit.
Ultimately, as we participate in the unseen reality of Christ, experiencing his very presence in our lives day to day, we grow in our convictions that his claims are in fact true, that his ways are indeed the best ways, and that nothing can satisfy apart from him.
Do we believe it is possible for a man to see a beautiful woman, perhaps dressed inappropriately, perhaps even attempting to seduce him, yet not desire her in his heart or be sexually aroused? Are we merely victims of our circumstances, needing to hide from the world lest we encounter anything that would force us to lust?
We must be firmly convinced that it is indeed possible to control and harness our desires, not merely our actions. To be sure, sexual desire is not controlled in the same manner we control our arms and legs; more than just a mere decision of the will is required. But we do control our sexual desire indirectly through what we believe about the reality of Christ, sexual immorality, and the truth of God. As we become absolutely convinced in our hearts and souls that God’s ways are indeed the best ways, we will master our sexual desire.
It is possible to become reflexively pure.
Our bodies respond only in accordance with our convictions, and how we spontaneously react to life’s circumstances will reveal what we believe. Just as it is possible to become a more spontaneously patient driver and a more instinctively gracious believer in Christ, so too it is possible to become more reflexively pure in our inadvertent encounters with the opposite sex.
Things to think about:
- Do you trust that Christ's ways are best?
- Are you seeking satisfaction from anything apart from Christ?
- Do you let yourself off the hook too easily by blaming your sinful desires on physiology?
- Are you trusting in the sanctifying power of the Spirit or your own will to overcome sinful desires?
- What are you next steps towards attaining "reflexive purity"?
This article is adapted from Sex, Dating, and Relationships by Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas.