Yesterday I received an email from a reader of this site and today I’d like to answer it (with the permission of the person who sent it). Here is what he wrote:
Thank you so much for your booklet, “Sexual Detox.” I have read it over and over, and am still very much challenged by it. I was recently married and was under the illusion that marriage would solve all of my lust problems… Even though I had been told numerous times that it would not. Now I feel that everything has come to head, I know what I must do, and I want so very badly to do it, but I feel that the devil knows this is THE deciding point in my life on this issue, and he is working hard against me. I feel more captivated and strangled by my sin than ever before, and I need you to pray for me. If you have any advice or encouragement to offer, please tell me.
Thanks for sending this note. It sounds to me like you are absolutely right when say that this is a deciding point in your life on the issue of lust and the acting out of that lust. Satan will be working hard against you and, in many ways, you will be working hard against yourself. You gave yourself over to your sin and no doubt you’ve become captivated by it. As sin always seeks to do, it has ensnared you. But take heart. There is hope.
To reiterate what I wrote in Sexual Detox, the fact that you feel sexual desire is a good and noble thing. God has given you that desire so you will pursue your bride. But, like all good gifts, the gift of sex is one that we are prone to pervert, turning it into a means of selfish self-fulfillment. God wants you to pursue your wife, to win her heart not just once but day-by-day; and he wants you to enjoy sex with her. But, of course, you have grown used to indulging the flesh, to giving it its desires, those desires that are perversions of the true gift. And sin rarely just goes away; it is usually a long and difficult process to put it to death.
A few days ago someone asked me, “What difference does it make that Christ is on his throne?” I had to think about that one, but when I did, the answer became clear. It makes all the difference in the world. Just this morning I read from Hebrews 1 where the author says, “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” There is such glorious truth there.
First, Christ made purification for sins. This is the very heart of the Christian faith. Finally, after those long millenia of human history, the thousands of Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in Christ. The seed promised all the way back in Genesis 3 had come and had crushed the head of the serpent. What this means is that if you have trusted in Christ, if you have put your faith in him, you have been purified from your sin. God no longer regards you as defiled by sin, but looks at you and sees the sinless perfection of Christ. Your sin has been given to him, his righteousness has been transferred to you.
Purification is an especially important word when we discuss sexual sin, for no sin makes us feel as dirty, as defiled, as impure as sexual sin. Because sex is so deep, so intimate, it touches the body, the soul, the emotions. And so, when we sin sexually, we tend to feel a deep sense of defilement, and particularly so when we sin in spite of a convicted conscience.
And yet Christ died to purify you from even this sin. You have sinned against God and need to seek his forgiveness. I am sure you’ve already done this, but do go to God, even now, and confess your sin. Be reconciled to God and receive his forgiveness, his purification from sin. Christ is far more willing to forgive you than you are even to pursue your sin.
The Majesty on High
That Christ has made purification for sin is an amazing truth. But it is only half the truth of this verse. Christ has not just died, but he is risen and now reigns at the right hand of the Father. And what does it mean that Christ is on his throne? It means that Christ is ruling and reigning. It means that Christ is sovereign, that he is King, that he has power. He gives power to his people through the Spirit, his Spirit, that he has sent to be our helper. Christ has given you the power to overcome sin. What a glorious truth this is! He has given you all you need, absolutely everything you need, to overcome sin. The Spirit works with us, in us, through us, to destroy indwelling sin and to make us in practice what we are in position–pure and holy.
So there is no excuse. Christ is reigning over the entire universe; he is reigning over sin. If you are to overcome the sin of lust, if you are to turn from your lust and find sexual desire and fulfillment only in your wife, you will need to fight with his power.
Hold tightly to these two truths and never separate them. Christ has died to destroy sin; Christ has risen to reign.
What To Do
I have already encouraged you to confess your sin to God and to ask his forgiveness. And as you do that, confess your own inability to overcome this sin and ask God for his strength, his power. Be utterly dependent upon him.
Be a godly man. Immerse yourself in the Word; be faithful in prayer; be committed to your church. Live a life of godliness. Do not approach the sin of lust as an isolated sin, but approach it as one more sin that needs to be overcome as you seek to be conformed to the image of the Savior.
In committing sexual sin, you have sinned against your wife. You need to confess this sin to her, painful thought it may be, and seek her forgiveness. You will also need to seek reconciliation with her. You are much more likely to overcome this sin with her help than without it. Be very careful not to blame her in any way for your sin; do not implicate her in any way. Confess your sin and ask her to fight with you in putting it to death. As a husband you need to lead your wife. And, as you’ve been sinning against her, you’ve been leading her poorly. Part of shepherding your wife, and often the most difficult part of all, is leading in the sexual relationship. This is especially difficult when you have committed sexual sin. But lead her nonetheless, gently and kindly. And lead her by being above reproach in every way.
Understand the triggers and the warning signs that tell you that you are particularly prone to sin. And react by fleeing from those rather than waiting for the lustful act itself. Speaking personally, I look for tiny things that may be entirely amoral and seemingly insignificant, but I know that they point to a general relaxing of standards and discipline. When I eat too much junk food or drink too much Coke, I know that I’m relaxing my personal discipline and that I’m only a few steps away from committing a sin I’ll regret. So I look for these innocuous things and fight against them. It sounds silly, I know, but I’ve studied my propensity to sin enough to know where it begins. So find those triggers in your own life, even those amoral things, and react against them. Look for situations that lead you to sin, whether that involves browsing certain web sites or being in certain places or staying up past certain hours.
And finally, seek out an older man who can mentor you. Find a man in your church whom you respect and ask if he will help you fight lust and become a better husband to your wife. Ask him to be not an accountability partner, but a mentor.
And take heart. Many men can testify to God’s grace in overcoming sin. Scripture itself testifies that God is eager and willing to put your sin to death. Christ has died to forgive your sin and he has risen and sent his Spirit to give you mastery over it. He reigns and he is on your side. What greater hope could there be?