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10 Ways to not just Hope for Purity but to Pursue It

07.16.18 | Sexuality, Marriage, Purity | by Matt Shantz

    The following practical strategies for fighting sexual temptation and sin and pursuing purity were mentioned in my sermon, Sanctity of Marriageon the 7th Commandment, You shall not commit adultery. 

    On the Sermon on the Mount (the greatest sermon ever preached!), Jesus says that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28). What person hasn't looked at someone other than their spouse and lusted? What person hasn't thought, "my life would be better if I was married to that person rather than my spouse" and lusted? What single hasn't been tempted to idolize a longed-for marriage partner rather than trusting Jesus for the sufficiency of His love, and lusted after another?

    Jesus takes the 7th Commandment, You shall not commit adultery, and doesn't loosen it, He deepens it by saying that looking and lusting is adultery because the act has been committed in your heart, and after all, Jesus is after your heart.

    So what possible hope do we have? Is anybody capable of such purity? Only Jesus was and is perfectly pure and He kept the 7th Commandment against adultery for us. He transforms the 7th Commandment so that we'll run to Him for our transformation. To be cleansed and purified.

    It is in trusting in the pure perfection of Jesus for our salvation and the power of His Spirit to purify our adulterous lives that we have hope.

    Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral...nor adulterers... will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
    1 Corinthians 6:9-11

    Jesus continues to say if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell (Matthew 5:29-30).

    This is hyperbolic language. Exaggeration for the sake of effect. What effect? That sin be taken seriously. Jesus is essentially saying, take drastic measures with surgical precision to address sexual sin in your life. Hate it. Crush it. Root it out. 

    Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
    Colossians 3:5-6

    10 Practical Strategies for Fighting Sexual Sin and Pursuing Purity

    1. MAKE A COVENANT WITH YOUR EYES

    Jesus says that the eye is the lamp of the body (Matthew 6:22). The eye is the doorway to the mind so whatever one constantly looks at, one will dwell on and eventually act on. So much starts with looking. To look is not to lust...but to keep looking and to undress with your eyes...and objectify someone with how you look at them, is to progress from looking and seeing to looking and lusting and on it goes.

    Job, the guy who literally lost everything but gained the world by gaining a deeper relationship with God, said, I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman (Job 31:1). What he's saying is that with great intentionality he guarded his eyes as a continual discipline in order to fight for purity. In the book, Every Man's Battle, the writers refer to this discipline as bouncing your eyes. Meaning, when you see something that tempts you, bounce your eyes away from that temptation. Whether that be when you're out on the town, watching television, on the internet, or whatever. Bouncing your eyes is about looking the other way, changing the channel, or closing the webpage.

    Make a covenant with your eyes, watch what you look at and dwell on, and you'll curb a lot of temptation right there.

    2. DWELL ON THE GOSPEL

    The Apostle Paul gives powerful advice, Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8). 

    We spend so much of our time living like atheists, meaning, we live out much of our day to day lives as if God doesn't exist. One of the reasons that prayer, reading and meditating on the Word of God, and dwelling on the gospel is so crucial — not as some devotional box to tick but as a discipline — is that it fixes your mind on things above, it reminds us of what our lives are really all about. 

    When our minds are filled with awe and wonder of God, His sovereignty, holiness, justice, and mercy (and on and on) it frames sexual temptation not as an alluring pleasure but as the hollow promise that kills that it is.

    Not only that, with the gospel fresh in our minds each day, we approach temptation through the lens of, "why am I tempted to find fulfillment and pleasure in this sinful desire/act rather than in Jesus?" "What am I intuitively believing porn/this person who is not my spouse promises me that can't be found in the gospel?" In other words, preaching the gospel to ourselves each day helps us live Christianly in the world that over promises and never delivers.

    3. CREATE AND MAINTAIN ACCOUNTABILITY

    Everyone needs accountability. You need it and I need it. I don't mean a facade of accountability. I've lived there. Find one or two others whose faith you admire and make a commitment to be accountable with each other.

    ...confess your sins to one another and pray for one another...
    James 5:16

    This means scheduling a routine to get together, ask real, pointed questions. It doesn't mean going weeks and weeks without checking in, and when you do meet, avoiding the real questions or getting real with each other, and letting each other off the hook.

    4. STAY AWAY FROM TEMPTATION

    At best, King David committed adultery, at worst, he committed rape. Then he went on to have the woman's husband killed. And things only went from bad to worse.

    That whole scenario started with David bored and strolling on the roof of his palace when he was supposed to be leading his army in battle. 

    Someone from the recovery community told me that when a drug addict relapses it's not because they made a bad decision at the moment, it's because they made bad decisions weeks and months earlier in their minds. Then they white-knuckled it for a bit, and then when the moment opportunity presented itself it was all over.

    We need to make a concerted effort to stay away from temptation. Solomon writes about the unwise young man who strolls by the prostitute's corner at twilight, referring to him as an ox going to the slaughter (Proverbs 7).

    You typically know where temptation lies. Stay away from it!

    5. RUN FROM TEMPTATION

    While we typically know where temptation lies, sometimes temptation catches us by surprise. Joseph (the Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat Joseph) was working in a wealthy man's house in Egypt and his wife attempted to seduce Joseph. He fled and as she grabbed hold of him, his robe in her hands, he ran away naked knowing that as he did so he was fleeing sin (Genesis 39).

    Put your head down and run when temptation comes your way.

    6. LIVE SELF-SACRIFICIALLY RATHER THAN SELF-INDULGENTLY 

    Getting back to King David, he stopped serving, stopped sacrificing, and stopped giving his life away for others well before committing adultery. Instead of giving, he took. And that posture and heart-condition set the table for everything that followed.

    As followers of Jesus, we desire to become more Christ-like. Jesus lived a life of sacrifice and service. He gave His life away for others. The pursuing of godliness in one area of life promotes godliness in other areas of life.

    You were called to freedom...only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 
    Galatians 5:13

    As you serve and bless and sacrifice for the cause of the gospel in other areas of life, you will find such joy and satisfaction and meaning in it that it would feel out of place to objectify and take from others for your own sexual gratification.

    7. CREATE A GREAT SEX LIFE IN YOUR MARRIAGE

    This is BIBLICAL. Acting more righteous than the Bible is not a good look. So hear me (the Bible) out.

    Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another...so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
    1 Corinthians 7:2-5

    A recent University of Toronto study showed that the best sex is had in the context of a committed, monogamous relationship, where the aim of each person is the pleasure of their partner. That goes against the wisdom of every romance movie...ever! But it lines up exactly with the context created by God for sex. 

    So pursue a healthy, routine, great sex life in your marriage. By doing so you promote healthy sexuality for you and your spouse and when that is accomplished it helps combat destructive sexuality.

    Some husbands will read this and try and use it selfishly on their wives. Some wives use sex as a manipulative weapon (the witholding or threat of withholding) on their husbands. Both of those outcomes have me-centred motivations.

    Husbands are to pursue their wives in self-sacrificing service as Christ does with all of us, and in so doing will bless their wives (Ephesians 5:25). Wives are to submit to their husbands as to Christ, and in so doing will bless their husbands (Ephesians 5:24). This sounds an awful lot like that U of T study we talked about earlier...

    8. CHURCH IS FAMILY

    There's a reason we call fellow believers brothers and sisters in Christ. The Apostle Paul told the young pastor, Timothy:

    [Treat] an older man like a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
    1 Timothy 5:1-2

    What he's saying is that outside of marriage, our interactions with others should look like brother, sister, parent relationships, with absolute purity. 

    So if you come across a guy objectifying a woman in the church you should say to him, "Whoa, whoa. That's my sister, bro". Or, "What did you just say about my mom?!"

    9. REPENT BECAUSE THERE IS HOPE!

    Jesus is deadly serious about the poisonous effect that warped sexuality has not only on our bodies but on our souls. When God confronts you with the guilt of your sexual sin, you have a choice. You can be sure that if you keep your sin hidden, it will destroy you in the end. But if you repent of your sexual sin, God will have mercy.

    He extended grace to King David. He extended grace to Mary Magdalene. When you come to Him in repentance you can trust that He will gladly extend His grace to you. He already died in your place to do so.

    Like the adulterous woman that the mob brought to Jesus to stone, Jesus said, he who is without sin, throw the first stone. And one by one the mob walked away. Jesus, on the other hand, the only one righteous enough to actually do it, extended her grace (John 8:3-11).

    And as parting words, He said, go, and from now on sin no more. Meaning, leave this adulterous life behind you and follow me.

    Jesus gladly forgives us of the sins we confess. That should give us pause if there are sins hidden in the dark, unconfessed and repented of (change, turnaround). Because where there is no repentance there is no grace. 

    10. KNOW THAT YOU'RE NOT ALONE AND WITHOUT HELP

    I do not preach and write on this to leave you in a place of guilt and shame. I do it because there is grace for you in Jesus and hope for transformation in your life, including in the area of sexual purity.

    There are a ton of great resources beyond these strategies for fighting sin and for purity in your life. I'll list a few here:

    Covenant Eyes accountability software and resources

    FINALLY FREE: Fighting for purity with the power of grace
    Heath Lambert

    PASSION AND PURITY: Learning to bring your love life under Christ's control (free PDF)
    Elizabeth Elliot

    Designed to Flourish sermon series

    Fight the New Drug a website raising awareness about the harmful effects of pornography using science, facts, and story