This is really hard because it hurts me to say every word that I am about to: I am not the follower Jesus asked of us. I try so hard to be patient with sex, with money and attempt to give it up. And if God asked it of me, I would give it all up, but not gladly. In fact my whole life from then on would be revolved around total and complete suffering.
There is a girl whom I have doted upon for a very long time. She is Christian, beautiful beyond words, smart, and is an ideal follower of God. And I would be willing to wait for her to be my wife if the day comes. But I know my body, and I know myself.
In my heart, I long to adventure the world, to explore and to feel different sensations — to be with different women and take in all the world has to offer. And a lot of these things I know I want always seem to conflict with God.
I've talked to several people about sexual urges, and they all tell me to just wait or read the Bible or pray. And I do, but it never seems to cover up my urges. I still have them constantly pounding and creeping up at me.
I gave up porn and masturbation for God, but it's extremely hard, and I want to go back to it so bad. Plus I know that God would want me — as well as the girl I hope to marry — to remain pure. So I need advice. I want to please God and marry my love. But I want to be myself, experience the world. What should I do?
Thanks for writing and for the honesty in your question. I have a few thoughts about whether and how to proceed with the woman you mentioned, but it appears there may be some bigger fish to fry before we get there.
First, you can take comfort (such as it is) in the fact that your struggles with sin and temptation are not unique to you. Every Christian struggles with temptation and continues to sin in this life. First John 1:8 tells us that "[i]f we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us," and even the apostle Paul expressed great frustration with his own sin: "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.... Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:15, 24). Paul goes on to describe the inner conflict that exists in every fallen human being who is also in Christ:
So now it is no longer I who do [sinful things], but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members (Romans 7:17-23).
In other words, to the extent that any of us knows ourselves, we know ourselves to be sinners — and that's true even of the "ideal" woman you hope to marry.
Having said all of that, the inner conflict Paul describes in Romans 7 does not give us as Christians permission to embrace or indulge sin. As Christians, we are all commanded to fight sin and temptation with the help of the Holy Spirit in us. To be clear, no one is saved by works. But the Bible makes clear that if our salvation is genuine, our lives will be changed and will generally be characterized by conformity to Scripture (John 14:15; James 2:17; Galatians 5:22). Be very careful that you do not give yourself permission to indulge in sin under the guise of "being yourself." If you are a Christian and have been made alive through Christ, then your "self" and your body "are not your own, for you have been bought with a price. So glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Other than your comment about your desire to "be with" different women, your question is not entirely clear about what you mean by "experience the world" and "take in all the world has to offer," but from the context, it sounds like you are referring to things you know to be sin. Scripture commands us without reservation to "flee sexual immorality" (1 Corinthians 6:18), which means all sexual activity outside the context of marriage. I also feel compelled to warn you as Scripture does that if a person's life is characterized by unrepentant "works of the flesh," that fact suggests that such a person is not truly saved:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).
I say all this in love to warn you — but not to discourage you. It seems you are fighting the good fight with respect to pornography and masturbation, and God is up to the task of helping you fight the good fight on any other temptation. The Bible also tells us that "[n]o temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:13). We also know that "we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one [Jesus] who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). And, most importantly, we know that there is grace in the Gospel when we fail: "[i]f we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
The people telling you to read God's Word and to pray are not wrong. Prayer and Scripture are not magic wands to remove all temptation, but they are means of grace God has given us to fight sin, and they work. Tweet This I would also suggest regular fellowship and real accountability with other believers who can love you and join in your fight (and you in theirs). That means if you're not an engaged member of a solid, Bible-believing church, you should join one and get involved. If you are already in a good church, talk to the pastor(s) about getting plugged into an accountability and discipleship relationship. And press on, knowing that God keeps all His promises.
The heart of your question seems to be "I want to get married, but how can I, given all these other things I want to indulge in?" The heart of my answer is that whether you marry or not, it sounds like most of the indulgences you are thinking of are not open to you as one who purports to follow Jesus and live by Scripture.
My advice is that you talk to a pastor or some other wise brother(s) you trust about the things you've written in your question. With their help, make sure you are spiritually healthy at a basic level and ready to pursue marriage. Remember that if you do pursue marriage, you will not only be responsible before God for your own holiness (within the covenant of grace, of course), but also for the spiritual good of your wife (Ephesians 5:22-33). You wanted an adventure. Any guy who thinks marriage isn't one hasn't tried it.
I will pray that the Lord would grant you holiness and wisdom and victory in your fight against sin. You can pray the same for me.
For His glory,
Copyright 2014 Scott Croft. All rights reserved.