If you’ve fought the battle of sexual purity for any length of time, you know that it is far more complex than simply abstaining from having sex. Sexual purity may be expressed by what you do with your body, but it is ultimately rooted in your mind, your heart and your soul.
Many of our spiritual battles are represented by the clash of truth and lies. Satan was called “the father of lies.” Jesus said of Satan that he has never spoken the truth because lying is his native language. By contrast, Jesus was called the “Truth.” Throughout the Gospels, He began His teaching with this phrase: “I tell you the truth.”
In my work in the area of sexuality, I see that Christians are very confused. They are living bound by lies and making choices out of confusion. Here I would like to present five lies that you may believe — lies that make the battle for sexual purity far more difficult.
Lie #1 – Single Christians aren’t sexual (or at least they aren’t supposed to be).
As ridiculous as it sounds, many Christians grow up thinking that they will magically become sexual when they get married. Before marriage, their sexuality should lie dormant.
Singles are sexual beings created in the image of God. Your sexuality is not compartmentalized, waiting for marriage; it’s integrated into all the aspects of your being — intellectual, emotional, relational and spiritual. It’s a core part of who God created you to be.
Your sexuality is something that is always there, even if sex isn’t a part of your life. Because we tend to only talk about the physical act of sex, we ignore the fact that it’s our sexuality that ultimately drives us into relationship, makes us desire marriage, expresses our longing to be known, heard, understood and protected — our longing to be vulnerable, soul to soul, with another person, and ultimately, our longing to be known by God. As a single person, your sexuality serves a purpose.
Ephesians 5:31-32 alludes to the fact that sex within marriage is a holy metaphor that points to the spiritual mystery of God’s covenant love for us. Throughout Scripture, sex is used to express aspects of God’s covenant and the degree of intimacy He has with His people. This means that married men and women should be learning mysteries of God as they experience sex together.
I believe singles can also understand something deeper about God through their sexuality. Jesus talked about how we will mourn and long for the Bridegroom when He is not with us. We will ache for His presence and have deep longings that are unmet. Singles definitely get this!
John Piper stated, “The ultimate reason why we are sexual is to make God more fully knowable.” This truth is not simply applied to marriage, but also to singles. Our sexuality prompts longings and desires that point to an intimacy beyond what even the best marriage can sustain.
Lie #2 – Purity is only a problem for singles.
I’ve met with many young men and women who think that their struggle to stay pure would end with a wedding ceremony. Wrong! Sexual purity is a battle throughout adulthood. It simply takes a different form in marriage.
Your married friends are free to have sex, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling with porn, fantasy, images from the past, extramarital flirtations, and conflict over sex in marriage. Single or married, yielding your sexuality under the lordship of Christ will always be a battle.
Why is this important for you to know as a single? Because you may believe that the answer for sexual purity is marriage. To some extent you are right. The apostle Paul advised those who “burned” with sexual desire to get married. However, the battle will not end in marriage; it just changes.
It is possible for both single and married Christians to operate under what Kenny Luck, a pastor at Saddleback Church and founder of Every Man Ministries, called “sexual atheism.” In other words, you follow Christ in most areas but excuse yourself from His teachings on sex. For many young Christians, single or married, sexuality is the primary challenge for discipleship. Will you yield this aspect of life to the lordship of Christ?
Lie #3 – Sexual purity is about whether or not you have sex.
I co-authored a book with Dannah Gresh, Pulling Back the Shades, in response to the vast number of Christian women who were reading Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ve heard from scores of strong Christian women who have indulged in “mommy porn,” viewing it as nothing more than a guilty little pleasure. I’ve read the trilogy and am quite astounded that a Christian can read this material without great conviction. The same can be said of young men who regularly view pornography. These activities stimulate your brain, storing lasting memories as if you are actually having sex.
Engaging with sexually stimulating movies, websites, romance novels and television shows is like willingly giving Satan a piece of your mind and your heart. It may seem “harmless” but will lead you down a path that may ultimately compromise the potential of a pure sexual relationship in the future.
Jesus made it clear that sexual integrity isn’t just about the body, but about what we feed our minds (Matthew 5:27-30). Exposing yourself to porn, erotica, sexual chat rooms and the like is as though you’re feeding your mind and heart spiritual poison. What you look at will be very difficult to get out of your mind.
Don’t be deceived believing that God only cares about your “technical virginity.” God cares about your heart and your willingness to be set apart for holiness.
Lie #4 – Your temptations define you.
What do you battle? Memories from the past? Urges to act out sexually? Homosexual thoughts? No matter what horrible thoughts come into your mind, they do not have to define you. You can’t control what enters your mind, but you can control what stays there.
What happens when you have sexual thoughts and desires? Where does your mind go? Typically, it will venture into one of two unhealthy directions: 1) Nurturing the desire or 2) Nurturing shame and condemnation. Neither of these is biblical nor life giving.
First Corinthians 10:13 is perhaps the most practical teaching on temptation: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
We can learn three things from this verse:
It is normal to be tempted. Even Jesus was tempted.
God will always provide a way of escape.
You must choose the way of escape.
Instead of going down the path of sin or self-condemnation, kick out the thought. You might even say to yourself out loud, “That’s not who I am. That’s not what I choose to think.”
The young woman who has lesbian thoughts or the single man who is repeatedly reminded of pornographic images from the past does not have to be defined by those. At times you may have to kick out those thoughts 10 times in the course of five minutes. That’s OK. Keep kicking!
When we allow temptation or past failings to define us, we deny the power of Christ to make us “new creatures.” Romans 6 reminds us that we were once slaves to sin. By the power of the Spirit, we now have the ability to choose righteousness.
Lie #5 – God’s call to holiness will be “fair.”
“God would never give someone sexual desires that He doesn’t intend to fulfill. That’s just unfair!” This kind of thinking pervades modern Christianity. A woman who recently contacted me had this to say:
I used to be an advocate for waiting to have sex until marriage, but as the years have gone by, I no longer feel this way. I think it’s all well and good for teens and those in their early 20s to strive for such a goal, but as someone who has recently entered her late 20s, it seems like an outdated and irrelevant idea to hold on to. I’m dating a Christian man right now, but who knows if we will have sex outside of marriage… I just know that waiting isn’t something I’m personally interested in anymore.
While Jesus came to give us a full life (John 10:10), His command to us is to “deny yourself,” “lose your life” and “take up your cross and follow me” — even unto death! The call to holiness isn’t supposed to be easy or even fair. In fact, Jesus said that while many would call Him “Lord,” very few would actually follow Him.
There is nothing in the Bible about the fairness of holiness. In fact, it is profoundly unfair that God would invite us into the divine privilege of sharing His holiness. If you answer the call to be “set apart,” this will require you to think differently than the world thinks. A follower of Christ intentionally sets his or her mind on what the Spirit desires, not what the flesh demands.
Many great men and women who have walked before us have chosen to give up families, homes, material goods, reputations and the pleasures of this world. We have the invitation to do the same. But let’s not be deceived: Being a follower of Christ has never been the easy road.
The best news is that you can win this battle. As I daily fight my own “thorn in the flesh,” one promise found in Jude 1:24 assures me. “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.”
Copyright 2014 Juli Slattery. All rights reserved.