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When someone asked a humble, godly, old Christian what it is like to be free from sexual temptation, the response was, “I don’t know. I will let you know when that time comes.”
You cannot dismiss the old, godly man’s commentary on sexual temptation as an anomaly. I knew the person who made this comment. He had an impeccable reputation and was a godly stalwart in the Christian community for decades. He is with Jesus now, but at the end of his life, he still did battle with sexual temptation.
How do you think about those who are not free from sexual temptation? I think when some people think about sexually tempted people, they immediately relegate them to the perverted regions of human depravity. That kind of thinking is myopic, unkind, and unhelpful. To cast every sexually tempted person under the bus of perversion is immature, ignorant, and arrogant (self-righteous).
Sexual temptation is a universal temptation for men (and women) because it is supposed to be. The Lord built into the man a desire to like and enjoy the opposite sex. It would have been a major relational faux pas if the Lord created man without a desire for a woman. Placing naked Eve in front of naked Adam, and for Adam to not like what he was looking at would have been weird. I suppose Adam could have thanked the Lord for giving him a helper and went out to play with the animals.
And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed (Genesis 2:22-25).
But Adam did not go out and play with the animals. He wanted to play with his new playmate. You hear it in his voice: “At last” I have someone I can connect with, a person with whom I can relate. Eve was different from the rest of God’s creative work. And she was different from Adam, which made them perfect for each other. They fit like a hand in a glove. You sense this in the instinctive attraction he had for her. She was different, and he desired her.
I sometimes think when people talk about sexual temptation they don’t go back far enough. If they do go back, they only go back to Genesis 3 where man’s view and practice of sex was distorted and depraved by sin. If you’re going to talk about sex, the essential place to begin is how sex and sexual relationships were always supposed to be. Sex was good and Adam and Eve enjoyed their sexual relationship. They were not ashamed. Naked and sharing the most intimate love relationship two humans can enjoy with each other.
They did not experience an abated sex drive or sexual desires because of their fall. They continued to enjoy sex and felt drawn to each other. What they were and what they liked before the fall was still part of their desires after the fall.
The desire for sex is no different from any other good thing the Lord had made before hell broke loose on man’s soul. Genesis 3 did not eradicate the good things the Lord made, though the fall did change how man thought about and desired those things.
Imagine if the Lord made food and made man dependent on food, but put a distaste for food on man’s palate. That does not sound like a good God. He creates things perfectly, which means food is not just for utilitarian purposes. God made food tasty so that man could enjoy it while he was storing his survival energy in the belly. He did this by giving man taste buds.
It was a perfect plan. How kind of God to make things this way. Then sin entered the world. What has changed? Nothing, in the sense that man still desires, eats, enjoys, and benefits from food. The fall did not create a different kind of man who had no connection to his pre-fallen condition.
Sin did not remove man’s pre-fall enjoyment of and benefit from food, but it did distort how man thought about food. He could no longer have a perfect godly experience with food. No longer was he able to just desire, eat, enjoy, and benefit from food. His newly depraved mind took good food and twisted it into a means to feed his selfish desire to indulge himself. He no longer ate food for God’s glory alone (1 Corinthians 10:31). Adam and Eve’s God-centered worldview turned into a dark man-centered one.
If there is a way to distort the Lord’s kindnesses to us, we will find that way. We have the depraved ability to turn all God’s blessings into personal indulgence. Food is good and meant for all to enjoy, but we are tempted to make poor food choices as well as eat more than we should.
Our sex problems, like food or any kind gift from the Lord, are one of our most complicated distorted blessings from God. To castigate a person for desiring sex does not help him untangle sin’s distortions. To call a person evil because they make poor food choices, or eat too much is just as wrongheaded. You don’t help a person change through corrupting speech (Ephesians 4:29).
To condemn a person each time of temptation is like asking him not to be human. Rather than condemn him, it would be better to understand how his twisted heart became that way due to fallenness. Your temptation may be different, but the truth to remember is that you experience temptation, and you have not fully conquered all your temptations either.
I am not condoning sinful sexual sin. I’m making an appeal for a more intelligent discussion about God’s design and our desire for sex, a desire that the fall did not eradicate. There are two extremes with some people regarding improper biblical discourse:
Sinful sex of any kind cannot be condoned by anyone because God does not condone it. There is no stamp to approve some form of sinful sex, and the only acceptable kind of sex is the kind that happens between a man and a woman after they are married.
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous (Hebrews 13:4).
Any other kind of sex places the participants under the judgment of God. Unbiblical sex is the practice of darkened and futile minds.
They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity (Ephesians 4:18-19).
There is a difference between a person who is making excuses for their gluttony and a person who is honest about their temptation to overeat. The humble admission is what I appreciated about the comment from my old godly friend.
If a person comes to you and says they are tempted to graze, overeat, or find comfort in food, I recommend you do not condemn them, but thank them. If they have the humility and trust to let you know they are a Genesis 2 person who has been twisted by Genesis 3, encourage them to continue in dialogue as you keep watch on your heart since you’re a struggler too (Galatians 6:1-2; Matthew 18:33).
Don’t brand them like a pervert or a lesser person in the human race because they are honest about (1) how God made them and (2) how the devil has twisted them. Their struggle may be because impure thoughts control them. Maybe they are overly tempted. It could be because something happened to them in their childhood that twisted their understanding of sex and its purposes.
I do not know why they have a twisted perspective and practice of sex, but I do want to make sure they know these two things:
To not struggle (Romans 3:10-12) or not desire the opposite sex denies the truth of God’s Word. Unfortunately, the sexually tempted person has a heart like mine and yours. We all have our dark battles with sin’s temptations.
The sexually tempted mind does not understand a gospel orientation for sex. Rather than seeing sex as for the other person, they have turned sex onto themselves. The gospel orientation for sex has the receiver in view because the gospel is always object focused.
For God so loved the world, that he gave … (John 3:16).
The Lord gave all His gifts so others could benefit from them. Sadly, we live in a post-Genesis three world, which means our temptation is to take God’s blessings and turn them onto ourselves to feed and satisfy our selfish pleasures. Rather than seeing sex as a gift to give to his spouse, the sexually tempted person sees himself as the receiver of sexual pleasure. A gospel orientation makes others the receiver of the blessing; a selfish orientation makes yourself the receiver of the blessing.
Sexual temptation will be part of your child’s life. He may be cute, cuddly, and oblivious right now, but he will not always be that way. Be warned and be discerning about how God made him to enjoy sex and be proactive as you think about how his fallenness will try to distort sex.
Your worst move is to bury your head in the sand by thinking your child is different. No child is different when it comes to some version of distorted sex. There is no special group of un-tempted men no matter how godly they are or how godly you want to think they are (including your pastor).
He raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will” (Acts 13:22).
It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful (2 Samuel 11:2).
Your husband is not different. It is wise and humble for husbands and wives to talk about these things. The gospel should have freed you by this time (Hebrews 5:12-14). It should have you in such a place where there is nothing to hide and nothing to protect.
If you can’t talk about your sanctification journey, specifically about this crucial aspect of that journey, I would recommend you find help because your marriage is not as healthy as it should be.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:14-15).
Friend, you are tempted toward bad sex, but do not be discouraged: temptation and yielding to temptation are two remarkably different things, though there is only a thin line that separates them. To tempt is an essential play from the devil. He knows every human has some attraction for the thing he is swinging in front of their craving hearts (James 4:1-2).
If a man were not pre-wired to like the thing the devil was tempting him with, the devil would not try to tempt him with it. He only tempts you if there is a possibility for you to succumb to the temptation.
To the other tempted
Something tempts every individual. Though the consequences of some sins can be more grievous than others, do not think your sin puts smaller nails in the hands of Christ (James 2:10).
Only the person struggling with gospel amnesia would slam the door on a sexual struggler as though that person has a plague, which also includes the gay community. We all have the plague. Yours may put you in a more likable category within the Christian community, but not before God; we’re all filthy in His eyes (Isaiah 64:6) and stand in need of Christ’s righteousness.
And should not you have had mercy on your fellow-servant, as I had mercy on you (Matthew 18:33)?
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).