Understanding Sexual Sin: Choices

Day 1 of 3 • This day’s reading

Devotional

DEALING WITH ONGOING SEXUAL SIN

What if you’ve accepted Christ as your Savior and made a commitment to follow Him as Lord, and yet still find yourself struggling to resist sexual temptation and sin? 

Does that mean that you are no longer a true believer, that you’ve lost your salvation, and that you are now condemned to hell? No. This is a serious problem, of course, and it requires careful and immediate attention. But God’s love is greater than our sin, and there is always hope through the grace of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Remember, you don’t have to be perfect to be a follower of Jesus. The Christian life isn’t about instant sanctification and purification. It’s a long process of gradual change and growth. The moment we are born again we begin to grow like the seed in Jesus’ parable (Mark 4:26-29). But we don’t reach our full spiritual stature overnight. 

The shoot doesn’t put forth “the blade, the head, and the full grain in the head” all at once. All this takes time. All of us, both young and old in the faith, struggle with our weaknesses. We all have our spiritual blind spots.

There are many biblical examples of this. Consider David. At the height of his glory as King of Israel he committed adultery and murder – and the Lord still called him “a man after God’s own heart!” (2 Samuel 11). Then there’s Paul. In spite of a spectacular conversion, he wasn’t ready to meet the other apostles and begin his ministry until he had spent three years in the Arabian desert (Galatians 1:17-18). 

The list could be extended. One of the best examples comes not from the Bible but from the experience of the Reverend John Newton, the famous slave-trader-turned-preacher and author of the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace.”

Newton was dramatically converted in the middle of a storm at sea. In spite of this, he went on working in the slave trade for five years after coming to Christ. Incredible as it sounds, he doesn’t seem to have noticed the clash between his manner of livelihood and his profession of faith. When he finally quit, it wasn’t because of spiritual convictions. It was simply because he had a stroke and was no longer able to go to sea.

Only some thirty years later was the aging Newton able to write an essay entitled “Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade” (1788). In this essay he expressed deep remorse over his participation in “a commerce so iniquitous, so cruel, so oppressive, and so destructive.” His zeal for the Lord had been real and fervent since the day of his conversion. Yet somehow it took three decades for his eyes to be fully opened to the horror of his past sins.

Something similar may be happening in your life if you find yourself continuing to struggle with sexual sin. If this is your situation, you need to look to the Lord for strength and help and trust Him to conform you more and more to the image of Christ with every passing day. You should also make yourself accountable to a small group of fellow believers – preferably including your pastor, an older and wiser mentor in the faith, and a professional Christian counselor – who can walk with you through this struggle. 

None of this means that you are free to “sin all the more that grace may abound” (Romans 6:1) – far from it! But it does imply that the power to achieve real repentance and renewal lies not with you but with the Holy Spirit who dwells within you and who uses the broader Christian community to keep you on track. In the final analysis, it’s a profoundly spiritual battle you’re facing.