Why can it be so difficult to overcome our temptations, stop our intake of perversity through forms of entertainment like music videos or pornography, and fully repent of acts like masturbation?
I believe it is because too often we treat our sins of choice like they are a comfort and friend, instead of seeing them as a destructive enemy who is literally seeking to take our lives, the very health of our relationships, and the precious hours in our day–an enemy working to diminish our view of sin, regarding it more as a common slip-up than for what it really is.
If we keep our sin within arm’s reach, secretive, and easily accessible (whether that be when we are alone in our office at work or in the middle of the night when no one else is awake), how do we suppose we can overcome our temptations the next time they beckon us to return to them once again?
If one desired to lose weight, keeping unhealthy food at home where it can easily be sought out would obviously be a bad decision. Why? Because when we make it easy to compromise our standards for weight loss (or purity), it becomes difficult to take our goal of genuine repentance seriously.
Each decision we make leads us further into our future—for better or for ill.
Our sinful choices lead us further away from God, as they are not in keeping with the purity and set-apart life God calls us to as His children. Every sinful decision we make, impure thought we allow our minds to run with, and unchecked desire that we keep near enough to return to the times we are aroused or need relief and comfort, makes the path to bondage more easily accessible and we too often tread there due to our lack of diligence in fighting our strongholds “to the death.”
Freedom from our addictions does not come to us sporadically, depending on whether we are having a good day or not. It is built and maintained one choice at a time. Lasting repentance is ours through the daily decisions we make, the places we choose to avoid going (and start going), and the conversations we guard our hearts from taking part in through simply walking away or changing the topic.
Choosing Purity Above Momentary Release
As we all look back over the times we have fallen over the past week or month regarding sexual sin in some form, we will realize there was a pattern we gave into through each individual choice we made which then led to the downward spiral of shame, regret, and giving in once again.
The pattern includes:
- Thoughts, which lead to fantasy
- Entertainment choices, which lead to masturbation
- Addictions formed, which all began when we allowed ourselves the freedom to look at or dwell on what we find appealing without turning a deaf ear and blind eye to the lure of porn or sexual fantasy. (Do keep in mind that addictions are not necessarily formed through repetitive action. All it takes for some people is one time and they are in bondage.)
Fighting the war for purity begins with the renewing of our minds through regularly reading God’s word (Romans 12:2), guarding our hearts from dwelling on perversity or allowing fantasy to live in our minds (Proverbs 4:23). As 1 Thessalonians 4: 2-4 states it: “For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor…”
We guard our hearts, minds, and bodies not by getting as close to sin as we possibly can without it technically being classified as sin, but by running the other way and purposefully avoiding our typical stumbling blocks.
Examine your heart and take notice of the times and places that precede surrendering to your addictions. What steps led up to giving in? How can they be avoided next time?
Striving to overcome our bondage to sin will certainly be a fight, yet what greater and more noble war to win than leaving a legacy of integrity by making choices toward purity and honoring God throughout your lifetime?
May we say with John Owen:
“On Christ’s glory I would fix all my thoughts and desires, and the more I see of the glory of Christ, the more the painted beauties of this world will wither in my eyes and I will be more and more crucified to this world. It will become to me like something dead and putrid, impossible for me to enjoy.”
Photo credit: 15132846@N00
Great article, Emma! The Biblical principles of self-control can be so hard to engage so that they get traction in our lives, but as we grow in solidifying them in our minds and hearts, we start to get free, and our desires get re-shaped to become more godly and Christ-like. I found that developing the new habits of purity took that ’90 days’ to really take root, and that cutting off every possible avenue to sin was what had to happen, but purity breeds greater purity just as success breeds success, thanks be to God!