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The Apostle Paul: 5 Secrets to Fighting Sexual Sin

Last Updated: October 17, 2023

Hugh Hefner didn’t invent sexual sin. It is a problem that has been around since our ancestors walked east of Eden, and it will be around until the new Jerusalem descends upon us. The good news is that the Bible promises that we can experience foretastes of that coming freedom in the here and now. But how?

The Apostle Paul commands the Christians in Colossae, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). But how do we do this? If we rip this verse away from the letter, we’re likely to apply it the wrong way, so we need to look closely to understand what Paul is talking about.

1. Fighting Sexual Sin Is Not About “Do More, Try Harder”

A dangerous philosophy was circulating in the church at Colossae. It was championing asceticism: If you want to remain pure, then separate yourself from the pleasures of the body that are so often a source of temptation. This philosophy said if you really want the fullness of divine life within you, then insulate your life.

But Paul delivers a crushing blow to this philosophy:

“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:20-23).

No value. That is Paul’s verdict on asceticism. It simply doesn’t work. Yes, there is a grain of truth in the philosophy—all popular philosophies contain at least some wisdom in them. If you are tempted to sin sexually, then it makes sense to get away from sexual temptations. This will keep sin at bay—but ultimately the flesh remains unsatiated.

This false philosophy is still circulating in the church today. When the best advice we can give people is better filters, cold showers, more hours in prayer, and trying harder, we have given into this philosophy that Paul says is of no value.

This false philosophy either totally underestimates the power of sin or sets the benchmark of holiness too low. It either doesn’t get just how ingrained sexual sin is in us or thinks that merely getting rid of outward, blatant sexual sin is the goal. Neither is accurate.

Related: How to Be Free From Sin–The Higher Law Than “Try Harder”

2. Fighting Sexual Sin Starts With a New Identity

Paul offers his readers another approach to fighting sin, and it starts with these core identity statements:

  • “With Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world” (2:20).
  • “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (3:3).
  • “You have been raised with Christ” (3:1).
  • “You were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (2:12).
  • “You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self” (3:9-10).
  • “The riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27).

This is where a lot of modern readers check out. “Don’t give me these abstract theological ideas. I need something practical,” they think. But for Paul, there was nothing more practical, nothing more life-changing, than these ideas.

We are united to the risen Christ by faith. His resurrection life flows in our veins now. The Spirit of the living Christ lives inside us, so we no longer belong to this world and the rules it plays by—we belong to Christ and the age to come. In order to have the power to fight lust, we first have to understand this: we no longer belong to sin. We belong to God who has accepted us and forgiven us, not because we purified ourselves first, but because we are united by faith to the Pure One, Jesus Christ.

[Tweet “In order to fight lust, we must understand that we no longer belong to lust.”]

3. Fighting Sexual Sin Continues by Kindling New Desires

Knowing we are united to the living Christ, Paul writes, “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (3:1-2). The terms Paul uses here mean to center one’s interests, focus, and passions on something—to savor something. Now that God has united us to the risen Christ, we savor that reality, and this kindles new desires in us that displace a desire for sin.

What are these “things” above that we should savor?

  • First, we are to savor Christ himself. This is one of the reasons why Paul spills a lot of ink in this letter describing who Christ is. He is the beloved Son of God (1:13), the image of the invisible God (1:15), creator and sustainer of all things (1:16-17), the one whose blood reconciles us to the Father (1:20), the firstborn from the dead (1:18), and the one seated at God’s right hand (3:1). In him all the riches of wisdom and knowledge are hidden (2:3). The fullness of deity dwells in Him (1:19; 2:9).
  • Second, we are to savor our new position before God. Christ is seated at God’s right hand and we are seated with Him (Ephesians 2:6). To be seated at a ruler’s right hand meant to be in the position of greatest authority, honor, and delight. Because Christ is in us, we share in the favor He has with the Father.
  • Third, we are to savor the hope that someday we will see and experience these realities. Someday, Christ Himself will appear and we will appear with Him in glory (1:4). It is our destiny to be like the holy, pure Son of God. Some day our eyes will see the one who died for us and rose again, the one who is God in the flesh, and God will honor us as his royal children before every creature, every human soul, and every angelic being in the universe.

How does this practically help us to fight sexual sin? The reason why sexual sin can have such a grip on us is because of its power to define us and what is most valuable, how sexual pleasure makes us feel about ourselves. Sexual fantasy, pornography, or pursuing illicit sex makes us feel desired; it makes us feel valued and validated; it gives us a refuge; it gives us connection; it can even make us feel powerful. This is why setting our affections on things above is so important: It gives us a new center to our lives and gives us a completely new sense of value—not based on our worthiness but based on the love God has for Christ that overflows to us.

Related: What Is the Difference Between “Liking” and “Wanting” Porn?

4. Fighting Sexual Sin Is About Fighting for Our New Desires

Finally, we come to Colossians 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

Paul here is not endorsing asceticism—something he has already refuted. Asceticism is about fighting to get rid of something we think is unholy, but mortifying sin is about fighting for the new affections that God is giving to us.

We can construct helpful boundaries in our lives that keep sexual sin out of reach, but we should do so by standing on our identity as God’s beloved children and standing satisfied in Christ and God’s love. When sexual temptation comes knocking, we can say to it, “No, sin. That’s not who I am anymore. You do not define what life is to me anymore. You do not define me anymore. Christ is in me. I am a child of the king, and one day the whole world will know it.”

5. Fighting Sexual Sin Is Sustained by Relationships That Remind Us of Our New Identity

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

This is the essence of real accountability in the body of Christ. Yes, accountability involves confessing our temptations, sins, and the state of our hearts, but it also involves godly encouragement. Accountability is not just about someone calling you out on your sin, but someone calling you up to the person you already are in Christ. Accountability is about surrounding yourself with the kind of Christian friendships that teach and admonish you, that inspire thankfulness, and that help us unpack all the wisdom contained in the great mystery that Paul called “Christ in us, the hope of glory” (1:27).

Accountability is like stoking the embers of a fire. It does not add energy to the embers. It only exposes those embers to the air so new reactions can happen. When we engage in the disciplines of confession, encouragement, and mutual prayer, we expose our souls again to the life-changing gospel, and God’s power is released again and again.

  1. van guard

    Luke, I cannot tell you enough how your wonderful articles have helped me always when I’ve bumped into them. They are so great, clearing and sobering up and always fostering a change within me! You are not only very well articulate when expressing what has to be conveyed; you have really dived into the depth of human strugles coming up with great Godly wisdom! Thank you so much!

  2. Apostle DG Wall PHD Ministries

    Praise the Lord to each of you who bravely are addressing this stronghold area which many in the Body of Christ are crying out for deliverance and total victory!

    With 50% marriages in the church & in the world ending in divorce, the explosion of pornography via the Internet provides ready access 24/7.

    All other sins are more open but sexual sins are against our own soul: self-sabotage. As God’s design & purpose of human sexuality is to create souls to replace fallen angels!

    Heaven has vacancy when 1/3 of angels cast down with Satan, entered earth at the Bermuda Triangle, hit molten core of earth and came out of water in the Great Lakes!

    Jesus said, I beheld Satan fall like lightning! That’s when devil disrupted the magnetic field: planes & ships compasses and radar have malfunctioned in those areas!

    That’s how he became Prince of the air and his warfare is against all mankind because God’s human creation is to fill up Heaven w/the Dead in Christ & those who remain!
    1Thessalonians

    7 Billion+ people born w/an unclean spirit living on earth today, all born w/the Adamic nature, who must be born again to inherit eternal life through Jesus Christ Our Lord!
    Luke 11:24-26; John 3:1-16

    “There is no temptation such as is common to man (or woman), God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted more than you are able; but will w/the temptation, also make a way of escape that you may bear it”
    1Co. 10:13

    The Good News is YOU & I can walk in total Victory TODAY & Forevermore! The next 3-4 paragraphs will provide You & everyone that is Born Again & Baptized & Filled with the
    Holy Ghost!

    1st The 3 RS!
    Repentance, Remission & Regeneration!
    Baptism of Father is unto Repentance!
    Baptism of Son is Remission of Sin!
    Baptism of Holy Ghost is Regeneration!
    All 3 necessary to Walk in Victory!

    2nd: Watch & Pray!
    “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; for spirit (of man/woman) is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus is talking to His sleeping apostles! Mt 26:41

    Our triggers produced by stress, anxiety, frustration, loneliness et cetera work like as a geiger counter to alert you and me that it is urgent that get in prayer mode quickly.

    3rd Dwelling in Secret Place
    Psalms 91 is the Secret Place: The Throne Room! Under the Shadow of the Almighty! “These 3 bear record in Heaven: thr Father, the Word & the Holy Ghost.” 1Jn 5:17.

    4th Infilling of the Holy Ghost
    The Speaking in Tongues keeps the devil off your Prayer line w/ God so that Satan cannot set up disruption in the air like he did to Daniel in his day for 21 days!

    Also, there is a very simple prayer to receive infilling of the Holy Ghost in you right now!
    Thank you Lord for saving me and making me an heir of God and joint heir with You!

    5th The Prayer the Lord Put in My Mouth
    Lord Jesus, your Word says the gift of the Holy Ghost is for every believer in you to give us Power over all ability of the devil like you did for believers in Book of Acts.

    If I could Baptize myself w/the Holy Ghost
    I would, but I read in your Word that John, who was Baptizing in the Jordan, said that there was another coming after him,

    “Who was preferred before him, whose shoelachets he was unworthy to loose & He it is that SHALL BAPTIZE w/the Holy Ghost and that with fire.”

    SO SINCE YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN BAPTIZE ME WITH THE HOLY GHOST, I NEED FOR YOU TO DO FOR ME, THAT WHICH I CANNOT DO FOR MYSELF!

    Conclusion
    That’s when the Father sent down the
    Holy Ghost to fill me with the evidence of
    Speaking in Tongues as the Spirit of God giveth me utterance!

    E-KA-TA-LA-BA-HO-SA
    RO-BO-KO-SHA-TA-LA-BA-HO-SEE

    Thank you all for sharing your stuggles.
    The enemy uses this area to shameface believers to keep a hole in our vessels tthat allows the new wine to spill out!

    A New Creation in Christ Jesus w/a broken vessel that cannot hold the New Wine!
    “Without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.”
    Time to Walk whole in Victory! Amen!

  3. S

    Is there anyone out there who has mastered sexual immorality, specifically pornography? I would like to know what you did. Many people have theories, and good ones too. But none of those people say they themselves have mastered it. Please , is there anyone out there?

  4. Chris Brown

    Really “do pray to much? That’s exactly the opposite of what Christ did when he was tempted he spent hours praying in the garden. Really you shouldn’t feel “shamed. ?“ All sin is shameful because if you were a Christian you’re going to have the Holy Spirit dealing with you and the appropriate response to sin Is brokenness And shame. Read your Bible please 2 Timothy 2:22
    “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” notice call upon the lord. Romans 8:12-13
    “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors – not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
    1 Corinthians 6:18-19
    “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”
    2 Corinthians 7:1
    “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
    2 Corinthians 10:4-5
    “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
    Colossians 3:2
    “Set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth.”
    Colossians 3:5
    “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
    1 Thessalonians 4:3
    “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality.”

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