We group a few of us to take a 30-day purity challenge. For 30 days, pay attention to how we view the opposite sex. One guy, though, resisted. “Honestly, I don’t think it’s much of a struggle for me,” he said.
The following week he returned. “I’m in,” he reported. “I don’t look at anything online that I shouldn’t. But I did catch myself checking girls out quite a bit as I walked down the street.”
“But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints,” writes Paul in Ephesians 5:3. How much is sexual immorality acceptable? None. It’s a daunting standard but one worth taking seriously.
A Primer on Sex
I’d better back up.
Sex is a gift from God. God is for sex. He invented it. Sex is not dirty at all.
The problem isn’t with sex. The problem is that sin has distorted God’s good gifts. The problem is our desire to grasp God’s good gifts on our own terms and misuse them.
Not only does Satan weaponize God’s gift of sex against us, but then he hits us with condemnation and shame when we fail. God convicts so that we turn away from our sin to Him; Satan condemns so that we run away from God when we sin. No wonder we all struggle!
Anytime we talk about sex, we need to begin by recognizing that it’s a gift for us to enjoy. Still, it’s such a powerful gift that we must enjoy it within the limits God designed — not because he wants to rob us of joy, but because he wants to protect us against the misuse of his good gift, which leads to harm for all of us.
If you struggle with sexual temptation — and who doesn’t? — please know that it’s not because sex is bad. It’s because Satan has weaponized God’s good gift against us. The answer isn’t to give in to shame but to ask for God’s help and, with the support of others, move toward enjoying sex as God designed it.
I have regularly prayed for sexual purity for the past few years—nothing surprising there. What’s new is that I’ve added some detail to that prayer. I pray for not even a hint of sexual impurity. No wayward glances. No subtle compromises. I’m praying that God will allow me to follow him fully in this area.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t ever expect that I’ll never be tempted. Nor do I expect that I will ever meet the lofty standard I pray about, at least on this side of the grave. But I’m still praying that God will help me fully honour him in this area.
I started praying this way because I realized that it’s easy to take some forms of sexual sin seriously and ignore others. For instance, we may think we’re doing well if we aren’t looking at online porn, even if we are tolerating other lustful thoughts. I want to take Jesus’ standards seriously (Matthew 5:27-30). I want God to transform my heart so that I desire what he desires and desire sin less.
So I’m going to keep praying. I’m going to stay vigilant, knowing that nobody is above failing in this area. When I struggle, I will ask for help from others and remind myself of God’s grace.
It’s a prayer worth praying: that God would empower us to enjoy his good gift of sex without even a trace of sexual immorality.