The thief is always out to “steal, kill, and destroy,” (John 10:10), and sin is destructive. But sexual sin seems especially troublesome. The shame, the impact on relationships, and the long-term consequences of intimacy gone wrong seem like a prison one can’t get out of. You feel disqualified. Why does sexual sin seem so hard to address?
Martha loves Jesus and even feels the Holy Spirit working through her when others ask her to pray for them. But her frequent struggle with porn and masturbation makes God feel distant. She often declines the eucharist (Lord’s Supper) because of her guilt. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29 feels like a ball-and-chain to her.)
John knew God was calling Him to preach the gospel and his wife was supportive. But his struggle with secret sexual sin made him feel disqualified and it was affecting his marriage. As a result he held back from engaging in ministry and wondered if he was destined for hell.
God takes these things seriously; you know that. But so many find their efforts to stop sinning sexually to be ineffective, and they feel a barrier between them and God preventing their heart from embracing God’s forgiveness even when they ask Him.
Why is sexual sin so difficult to deal with? And what’s the solution?
Why Sexual Sin is so Damaging
I once heard the late Jack Hayford describe from his pastoral experience how people whose sin was sexual found it harder than others to allow Jesus into the deepest places of their soul and experience His cleansing and forgiveness. He believed this was because sexual issues touch a particularly deep place at the core of who God made us to be.
Paul says the same: “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:18-19). Sexuality impacts humans at the intersection of body and soul more deeply than almost any other aspect of our being.
As important as behaviors are, Jesus was concerned first about matters of the heart. Sexual sin is not so hard to address because God’s mad at you. It’s hard because of what it does to you in your deepest being.
What’s more, the enemy knows this. Christopher West writes, “If we want to know what’s most sacred in this world, all we need do is look for what is most violently profaned. The enemy is no dummy. He knows that the body and sex are meant to proclaim the divine mystery. And from his perspective, this proclamation must be stifled. Men and women must be kept from recognizing the mystery of God in their bodies.” (Emphasis in original.)
Satan powerfully uses human’s need for intimacy to entice us to bad behavior. And when we sin, especially sexually, he inundates us with mountains of shame that keep us from the very One who is the only source of healing and cleansing.
Run TO Jesus, Not Away From Him
Ever since the Garden of Eden, human’s natural response to sin has been to hide – from God. That’s the shame speaking. And all the self-contempt and all the trying harder is not working.
When Jesus was here on earth He said, “whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37). Jesus never turned away one person who approached Him. Everyone, including sexual sinners, felt invited, almost irresistibly drawn, to Him. His very goodness was attractive. He didn’t treat sexual sin any differently from any other kind of brokenness.
So when you feel like hiding or running away, know that that’s the ploy of the enemy. That’s the very time you need to run to Jesus, not away from Him. It may help to imagine Him being physically present. Come close. See the look in His eyes. Let Him speak to you.
And the beautiful thing is that coming to Him will change you. Jesus never leaves anyone the same. The transformation you need and desire happens when you are in His presence. In fact that’s the only way transformation happens. You can’t make it happen on your own; it happens when you are with Him.
Coming to Find You
Take a moment to go on a mental journey with me. Imagine you’re in a familiar room in your house, perhaps your study or your bedroom. Imagine Jesus showing up, and that you can see and hear Him. What’s the experience like in your soul?
Your initial instinct might be to hide. You feel so, well, naked with Him in the room. Whatever you’re wearing feels totally inadequate to shield you from His eyes.
Imagine hearing Him speaking: Where are you? (Genesis 3:9)
Doesn’t He know where you are? He came looking for you, didn’t He? With a little warning and more time you might have figured out some way to make yourself more presentable. If He had announced His coming in advance you would have tried to be better prepared.
But He’s asked a question, and it won’t do to ignore Him. So you stammer, “I’m sorry I’m so unprepared. I don’t like being seen this way. I feel like I’m – naked. I’d have preferred some advance warning of Your visit.”
He speaks again. You might have expected Him to sound angry, but what you hear sounds more like penetrating honesty saturated with compassion. Who told you that you were naked? (Genesis 3:11)
What’s with all the questions? It feels so – shameful. Naked? Can’t He see that you’ve worked very hard to cover up? Different attitudes, different behaviors, different labels, different masks. Nothing has worked very well, but it’s not like you’ve ignored the problem. You’re trying with all your might to deal with it.
Who told me? Who told me I was messed up and not OK? Okay, you’ll try to answer. So you start explaining all the reasons, all the people who did things to you and all the circumstances that got you into this mess. You want to know who? I’ll tell you who! It’s him, and her, and them, and that institution, and those messages. All kinds of people told you. And all the lies, wounds, and empty places just keep spilling out.
And once you’ve finished He speaks once more. What have you done? (Genesis 3:13)
This is too much. Didn’t He just hear you explain it all? Doesn’t He care about all the reasons? OK, so you’ve done stuff, but you had your reasons.
As you sit there unable to escape His gaze you again see in His eyes the unflinching honesty and the inescapable compassion. Feeling more naked than ever, you collapse into a puddle. He’s always known the answers to the questions He’s asked you. He didn’t ask because He needed to know, but because you needed to know.
And it suddenly dons on you; He came to find you even knowing all that.
Jesus doesn’t seem stressed at all by your stuff. You realize He’s just here. And He’s not going anywhere.
Your Turn: What’s keeping you from running to Jesus instead of away from Him? What is the feeling in your soul when you imagine Jesus being with you in the room? Leave a comment below.
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- Struggling with sexual sin brings on shame, making you run away from Jesus rather than TO Him. But He welcomes you, and His presence is the only way you can find the forgiveness, cleansing, and transformation you desire. Tweet that.
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