I lost my virginity about two months ago. Depending on how well we know each other, you might be shocked by that. Maybe you’re thinking, “aren't you 34 – what took you so long?” Or, “oh no – what happened?!” Or even “why would you confess that in a blog?” Well, it’s not really that dramatic; I got married and “lost” my virginity to my wife. Is my story a Christian sexual success? In some ways yes, since I waited to have sex until I was married, but that doesn't mean I was free from sexual sin. I’m grateful for God’s grace and forgiveness!
Your story with sex is probably a mixed bag too. One thing is sure – sexual purity is an uphill fight. A recent article about young adults and sex headlined the “skyrocketing rates of abstinence” among Millennials. It said that fewer Millennials age 20-24 are having sex compared to previous generations. The study looked at the percentage of Millennials age 20-24 who have not had sex since turning 18. The number?
That’s right – only 15% of Millennials age 20-24 have not had sex since turning 18 according to that study. Skyrocketing abstinence? Houston, we still have a problem.
Sex isn’t the problem, though. Sex is awesome, and God invented it that way. God is very pro-sex! But sex outside of marriage is the problem, and any kind of sexual activity or desire that’s indulged outside of a marriage relationship. Porn, masturbation, sexting, fantasies, hookups, or whatever – even the clickbait and “sex sells” ads that are everywhere – it’s all part of how sex has gotten twisted by sin. It’s hard to escape it.
So what are you supposed to do? How can you as a Christian young adult fight for sexual purity when sex is everywhere? Like we talked about last Tuesday at the Porch, purity is possible because the Holy Spirit is working in us. But what are some of the tools that He gives us to fight with? Here are five things that can help you fight for sexual purity.
“If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). “…Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed…” (James 5:16)
If you sin sexually, the first thing that you need to do is confess it – this means telling God and other Christians in your life exactly what you did, and that it was wrong. Don’t hold onto it for weeks or months, and don’t just confess part of it – confess quickly and fully! God already knows what you did and isn’t mad at you, but like a loving dad He wants you to talk to Him about it. And other Christians need to know so that they can pray for you to be healed, and help you in the fight for purity. Confession is a gift! And keep in mind that even if you keep sin a secret, you’re not really getting away with it, and it won’t go well for you. Ouch.
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)
Are you sorry that you sinned sexually, or are you sorry that you got caught? A good way to tell is by what you do afterwards. Do you feel bad for a little while, and then do nothing differently and get stuck right back in the same sin? That’s probably worldly sorrow, and it’s a destructive cycle. But if you are genuinely grieved over your sin, and take steps to turn away from it (repentance), that sounds like godly sorrow.
You know that “what was I thinking?!” moment that comes after you sin sexually, where you can’t believe what you just did? Don’t waste your regret – channel it to take steps that will help you fight sin in the future. Temptation is coming again, and you’ll need to be ready. (Listen to this message for more about how to respond to sexual sin.)
“…if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away…” (Matthew 5:30). “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty. (Proverbs 22:3)
Are you willing to do whatever it takes to fight sexual sin? Can you see in advance what situations might lead you to sin, and are you willing to avoid them? If not, you probably aren’t experiencing godly sorrow yet, and you should pray that you do. Instead of asking “how far is too far?” you should be asking how far you can go to pursue purity. Are you willing to change your habits? Relationship? Friends? Entertainment? Job? Living situation? Computer? Phone? Anything that might be leading you to lust or sin sexually? Maybe it’s getting rid of your smartphone, changing where you spend your time, or starting a Christ-centered recovery program. The point is, do whatever it takes to address the things that are leading you to sin sexually.
Here’s an example: when my wife and I started dating, we decided to not kiss until we got engaged (if we got to that point). We were really attracted to each other, but we didn’t want to be distracted by the physical, and we wanted to help each other fight sexual sin. It wasn’t easy, and some people thought we were crazy, but it was one of the best decisions that we made! Now that we’re married we get to be as physical as we want, and we don’t regret for a second that we barely kissed until we were husband and wife. Waiting was worth it.
“Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)
One thing is for sure – if you try to fight sexual sin on your own, you have no chance of success. At some point, no matter how strong you are, your willpower will wear down, temptation will feel overwhelming, and sin will seem so attractive that you give in. If you think you’re strong and can handle it on your own, watch out! Read what Paul told Timothy in the verse above again: you shouldn’t run away from sin and toward righteousness by yourself! Other Christians in your life can encourage you in the fight, remind you of what’s true, and help pick you back up if you blow it. These people need to know exactly where you struggle, and they should know the steps that you are taking to fight sexual sin, so that they can help you stick to them.
And don’t make the mistake of thinking that true accountability is just a group of people that you confess your sins to after you’ve already committed them! You won’t experience freedom from sexual sin if you only use accountability to describe your sin after it happens, instead of reaching out for help in the middle of being tempted.
Does this sound anything like the accountability you’re used to? “Hey guys/girls, I messed up sexually this week. I [looked at porn / masturbated / went too far with my boyfriend/girlfriend, etc.]. I confessed to God and we’re good, but I just wanted you to know.” Response: “Thank you for sharing that. I/we messed up in [whatever sexual sin] too. Let’s pray for each other.” That’s not real accountability; that’s just commiserating with each other.
Confessing and praying for each other is great, but at that point it’s too late – you already fought alone and you lost. You need help while you’re actually in the battle! That means you need to commit to reaching out sooner, asking for prayer and confessing what you’re tempted to do before you do it. This is more like what I’m talking about: “Hey guys, I’m feeling tempted to [insert sexual sin] – can we pray together and can you share some Scripture with me?” Even a quick call or text is better than going it alone. Even better, meet in person. You probably need accountability earlier than you think, and more often than you think.
“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles… fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2). “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
If you follow the first four steps but miss this one, all of those steps are empty and will fail you at some point. Real, lasting change only comes if you are relying on Jesus’ power to make it happen. He said it Himself – apart from Him, you can do nothing.
Your focus can’t just be on fighting sexual sin; you need to fight even harder for your relationship with Jesus. Read His Word. Memorize it. Do what He says in it. Pray to Him continually. Ask Him for help. Rest in His love. Trust in His grace. Know that He is working in you, even when you may not feel it in the moment. Put your focus completely on the One who has the power to heal you, and the healing will come.
If you’d like help in your fight for sexual purity, we’d love to meet you at Re:generation Recovery. Anyone can come at any time.
What steps can you take to fight for sexual purity?