Anything powerful can be used for good or harm. Dynamite can blow up a building and take lives; it can also clear a path through a mountain. Sex is powerful like this.
In the recent post Why Sex is Wonderful, we looked at five amazing purposes of sex in marriage:
- Sex makes babies.
- Sex brings physical pleasure and health.
- Sex builds emotional intimacy.
- Sex helps maintain our purity.
- Sex glorifies God.
The Danger of Sex
When sex is enjoyed according to God’s good design—by a husband and wife in marriage—all of the above is true. But as we all know, this is often not the case. Sex outside of marriage has become so commonplace that to suggest that sexual expression should be limited in any way is seen as antiquated and oppressive. And yet, every one of the five reasons that sex is wonderful in marriage also make it dangerous outside of marriage.
- Unplanned Pregnancies: Even with condoms or birth control pills, there is always the chance that sex can result in a pregnancy. Tragically for some women facing an unplanned pregnancy, abortion can seem like the only way to deal with the overwhelming reality of a child. And while a new life is always a gift, a child born outside the stability of marriage can lead to many challenges and hardships.
- Physical Consequences: While sex may bring physical pleasure in the moment, promiscuity brings exposure to all sorts of health risks and sexually transmitted diseases.
- Emotional Pain: Sex is designed to build emotional intimacy, but outside of the foundation of a lifelong covenant marriage, a false sense of intimacy is created. With no security in the relationship, sex outside of marriage leads to the stress of performance, comparison, self-doubt, and unrealistic expectations. This results in all sorts of emotional damage – guilt, shame, anxiety, fear, and depression.
- Increased Temptation: While a healthy sex life in marriage helps maintain sexual purity, allowing sexual urges to go unhindered doesn’t “get it out of your system” – it only allows more promiscuity and perversion to flourish.
- Dishonoring God: Like everything else in this world, since God designed sex, we only glorify him and find fulfillment when we use it according to his design. Any sexual expression outside of marriage – lust, pornography, masturbation, promiscuity, homosexuality, adultery – is sinful behavior. It dishonors God and distances us further from him.
The Need for Restraint
As with many things in God’s creation – food, alcohol, sex, money, work – limits and self-restraint are the path to freedom and fulfillment. Like food, our sex drive is an appetite. If you constantly stuff yourself with soda, burgers, and candy, you are going to train your body to crave junk food. You’ll become increasingly unsatisfied and unhealthy – and your appetite for nutritious food will decrease. Similarly if you feed your sinful sexual appetite, it only fosters more immorality. Of course we’re not just talking about the physical act of sexual intercourse. As Jesus said “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28).
And so, if you feed your sexual appetite with sensual images, lustful thoughts, and erotic fantasies, you will train your heart to crave more sexual immorality and become increasingly unsatisfied and unhealthy. If you are married, that means your sexual desire for your spouse will decrease and the temptations of lust, masturbation, pornography, flirting, and adultery will increase. If you are single, the more you give into sexual lust the more you’ll crave an outlet through the temptations of pornography, masturbation, or promiscuity. These are not just non-Christian realities; Christians in the church struggle with all these temptations as well.
Praise God we are not alone! We need the Holy Spirit to empower us with self-control and enable us to live in sexual purity!
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”
(1 Thes. 4:3-7)
Though sexual temptation may be more common for men, it is not only a problem for men. While the pornography industry has typically been geared toward men, there is a growing segment targeting woman, and more woman are becoming ensnared. Yet, men and women are created differently, and so their temptations may be different. In the book Every Woman’s Battle (a complement to Every Man’s Battle), Shannon Ethridge explains some of the differences with sexual temptation in men and women.
“When I hear people say that women don’t struggle with sexual issues like men do, I cannot help but wonder what planet they are from or what rock they have been hiding under. Perhaps what they really mean is the physical act of sex isn’t an overwhelming temptation for woman like it is for men. Men and women struggle in different ways when it comes to sexual integrity. While a man’s battle begins with what he takes in through his eyes, a woman’s begins with her heart and her thoughts. A man must guard his eyes to maintain sexual integrity, but because God made women to be emotionally and mentally stimulated, we must closely guard our hearts and minds as well as our bodies if we want to experience God’s plan for sexual and emotional fulfillment. A woman’s battle is for sexual and emotional integrity. While a man needs mental, emotional, and spiritual connection, his physical needs tend to be in the driver’s seat and his other needs ride along in the back. The reverse is true for women. If there is one particular need that drives us, it is certainly our emotional needs. That’s why it’s said that men give love to get sex and women give sex to get love.”
Both men and women need to be on guard. People sometimes treat sexual sin like it is worse than other sins; and while all sin is destructive, sexual sin is uniquely dangerous. Sex is dangerous in a unique way because it was designed by God to be the most physically and spiritually intimate experience under creation. And so God’s Word gives this warning:
“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, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
(1 Cor. 6:18-20)
Christian, you are not your own. It is detrimental to use your mind or body for sexual immorality because your body is the temple of God’s Spirit. Let’s seek God’s grace and strength to honor him with how we use our bodies.
Whether married or single, we are all called to flee sexual immorality and exercise restraint by the Holy Spirit. If you are a married adult, this means being disciplined with your thoughts and actions with the opposite sex. It means being thankful for the spouse God has given you and prioritizing the gift of sex. It means repenting and turning from any habits of flirtation, lust, pornography, or masturbation. And be aware: if your spouse has a history of struggle with sexual sin, and the Lord gets it under control – be prepared for healthy sexual urges to return in the marriage! We’ll talk in a future blog about how husbands and wives can Make Sex a Priority.
If you are a single teen or adult, sexual purity means not giving into the lie that you need sex to be happy or fulfilled. It requires swimming against the cultural current and seeking God for self control. Sexual purity actively works to guard your eyes and your heart. If you desire a spouse, it means being patient and trusting God. It means being accountable and setting good boundaries with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Whether married or single, the charge of Hebrews 13:4 is for you: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”
The Gift of Forgiveness & Healing
For many, a discussion on the dangers of sex stirs feelings of regret, guilt, or shame. If you are guilty of willful sexual sin – whether past or present, whether with other people or on a computer screen – the guilt can be crushing. And if you have been the victim of sexual abuse, the anger, fear, and shame is even worse.
While the wonderful gift of sex was created to be a powerful force for good, when misused and abused it becomes a dangerous force for harm. But God’s love and grace are even more powerful! What Jesus accomplished through his death and resurrection can set you free from both the sin you’ve done and the sin done to you. In Christ, there is forgiveness for your wrongs and healing from your hurts.
Take your sexual sin and your sexual hurt to Jesus and find forgiveness and healing. You can be clean. You can be free. Cry out to God these words of hope:
“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”