Editor’s Note: This article is the first of a two-part series on confronting sexual sin.
This blog is written for youth leaders who care about the young adults in their church. It is written for parents who want to understand their teenager’s struggles and learn how to help them. Finally, it is also written for those who live in bondage to pornography and desire to be set free. Our goal through this two-part post is to think about this issue from a biblical perspective. We will do so by responding to three practical questions: What does the Bible say about pornography, why do people struggle with it, and how do people change?
When addressing pornography, it is important to remember that this is not only a man’s struggle. Both men and women are vulnerable. A survey conducted by Barna in 2014 reported that 79 percent of men and 76 percent of women ages 18–30 access porn online at least once a month. Although pornography is most prevalent among young adults, it is not limited to that demographic.
Another thing to be aware of is that the person using pornography may also wrestle with struggles such as anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, sleep deprivation, isolation, and so on. As you care for others, be attentive to additional areas where they may struggle.
1. Not Just Pornography
What does the Bible say about pornography? In 1 Corinthians 6:18, the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, saying, “Flee sexual immorality. Every other sin that a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (NASB). In this verse, he uses the Greek word “porneia,” which refers to sexual sin in a broad sense – porn, masturbation, lustful thoughts, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, etc. – not just pornography.
Second, in John 8:34, Jesus said that sin is enslaving in nature. Often, you will hear people describe their experience as addictive or say they do not have the ability to stop. While we believe there is hope for change, we do not want to ignore the fact that those who practice sin can also experience enslavement to it (Galatians 5:1). For this reason, Paul urges believers in Romans 6 not to allow sin to reign in their bodies to make them obey its passions.
Lastly, the Bible also teaches that sexual sin is against God’s will (1 Thessalonians 4:3). At its core, sexual sin twists what God calls good (the selfless, sexual expression in marriage between a husband and a wife) and turns it into something selfish. God desires for His children to grow in sanctification, which includes a change in allegiance from pleasing self (using something like pornography), to pleasing Him as they live a Spirit-filled life (Ephesians 5:17-18). This is a basic framework for understanding sexual sin from a biblical perspective.
2. What Sexual Sin Reveals about the Heart
Another important question to address is, why do people struggle with sexual sin? To answer this thoroughly, it is important for us to understand the heart behind the struggle. Let me explain what this means.
The Bible teaches that the heart is the center of both the physical and spiritual life. In a literal way, the heart is the organ responsible for sustaining physical life (see 1 Samuel 25:37). Yet, the biblical authors also talk about the heart metaphorically. The prophet Ezekiel wrote that for a person to be saved, God needs to give them a new heart (Ezekiel 36:25–27). Similarly, Paul taught the church in Rome that they needed to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ with their hearts (Romans 10:10). The Bible uses the word “heart” to describe what we, in modern day, refer to as the mind.
At this point you might wonder, “How is this related to sexual sin?” It is precisely because the heart is at the center of the human experience that it also gives us a vivid picture about why we do what we do. Let me illustrate this point by going to Luke 6:43–45. In this passage, Jesus warned His disciples about the dangers of false teaching by using the analogy of two trees that produce two different kinds of fruit. Look closely at what He says in verse 45: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil person out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart (NASB).” The word translated “treasure” in this passage literally means “storehouse.” His point is, whatever a person stores in their heart will show up in what they do. In other words, if a person fills their heart with evil thoughts and desires, these will eventually show up in their actions.
Think about the case of someone who rehearses sexual fantasies in their mind and is convinced that what they are doing is harmless because no one else is involved. How would you talk to this person? The Bible is clear that dwelling on lustful thoughts is sin (Matthew 5:28). Moreover, if Jesus’s teachings are true, whatever occupies their thoughts and desires will eventually show up in their actions. What started as “harmless thoughts” might lead them into other sexual sin.
The sad reality is that perpetuating this pattern of indulgence in sin will never stop just there. Sin is so pervasive that it will thwart the way they view relationships. Instead of using their resources to love God and others, they will live for themselves and see others as objects they can use for their own pleasure. Therefore, sexual sin is not harmless; it will always lead a person further down the path of destruction (James 1:13–15).
3. Is There Hope for Change?
We hope our discussion so far has not been discouraging. Understanding the extent and implications of our sin is not easy. If you or someone you know is currently battling sexual sin, we want you to walk away with the biblical promise that there is hope for change.
In 1 Corinthians 10:13, the apostle Paul reminds us that God, in His faithfulness, will not let you be tempted beyond what you are able to bear; with every temptation, He also provides the way out. Perhaps you are in a place where you feel like it is impossible to resist temptation. If that is so, it is important for you to know God did not call you to an impossible task. At the moment of salvation, He put His Holy Spirit within you so you would be enabled to obey His commandments. The question is not whether you can overcome this struggle or not, but whether you will allow the Holy Spirit to work in your life and teach you to obey God. If you are having trouble understanding this concept, ask your mentor to walk you through what the Bible says about the ministry of the Spirit in the believer’s life.
In the second part of this blog, we will further unpack how a person can overcome their struggle with sexual sin by the practical application of the Bible to their lives.
Ariel Hidalgo is an intern at the Word of Life Center for Biblical Counseling in Schroon Lake, New York. He was born in Argentina and grew up in Mexico. He went to the Bible Institute as a student in 2018 and graduated in 2020. He is certified through the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) and is currently enrolled in a Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling program with Faith Bible Seminary. He and his wife, Lauren, have served in the Biblical Counseling Internship (BCI) for the past four years.
Krystel Schwab is an intern for the Word of Life Center for Biblical Counseling in Schroon Lake, New York. She grew up in western New York on the shores of Lake Erie. She went to the Bible Institute as a student in 2018 and graduated in 2020. After this, she served in an addiction recovery ministry for one year before returning to Word of Life to join the Biblical Counseling Internship (BCI). She has been a part of this program for the past two years. She is currently earning a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Education with an emphasis on biblical counseling through Davis College.
3 thoughts on “Three Practical Questions To Ask in the Battle Against Sexual Sin”
Very well written & so true!
“Sin is so pervasive that it will thwart the way they view relationships. Instead of using their resources to love God and others, they will live for themselves and see others as objects they can use for their own pleasure. Therefore, sexual sin is not harmless; it will always lead a person further down the path of destruction (James 1:13–15). ”
This explains it so well.