God doesn’t only tell us to fight against sexual temptation, He also helps us understand how.
In a previous post, we began looking at Ephesians 5:3-6 and saw the first two of ten helps that Paul gives us.
1. Pursue a self-sacrificial lifestyle.
2. Commit to a radical approach.
Today, let’s look at three and four.
3. Develop a deeper appreciation for your new identity in Christ. Paul tells us that sexual immorality must not even be named among us, as is proper among the saints. Actually there is no the there. It is just among saints. He’s reminding us of who we are. This is our identity. We are holy ones. This is not stay away from sexual immorality so that you can be a good person, no, this is, you are a holy one so stay away from sexual immorality.
Too many of us have a small view of what it means to be a Christian. If you are a Christian it means something supernatural has happened. God has set you apart from the world, He has accepted you in Jesus Christ, He has sanctified you by the Spirit and in fact as we know from earlier in Ephesians, He is busy making you into a temple to dwell in, and if that’s true, Paul’s coming to us here and asking why would you want to go back and live like a muddy place for pigs?
When we are struggling with sexual temptation it is easy to start wondering whether God is actually being good to us. We start looking to God as far off and as harsh and as not wanting our best. But, it’s just then we must remember that this command to stay away from sexual immorality is not given to us by someone who is cold and difficult, but instead by our Father who loves us and who has chosen us and who has sent His Son to die for us and who cares for us more deeply than anyone else does. God knows all and God is for you and He’s proven it by separating you from the world and making you one of His holy ones, and if that’s true when He comes and gives a command, you can trust that it’s not just Him up in heaven messing with you, it’s for your best.
Practically, what does this mean in the struggle against sexual temptation? I think it means you need to preach the gospel to yourself every day. I think it means that you need to remember your status in Christ and that you need to think about it and you need to remind yourself of who you really are. I think it means that as you look at the world you can’t start thinking why am I not acting like everyone around me, because the answer to that question is obvious, you aren’t like everyone around you. I think it means you fight temptation with trust in the God who called you.
4. Put on thanksgiving. I wonder if I asked you what is the attitude you put on to help you fight sexual temptation, what your answer would have been? Would you have said the best way to fight sexual temptation is with thanksgiving? I probably wouldn’t have thought of it before Ephesians 5. But Paul definitely does. Check it out. And it’s such an amazing help when you begin to think of it.
Why do we look for more outside of the will of God? It’s because we aren’t grateful for what we have received inside the will of God. And why are we not content with what we received inside the will of God? Here’s where we so often get the answer wrong. It’s not because of what we have actually received. It’s because our hearts are not grateful for what He’s given us. We think the problem is with what we lack. No the problem is with our hearts.
Look, humans are amazing at being discontent. This may be what we are best at. You can give us a home by the beach and we will want a home in the city. You can give us a new car and we will want two new cars. We can find reasons to be dissatisfied with whatever we have been given. Don’t believe me? Just think Adam and Eve. They are in the perfect Garden of Eden and yet Satan is able to trick them into thinking that God hasn’t quite given them enough and that things would be better if they went out on their own and rebelled against God’s will. Wasn’t true then and isn’t true now.
So it isn’t surprising that a husband in a marriage may begin to be dissatisfied with his wife. He’s good at being dissatisfied with all kinds of things. But he’s got to be smart. What he often will do is fight with dissatisfaction with imagining how good things would be somewhere else. It’s not going to work because he’ll get to that point and find something else to be dissatisfied about. Instead what he should do is fight that dissatisfaction with imagining what he could be thankful to God for his wife about. He should use the same kind of relentlessness that men use in pursuing their lusts to pursue thanksgiving for his wife. He should constantly be looking for chances to give thanks to God for her. This needs to become a new habit in his life.
And if you are going to fight sexual temptation, it needs to become a new kind of habit in yours. Grumbling and sexual sin go hand in hand and so do thanksgiving and purity!