Sex Is Not the Problem
by Joshua Harris
Sex Is Not the Problem
At times, especially when I was single, I’ve been tempted to view my sex drive as more of a curse than a blessing. But how untrue that is! In fact, it’s the very lie Satan wants us to believe—that our sexuality itself is sinful. He knows that if he can confuse us about the difference between our God-given sexual nature and the corrupting influence of lust, our efforts to battle sin will be sabotaged before we even walk out the door.
Before we can fully grasp why God says there should be “not … even a hint” of lust in our lives, we need to understand what lust is and what it is not. And before we can attack the lust in our lives with conviction, we need to reclaim sexual desire as God’s amazing and good gift to us.
The Good Drive
He really knew what He was doing, didn’t He? “Be fruitful and … multiply” He commanded mankind (Genesis 9:7). And then, just in case we’d be tempted to slack off in this task of populating and subduing the earth, He made us sexual creatures and wired us with this incredible thing we call a sex drive.
What is this drive anyway? One day it lands on our doorstep and life is never the same. One moment you’re a kid and the opposite sex is yucky—boys are gross and girls have cooties. The next day the world turns upside down. Hormones begin to pump, your body transforms, hair starts to show up in weird places, and this pulsing, driving, burning sexual awareness and desire begins flowing through your veins like molten lava. Welcome to puberty. Welcome to humanity
Think about this: The sinless Son of God, who perfectly obeyed God’s commands for purity and never lusted, was completely human. That means Jesus was a sexual human being. God didn’t fudge on the Incarnation. God became one of us—a living, breathing, sweating, desiring, feeling human being. Jesus wasn’t a sexless, lifeless half-man. He had sexual urges and desires. He appreciated the beauty of women. He noticed the beauty of women. He was really a man, and none of this was sinful.
The truth is that Jesus didn’t come to rescue us from our humanity. He entered into our humanity to rescue us from our sinfulness. He didn’t come to save us from being sexual creatures: He became one of us to save us from the reign of sin and lust, which ruins our sexuality.
That’s why it’s so critical to understand that our sexual drive isn’t the same as lust. For example:
- It’s not lust to be attracted to someone or notice that he or she is good-looking.
- It’s not lust to have a strong desire to have sex.
- It’s not lust to anticipate and be excited about having sex within marriage.
- It’s not lust when a man or woman becomes turned-on without any conscious decision to do so.
- It’s not lust to experience sexual temptation.
The crucial issue in each of these examples is how we respond to the urges and desires of our sexual drive. Noticing an attractive person is not wrong, but undressing that person with your eyes or imagining what it would he like to “have” them is. A sexual thought that pops into your mind isn’t necessarily lust, but it can quickly become lust if it’s entertained and dwelled on. An excitement for sex in marriage isn’t sin, but it can be tainted by lust if it’s not tempered with patience and restraint.
If you fail to make these distinctions, your fight against lust will be greatly hampered. On the one hand, you can wind up excusing sinful thoughts and actions as just part of how I’m made, which isn’t true at all. On the other, you may end up being ashamed of your sex drive, which God never intended. Both are tragic mistakes.
It’s a Shame
When we break God’s commands, shame is appropriate. In fact, it can be a precious gift from God. An awareness that we’ve done wrong—those feelings of conviction and guilt that cause us to feel shame can lead to repentance and restoration.
That being said, it is possible for a person to experience misplaced shame, which results from what you could call a wrongly programmed conscience. Misplaced shame is shame in response to values other than those found in God’s Word. If your upbringing, or faulty teaching, or harmful past sexual experience leaves you feeling ashamed of aspects of your sexuality that God doesn’t say are sinful, He can help you renew your mind. He can help you bring your attitude about sex in line with His values.
One way to get rid of misplaced shame is to talk to God about your sexual feelings. Invite His Spirit into the day-by-day, moment-by-moment process of yielding your sexual desire to His will.
This kind of open, humble dialogue with God could transform the way you view your sexuality. Remember, God doesn’t just want us to cultivate a hatred for lust; He wants us to cultivate a gratefulness and appreciation for the gift of sexual desire He has planted in us.
When Enough is Never Enough
Ephesians 5:3 says, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality or of any kind of impurity, or of greed.”
But why is God’s standard so high? How can God demand not even a hint of lust when He knows that He made us with strong sex drives?
One of the reasons God calls us to cleanse our lives of lust completely is because He knows that lust never stays at the level of “just a hint.”
Lust is always an unholy desire for the forbidden. But though lust longs for an object or a person, ultimately this object is not its prize; its goal is the very <em>act</em> of desiring. The result is that lust can never be quenched. As soon as the object of lust is attained, lust wants something more.
Even when you indulge in every kind of impurity you’re still filled with a continual lust. You won’t be able to fantasize enough to quench lust. You won’t be able to sleep with enough people. You won’t be able to view enough pornography. You can gorge yourself on lust, but you’re always going to be hungry. You’ll be trapped in a never-ending pursuit of wrong desires—always reaching for something that cannot be grasped.
God says “not … even a hint” because you can’t give in to lust’s demands and hope to pacify it. It always grows. And as it does, lust will rob you of your ability to enjoy true, godly pleasure. You can’t bargain with lust and come out a winner.
Embracing Your Sexuality
Keep this radical but liberating idea in mind: God wants you to embrace your sexuality. And battling lust is part of how you do that.
Does the idea of embracing sexuality and fighting lust sound contradictory? That’s probably because today’s culture offers a very narrow definition of what it means to embrace your sexuality. It equates embracing your sexuality with doing whatever feels good. So according to our culture, to deny a sexual impulse at any point is to be untrue to yourself.
As Christians, embracing our sexuality looks radically different. We don’t obey every sexual impulse—nor do we deny that we have sexual desires. Instead, we choose both restraint and gratefulness. For us, sexual desire joins every other part of our lives—our appetite for food, our use of money, our friendships, our dreams, our careers, our possessions, our abilities, our families—in bowing before the One True God.
In other words, to rightly embrace our sexuality we must bring it under the dominion of the One who created it. When we do so, we’re not fighting against our sexuality; we’re fighting for it. We’re rescuing our sexuality from being ruined by lust. Were exalting our God-given identity as sexual creatures by refusing to be trapped in the never-ending dissatisfaction of lust.
When we embrace our sexuality and claim it for holiness, we are true to who God made us to be. He made us to be holy. In holiness we find the best and ultimately most deeply satisfying expression of our sexuality. And in holiness we experience the truth of what God made.
And what He made is good.
Adapted from Sex is Not the Problem: Lust Is © 2003 by Joshua Harris.
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