Read our other “Tactic” articles below!
Tactics: Waging Wise Warfare for Your Sexual Purity – A New Series
Tactic #1: Fight From Your Justification, Not For It
Our first tactic is to fight as justified sinners, not as sinners trying to get justified. But just as quickly as we noted that we are not justified by our fight against purity, we must also underscore that our souls are at stake in the battle over lust. For some, this statement sounds nonsensical: how could my soul be at stake in the battle against lust if I am justified by faith in Christ alone?
But the question itself reveals a slight misunderstanding of saving faith. The faith that unites us to Christ and justifies us is the kind of faith that takes sin seriously. Faith that is a mere profession with zero action is no faith at all (see James 2:18-26). When someone is regenerated, they receive a new nature that corresponds with the very image of God (Col 3:10), and new affections that compel them toward obedience (Jer 31:31-33; Ezek 36:26-28). Believers also have the Spirit of God who actively stirs up faith, repentance, and good works (Rom 8:5-6). One of the means that the Spirit uses to stir up faith, repentance, and good works is God-breathed Scripture that warns us of what happens if we don’t take lust seriously. Consider these inspired words that Matthew recorded in his gospel from Jesus’ teaching ministry:
You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.Matthew 5:27-30
Jesus doesn’t motivate his disciples to wage war over lust by warning them they might lose temporal fruitfulness and a few heavenly rewards if they don’t battle lust. He threatens his disciples with hell if they don’t take aim at this pernicious enemy. Jesus is not suggesting that we can lose our salvation once we have it or that we are saved by our works (see John 10:27-30). What he is saying is that indifference toward lust is a sign that your faith may not be saving faith. For the justified believer, this warning and others like it is meant to ignite faith and obedience and keep the Christian in a battle stance against illicit sexual desires.
Paul offers the same variety of warning in his letter to the Ephesians. He commands the Ephesian believers to have no part in sexual immorality, impurity, or filthy talking (Eph 5:3-4). He then undergirds his instruction with a sharp warning: “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Eph 5:5). Paul recognizes that some will think his stance is too harsh and may even try to persuade naïve Christians that sexual sin is not such a big deal, so he adds: “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph 5:6). A professing Christian characterized by unrepentant sexual immorality and impurity cannot expect to inherit eternal life, regardless of what they say about their faith. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
For the Christian, the cross dealt sin a mortal blow so that it no longer has dominion over the believer as it did prior to his conversion (Rom 6:6, 14). But sin is still a foe who still has active encampments in our soul, just as potent and lively as ever. In Christ, God has changed us, fundamentally. But sin hasn’t changed, and it is still actively waging war against our very soul (1 Pet 2:11). In order to make an advance toward purity, then, tactic #2 requires us to reckon with the eternal seriousness of our mission.