April / May 2018 - Vol. 97

Living in Harmony with God’s Purpose for Our Lives
Joseph and
                                      Potiphar's wife
Joseph and Potiphar's wife - Genesis 39

Getting Free of Sexual Sin

Toward a spiritual solution to a spiritual problem

by Ralph Martin

God made us sexual beings. He gave us a sexual identity and free will, and he was pleased with what he created. God designed men and women with the ability to have a sexual union with each other, with the ability to bring forth other creatures with eternal destinies.

We are happy when we live in harmony with God's purposes for his creation. When we don't, we run into trouble.

Sex has the potential to bring us happiness or trouble. It is a power that taps the very creative nature of God. It is so intensely personal that it profoundly affects our character and outlook. Sex has the potential to wonderfully enhance our human dignity and identity and personality, or it can consume and destroy us. It vies for lordship in our lives and wants to be worshiped, wants to be followed, wants to be obeyed, wants to rule. If we allow it, sex will take the place of God in our lives.

A Miserable Exchange

What happened to God's plan for sex?

It grew hideously distorted when the first human beings exercised their freedom wrongly. Original sin introduced shame, guilt, accusation, defensiveness, self-deception, and radical selfishness. God's plan was distorted. Selfishness took the place of self-giving; looking out for oneself took the place of caring for others. Our sexual powers opened up to sin. The power of sexual union in marriage degenerated into lust, oppression, domination and adultery. The relationship between husband and wife was grievously wounded. The man began to oppress the woman; the woman began to be dependent on the man with a frustrated desire.

The sin of our first parents, a sin we all share, set a downward spiral in motion - the downward spiral that leads to fear, war, exploitation, oppression, sexual bondage, perversion, and immorality.

This immorality starts in the mind and the spirit, in the fundamental choices we make regarding our relationship to God. The core perversion that afflicts the human race is not sex or money or power. It is rebellion - rejection of God's authority and plan, the refusal to submit to God and accept his truth.

Sexual bondage is a consequence of rebellion, not a cause of it. Because he refused God's authority, man was delivered up in his lust to unclean practices. Men engaged in the mutual degradation of their bodies. They perverted God's gift of the human body, exchanging the truth of God for a lie, and they worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator.
“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever!  Amen” (Romans 1:24-25).
What a miserable exchange.

We trade the way of truth and life for a way filled with meanness and betrayal. We trade the path of fidelity, mercy and love for a way filled with sexually transmitted diseases and broken relationships and broken promises.

Restoration through Jesus Christ
Jesus restored the human race to a relationship with God. His repair work included restoring sex to the place God intended it to have when he created us. We misused the freedom God gave us. Jesus came to free us and empower us with his Holy Spirit, so that we might be able to choose rightly. God wants us to be fully transformed into his image in the core of our being.

The new way of living for Christians, in the power of the Holy Spirit, puts sex in its proper place. Sex becomes a servant of God's purpose and not our master. God's purpose for sex is to bring a man and woman together in a lifelong union that is open to the creative action of God bringing forth children.

When sex is fulfilling this purpose, it glorifies God. When it serves some other purpose, we become its slave. We are particularly vulnerable to self-deceit in the area of sex. We rationalize and justify our wrongdoing; we make excuses or exceptions for ourselves. Premarital sex, extramarital sex, adultery, homosexual acts, pornography, lustful fantasizing, and solitary sex are all perversions of God's purpose in creating us as sexual beings.

How can we be free from bondage to immorality? How can we make sex a servant and not a master in our lives?

Freedom from Bondage

Sexual bondage is a spiritual problem that needs a spiritual solution. Jesus Christ offers us that solution through his redemption and our relationship with him. Here are eight steps we can take to secure this freedom, peace, and good order to our lives.

Be converted.
It's impossible for Jesus to be Lord unless we are converted. Conversion means surrendering ourselves to Jesus, acknowledging him as our savior, and submitting to his lordship over us. It is a process that happens at different stages and in different ways.

Sometimes conversion happens all at once, suddenly and dramatically; sometimes it occurs in stages, more gradually. But even when it happens all at once, it still takes time for Jesus to become lord over all the different areas of our lives. Conversion is a lifelong process, again and again turning our lives over to Jesus, more and more embracing the union we have with him.

Accept the truth.
The next step is to squarely face and accept the teaching of Christ regarding sex and sexuality. "If you live according to my teaching,", Jesus assures us, "you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free" (John 8:31-32). The truth of what God says in this area is challenging, hard, painful, and potentially revolutionary in our lives - but it brings freedom. If we don't get clear in our minds what God teaches as inappropriate and sinful in this area and then wholeheartedly accept it, we will never get free.

Confess sin.
We need to concretely confess to God our wrongdoing in this area. We need to specifically identify those things that are not right in our sexual behavior, those things that are sinful offences against God, and admit them to him. We need to clearly call sin sin and not excuse it or rationalize it away. Then we must confess it to God and receive his forgiveness.

Ask for God's help.
We are dealing with spiritual powers and perhaps with lifelong habits. We may be dealing with indoctrination from the world trying to convince us that Christian morality is old-fashioned, inhuman, repressive, unhealthy, or inhibitive. We need to ask God's help and then be patient and persevering, not becoming discouraged if it takes time to gain freedom in different aspects of our sexual lives.

Live a God-filled life.
The downward spiral for the human race began with a refusal to acknowledge God and to glorify and thank him. The key to reversing this spiral that ends in bondage and lust is to undo this refusal to honor and worship and obey God. As we fill our lives with Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit, we'll find ourselves getting progressively freer in this area.

The perversity didn't begin with sexual perversity; it began with a rebellion of the spirit and mind. It was a rebellion against God's word and God's law that led to the first sin. Similarly, patterns of lust often begin with rebellion against God, against parents, and against lawful authorities in our lives. The whole undoing of the human race was rooted in rebellion, and our own personal rebellion opens us to other spirits.

Just as one man's sin and rebellion brought death to the whole world, so one man's obedience, the obedience of Jesus Christ, brings salvation to the whole world (see Romans 5:18). Getting free from sin is rooted in overcoming rebellion and fully submitting to Christ and his authority.

Resentment and anger may also weaken us and make us vulnerable to lust. Dealing with resentment, resolving difficulties in relationships, and releasing people toward whom we hold resentment clear the way for God's Holy Spirit to bring healing, power, and self-control into other areas of our lives.

Face the pain.
We shouldn't be afraid of the pain involved in denying ourselves in this area. We won't die from abstaining from sexual immorality! We need food and water to live, but we don't need sex to live. We need sex to be one with our spouses and to bear children, but we don't need sex to live. We don't need sex to live as fulfilled, healthy, happy human beings, and as a productive and joyful people. The need for sex is a lie that Satan and this sexualized society have tried to deceive us into believing.

In fact, immoral sex leads us into bondage and destruction. There is a pain to saying no to sin and denying oneself, but it is a pain that ultimately leads to life. It may hurt like hell to say no to sin. But better a little hurting now than an eternity of hurting.

Establish a healthy Christian lifestyle.
Many people are not able to get free in this area because they are foolish. They say that they want to get free of sexual sin, but they continue to expose themselves to all kinds of invitations, temptations and stimulation to immorality. We need to stop going to those places that stimulate us, stop doing things or hanging around people who weaken our desire to follow Christ. If we want to get free - and stay free - of sexual sin, we can't expose ourselves to those things that lead us right into it.

Identify those things in your life that stir up sexual desire or lead you into temptation, and stay away from them or eliminate them from your activities. Find alternative forms of entertainment and good hobbies for relaxation if going to the movies is a source of difficulty for you.

Get support.
It can be very helpful to share how you are doing in this area with a mature Christian in whom you can trust and have confidence. There are even "sexaholic anonymous" groups that are available for people who are locked in bondage in this area. Some of the same principles that Alcoholics Anonymous uses, such as depending on God and confessing sin, are applicable in this area.

Sex is meant to be your servant and not your master. You can live as a freedman, not as a slave under bondage to sin. Take the steps you need to live out God's truth in your life. The truth will make you free.

This article originally appeared in New Covenant Magazine, Volume 18, Number 9, April 1989, © copyright Ralph Martin. Used with permission.

Ralph Martin is president of Renewal Ministries, an organization devoted to Catholic renewal and evangelization. Ralph also hosts The Choices We Face, a widely viewed weekly Catholic television and radio program distributed throughout the world. Renewal Ministries is also actively involved in assisting the Church in more than 30 different countries through leadership training, evangelistic conferences and retreats, and the publication and distribution of Catholic resources.

Ralph is the author of a number of books, including Will Many Be Saved?, The Urgency of the New Evangelization: Answering the Call, What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization,The Fulfillment of All Desire: A Guidebook Based on the Wisdom of the Saints,  Hungry for God, Fire on the Earth,. He and his wife Anne have six children and seventeen grandchildren and reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.

Painting above: Joseph and Potiphar's Wife, by Guido Reni (Italian, 1575-1642, painted around 1630)

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