Sexual Temptation

You always notice someone in church, or in class, or at work, but you will never tell anyone. How do we Christians overcome the ever present temptation to lust and to fantasize? Even if we strictly avoid inappropriate sexual contact, how do we overcome the wild imaginations of our minds, and the allurement of sexually explicit pornographic images freely accessible on the internet? Do we just “Say No” to free sex, porno, nudity, strip clubs, etc, as we say No to drugs? Do we say, “Be like Joseph who overcame Potiphar’s wife who demanded sex from him day after day”?

Here is a quote from C. S. Lewis from Mere Christianity in his chapter on Sexual Morality which may be helpful:

“We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity—like perfect charity—will not be attained by any merely human efforts. You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity (or courage, of truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven. The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.”

Is this helpful to you and to those you know?


  1. Good points Ben. I find the first sentence from Lewis to be helpful: “We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity—like perfect charity—will not be attained by any merely human efforts.” But then I am confused by his last sentence: “The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.”

    Lust of whatever kind is indeed a problem. I found that by embracing two things I’ve found life-changing freedom from lust. Until about 3 years ago, I was consumed by lust. No amount of self-control, self-flagellation, self-guilt, self-condemnation, self-esteem, or self-restraint brought me freedom or happiness.

    Here are the two things I embraced which broke the chains of lust in my after about 30 years of burdensome struggle: 1) the beauty and majesty of Jesus and 2) the grace of God for my weakness. This coincided with my acceptance of the gospel of Jesus in a deeper way than I ever had before. And it coincided coincidentally with my embrace of my humanity. I can now honestly say I do love myself, which is helping me tremendously to learn how to love other people. I see all these things leading me toward perhaps even learning to love myself and others as Jesus loved.

    In the end, we are all on a journey.

  2. Thanks, Brian, for beauty, majesty and grace, despite ourselves! I think that “to sit down content with anything less than perfection” perhaps goes along with earnestly wanting to please the Ultimate Beautiful One who loves me by His grace alone. It is “to sit down content” either with liberalism and relativism, or with legalism and self-righteousness, which are both “perfection counterfeits.”

    Christians “fail” to overcome lust when we teach the Bible legalistically or primarily as a duty to be performed: You must not lust. Though such a statement is biblically true, it is Law/duty/man based Bible teaching, rather than Gospel or Grace based teaching.

    When I see Jesus as the most beautiful One through the Gospel of Grace (Acts 20:24), lust becomes ugly, hideous and a monstrosity. But when we see Jesus primarily as holding a whip to whack us for our sins, lust becomes quite attractive and irresistible.

    • Yes, Ben, your last few sentences describe exactly what I started to experience a few years ago. No amount of “spiritual disciplines” helped me overcome lust. But by gazing on the “Ultimate Beautiful One” I found SO much power and joy, which as you say, makes lust quite ugly.

      Many people I know used to say, including myself, “I am too busy to sin!” That is a lie however. We ALWAYS find time to sin! When we become over-busy, we in fact find the most time to sin. Lust dominates our souls when we are busybodies who have little or no time for communion with our Triune God.

      I can remember sitting in meeting after meeting. Outwardly I must have looked so holy and pure. People used to say “Wow, you spend so much time in Bible study. You must not have time to sin.” But all the while I was sitting there, I mostly thought lustful thoughts or about busyminded practical errands I had to do.

      Recently I had a wonderful experience in solitude with the emerging leadership cohort my wife and I joined. I always had imagined a relationship with God was “me and God”. Often I had felt lonely because God is invisible and prayer ended up being “just me”. But this time, as I sat by the St.Claire River, I realized that a relationship with God is really entering into communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Suddenly I felt like the 4 of us were all together as a community! Those kinds of experiences are something we should seek, I think, to overcome the lusts of the flesh.

  3. Since I hear crickets chirping again… I’ll go ahead and share some more thoughts on this.

    I am firmly convinced that Jesus did not come to give us a moral compass, but to be our buoy in the ocean of life. That is one way to articulate the gospel message Jesus proclaimed.

    So I think many Christians need to chill out and unbind temptation and sin from salvation. I used to freak out when sin crept into my tidy little house in my mind. But I was in denial about the flood of sin in my heart and soul. My gospel used to be “try to avoid gross, outward sin and try to be a good person.” But that really is not the gospel I see Jesus proclaiming in Scripture. The outward form of godliness I clung to did nothing to clean up my heart or my soul.

    I have much more peace now that my heart, mind and soul are being washed in the blood of Jesus, as His gospel penetrates more deeply and profoundly into my life. There is so much power in realizing that the grace of God costs us zero and cost God everything. This furious love of God has overcome me and sweeps away sexual temptation.

  4. Yeah, Brian. All sinners, including Christians, often try to look noble and holy, even if their inmost thoughts may not be. Lord, have mercy.

    The current investigation into our 2 top U.S. generals is quite disconcerting and discouraging. The public pictures and images of both General David Petraeus and John Allen look outstanding and upstanding. Yet, one had to resign as CIA director because of adultery, and the other is still being investigated for “inappropriate (email) flirting.”

    Surely, only the beauty of Christ can overwhelm our hearts from ever present counterfeit beauties.

  5. John Hwangbo

    I assign value to this topic.

    I also ask the question – “Why is sexual temptation such a taboo?”
    Why is sexuality and sexual attraction such a taboo, given that you were created by God, and that the aforementioned comes occurs to an adolescent/adult so naturally and surely?

    Scientifically speaking, humans have been designed to reproduce and to be ready to reproduce after a certain age. Chemicals and hormones are released into the body by various organs promoting/creating the desire in a human to procreate.
    Sexual attraction has it’s peak points and low points and should be embraced as an integral part of the human life/body. Did not God create this in us?
    Did he not put this system in our bodies?

    Then, why are we trying to discourage sexual attraction and make it taboo/sin when this system was placed in our bodies by our Creator in the first place?

    Should we not embrace this occurrence and develop practical and realistic methodologies for TRUE understanding of this part of the human life both from a scientific and spiritual standpoint and create ways to be sexually proud/shameless, sexually controlled and sexually wise people?

    If anyone wants to know, I can contribute my two cents.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, John. I would tend to ask the same questions. Here are some of my views:

      “Why is sexual temptation such a taboo?”

      From a Western Christianity perspective, I have observed that sex, along with marraige, has been made into an idol by Christians. They claim that sex is the highest purpose of marriage (and only heterosexual sex btw). And that sex is the highest, most intimate way to experience God. They claim that marriage is some eternal covenant. In reality, marriage is a concession and only a temporary commitment. There will be no marriage at the Resurrection.

      From a ubf perspective, I have observed that sex is seen as always sinful. Even married couples are typically encouraged to live as single people. Marriage training to sleep at the ubf bible house/center for many months after getting married teaches ubf people that sex is shameful or bad or sinful even in the marriage relationship. ubf teaches that sex=sin by constantly bashing the “honeymoon” spirit of newlyweds and by preventing normal, healthy courtship before marriage.

  6. forestsfailyou

    I found this older article searching Cs Lewis. I was mostly unconvinced by Cs Lewis’ argument for sexual purity. His argument runs as follows: Christianity has always held that chastity until marriage is moral, it is moral because sex was intended for marriage, to separate it is to separate one type of union for all the rest.” Paul tells us to expel sexual immorality, but then goes on not to give us a definition. When pressed people will point to certain old testament laws that require a woman to be a virgin before marriage. One might be tempted to argue that we should not eat shellfish or pork. These arguments do little to sway me, nor most of my generation. Sex being bad has it’s roots in early Catholicism. Early theologians took from man’s innate depravity that sex for anything but procreation innately sinful due to his sinful nature. They went on to declare that priests be chaste (not as a doctrine but as ecclesiastic law). Read Augustine’s Confessions, he feels a great deal of shame that while he repels sexual thoughts he still has dreams. Time Keller makes his arguments on the same grounds as Lewis.

    The argument I have come to accept for sexual purity is from the gospels. Namely “Do unto others…” I want my wife to be pure, and so I should be likewise. Jesus also said “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery in his heart”.