Here’s a disconnect many Christians feel when it comes to sexual temptation: Sexual temptations are felt in the body physically, and yet, our solution, we’re told, is spiritual – “Walk in the Spirit and you will not gratify the flesh,” Galatians 5:16.
How does this work?
Start by meditating on this truth: Jesus Christ loves your body.
Yes, even right now with all of its sexual struggles, confusion, addiction, and dis-orderedness, Jesus Christ loves your body.
The fact that Jesus is God become flesh, that He was born bodily, lived among us bodily, was crucified bodily, rose from the dead bodily, ascended to heaven bodily, and will one day return bodily all attests to how much He loves your body.
Why does this matter in our battle against sexual temptation?
Because it means that we aren’t on our own in the battle. Jesus has joined us in our every battle. He alone can do what we are powerless to do on our own. We needed an outside agent to enter into our condition to rescue us, and He is that rescuer.
But He doesn’t just join us “in spirit” the way we’re used to understanding this. Jesus isn’t just cheering us on because He understands what it’s like. Yes, He’s faced every manner of temptation we feel, and so He can sympathize with us (Hebrews 4:15), but that is not all. The good news of the Gospel is not only that Jesus understands. The Gospel also declares that Jesus Himself has become one spirit with your spirit:
“But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him” (1 Corinthians 6:17).
And in case there’s any doubt that this matters for you in your struggles with sexual temptation, Paul penned these words while writing precisely about sexual temptations! (See 1 Corinthians 6:13-20.)
I am convinced Jesus’ union with us is why He could say to His disciples in John 16, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go away, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7).
I think most of us when battling temptation tend to think, “If only Jesus were here in the flesh, this would be so much easier!” Jesus Himself said it was better that He send the Helper—His Holy Spirit—not just to stand by and cheer us on, but actually to be so intimately connected with Him that Paul would describe Him as being “one” with us.
So what does this mean in the moment of temptation—in those moments when you feel sexual arousal physically? What then?
Here I don’t have any quick and easy answers for you. Learning to walk in the Spirit seems to be something that takes time and practice. Some days you may feel steady on your spiritual feet and others you may feel wobbly as a toddler. But this week, can you take a step of trust that Jesus is very present to you, that He can feel the intensity of the temptation, and that He is stronger than it is?
Is it possible you’ve been trusting the physical feelings of temptation in you more than you’ve been trusting God’s Spirit in you?
Where temptation insists, This is just who you are: You’ll always love porn, you’ll always be gay, or you’ll always want more sex than God allows! Jesus’ Spirit in you says, Such were you, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, in My name and in the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 6:11).
Where the physical temptation seems to scream You want to give in! Jesus Spirit says, You were not made for immorality but for Me, and I am for you (1 Corinthians 6:13).
Where felt temptation yells, You’ll always feel this way unless you give in! Jesus’ Spirit says, God has not only raised Me, but will also raise you up through His power (1 Corinthians 6:14).
Question: What other ways can you practice walking in His Spirit this week in the battles (sexual and otherwise) you face with temptation?
P.S. For more good news about God and sexual desire, join us on November 10 for God, Sex, and the Meaning of Life with Christopher West at Grace Fellowship Church. For more information or to register, click here.