Why are so many strong Christians succumbing to sexual sin? We must remember that we as Christians do not live in a vacuum but in a culture filled with temptations that stir lust. Many people have fallen because they underestimated the power of sexual temptation.
Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth has the strongest teaching about sexual sin because Corinth, like our culture, was saturated with sexual temptation.
The Bible declares that God is faithful and no matter what temptation we face, He will provide “a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
God’s will for us is to overcome temptation, but it will cost us dearly, especially our pride. The preceding passage (1 Cor 10:12) warns us: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” God is telling us that the first step in overcoming temptation is to beware of the attitude, “It couldn’t happen to me.”
As the wisdom of Proverbs says, pride sets us up for a fall.
The Rev. Gordon MacDonald, a wonderful pastor and at one time president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, shares in his book Rebuilding Your Broken World about a time when he was asked about how Satan might get him. He answered:
All sorts of ways, I suppose; but I know there’s one way he wouldn’t get me. “What’s that?” He’d never get me in the area of my personal relationships. That’s one place where I have no doubt that I’m as strong as you can get. A few years after that conversation my world broke wide open. A chain of seemingly innocent choices became destructive, and it was my fault. Choice by choice by choice, each easier to make, each becoming gradually darker. And then my world broke — in the very area I had predicted I was safe — and my world had to be rebuilt.
He goes on to quote from My Utmost for His Highest: “An unguarded strength is actually a double weakness.” Here is a man of God with a good marriage who had written books on family life and yet fell into adultery. Why? Because he thought it couldn’t happen to him and left this part of his life unguarded.
If David, who was “a man after God’s own heart,” Gordon MacDonald, and many other strong men and women of faith yielded to sexual temptation, it could happen to you. God is telling us through these words of Paul — “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Cor. 10:12) — that our vulnerability to sin increases when we think it could not happen to us.
Almost all Christians, especially Christian leaders, who have fallen to sexual temptation would tell you that they did not think it could have happened to them.
1 Corinthians 6:18 warns us, “Flee from sexual immorality.” It is easy for pride to convince us that we don’t really need to FLEE, and that this instruction is for weaker Christians. We mislead ourselves into thinking that instead of fleeing we can stroll away, looking back once in awhile, because we are strong enough to resist or flirt with temptation. Admitting that we need to flee takes real Christian humility. Remember, overcoming sexual temptation will cost your pride dearly.
When do you need to flee?
- When you find yourself thinking about a “friend, co-worker, ministry partner, counselee” and how much you enjoy being with this person — FLEE!
- When you look forward to spending more time with this person and you make sure you look especially nice if you know you might see your “friend” that day — FLEE!
- If you begin to fantasize about being with this person or knowingly start touching your “friend” in “innocent “ ways — FLEE!
- When you become more secretive about your interaction with your “friend” because people like your spouse might “misunderstand” your friendship — FLEE!
- If you receive cards, e-mails or presents from this person that you would not want your spouse to see — FLEE!
- When you find yourself comparing your spouse in an unfavorable way to your “friend”– FLEE!
- If you start confiding in your “friend” about your marital problems — FLEE!
Anytime we feel we must keep something secret, this would indicate that sin is crouching at our door. If you are experiencing sexual attraction to someone – or experiencing some other kind of temptation over a few days – go to your spouse or someone you can trust in the Body of Christ. Bring the secret out into the light of day and ask for prayer and accountability.
Satan loves it when we keep secrets in the dark because of shame, fear, or pride – but remember, darkness is overcome by light. Often this alone can break the power of temptation, but it will cost you your pride.
Many are unwilling to sacrifice their pride by admitting their struggle with sin to get the help they need. There is great wisdom in these words by Rick Warren:
If you’re losing the battle against a persistent bad habit, an addiction, or a temptation, and you’re stuck in a repeating cycle of good intention-failure-guilt, you will not get better on your own. You need the help of other people. Some temptations are only overcome with the help of a partner who prays for you, encourages you, and holds you accountable.
Tragically, too many people – because of family background, having experienced sexual abuse or abandonment, or having a long history of struggling with lust – need significant ministry, yet are unwilling to get help until they are forced to do so after yielding to sin.
Yes, there is a price that your pride must pay to overcome temptation – but please take a moment and consider the much greater price of yielding to temptation. Consider the damage to the cause of Christ, to your family, and to your Christian witness, along with the pain you will cause yourself and the ones you love the most.
God has given us everything we need to overcome temptation, but it will cost our pride dearly. However, I plead with you to consider the even greater cost of yielding to the temptation.