The Pursuit of Personal Purity

The Pursuit of Personal Purity

If I offered you a shiny red apple, told you that it would be delicious, but also told you that it was covered in an invisible, instantly deadly pesticide, would you still eat it? Of course not. The harmfulness of ingesting the poison would far outweigh your desire to enjoy the rest of the apple. However, when it comes to sex, people are killing themselves by ingesting poison. It looks and feels good, but, until a marriage covenant has washed it of the pesticide known as sin, it is deadly. It isn’t a new thing. It goes back to Genesis 4, and it starts young too. I work with kids, and I recently witnessed several 5th grade boys pretending to have sex with trees—“practicing for when they are older,” and “pretending it is my girlfriend.”
In Titus 1:6 Paul tells Titus to appoint elders (pastors) who are to be "someone who is blameless, the husband of one wife.”[i] “Husband of one wife,” literally means, a “one woman man.”[1] This is highly important for pastors, because 1 Peter 5:3 says that pastors are to be “examples to the flock.” At the Jerusalem Council[2] it was decided that Christians should “abstain…from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well” (Acts 15:29, NASB).
If a pastor is caught up in this type of sin, his people are bound to be caught up in it too. The mentality “he’s doing it, so why can’t I?” would take over and cause a huge rift in the church. Pastors are to be pure so they can show their people what purity—abstaining from fornication—looks like. This is one reason so many professing Christians are caught up in sexual immorality. Pastors either encourage, or don’t call out, sin in their people’s lives.

What is fornication?

In Greek, the word we get fornication from is the word porneia. It’s also the word we get pornography from. “Christians should abstain from pornography” is another way to think about Acts 15:29. It’s a lot more than just that though.  Fornication speaks of illicit sexual intercourse in general.[ii] To be vague, it refers to anything that would make a person ask, “how far is too far?” To be blunt, it speaks of making out, improper touching, oral sex, true sexual intercourse, and anything else that falls in between any of those categories, between two people who are not married. Even if they will be married in less than twenty-four hours, or love each other so much that one day they just know they will be married, it is fornication and it is to be abstained from. And just to clarify, masturbation is also fornication—illicit sexual intercourse with yourself. It is also to be abstained from.
To be perfectly clear, sex was created by God and it was meant to be enjoyed by a man and a woman bound together by marriage. Genesis 2:25 explains that “Both the man and his wife were naked, yet felt no shame.” Marriage is 1) for a man and a woman—not same gender partners—, and 2) the only place where shameless nudity can Biblically take place. In fact, the whole book of Song of Solomon is written to showcase the beauty of God’s gift of sex to married people.
Sex isn’t a bad word. Society of the modern day—as many societies before—has dragged God’s beautiful gift through the dirt. They’ve changed it from something beautiful to something shameful. Most movies, known nowadays as comedies, are full of sexuality—whether shown or joked about—and it is disgraceful. God created sex to be something wonderful, but sinful man, as with everything else, has found numerous ways to destroy it. Homosexuality, “friends with benefits,”[3] and pornography are just a few of the ways Satan has attempted to make God’s glorious gift of sex less than glorious.

What if I’ve fallen into fornication?

Perhaps you have fallen into some form of fornication. First Corinthians 6:9-10 says, “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality…will inherit God’s kingdom.” This seems like bad news, but if you continue reading to verse 11 you will see that, “some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
That phrase, “some of you used to be like this,” (emphasis added) means that if you are a Christian you should no longer be trapped in this most heinous of vices. First Corinthians 6:15-17 explains why. “Don’t you know that your bodies are a part of Christ’s body? So should I take a part of Christ’s body and make it part of a prostitute? Absolutely not! Don’t you know that anyone joined to a prostitute is one body with her? For Scripture says, The two will become one flesh. But anyone joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” Matthew Henry writes that, “Nothing can stand in greater opposition to the honorable relations and alliances of a Christian man than this sin.”[iii]
If you call yourself a Christian, you are saying that you belong to Christ. When two people engage in sexual activities they are one-flesh. If a Christian is practicing fornication, it is as if Christ was committing fornication. That sounds bad just writing it, which is why Paul declared, “Absolutely not!” (vs. 15). A true Christian is part of the bride of Christ—“one spirit with Him” (vs. 17), more than “one body” (vs. 16)—and should never commit spiritual adultery by committing physical fornication of any kind.[4]
For this reason, Paul orders us to “Flee immorality” (vs. 18, NASB). The word “flee” in this passage is the Greek verb, “pheugō,” which is often used to mean “to seek safety by flight.”[iv] Matthew Henry writes that, “Other vices may be conquered in fight, this only by flight.”[v] Fornication is dangerous, and Christians should run from it.
Genesis 39:7-12 is a perfect example of fleeing from this form of temptation.
After some time his master’s wife looked longingly at Joseph and said, “Sleep with me.” But he refused. “Look,” he said to his master’s wife, “with me here my master does not concern himself with anything in his house, and he has put all that he owns under my authority. No one in this house is greater than I am. He has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. So how could I do such a great evil and sin against God?” Although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her. Now one day he went into the house to do his work, and none of the household servants were there. She grabbed him by his garment and said, “Sleep with me!” But leaving his garment in her hand, he escaped and ran outside.
Joseph gives three reasons—in ascending order—why he couldn’t commit adultery.[5] He had a reputation for being trustworthy, so he couldn’t break that trust and sin against himself; his master’s wife was the only thing he didn’t have stewardship over in the house, so he couldn’t use what wasn’t his and sin against his master; God was the one who’d given Him the reputable character and employed him in the position he held, so he could not sin against God by jeopardizing both of those gifts. Verse ten should be our attitude as well; “he did not listen to her to lie beside her, to be with her”[6]. He was fleeing temptation long before he ever had to literally run away from her, because it wasn’t until “now one day,” (vs. 11) that he actually had to run away from her when she grabbed him by the cloak. Matthew Henry writes that “He would not stay so much as to parley with the temptation, but flew out from it with the utmost abhorrence; he left his garment, as one escaping for his life. Note, It is better to lose a good coat than a good conscience.”[vi]
Now let’s move forward about 684 years to King David’s reign. Second Samuel 11:1-4 tells the story.
In the spring when kings march out to war, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah, but David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and strolled around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing—a very beautiful woman. So David sent someone to inquire about her, and he reported, “This is Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam and wife of Uriah the Hittite.” David sent messengers to get her, and when she came to him, he slept with her. Now she had just been purifying herself from her uncleanness. Afterward, she returned home.
There are two reasons why David fell into adultery. The first is because he wasn’t where he was supposed to be. Verse one says that “kings march out to war…but David remained in Jerusalem.” If he had been responsible in his kingly duties, working, not relaxing, then he wouldn’t have been able to fall into this heinous sin. The second reason he fell was because instead of fleeing at the sight of the woman’s bathing, he decided to inquire as to who she was. There was no sin in accidentally noticing a beautiful woman, but when he decided to find out more in order to feed the lust, sin had taken root. It came to fruition in verse four. “He slept with her.” If David would have fled at the first sight, he would not have committed adultery or sinned in his heart.
Second Samuel 11:5 continues the story. “The woman conceived and sent word to inform David: ‘I am pregnant’.” The story goes on, but it’s sufficient to say that when one sin is committed, more are committed to cover up the first.  That child died, but David married Bathsheba and had another child with her. His name was Solomon, and he wrote three books of the Old Testament. In Ecclesiastes 7:26, he gives us the following warning: “I find more bitter than death the woman who is a trap, her heart a net, and her hands chains. The one who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner will be captured by her.”
That passage is reminiscent of Proverbs 7:24-26 which reads:
Now, my sons, listen to me,
and pay attention to the words of my mouth.
Don’t let your heart turn aside to her ways;
don’t stray onto her paths.
For she has brought many down to death;
her victims are countless.
Her house is the road to Sheol,
descending to the chambers of death.
Just reading the first line begs the question: what is this here for? To get the answer, let’s look at Proverbs 7:6-23.
At the window of my house
I looked through my lattice.
I saw among the inexperienced,
I noticed among the youths,
a young man lacking sense.
Crossing the street near her corner,
he strolled down the road to her house
at twilight, in the evening,
in the dark of the night.
A woman came to meet him
dressed like a prostitute,
having a hidden agenda.
She is loud and defiant;
her feet do not stay at home.
Now in the street, now in the squares,
she lurks at every corner.
She grabs him and kisses him;
she brazenly says to him,
“I’ve made fellowship offerings;
today I’ve fulfilled my vows.
So I came out to meet you,
to search for you, and I’ve found you.
I’ve spread coverings on my bed —
richly colored linen from Egypt.
I’ve perfumed my bed
with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.
Come, let’s drink deeply of lovemaking until morning.
Let’s feast on each other’s love!
My husband isn’t home;
he went on a long journey.
He took a bag of money with him
and will come home at the time of the full moon.”
She seduces him with her persistent pleading;
she lures with her flattering  talk.
He follows her impulsively
like an ox going to the slaughter,
like a deer bounding toward a trap
until an arrow pierces its  liver,
like a bird darting into a snare —
he doesn’t know it will cost him his life.
The first thing to notice is that in verse 8, he “crosses the street near her corner.” The word for “near” is the same one used in Genesis 39:10 that Joseph refused to do. He wouldn’t “lie beside her, to be with her[7],” whereas this young man goes “near her corner.” In Proverbs 7:7, the author says that the young man lacks sense. You are an idiot if you know the opportunity to fall into sexual sin is possible, but you set your feet in that direction anyways. In verse 18, the way the prostitute phrases her argument sounds great. Lovemaking and love are both wonderful things—add  more “persistent pleading” and some “flattering talk” (vs. 21)—and he’s bought. The Hebrew word for love in this passage is “ʾōhab,” which speaks of illicit love, not marital love, which is “ʾahabâ.”[vii] It’s reminiscent of the Greek words for love. “Eros” is sexual love, and “agape” is the unconditional love husbands are commanded to show their wives in Ephesians 5:25. The problem is that the young man is blinded by lust and the prostitute’s persuading and ends up believing the lie that lust, “ʾōhab,” is better than love, “ʾahabâ.” The result is written in verses 22-23. Four metaphors explain the truth of the last line in verse 23; “he doesn’t know it will cost him his life.” Thus the warning in verse 25 which reads, “don’t let your heart turn aside to her ways; don’t stray onto her paths.”
In 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, Paul goes on to write that, “‘Every sin a person can commit is outside the body.’ On the contrary, the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body. Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.”
More reasons to flee, besides those in verses 15-17 are presented here.  First, the immoral man—literally, the “fornicator”—sins against his own body. Second, the Christian is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Third, the Christian is God’s property.
Fornicators hurt themselves with their sinning. As seen in the book of Proverbs, fornication leads to death. It leads to mental death, spiritual death, and even possibly physical death if not stopped soon enough. Everyone[8] who is in bondage to fornication can find himself somewhere on the spectrums of mental and spiritual death; very few in comparison will find themselves on the physical death spectrum. You know this is true if you are involved in any form of fornication. Mental death is when all you can focus on is the next fornicative[9] fix, and it keeps you from thinking about anything else. Your talk is about sex, your jokes are about sex, and your mind is about sex. Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:3 that among Christians, “there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality” (NIV). This is because hinting at sexual immorality means it is on your mind, bringing mental death. Spiritual death is when the mental death is so strong that Christ is the farthest thing from your mind. You have no desire to read essays like this because it hurts; it cuts to your heart because you know this is you. You have no desire to change, because it’s comfortable, and, to some degree, enjoyable. You hate conviction and are in a spiritually dead state. Don’t stay here, because if you do, physical death is next in the process. This could be due to a disease that you contract in fornication, or it could be reminiscent of 1 John 5:16-17. “There is sin that brings death… All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin that does not bring death.” Interpretations abound as to this verses meaning, but one popular one is that it is God’s discipline against a sinning Christian. Instead of letting him drag himself through unrepentant sin, God takes Him home to heaven.
The true Christian is indwelt by the Spirit of God and therefore should not engage in sins that would make Christ become one with a prostitute (1 Corinthians 6:15). John Gill writes, “Now it is most abominably scandalous and shameful that that body, which is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, which is sacred to him as a temple, should be defiled by the sin of fornication.”[viii] Of 1 Corinthians 6:19, Calvin writes, “in order to deter us from this filthiness… we ought so much the more to fear, lest he should depart from us, offended by our sacrilegious actings.”[ix] Keep in mind that this is Calvin, the father of Calvinism, who teaches that God is 100% in control of salvation; He chooses us and keeps us; a Christian cannot lose his salvation. The only way the Holy Spirit would ever depart from a man was if the man lost his salvation, which Calvin did not believe could happen, so his previous comment means that if you aren’t struck with terror at the thought of committing fornication, perhaps you are not saved. You should check yourself.
Christians are God’s property. He purchased them with the blood of His Son—Jesus Christ—(1 Corinthians 7:23, 1 Peter 1:18-19). Because Christians are purchased—ransomed—we should not enslave ourselves again to the sin that we were redeemed from. Romans 6:1-2 says, “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Rather than continue serving our old master—sin—we are to bring our new Master—Christ—glory by the way we live our lives. This is done by putting to death our old sinful tendencies with the help of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is a gift from God to help us pray (Romans 8:26), to help us fight temptation (Hebrews 2:18), and to help sanctify us (Romans 8:13). Jesus said Himself in John 16:7 that, “it is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor (Spirit) will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you.” The Spirit—who is often diminished in modern day Christianity in comparison to the Father and the Son—is very powerful. It is with His help, and His only that we will ever be able to overcome fornication of any kind.
Before moving into a practical, step-by-step application of how the Spirit helps us defeat fornication of any kind, let’s do a brief study of the nature of temptation.

What is temptation?

James 1:14-17 says that “each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dearly loved brothers. Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.”
Verse fourteen says that we are tempted by our own evil desires. If you’re a Christian your sinful nature is at war with the new nature that longs for holiness.
It is true that external inducements to sin may be placed before him, but they would have no force if there was not something in himself to which they corresponded, and over which they might have power. There must be some ‘lust;’ some desire; some inclination; something which is unsatisfied now, which is made the foundation of the temptation, and which gives it all its power.[x]
Thus, temptations arise, when one of your senses—typically sight, touch, or taste[10]— takes in something pleasing to the old nature and the new nature tells you it’s wrong.
Temptations start here, and at this point sin has not been committed. However, if the tempting thought isn’t killed instantly, sin is committed. If temptations are ignored, before you know it, “desire has conceived,” (vs. 15) and even though you may debate committing the sin, in your heart you already want to sin, and thus are coveting what belongs to your fleshly nature (neighbor). This is where sin is committed. Allow John Calvin to explain my meaning. “It seems, however, improper, and not according to the usage of Scripture, to restrict the word sin to outward works, as though indeed lust itself were not a sin, and as though corrupt desires, remaining closed up within and suppressed, were not so many sins.”[xi][11]
The tenth commandment says “Do not covet…anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17). Desire[12] is wanting something, and coveting something that is not yours. My flesh is my neighbor, now that I’m a new creation in God (2 Corinthians 5:17), so if I’m desiring to do what is common to it,—sin—then I am guilty of coveting what belongs to my neighbor. “God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone” (James 1:13). I’m now God’s property and He does not tempt me. What He desires me to do is all for good (Romans 8:28). Once the desire (sin of coveting) is present, it gives birth to outward sin,—fornication, drunkenness, violence—the wages of which is death (Romans 6:23). James 1:16 explains the importance of understanding this truth when he admonishes his readers, “Don’t be deceived.” We need to kill temptations before they transform into desires. Once the desire is conceived, we are in sin. This is why Jesus commanded His disciples in Matthew 26:41 to, “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (NASB).
More than just not tempting anyone, God actually gives us good gifts (vs. 17). One of those is the Holy Spirit who allows us to see temptations as they really are. However, this doesn’t mean we should wander into tempting situations. God is the Father of lights and Satan rules the kingdom of darkness. Satan throws shadows on stuff to blur our vision and bait us like a fish. Fish are easiest caught in the morning and evening when shadows run rampant; at midday they can clearly see the bait as bait. “Enticed” in verse 14 could be literally rendered “‘taken with a bait,’ as fish are.”[xii] Satan would love to bait us and drag us away like a stupid fish, so we need to stay in the light to stay free of temptations. The apostle John writes in 1 John 1:5-6: “God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. If we say, ‘We have fellowship with Him,’ yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.” This verse reiterates the fact that God is the Father of lights and no darkness exists in Him. If you think you can survive as a Christian but not be under the light God offers—the light that proves temptations as temptations—you are setting yourself up to sin every day, which is not “practicing the truth.” The truth is that Christians hate sin and want to be free; living in the dark doesn’t let you see temptations as they truly are. Paul explains more in Ephesians 5:13-14: “Everything exposed by the light is made clear, for what makes everything clear is light.” God helps you see sin as sin. Don’t be deceived by Satan.
Now that we have looked at temptations which are not sin, but once they become desires, they are sin, we will look at how to overcome sins of any kind.

What are some strategies?

Scripture contains many practical strategies for getting out of the trap of fornication. If believed and applied, I firmly believe that you can experience freedom.

Where’s your focus?

The first strategy is to focus on Christ. Hebrews 12:1-2 explains this truth:
Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.
Simply put, we don’t have to stay enslaved to sin. If we were left to our own “free will”[13] we wouldn’t have a chance to escape sin’s grasp. It easily ensnares us—so easily. You think you’re free and then, not twenty-four hours later, you sin again. However, as Christians we aren’t alone, and can trust in Christ to free us. This verse gives two reasons for this truth. Jesus saved us and Jesus is sanctifying us.
The first step to being free of sin, then, is to throw it away. “What is clearly sin allows of no individual choice; it must be cast aside immediately upon recognition, as it springs from its ambush to entrap (euperistatos, "to ambush, to encircle, to entrap") the unwary. This kind of sin would impede our running, or slow us down; so away with it.”[xiii] It sounds simple enough, but let’s explore Hebrews 12:2 for practical ways to accomplish it.
The metaphor is running a race, and, being a cross-country runner in high school, I understand what Paul means by this metaphor.
First, there are several types of runners: those who start too fast and then slow down, those who start too slow and then speed up, and those who can start at a good pace and hold that pace the whole time. The same goes for those running the Christian race as well: those who start out zealous, but burn out halfway through, those who start slow, but get more zealous the longer they run, and those who start out zealous and continue it the whole time. In cross country I was the start too slow and get faster as I continue, and to be completely honest, this is how my Christian faith has been too, so far.
That said, there are several other comparisons between racing and the Christian life. If there was a hill in the course that you could run around (typically this isn’t possible in cross country) or go over, only an idiot would go over the hill. You would avoid it because it will tire you out and slow you down. If a sexual temptation comes into your life, you shouldn’t run straight at it, hoping to overcome it; you should flee around it—dodge it with all your might—and save yourself trouble.
Lastly, we must keep focus on Christ. In a race you don’t think about how much your body is telling you that you’re dumb for putting it through all this stress; you think about the fact that the end is coming up soon. In the same way, we should keep our eyes on Christ. We will see Him when our race is over and we want to hear, “Well done, good and faithful slave!” (Matthew 25:23). Keeping focused on Christ takes our minds off the sin we struggle with every day and allows us to truly be free—to truly throw off everything that entangles us—and run the race to win.
Only through Christ comes victory over sin. John Owen wrote that “Unless a man (or woman) be a believer—that is, one that is truly ingrafted into Christ—he can never mortify[14] any one sin; I do not say, unless he know himself to be so, but unless he indeed be so.”[xiv] This is why if you don’t focus on Christ, you will never be free from sin. We could get into the topic of assurance of salvation from Owen’s quote, but that’s not the point of this paper; just know that if Christ is not living in you, you have no hope to truly overcome this sin. Paul explains this truth in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57.
Death, where is your victory?
Death, where is your sting?
Now the sting of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ!
The reward of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and we all know what sin is because God wrote the law on our conscience (Romans 2:15). Take Jesus Christ out of those verses and you are left with verse 56: “Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” Christ destroys death’s victory and sting, and gives Christians victory. If you aren’t saved, there is no victory for you.
We are to keep our eyes on Christ, “the source and perfecter of our faith”; or in other words, “Christ saves us and sanctifies us.[15]” Colossians 2:13-14 explains that: “When you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross.” This verse explains how Christ saves and sanctifies.
When I was dead in my sins, He died for me and forgave me of all of my sins. This made me alive. Second Corinthians 5:17 explains how this works. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.” My sins have now passed away and new spiritual life has replaced it.
I owed a debt to the flesh before I was saved—many people are deceived into thinking that they still owe one—but Colossians 2:14 explains that Christ took that and nailed it to the cross. It was opposed to me, but now it’s been crucified. This helps sanctification immensely. Christ will perfect me as Hebrews 12:2 states when I realize that I no longer owe anything to the flesh, and stop living to gratify it. “You owe the flesh nothing but enmity! You owe the flesh nothing but war!...Guess what? You don’t owe him anything, except war. Make war on him.”[xv] Sanctification requires our full involvement, but cannot be separated from the power of Christ. Romans 8:13 says, “if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Do it with the help of Christ’s Spirit or there’s no hope to be free.
One final observation from Hebrews 12:2 is that Christ endured the cross “for the joy that lay before Him.” He was spit on and mocked and humiliated and beaten and killed for the joy that awaited Him. What joy is this speaking of? The joy of purchasing sinful me from the power of sin, and sanctifying me into His image. “He rejoiced to see that by his sufferings…he should make peace between God and man…and that he should effectually save all those whom the Father had given him.”[xvi] If there was no other reason to become free from sexual sins, this is more than enough. Christ died joyfully to save and sanctify me. Who am I to continue in sin?

How much do you love?

Now that we know that we no longer have to continue in sin, let’s explore how to actually achieve freedom. Mark 12:30-31 reads, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength…There is no other command greater than these.” The first step is to love God completely.
We should love God with all of ourselves. John MacArthur states: “The use of the various terms does not distinguish among human faculties but underscores the completeness of the kind of love commanded.”[xvii] While this may be true, I believe that a simple word study on each word—heart, soul, mind, strength—will prove that there is more than just completeness being spoken of here. I believe that truly loving God will give us freedom from sin.
According to the Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament,[xviii] the word “heart” is from the Greek, kardia, and speaks of “the seat of desires, feelings, affections, passions, impulses.” This is the same word Paul uses in Romans 2:14-15 where he says, “when Gentiles, who do not have the law, instinctively do what the law demands, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts” (emphasis added). Their conscience is telling them they are doing something wrong when they sin, when its desire is to do good. If Romans 1:18 is viewed, we see that, “people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” These people sin more and more to cover the truth that their inner person doesn’t desire the sin. It’s the beach ball principle though. If you hold a beach ball under a swimming pool and let go of it, it’s gonna shoot up out of the water and most likely hit you in the face. These people’s sins will one day hit them in the face because their inner desires are for the opposite of what they do outwardly. In the Bible, the heart is where desires live and grow.
God wants us, as Christians to desire Him more than anything else. In fact the word “all” before each body part is the Greek word, holos, meaning whole. There should be no part of us that wants anything more than we want God. Love God with ALL your desires.
The soul, translated from the Greek word, psychē, in the New Testament, is “metonymically…life itself.” First John 3:16 uses the same Greek word when it says, “This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers.” It’s interesting that 1 John 3:16 is actually talking about love, the same as Mark 12:30. In Mark 12:30 we are called to love God with all our life (soul) and in 1 John 3:16 we are given an example of how to love—by giving up our lives. Self-sacrifice is the way to love God with all your soul. “Christ alone laid down His one life for us all; we ought to lay down our lives severally for the lives of the brethren; if not actually, at least virtually, by giving our time, care, labors, prayers, substance.”[xix]
God wants us, as Christians to love Him more than we love our own life. This is why Christ said in Matthew 16:25 that, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it.” If you care more about your life, your comfort, your pleasure than you care about God, you don’t love Him with all your soul. Love God with ALL your life.
The mind, translated from the Greek word, dianoia, means “understanding, intellect…the thinking faculty.” Ephesians 2:3 uses this word as well when it says, “We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts” (emphasis added); 1 Peter 1:13 uses it too: “Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (emphasis added). These two verses show us before being saved and after being saved—as far as our minds are concerned. Before salvation we carried out the tendencies of our thoughts, which are sinful through and through (Romans 8:6). After we are saved, God gives us a new mind in which we grow to hate the flesh and grow to love the Spirit; our minds need to be ready for action.
God commands us to love Him enough to keep our thoughts centered on Him. If our minds fly right back to lusts, passions, and pleasures, we have no way of knowing that our mind has truly been changed. Love God with ALL your thoughts.[16]
Strength, translated from the Greek word, ischys, speaks “of mental and moral power, meaning might, ability, facility.” It is also found in Ephesians 6:10, “Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength” (emphasis added); and in 1 Peter 4:11, “if anyone serves, it should be from the strength God provides” (emphasis added). True strength comes from God. We have the moral power now that we are Christians to overcome temptation and kill sin in our lives with the help of the Spirit (Romans 8:13). Ephesians 6:10 is the introduction to the section on the Christian’s spiritual body armor—often used to discuss fighting temptation—and it starts by saying we have strength. We should serve others with strength as well.
We have a lot of strength from God. He commands us to love Him with all our strength. Shouldn’t we give back to Him what He gave to us? Simply stated, we need to love Him enough to use the strength He’s given to us to fight against all temptation—not just sexual—in our lives. If His strength means running fast away from a tempting situation—for a sexual sin—runners need strength so it works well. Love God with ALL your—actually, God’s—strength.
Mark 12:30 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Jesus said this was the greatest commandment (12:31) so I think we should take His advice and live by this. What area of your life do you need to love God more? Affections, life, thoughts, or strength?

What’s your mind like?

The mind is the place temptations start, and thus it is the hardest one to love God entirely with. Romans 12:2 confirms this by saying, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” We are to be transformed from sinful tendencies (this age), by renewing of our minds. One commentator stated, that it is not the transformation from death to life at salvation,
but the after progress and carrying on the work of renovation, the renewing of them day by day in the spirit of their minds…which believers should be desirous of, and pray for, and make use of those means which the Spirit of God owns for this purpose, attending to the spiritual exercises of religion, as reading, meditation, prayer, conference, the ministration of the word and ordinances, which is the reverse of conformity to the world.[xx]
If you are struggling with sin and are reading this paper and have made it this far, you are probably sick and tired of being conformed to the life of sin. Romans 8:5-8 proves that this should be a true assessment or that there are some other issues going on in your spiritual condition. These verses read:
For those who live according to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, about the things of the Spirit. For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
If you long for sin and think about it daily, you should double check the reality of your salvation. This mind set brings death, because it is hostile to God, people hostile to God are His enemies (Romans 5:10a) and God’s enemies are destroyed (Revelation 19:13-16, 21; Nahum 1:2-6). If you’re stuck in this mind frame, you may be able to defeat certain sins in your life, but it won’t please God because you will be doing it legalistically, not because you are seeking God’s glory.
However, if you are striving to glorify God in every aspect of your life, you are thinking about the things of the Spirit and that gives life and peace. Fleshly thoughts may come to mind every now and then, but if you’re typically thinking about things of God, you have life. First Peter 5:8 proves that the devil is always looking for someone to devour, so our thought life will never be completely perfect. This is why we need to heed Romans 12:2 and truly renew our minds so we know when the devil is trying to devour us.
We are commanded to not conform, and the only way for this to be a reality is if we are transformed. The way transformation begins, however, is with the mind. In fact, ‘transformation’ “would properly refer to the external appearance, but the expression which the apostle immediately uses, "renewing of the mind," shows that he did not intend to use it with reference to that only, but to the change of the whole man.”[xxi] You cannot truly transform externally until your mind has been transformed internally. Ephesians 4:22-24 helps solidify this truth. “In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (NASB, emphasis added).
The key here is verse twenty three. You are expected to stop sinning externally first. Then, verse twenty three talks about renewing your mind, and after that you can put on righteousness. Without mind renewal, the best you can be is gradually less sinful, but never more righteous.
Romans 12:2 goes on to say that by doing this you can see what God’s will is.  If it is cross referenced with 1 Thessalonians 4:3 we see that, “For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.” God’s will is our sanctification, specifically, staying away from fornication. Sanctification is defined as “The work of the Holy Spirit that separates believers in Jesus from the world…The believer participates with the Spirit in a process of transformation that continues until glorification. The goal of sanctification is progressive conformity to the image of Jesus Christ.”[xxii] This is why mind renewal will show us the will of God. It’s good for us, pleasing to Him, and perfect when we are finally in His presence.
Romans 12:3 adds a warning to the command of verse 2. “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.” It speaks of thinking, which heavily involves the mind.
For many people (myself included), we begin to think, ‘Oh, this sin is getting easier to overcome. I’ve beaten it.’ Or, ‘I don’t need to renew my mind, I just need to stop doing this thing that keeps eventually causing me to sin.’ This is thinking too highly of ourselves. Proverbs 16:18 warns against this when it says, “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.” Typically, when we get to thinking like this, we fall into sin often, because 1) we take our eyes off Christ, the only One Who can help us overcome sin (John 15:5), and thus forget about faith.
This is why we need to constantly make sure that we are thinking clearly and not becoming prideful. God distributes faith to us to help us every time we are tempted. If we don’t turn to Christ in prayer, we are doomed from the start to give in. We need renewed minds!

Do you fight or surrender?

Second Corinthians 10:3-5 explains the final goal of mind renewal. “For though we live in the body, we do not wage war in an unspiritual way, since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.” Do you see it there in verse 5? “Taking every thought captive to obey Christ.” This is what we want, but how do we get there? Let’s stroll through these verses and see what we find.
The first thing to notice is that we are in a war. A spiritual war. Paul describes it this way in Romans 8:13, “But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” We are to be killing sin. John Owen wrote, “Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work? Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”[xxiii] Notice how we are to kill sin though. Second Corinthians 10:4 says, “the weapons of our warfare are not worldly”; and Romans 8:13 says, “by the Spirit you put to death.” Compare that to Ephesians 6:17 which explains, “Take…the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.” The Bible is our weapon to defeat sin, and it is powerful.
Paul specifically states that “we do not wage war in an unspiritual way.” We don’t use real swords and guns and spears and grenades to defeat sin. We use God’s Word. People get this confused and take Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:27-30 literally,
You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to 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 the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell!
You can cut out your eyes and still lust in your heart with mental pictures you already have stored on the memory card of your mind. You can cut off your hand and still find some way to gratify the desires of the flesh. Jesus is not here saying to maim ourselves to stop a sin problem. No, He’s telling us to do whatever we need to do to prevent sin from happening. It starts in the heart. If you are falling into sin because of the internet—get your computer out of your room[17]. If you’re falling into sin because of pictures people post on Facebook—delete your Facebook account. If you’re falling into sin because of books that you enjoy reading—burn the books (Acts 19:18-19). If you’re falling into sin because of the ease of access on your phone/ipod—get rid of the web browsing ability34. If you’re falling into sin because you have a friend you talk/joke about sex with—tell him/her that you can’t discuss that stuff anymore. If you’re falling into sin because of a relationship with the opposite sex—break it off; tell them you’re done, you want to be pure[18].
Back to our warfare, though, we fight with the Spirit. If the Spirit is telling you to do something mentioned above, that’s fighting with the Spirit if you do it. If you resist, it’s fighting against the Spirit. The best way to fight with the Spirit is to stay in the Word and prayer, constantly. You can never get enough of the Living Water (John 4:10, 13-14) of God’s Word. You can never pray enough either. First Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray continually,” and Romans 8:26 says, “the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings.” We need to go to God constantly in prayer, even if we aren’t entirely sure what we should pray for. Just ask, “God, I need grace right now to get me through this temptation. I know You can help me. Please do it.”
The more you do this, the more your mind will be renewed, and the easier it will be to overcome temptations (that originate in your thoughts). “The sins of his heart are fortified by long indulgence, and by the hold which they have on his soul,”[xxiv] and sometimes it may seem like an impossible task to truly break free. However, at the same time, “that is what some of (us) were” (1 Corinthians 6:10). With God’s grace, lots of prayer, and lots of sword wielding, we will be able to overcome any thought strongholds. When this is done, James 4:7 explains the result. “Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you” (emphasis added). The word flee, is the same word used in 1 Corinthians 6:18; the Greek verb, “pheugō,” which is often used to mean “to seek safety by flight.”[xxv] Satan knows it’s a war, and he knows he’s going to lose, so when you war with the Word and prayer, you will have him fleeing for his life.
Sin is something, “raised up against the knowledge of God.” We can’t know God fully when we are stuck in sin. This is why we demolish everything that is raised up against God. The more we are in the word, and the more we train ourselves to pray when a temptation is coming on, the quicker we are able to take every thought captive. “You have about five seconds to deal with an immoral thought before it masters you. What do you do in the first five seconds?”[xxvi]
Why do we take thoughts captive? Look at the verse: “…captive, to obey Christ.” It’s not just so we don’t sin. No, rather we do it to obey Christ. Being able to take thoughts captive is a proof that your mind is being renewed. The “put on” therefore, is to obey Christ through it.

What is your idol?

Let’s look at one last way/reason to defeat sin in our lives. Ephesians 5:3-5 reads, “But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints. Coarse and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable, but rather giving thanks. For know and recognize this: Every sexually immoral or impure or greedy person, who is an idolater, does not have an inheritance in the kingdom of the Messiah and of God.”
This verse, mentioned earlier in relation to mental death from sexual immorality, sheds much light on the topic of freedom from sexual sin. Many of the previous strategies work for any sin, but this one is specific to sexual sin. Remember here that God created sex good, but after the fall Satan started perverting it. “Whatever it is that God establishes Satan will counterfeit, and here comes the perversion immediately in verses 3 and 4, and you see it there—fornication. Sex sin.”[xxvii] In fact, Genesis 2:25—as mentioned earlier—states, “Both the man and his wife were naked, yet felt no shame.” Genesis 3 shows the fall. Genesis 4:19 shows the first example of sexual perversion: “Lamech took two wives for himself, one named Adah and the other named Zillah.” This is a perversion because Genesis 2:24 gives the standard: “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife.” It doesn’t say wives; it says wife.
The first thing to notice is actually in verse 5. The list of three sins is summed up in one word as idolatry. Sexual immorality is idolatry in that the immoral person worships God’s gift of sex—in twisted ways—instead of worshiping God and using the gift properly. Impure people are idolatrous in that they worship sin rather than God and His righteousness. Greedy people are idolatrous in that they worship their lusts, wants, needs, more than God. Idolatry was preached against in God’s second commandment given to Israel. Exodus 20:4-6 states,
Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ sin, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commands.
God cannot stand idolatry, and that is what sexual sin comes down to. In fact, people that are given to the idolatry of sexual immorality are—in essence—greedy for what they don’t have[19]. This leads to impurity (thoughts, attitudes, actions) and ultimately will end up in fornication. John closes out his first epistle with the words, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21), because he realizes how susceptive our hearts our towards idolatry. Jeremiah wrote in Jeremiah 17:9 that,
The heart is more deceitful than anything else,
and incurable—who can understand it?
The way our human, fallen heart[20] works, is that it gravitates toward the first thing that tickles its fancy. Just as the planets orbit the largest thing in the solar system—the Sun—due to gravity, so our hearts are inclined, when God becomes smaller in our eyes, to gravitate toward popularity, power, and pleasure. And yes, even worshipping immorality in our hearts is a problem. Look at Deuteronomy 27:15: “‘The person who makes a carved idol or cast image, which is detestable to the Lord, the work of a craftsman, and sets it up in secret is cursed.’” This takes us back to Ephesians 5:3.
“But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed (which is idolatry)[21] should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints.” Or, to quote the NIV, there should be “not even a hint of sexual immorality.” This is because hinting about sexual immorality exposes the truth that, quite possibly, there is a sex idol set up in your heart. Verse 4 explains several ways this can be hinted at: “Coarse and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable.” If your talk and jokes are about sexual themes, you are hinting at sexual immorality. There is a very strong chance that you have an idol set up in your heart towards sexual immorality. Even more, if you are committing fornication—alone or with someone else—you have an idol set up in your heart. Verse four ends with how we should talk about sex: “but rather giving thanks.” We should thank God every day for His wonderful gift, and NEVER, EVER degrade it by joking about it. If you’re single (not married)[22], you should be thanking God for sex, and praying daily that He would prepare you for your future spouse. “Not even a hint” means that sexual immorality should not be present in thought, word, or deed. If we can defeat it in our thought life as far as renewing our minds goes, we won’t have to worry about it coming out in our words or deeds.
Back to verse 3 though, sexual immorality is not “proper for saints.” Holiness is proper; sin is improper. The word, saint, is from the Greek, hagios, which means, “set apart for God, to be, as it were, exclusively His.”[xxviii] Charles Hodge writes, “The inconsistency of all such sins with the character of Christians, as saints, people selected from the world and consecrated to God, is such as should forbid the very mention of them in a Christian society.”[xxix] When you worship sexual sins, you are not being exclusively God’s. You are sacrificing at the altars of lust, porn, masturbation, adultery, bisexuality, or homosexuality. God will not allow this to go on.
Look at verse 5: “For know and recognize this: Every sexually immoral or impure or greedy person, who is an idolater, does not have an inheritance in the kingdom of the Messiah and of God.” If you idolize all forms of perversions of God’s gift called sex, you have NO inheritance with God. Basically—to put it simply—you are not saved. God is “a jealous God” and wants to be worshiped. He will not tolerate worship of anything else. Revelation 22:15 says, “Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.” Idolaters do not get entrance into heaven. It’s simple: why would God allow someone who spent his/her whole life worshipping everything but Him to live with Him in a worship-filled environment forever? No sexually immoral person will enter into heaven. How do you compare?
So, to sum up this point, if your life shows hints of immorality, eradicate them, or else it is a good sign you are not God’s.

Why does it seem so hopeless?

You may be asking now, “What about me? I’m tired of sinning in this way, but I just can’t stop. Does that mean that I’m going to hell when I die?”
No. The fact that you are tired of sinning proves that God is changing your heart. I would ask you how many of the previous five[23] methods of defeating sin you have implemented into your life, though, and then I would add a closing thought to this whole concept.
First John[24] 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Most people—myself included, until recently—focus on the phrase, “forgive us our sins.” However, if that was all it said, Paul couldn’t say what he did in Romans 6:1-2. It reads, “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” If forgiveness was the end goal, we could sin to multiply grace. However, 1 John 1:9 ends with, “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous…to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This verse is extremely helpful in the fight against sin—especially sexual sin. “There are many warnings in Scripture about the danger of concealing our sins, and many promises of blessing if we confess them. Moreover, what is required is not a general confession of sin but a particular confession of our sins, as we deliberately call them to mind, confess and forsake them.”[xxx] Confess is translated from the Greek, homologeō, which means, “to say the same thing as another, i.e. to agree with.”[xxxi] When God says, “fornicators and adulterers (He) will judge,” (Heb 13:4, NASB) and you confess that you are guilty of fornication[25], you are agreeing with what God says and asking to be cleansed from it. By saying He is faithful and righteous it is saying 1) that He is not lying in verses similar to John 15:7 and 2) that it proves His righteousness when He cleanses us.
John 15:7 says, “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.” Jesus promises that if you are a true Christian, your prayers will be answered. The crucial point is that “if (Christ’s) words remain in you.” If you pray for a bigger house, a better car, or a billion dollars, it won’t happen. Nowhere in the Bible does it say to pray for these things. However, it does say to pray[26] to have spiritual discernment (Phil. 1:9), to avoid temptation (Luke 22:40), to intercede for others[27] (Eph. 6:18), to confess your sins to God (1 John 1:9), to intercede for a brother’s[28] sin (James 5:16), and—among other things—to never stop praying! (1 Thes. 5:17). These are the things that Christ promises will be done for you if His words remain in you and ask whatever you want. He is faithful to His word.
He is also righteous. His righteousness is what forgave us of our sins and positionally cleansed us when He died on the cross.[29] We are commanded to “be holy as (He is) holy” (1 Peter 1:16). So, when 1 John 1:9 says that He is righteous to grant us forgiveness and cleansing, it means that it is part of His nature, and not doing so, would be against it. If He kept us futilely fighting our sin with no future hope of cleansing, He wouldn’t be able to command us to be holy. But, as it is, He will do it, because holiness and sin are incompatible. He can’t be holy and be in the presence of sin. Matthew Henry says, “He…will forgive, to the contrite confessor, all his sins, cleanse him from the guilt of all unrighteousness, and in due time deliver him from the power and practice of it.”[xxxii] As Mike McKinley wrote, “Christ is faithful to forgive and cleanse us if we ask.”[xxxiii]
However, it is important to note that we will never be completely free of sin in this life. Romans 7:14-24 explains this very well.
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am made out of flesh, sold into sin’s power. For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me. So I discover this principle: When I want to do what is good, evil is with me. For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God’s law. But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this dying body?
You may disagree and say that that explains nothing. It’s confusing. And yes, I’ll agree with you that it is confusing. In fact, there are some people would say it’s not even right for me to bring up this passage in reference to freedom from sin; it’s a non-Christian struggling with sin, because believers aren’t in bondage anymore. I disagree and believe it has everything to do with the topic of freedom from sin.
First John 1:8, 10 explains as well. “If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us… If we say, ‘We don’t have any sin,’ we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” John MacArthur writes of Romans 7:14-24 that,
This person desires to obey God’s law and hates his sin (vv. 15, 19, 21); he is humble, recognizing that nothing good dwells in his humanness (v. 18); he sees sin in himself…Paul must be describing all Christians—even the most spiritual and mature—who, when they honestly evaluate themselves against the righteous standard of God’s Law, realize how far short they fall.[xxxiv]
Paul realized he didn’t have no sin and thus was wailing about the fact that he was so unholy. Even when born again and given new life in Christ, we still struggle with sin. Paul’s cry in verse 24 should be ours as well: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this dying body?”
 Romans 7:25-8:1—perhaps the worst chapter break in the Bible—gives the answer: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin. Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus.” If the passage was Paul’s experience as an unbeliever he would not have thanked “God through Jesus Christ” (vs. 25). Paul is saying that for the believer, his sins have been washed away by the blood of Christ; his mind is being renewed to follow God more fully; his sins will not go away until that is complete, in heaven.
However, we cannot take this verse to give us freedom to sin. Romans 6:1-2 says, “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” While we are not dead to sin in practice, we are in God’s eyes, which means that we should be able to see improvement in our holiness as we live life. This time next year you should be more holy than you are today. Two years from now even more so. If this is not a true reality in your life, I would suggest questioning the validity of your salvation. In John 14:23-24, Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. The one who doesn’t love Me will not keep My words. The word that you hear is not Mine but is from the Father who sent Me.” In John 15:6, he says, “If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” If you continue loving your sin and asking for forgiveness but not really, truly begging for cleansing, it is highly possible you will be burned on the last day.
The Romans 7 passage works like this. Today, you’re struggling with pornography, masturbation, and an immoral relationship. By next year you have not looked at porn, engaged in immorality, or masturbated in a long time. But, you now struggle with lusting after people you come in contact with. By the second year you have that beat, but now you want more than anything to be in a relationship (for perfectly good reasons), when you know you should be pursuing God and not someone of the opposite gender. The huge sins will fall away, but smaller ones will begin to bug you more and more. If this is the case, you are growing in holiness and experiencing Romans 7. “I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate… So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me” (Romans 7:15, 17).

Do you trust Him?

I hope this study has given you more tools in your fight against sin—specifically the area of fornication. God calls His children to be holy (1 Peter 1:16) and engaging in fornication is not being holy at all. I hope that through this study, more “one-women-men” (Titus 1:6) will be raised up; the world is in dire need of them. I pray it gives you weapons to fight with, thoughts to transform your mind with, and encouragement when you find that you have failed yet again. Ephesians 1:4 says, “For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight.” I pray you will be holy and blameless in all your ways—the reason God chose you in the first place. He could have chosen anyone, but He chose you. Trust Him for freedom from sin, cling to His power and grace daily, and love Him “with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength!” (Mark 12:30). “All things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27), but “you can do nothing without (Jesus)” (John 15:5). Trust Him every single day in all your thoughts, attitudes, and actions.

[1] Meaning, he is to be faithful to one woman, and one woman alone—in thought, attitude, and action. See Pastoral Qualifications: “One-woman-man” at the end of the main essay for a fuller discussion of this phrase.
[2] The Jerusalem Council met because Jews said Christians still had to follow the law to be saved. Paul, Peter, and James said “No. Only stay away from these things. Christianity is grace.”
[3] It’s really just prostitution without payment.
[4] Marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and His bride. John Calvin writes: “fornication bears some resemblance to the sacred connection of marriage, as being a corruption of it…God pronounces husband and wife to be one flesh, in order that neither of them may have connection with another flesh; so that the adulterer and adulteress do, also, become one flesh, and involve themselves in an accursed connection.”
[5] Fornication when one person involved is married
[6] HCSB footnote, literal rendering of text
[7] HCSB footnote, literal rendering of text
[8] Christians and non-Christians alike
[9] Adjective form of “fornicate”
[10] Taste would lead to temptations for gluttony, drunkenness, or other substance abuse, not sexual temptation.
[11] Not to mention Jesus’s statement in Matthew 5:28 about adultery and lust.
[12] “Desire” in the HCSB is translated “lust” in the NASB, but since a person can lust for food or a bigger house, I will speak of it in general and not specifically in relation to sexual temptation.
[13] Sinful nature. You put a salad in front of a lion, he’ll eat you, not the salad, because that’s his nature. We choose sin if left to ourselves, not God.
[14] Old English for “kill, murder, assassinate.”
[15] There’s WAY more to it than this, but this is a decent summary of it.
[16] Our next section discusses the mind in more detail.
[17] Or destroy it as some have done.
[18] This is extremely hard to do, but in the end, it’s the best thing that can be done.
[19] Or, discontent with what they do have.
[20] This is true for believer and non-believer.
[21] From verse 5
[22] Being “in a relationship” with someone does not make you not single as far as marriage is concerned.
[23] 1) Forsake sin; focus on Christ (Hebrews 12:1-2).   2) Love God completely (Mark 12:30).   3) Renew your mind (Romans 12:2-3).   4) Fight sin by the Spirit (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).   5) Don’t allow hints of sin through your words (Ephesians 5:3-5).
[24] First John is the Christian’s “spiritual checkup. Confession of and hopeful freedom from sin are signs of true salvation.
[25] Illicit sexual intercourse in general. (E.g. Lust, pornography, masturbation, homosexuality, bisexuality, immoral heterosexual relationships, etc.)
[26] Hebrews 4:16 defines this word well.
[27] And thus not focus on yourself
[28] A fellow believer who is struggling with a sin.
[29] If He had been unholy, His death wouldn’t have made us holy.

[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, Copyright 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers.
[ii] Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon.
[iii] Matthew Henry Commentary, Acts-Revelation.
[iv] Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon.
[v] Matthew Henry Commentary, Genesis-Deuteronomy.
[vi] Matthew Henry Commentary, Genesis-Deuteronomy.
[vii] Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.
[viii] John Gill Commentary, 1 Corinthians.
[ix] John Calvin Commentary, Corinthians, vol. 1.
[x] Barnes' Notes on the New Testament.
[xi] John Calvin Commentary, Peter, John, James, Jude.
[xii] Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary.
[xiii] The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.
[xiv] John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, pg. 27.
[xv] John Piper, “How to Kill Sin, pt. 1”. Preached Feb. 3, 2002.
[xvi] Matthew Henry Commentary, Acts-Revelation.
[xvii] John Macarthur Study Bible, note on Matthew 22:37.
[xviii] Unless otherwise noted, all word study explanations for the discussion on Mark 12:30 will be from the Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament by Spiros Zodhiates Th.D.
[xix] Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary.
[xx] John Gill Commentary, Romans.
[xxi] Barnes' Notes on the New Testament.
[xxii] HCSB bullet note.
[xxiii] John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, pg. 5.
[xxiv] Barnes' Notes on the New Testament.
[xxv] Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon.
[xxvi] John Piper, “This is the Will of God for You that You Abstain from Sexual Immorality”. Preached October 13, 2002.
[xxvii] John MacArthur, “Walking in Love, pt. 2”. Preached October 15, 1978.
[xxviii] Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon.
[xxix] Charles Hodge, Commentary on Ephesians, A.
[xxx] John Stott. The Letters of John, pg. 83.
[xxxi] Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon
[xxxii] Matthew Henry Commentary. Acts to Revelation.
[xxxiii] Mike McKinley. Am I Really a Christian? (pg. 126).
[xxxiv] John Macarthur Study Bible, note on Romans 7:14-25.

No comments:

Post a Comment