Our world is awash in sexual immorality. Whether it is adultery, pornography, fornication, or gay marriage it seems that our culture is not only experiencing, but also embracing the full buffet of sexual sin.
Perhaps the saddest part of this reality is that the same problems, which plague the culture, are also strongly represented in the church. Most of my counseling ministry is spent talking to Christians who have been devastated by one sexual sin or another. The most desperate people I have ever known are those who have experienced sexual sin—either their own or the sins of someone else.
Learning How to Change
In that context many people believe that change is possible. They want to be different, but they don’t know how to realize true change. There are many crucial factors that are part of the change process that would lead a person struggling with sexual sin to freedom from that sin. Here I want to address what I think is the most important reality. The answer comes in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 where Paul says,
This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.
Paul says that the difference between those who are controlled by sexual sin, and those who know how to control their own body in holiness and honor is the difference between those who know God and those who do not. The people who live in the passion of lust are the people who do not know God. The people who are growing in purity are the people who do know him.
That is a fascinating reality. The most important thing you can do in your pursuit of purity is to get to know the living God. It kind of makes you wonder though, doesn’t it? What is it about knowing God that is so essential to purity? I can think of three things.
1. When you know God you see his purity.
Laws always reflect the character of the one who makes them. All of God’s commands for us to be sexually pure flow from his own heart of purity. The God who calls us to purity is himself the very definition of that purity. Indeed,”God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
When you know this God who is purity and who is light you will want to be like him.
2. When you know God you see his pardon for your sin.
The only way you can know God is by knowing his Son Jesus Christ. To know Jesus Christ is to know the one who provides forgiveness for our sin on his cross. Being forgiven is the most wonderful thing in the world. It means that all the things you have ever done will not be held against you because of the work of another.
Few sinful categories carry the weight of shame that sexual sins do. When you know God through his Son who provides freedom from your guilt and shame it is an unbelievably freeing reality. This is the kind of freedom needed in the lives of those struggling with sexual sin.
3. When you know God you see his power to change you.
After you have trusted Jesus to forgive you, you need to trust him to empower your efforts to be holy. The good news of the gospel is not merely that God forgives our sins. It is the further announcement that God empowers our obedience.The good news of the gospel is not merely that God forgives our sins. It is the further announcement that God empowers our obedience. Click To Tweet
For people struggling with sexual sin they need the hope that their wickedness will be forgiven. More than that, they need the hope that they can actually change. Knowing God is to know the one who “trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:12).
What this all means is that when we are counseling people who struggle sexually the most important thing we will help them do is to know God. Of course they need to learn how to repent, be restored in their broken relationship, and a million other things.
As we engage in this important work, however, we must never take our eyes off the goal of pointing people to a perfect God who loves them and demonstrates purity, provides pardon, and empowers change.