Sex is everywhere. A constant bombardment. I live in Phnom Penh in Cambodia, a deeply sexualised culture: massage parlours on every corner. Beautiful young women and men (and in-betweens) offering sex for the price of a round of drinks or less, and of course hardcore porn at the click of a mouse. How do we stay safe when the storms of sexual urges hit, the hurricanes of hedonism, tornadoes of temptation? How do we fight these desires that Paul says war with our soul ?
Here’s a three-fold arsenal:
1. Software programs that block sites with certain words or send a list of sites we’ve browsed to a specially-selected friend. Embarrassment as a weapon works for some. Although it’s not that difficult to slip out to an internet café…
2. Counselling. My friend’s therapist labelled him a ‘sex addict’ , which didn’t help and in fact made things worse. It exacerbated his situation and gave him an excuse to act out and wallow in his lust even more. Things deteriorated. The therapist, in fairness, did pinpoint the reason for his issue, rooted in childhood, which did help. Therapy definitely has its benefits.
3. The nuke. Not just any old nuke but the nuke of nukes, sent by the King of Kings: grace. A bunker-busting warhead of love, penetrating deep into our pain. With precision aim this divinely-powered missile doesn’t detonate with life-destroying explosives but explodes with life-restoring grace.
Grace is God’s weapon, and in my experience the only weapon, that can truly set us free. “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. We have divine power” (2 Corinthians 10:4).
Grace can destroy the harmful habits that try their hardest to hold us down, suffocate us under a quilt of guilt, strangle us with our shame. Only by truly understanding, truly grasping God’s grace will we ever be free from the self-hatred that leads us to make the same mistakes over and over again, making us hate ourselves even more. An ever-deepening spiral of pain.
Only when we’ve truly grasped that no matter what we do, whatever mistakes we make, God has forgiven us; once, for all, on the cross. In fact, we can look at porn all day, masturbate until we’re blue in the face and become involved in all kinds of lustful lunacy – if we’re in Christ, God doesn’t count it against us. People might. Christians might. Legalistic leaders might. But God doesn’t. And “if it’s God who justifies us, who can throw a charge against us?” We are free.
Free to look at porn? Free to masturbate? But what about “everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial”, I hear someone say. Well, like Paul says in his letter to the Romans: “Shall we sin more, then, to get more grace?” Of course not! But the point is, if we do mess up, we are still holy. Nothing we can do can change that. “We have been made holy by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10)
Sin is rebellion against God, right? But if nothing we do wrong can turn God against us, if nothing we can do can expel us from God’s love, what’s the point? God loves us beyond what we can possibly imagine. He loves us so much that He let Jesus take our punishment so that we might live with Him forever. He took our sin so we could become holy. Swapped places. He became sin. We became holy. He was born of a human. We are born of God. In fact, because we are born of God, John says, we cannot sin (1 John 3:9). Not might not. Not should not. Not will not at some mystical time in the future. But can not. Because of Christ’s sacrifice we have been made holy, once for all.
Grasping this is true freedom. The freedom to know that even if we mess up, we are still holy in God’s eyes. We cannot sin. We are free. Nothing we can do can change that.
“By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who have been made holy” (Hebrews 10:14).
Now that, brothers and sisters, is true freedom.