Many people think sexual sin is simply a lust struggle. All sexual sin is a lust struggle for sure, but that is not all it is. People often run to porn or sexual sin to find love, acceptance, and intimacy, but sadly, pursuit of sexual sin leaves them feeling shame and fear. We want men, students, and families to deal with the issues of the heart (like lack of love, acceptance, and intimacy) so they can experience Christ’s love and walk in freedom.
Pornography almost destroyed me and everything I cared about. I just wanted to “stop lusting.” When my two mentors helped me with my pornography battle, they helped me with one fundamental truth—there was a heart issue behind my sexual sin struggle. Sexual sin is a type of idolatry. It puts pleasing self above honoring God. I was blind to the real issue. They helped me to see if I dealt with the issue in my heart, my capacity would increase to deal with my lust/idolatry struggle.
Here’s an example of how to go after the heart and potentially discover what the issue is behind the idolatry struggle.
How are you feeling when temptation hits (BLAST*)?
How Jesus helps us in the midst of our negative emotions:
- If I’m BORED, I might lack purpose. I may need to see life as worship and spend myself for the needy (Colossians 1:15-16; Isaiah 58:6-12).
- If I’m LONELY, I may need to see how Jesus can meet my aloneness needs, and it might be helpful to know that Jesus battled loneliness too (Psalm 88; Matthew 26:36-46).
- If I’m ANGRY, I need to receive God’s forgiveness for my sin and give that forgiveness away to those who have wronged me (Ephesians 4:32).
- If I’m AFRAID, I need to experience God’s perfect love (1 John 4:18).
- If I’m SAD, I need to experience God’s comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
- If I’m STRESSED, I need to learn how to trust in God and God alone (Proverbs 3:5-6).
- If I feel SHAME, I need to know that Jesus covers my shame with His righteousness, and I need to experience this truth about my identity in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
- If I’m TIRED, I need to either experience rest for my soul (Matthew 11:28) or physical rest by just going to bed (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Sexual sin is overwhelmingly present in our culture and is pervasive throughout the church as well. Unfortunately, many ministry leaders aren’t trained in how to go after the heart issue behind sexual sin. Often, counsel is directed at things that will help hold folks accountable and “change behavior.” That’s not bad, but it’s incomplete. We must detox our flesh from the idol of sexual sin and go after issues of the heart. BLAST is a tool to help us do this (for more on this, check out www.cravefreedom.com). As a ministry leader or leader of your family, ask “what is really going on in the heart of the person I am trying to lead out of their sexual sin struggle?” This might completely change how you disciple someone bowing down to sexual sin.
The other issue to focus on is that ministry and family leaders are ill equipped to help those they lead out of this struggle because they find themselves in the same exact battle. There are lots of reasons that ministers stay stuck in this intense sin battle, but one of them is shame.
What is shame? Guilt says I feel bad for doing wrong. Shame says I feel worthless because there is something wrong with me.
Where did shame come from? (Genesis 3) When Adam and Eve sinned their eyes were opened, and they realized they were naked. In Genesis 2:25 they were naked with no shame, but the moment they sinned, in their nakedness they felt shame.
What does shame cause us to do?
- Cover up (Genesis 3:7)
- Hide (Genesis 3:8)
- Be afraid (Genesis 3:10)
- Blame others (Genesis 3:12-13)
We all do this. We battle shame. We want to cover up or hide. We are afraid of God, or if we are not careful, we blame others for our problems. There is one thought however I find really encouraging.
God looks for us in the midst of our shame (Genesis 3:8-9). God still went walking in the cool of the day looking for Adam and Eve knowing they had sinned. God could turn His back on us in our shame, but instead, He meets us right in the middle of it. He demonstrated that most emphatically through Christ.
There are consequences for sin. Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden. When we bow down to idols there are intense consequences. The important thing to remember is that in the midst of our idolatrous sin and its consequences and shame, God is near us. He wants to be with us in the midst of our consequences when we call on Him, and in Jesus, He covers our sin and shame.
Think about shame in the context of idolatry. If this shame is not dealt with, then it leads to more idolatry.
Something else might trigger you to give into the idolatry (boredom, loneliness, anger, sadness, etc.), but if you are not careful, then shame will lead you to more idolatry. In essence, shame keeps you stuck in the idolatry. Shame keeps you bowing down to sin. That is why it is so important to deal with your shame! Only Christ can do this!
Christ encounters a woman in John 8 who felt a ton of shame, but he did not condemn her. Even though He has the power to do so. What is the point?
To the woman in John 8, He tells her “neither do I condemn you.” Then He instructs her to leave her life of sin. Through trust in Him and the work He did on the cross we are not condemned (John 8:11). Praise the Lord! Romans 2 tells us forgiveness and kindness leads to repentance. This is the very thing Jesus does with this woman. She is forgiven and instructed to live a life of repentance. This is the opposite of what shame does.
Shame often comes from sin and even drives us to sin more. The cross empowers us and motivates us to leave our life of sin (John 8:11). Like the woman, we can be freed and empowered to leave our lives of sin and to follow Jesus with everything we have!
Thank you Jesus for the Truth of the Gospel that tells us we are not shamed or condemned (Romans 8:1).
What if family and ministry leaders right now battling sexual sin idolatry actually believed that? Maybe they would come out of hiding and bring their sin into the light, trusting that God still wants to be with them. They can trust He wants to be with them in their shame, cover their sin with His righteousness, and graciously walk with them no matter the consequences. What if family and ministry leaders who are walking in freedom felt empowered to go after people’s hearts, not just their behavior? Maybe the truth of how God meets us in our sin and shame would help them have confidence to pour into people in some really messy areas (like sexual sin) and not just manage behavior but go after the heart!
Dream with me for a minute. What if Christ’s church actually believed that the God of the universe wanted intimacy with us in spite of our sin and shame and that He was better than anything we could ever bow down to? Maybe we might just see some brokenness, repentance, and revival. But make no mistake, that repentance and brokenness starts with those who lead. May the truth of Genesis 3, John 8, and Romans 8 lead us to freedom in Him. May that in turn empower us to lead others to find that same freedom.
*The BLAST acronym originally came from Doug Hutchins and is used with his permission.
- Discovering the Heart Issue Behind the Struggle of Sexual Sin - January 7, 2021