What do you do when you have any kind of desires or attractions that you know God would not smile on, if indulged? Like an older man feeling sexually attracted to prepubescent children, a married person attracted to anyone other than their spouse, single people messing around with each other outside of marriage, or any other illegitimate sexual attractions? There are all kinds of attractions we can experience as human beings, but in this, as in every other area of our lives, we want to please God. So how should we handle these feelings?
“To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:8)
The unsearchable riches of Christ are that even though we are human, burdened with the various pitfalls humans are susceptible to, because of Christ, God loves us and help us overcome these temptations so we can live righteously. Yet it isn’t automatic that once we commit to following Christ, all of the things we were tempted by before just go away. We need to be prudent in a very practical sense to know how to live.
One of the primary mistakes people make is to assume they are the only ones going through the particular temptation they struggle with, but even a precursory scan of Craig’s list personals will reveal this to not be true. Whatever the sin that is a point of particular vulnerability to you, rest assured that you are not the only one tempted by it.
Paul addressed this fact in I Corinthians 6:9-11: “Do you not know that the unrighteous [people who do wrong, NCV translation] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators [unmarried sexual sin], nor idolaters, nor adulterers [sexual relations with someone other than your spouse] , nor homosexuals [male prostitutes, NCV], nor sodomites [men who have sexual relations with other men, NCV], nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified [made holy, NCV], but you were justified [made right with God, NCV] in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” The fact of the matter is that God’s people—the church, the redeemed—are made up of a wide cross-section of society. Some were into various of the more obvious sins, but when we come to Christ, He justifies and sanctifies us—forgives us and makes us into a new creation in Christ capable of resisting temptation.
Yet the point is that while God accepts anyone who comes to Him, He doesn’t let us stay there. Society has a way of categorizing sins into acceptable and unacceptable, based on its current whims, but God recognizes all of it as that which keeps us from being everything He wants for us. None of it is okay. Whatever the sin—and the scope of the possibilities are all-inclusive—God can take who you are, complete with all of your sinful tendencies, and get you out of it. So what should we do, in a very practical sense, when we feel ourselves vulnerable?
My personal experience, as well as what the Bible teaches, has shown me that we are to distance ourselves from things that are unpleasing to God, while at the same time getting closer to the things that do please Him. What this means in regular language is that as humans we may experience various attractions, but we are to walk away from/starve/not indulge the ones we know God wouldn’t be happy with and pursue/cultivate/enjoy the ones God is happy with. When you don’t do that—when you keep pursuing the wrong attractions, you mess up your life (and other peoples’ lives), and disobey God. Taken to an extreme, it really can cost you everything.
So rather than acting like, for example, the man attracted to a woman he knows is married who says to himself, “I don’t care—she makes me feel so good, I’ll do anything to be with her (to sin),” we do the opposite. We say, “Yes, I’m experiencing this, but I know this isn’t an attraction God wants me to pursue, so I’m going to make a conscious decision to walk away from it and seek an attraction that is good.” (You certainly can’t turn it back on God and say, “He gave me these attractions, so they must be okay”—God did give us our basic make-up, but it is our sin nature working in us that twists our reproductive desires so that they become sinful.)
Whenever we are tempted, we have a choice. We can stubbornly insist, “I know this is wrong, but I’m going to pursue it because…[fill in the blank—it’s my life, I don’t care how it affects others or ruins me or the other person, gratifying myself is the only thing that matters, etc.]” Or, I can chose to instead say, “no” to what I know is wrong (which isn’t always easy, because the feelings can be strong), and try my best to find gratification/fulfillment/joy in my legitimate relationships which I know are pleasing to God, even though these might not initially suggest as much gratification value. There will always be excuses you can come up with for choosing to keep barking up the wrong tree, but they’re still excuses, and sin is still sin. So we make a conscious decision to do the smart thing, the thing that is right and pleases God.
This might not result in a fairy-tale ending. I might not miraculouslly find Mr. or Ms. Right, my spouse might not morph into a wonderful person, and it may not be true that I will never again experience wrong urgings from my sin nature. But certain things will be true.
I will not have consciously walked away from God. I will not have ruined my marriage if I am married. If I have children, I will not have messed them up with my awful example. Even if you’re single, the sinful decisions you make affect so many other people. You can still look at yourself in the mirror in the morning, and not have to try to come up with reasons to try to make yourself believe it was okay. And you’re certainly not living some kind of lie because you’ve not indulged a wrong lust. To the contrary, you will be happy that God helped you do the right thing! Yes, it is “taking up your cross” (consciously choose the more difficult decision), but it is what God desires for us and what will ultimately result in our own good and happiness!
In summary, God’s solution to hard situations is walk away from the wrong, go toward the right, or starve the wrong desires, feed the good ones. Always actively choose to do the right thing. It might require a lifetime of faithful effort, but God will help you persevere, because in the end, our heart’s desire is to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
Thank You that You show us how to live our lives faithful to You—that You do help us, and that I truly can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me! Amen.