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Christians must avoid ‘line’ of temptation

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Sex is a gift God designed to be acted out within marriage, but Satan tempts all Christians to misuse it in sinful ways, and they must be prepared to battle temptation, Charles Lawless told a group of college students recently at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Sexual temptation is a universal struggle among people because God-given physical urges are a strong tool in the hands of Satan, Lawless said in February at Southern Seminary’s annual Give Me An Answer Collegiate Conference. The conference theme was, “Does God Care About Sex?”

“We all struggle with the reality of our sexuality,” said Lawless, dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth. “It is a gift that seems to haunt us because the enemy always wants to pervert the biblical picture of sexuality.

“The union of marriage and the beauty and perfection of marriage as God designed it helps us to see what the church is to be like and how God loves us. This is significant to God. We are to hold marriage as honorable and pure, so any sexuality that we are to experience is to come within the bonds of sacred marriage. Satan uses sexual temptation to distort the picture of Christ’s relationship with the church.”

The Bible gives parameters as to where the line of sexual sin exists, Lawless said.

“As Christians, we do know where these lines are because God has told us very clearly in His Word what His standards are,” he said. “A part of the problem is we live in a world that says there is no line or that keeps moving the line.”

Since God’s Word makes the line clear, Lawless said Christians know when they are making decisions and choices that are pushing them ever closer to the line. Pointing to Genesis 3, Lawless said Satan lures Christians up to and beyond the line of sexual temptation in four basic ways:

— Satan engages believers in conversation.

Just as Eve conversed with the serpent in the Garden, so believers are inching ever closer to the line of sexual sin when they first ponder sinful activities, he said.

“Our sin begins when we first start to think about that possible sin, when the enemy first puts that thought in our mind and grabs us.” Lawless said.

“Sin begins when you begin to think about staying on the Internet a little bit longer and you click one more time in a certain direction or you read that unsolicited e-mail that you know by the subject line is going to lead you into trouble. You begin to think, ‘I wonder if I should check it out?’ You are engaging in conversation with the enemy, but you are not yet at the line.”

— Next, Satan leads believers to doubt or ignore God’s Word, Lawless said.

The enemy will replace God’s Word with unbiblical thoughts such as, “nobody will know,” or “you can always change your ways tomorrow,” or “this is not going to hurt anybody else,” Lawless said, adding that all such rationalizations cut directly against the grain of Scripture.

— Satan then points the believer to what he or she is missing, Lawless said.

While believers have profound eternal blessings in Christ, Satan will tempt Christians to locate ultimate pleasure in the “forbidden fruit,” he said.

“When we cross the line we decide that the sin that we want, at least temporarily, matters more than every other blessing that God has given us: our health, our home, our family, everything,” he said.

— Finally, Lawless said, Satan wants believers who have compromised with sexual sin to flee to the secret place in shame — just as Adam and Eve hid in Eden following the fall.

The very one who formerly enticed the Christian to sin now becomes his or her accuser, Lawless said, with the result that the fallen person spirals into worse sexual behavior.

“The enemy always want us to live in secrets, to live in the hidden places of our lives,” Lawless said. “He wants us to live in the depths of that sin so that it becomes more and more a stronghold. For example, sometimes the simplest pornography leads to looking at more extreme porn and then to even worse things.”

But the bad news of Genesis 3 is accompanied by the good news of God’s grace in Christ, Lawless pointed out. God came looking for Adam and Eve while they hid in the garden and, in His mercy, the Lord also seeks out His fallen children, Lawless said.

“He comes looking for us in our sin when in fact He would be justified to let our sin destroy us,” he said. “When we find ourselves on the wrong side of the line we are not left alone there, but God in grace comes seeking us out.”

While Scripture clearly marks the line for sexual sin, it also gives God’s plan for overcoming temptation, Lawless said. To successfully battle sexual temptation, Lawless said Christians must:

— Decide to seek the higher pleasure of serving God.

Believers must decide that eternal pleasure is of greater value than the fleeting gratification that comes from sexual sin.

— Get an accountability partner.

Confession of sins to another person in line with James 5:16 will bring sins out of the closet of secrecy, he said. Lawless cautioned believers to take care in choosing an accountability partner; the person must not be a gossip and must not be of the opposite gender. In confessing sins, Lawless said a Christian must be specific regarding their personal struggles and failures.

— Stay away from the line.

Christians must make choices that keep them from moving in the vicinity of sexual immorality, he said. For example, a boy and girl in a dating relationship might decide never to be alone together in a car or a family might put its home computer at a place where it can be seen by other family members at all times, Lawless said.

— Replace bad thoughts and mental images with the Word of God.

Christians must read and memorize the Bible constantly to renew their minds, he said.

— Repent and move on.

If a believer has yielded to such temptation, he or she must repent and then rest in God’s mercy.

    About the Author

  • Jeff Robinson

    Jeff Robinson is director of news and information at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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