Sexual purity is a huge issue for most young men. Immorality has grave consequences for personal joy and relationship with God, the integrity of the family, and the unity and intimacy of the church. Our world is so absurdly
pornified that a lot of us don’t know where to start fighting it, but we really should! Our churches and communities are starting to lack strong leaders that are committed to the word of God because more and more men are either losing the battle or too consumed by it to make a difference around them.
My purpose in writing this blog-post (apart from preaching to myself) is to give young men a basic tool-set, a set of strategies and tactics that allow them to outflank the enemy and take back their lives. The following is a case-study of the most iconic event of this kind in human history (King Davids horrifying adultery with Bathsheba) to provide the threat model, mingled with practical advice again drawn from scripture.
Each part has the following structure:
- Examine David’s mistake
- Identify the threat
- Learn to fight it
In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.
(2 Samuel 11:1)
1 Verse into the chapter, David already makes a mistake. He stayed at home while his entire army was out on the battlefield. He rejected his responsibility as the king of Israel, lazily or proudly enjoying his palace. Procrastination is asking for trouble.
Firstly, Davids rejection of his responsibility meant that others that needed him were left in the cold. And while most of us don’t physically fight wars, we do not own our lives – our king Jesus does! Our children, wives, friends and congregations deserve our time, not to mention the huge amount of people that are left to be saved.
And secondly, we must not forget that our flesh fights us (Romans 7:18). Our brain is chemically addicted to the pleasures that our eyes can provide. It is only natural that idleness and boredom invite our thoughts and eyes to wander… Not doing what we currently should be doing is an open invitation for Satan to come and
Fortunately, the opposite holds as well: If we feed our soul with good food and occupy ourselves with good things, we not only grow stronger, but also drastically reduce the attack surface for temptation. My advice follows Psalm 119 and Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. This is not only a great way of preempting threats, but also a very powerful offensive tool because you suddenly start to spread the kingdom of God around you!
Be active, do what you are called and supposed to do. Get to know your responsibilities before God and men and learn to uphold them. When you have free time, use that for God’s glory as well! Instead of being alone, draw near to God. Read the bible, study it, learn to love it. Read books, take notes, maybe even start doing bible studies with friends (if you have a wife or children, you should already be doing some with them!). Sports are also very useful because they reinforce the sense of
fighting, increasing both mental toughness and endurance. Try writing commentaries or topical studies, answer the questions of people around you! And find ways to serve the body of Christ.
Spend so much time in the word that your heart sings the psalm:
Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. Psalm 119:6
Caught With his Guard Down
It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king's house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. (2 Samuel 11:2)
David’s next mistake is even more preventable. It’s similar to the previous one in that he is not where he is supposed to be. By not sleeping and walking on his roof, he let his guard down and exposed himself in a very weak moment.
He does not understand just how deeply endangered he is: Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) This is not the kind of enemy that we can fend off in our sleep. We need to keep our eyes open at all times! Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)
I know from personal experience that tired lethargy is a very dangerous state to be in. It is nearly impossible to avoid looking at stuff when you are tired and in front of the computer instead of in your bed. The lesson is simple: Either you are awake enough to do something useful, or you better go sleep. Anything in between is as stupid as charging at an enemy with the pants down.
A broader application of this threat model reminds us to avoid known dangerous situations. There are a lot of them in our world, everyone is out to get us. Billboards, song lyrics, movies, ads, the way most young women dress and act are all very dangerous. We should strive to avoid them as much as we can, as hard as that might seem (and is). Looking at Job 31:1 teaches us another tactic: I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin? Try taking this verse literally. Whenever your eyes lock onto an enticing sight (sadly, they are very good at finding them…), look away immediately. Don’t tolerate even a glimpse. Train your brain to avoid these sights! It’s hard and you will probably not succeed completely, but it will be very helpful nonetheless.
And we should remember what Jesus taught his disciples about weak moments: Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Mark 14:38) Don’t only stay watchful and try to avoid situations that leave you without defense. Pray! Prayer is our best defense against temptation. Ask your father for help in the battle, he will gladly help you to stay pure.
Playing With Fire
And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, "Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. (2 Samuel 11:3-4)
David could have gone to sleep. Instead, he actively fantasized, considered her, inquired after her, sent for her and slept with her. He probably thought that “he would be fine”, that he was “not that kind of guy”, he would be “careful” or something similar.
We tend to think these things. The sad reality is that most sexual sin involves a very conscious decision somewhere down the line. We think that we are strong, somehow above the danger, that we have the ability to judge and control ourselves and “not go too far”. In fact, a lot of sin happens because we choose to accept “just a little bit” of wandering eyes or fantasy, maybe even “just one more click” online.
However, humans and men in particular are not designed that way. Whatever o-so-small sin we tolerate will eventually corrupt and consume us – not to mention that it will lead to much larger sins. Jesus’ teaching about justification (summed up in James 2:10) also shows us our true nature. This isn’t new knowledge either, Solomon knew it a long time ago: Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? (Proverbs 6:27-28)
There’s not much more to say here. I’ll let Paul speak for me: Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18) It’s that simple. There’s no threshold below which we can control ourselves. This is a matter of life and death. We are told to fight the devil (James 4:7), but we are not strong enough even with the Spirit to fight sexual temptation.
The only way is to flee from it as far as possible, using God’s word as guide and help! Solomon told his sons to not go near the house of the prostitute (Proverbs 5:8). Our job is not to find the closest we can go, but to stay clear as much as possible.
The Seductive Nature of Sin
David’s next mistake was not seeing what he was being seduced by. Sin appears to be very attractive on first glance: it’s “fun”, it “feels good”, “I deserve it”… However, we fail to see the dangers lurking behind. For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. (Proverbs 5:3-4)
Humans are notoriously terrible at objective thinking (to the great joy of marketing people and bankers). It is very apparent that sin is a horrible choice in the long run, but we simply don’t see that in the heat of the moment.
This is a tough one. Fighting it requires us to trust God that he is a greater source of pleasure than anything else and that he gives us everything we need. The only way to really learn this is by depending and relying on him all our lives, studying and possibly memorizing scripture along the way to help us see.
Look at God’s words to David after this adultery: Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.” (2 Samuel 12:7-8, emphasis mine) God asks David why he didn’t entrust him his needs and desires!
Finally, we must keep the eternal perspective. Even if something was more pleasant now than an intimate relationship with God (and I don’t believe that there can be anything more satisfying than that), that would change once we realize that our lives are eternal. Remember Jesus’ words: For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? (Luke 9:24-25) It simply isn’t worth it.
And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, "I am pregnant."
In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah.
In the letter he wrote, "Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die."
And as Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant men.
And the men of the city came out and fought with Joab, and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite also died.
(2 Samuel 11:5 & 2 Samuel 11:14-17)
David’s final mistake was to forget the consequences that his actions would have. Of course, he destroyed the life of a family. But he also ordered the murder of her husband, which resulted in collateral damage – killing additional, equally innocent men. Bathsheba became pregnant, and we even know from 2 Samuel 12:15-18 that the Lord killed the child when he was born.
We should remember that our sins have consequences. More specifically, every sin is a slippery slope and sexual sin even more so. David could not have foreseen the multiple murder and death of the child, but he should have seen that his sins would lead to further mistakes. And so should we. It will probably be helpful in our battle for sexual purity and holiness in general to study the consequences of the sins we commit – preferably beforehand…
Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it. Proverbs 5:5-6
My last advice is to know the Bible well. Read it, study it, ponder it, pray it, teach it. That’s the only really effective way to fight sexual temptation, as the above text hopefully showed you. Try memorizing scripture as specific lines of defense against the most dangerous sins. The below list compiles some suggestions, mostly from this post. Start with some of them and work your way through.
- Romans 7:18
- Philippians 4:8
- 1 Peter 5:8
- 1 Corinthians 10:12
- Job 31:1
- Mark 14:38
- Proverbs 6:27-28
- 1 Corinthians 6:18
- 2 Samuel 12:8b
- Hebrews 13:4
- Proverbs 5
- Psalm 51
- Psalm 119