We know what losing looks like.
We know we’ve lost the battle against sexual sin when we looked at porn, again, after promising ourselves we’d stop.
We know we’ve lost when we have to get tested for an STD after hooking up with a stranger we met on a dating app.
We know we’ve lost when we posted that pic of ourselves on Snapchat, when we slept with our boyfriend or when we masturbated.
We know when we’re losing the battle, but how do we stop losing? How can we turn the tide and change the outcome of the fight? Let’s look at five things we need to fight sin and battle well.
1. Companions in the journey
I recently discovered that a group of 20-somethings in my church had never seen movies I consider classics — “Star Wars,” “Harry Potter” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.” So we’ve had several movie nights and are currently working our way through the “Lord of the Rings” movies. If you’re familiar with the storyline of LOTR, you know Frodo is carrying a powerful, dangerous ring to Mt. Doom, the place for its destruction. The ring becomes more burdensome the longer he carries it, and Frodo faces many perilous situations and obstacles along the journey.
I often think about this movie as I’m walking with young women who are entrenched in sexual sin. Like Frodo, we all need a “fellowship,” a group of companions, to journey alongside us. We need friends, mentors and, depending on the situation, a counselor, recovery group and/or sponsor. Some people might be in our lives for a season; some might be lifelong companions, but you cannot fight against sin alone. We need people around us who know the real us, who will encourage us, pray with and for us, and speak truth to us.
2. No secrets
If you currently are losing the battle against sin, is your sin a secret? As long as it’s a secret, you’ll continue to fight a losing battle. You can’t win if you don’t bring sin to light, which involves confessing it to God and being honest with others about where you are and what you’re dealing with (1 John 1).
If you’re a Christian, God is at work to change you from the inside out, but you are not a passive participant in the process. It will take effort, time and energy on your part, and like Frodo, the journey won’t be easy.
3. The right motivations
I’m studying 1 Peter, and the Christians who originally received this “letter” were experiencing persecution for their beliefs. They too felt the temptation to live according to “the passions” of their sinful hearts (1 Pet. 1:14), hence Peter’s commands about living holy lives. But knowing the external and internal struggles faced by these believers, Peter opens the letter by reminding them of the “living hope” they have because of God (1 Pet. 1:3). Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God enabled us to be saved from sin’s power and penalty. Those who trust in Christ for salvation are no longer slaves to sin; they are children of God (Rom. 8:1-17). But our salvation doesn’t just give us “fire insurance” for the future — it gives us hope for the present. Remembering who God is, what He has done and the inheritance He has for us provides motivation for our obedience today (1 Pet. 1:1-13).
While you hate losing the battle against sexual sin, what’s your motivation for fighting in the first place? Is it guilt and shame? Is it fear? Is it because you don’t like the consequences of your actions? Or is it because of love for God, a love that’s increasing as you study the Bible and remember what is true about His character?
4. Know God’s word
The more time you spend with Him reading and studying His Word, the more it will shape your thinking, affections, attitude and actions. Furthermore, Ephesians 6:17 calls scripture “the sword of the Spirit.” As we fight against sin, God’s Word is our weapon, but are you even wielding it? If not, pick a book of the Bible and daily read some verses from it. Or, if you’re an auditory learner, listen to it on a Bible app.
While it doesn’t have to be long or complicated, simply incorporate Bible reading into your daily schedule and ask the Lord to give you a love and understanding of His Word.
5. Identify and address the “Why”
Fighting against sin also will involve facing why you’re sinning in the first place. Are you viewing porn to cope with loneliness or boredom? Are you using sex to fill the emptiness inside? Are you masturbating as a way to deal with anxiety? Sexual sin is a symptom, but what’s the root? Why are you engaging in sexual sin? What are the thoughts, beliefs and priorities prompting your behavior?
If you don’t do the work to identify and address the root, you’ll continue to lose the battle against sin because you’re just trying to manage your behavior. It’s like mowing the weeds rather than uprooting them — they’ll keep popping up until you deal with them on a root level.
As you do this root work, how can you replace sinful behaviors with those that honor God? Be proactive in considering ways to respond when tempted to sin, and create a list of healthy, godly activities instead. Colossians 3 and Ephesians 4 both include “put off” and “put on” language, helping us know what sins to put off and what we should put in their place. How can you intentionally cultivate the behaviors these texts urge us to put on? Begin by picking one trait to specifically try to apply this week.
I can’t predict how long your fight will last. It might be a couple of months or years, or be a lifelong battle. While this isn’t the most uplifting statement, it is honest. However, don’t dwell on the “what if” or “how long.” Instead, focus on Christ and obedience to Him today (Matt. 6:33-34).
Also, if you’re a Christian, remember what is true about God and the gospel as it applies to you and your sin struggle: you have the power of the resurrected Christ living in you (Rom. 8:11). The same God who raised Christ from the dead lives in you, and He gives you the power to resist temptation and to obey Him (1 Cor. 10:13).
“His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness” (2 Pet. 1:3, CSB).
Ashley Chestnut’s debut book, “It’s Not Just You: Freeing Women to Talk about Sexual Sin and Fight It Well,” is available now at bhpublishinggroup.com/itsnotjustyou.