[Also see the expanded teaching on this - The issue of sexual desire and self-control]
Sexual desire was created by God and is good. But like all the desires of our flesh it often seeks expression in wrong ways. So we must act to control our sexual desire and keep it within the bounds of righteousness.
1. Control your thoughts
We all from time to time have sexual thoughts that come to mind, many of which are inappropriate. And these thoughts can fuel our sexual desire. What is important is that we not entertain them. Similar to what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We . . . take every thought captive to obey Christ.” That is, we have to control our thoughts with regard to sex.
If you do have inappropriate sexual thoughts, use the name of Jesus. Satan will often seek to put thoughts in our minds that tempt us, or he will tell us that it is alright to indulge in our own sexual thoughts. We can rebuke these thoughts/Satan so that they have to leave. The name of Jesus is powerful. In Luke 10:17 the disciples said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” All the powers of evil have to yield to the name of Jesus. When we become aware of inappropriate thoughts say, “Depart from me in the name of Jesus!” As James 4:7 says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
Also, use the word of God. After we rebuke Satan we can speak out the Scriptures. This is what Jesus did when he was tempted – Matthew 4:4-10. This reminds us of God’s truth and it teaches us to have right thoughts. It renews our minds – Romans 12:1-2. Here are some Scriptures to use:
- 1 Timothy 5:2 – “Treat . . . older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity.” Women are also to think “in all purity” about other men.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 – “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his (or her) own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.”
Also, to control our thoughts we must protect our mind. This is a preventative measure. Whatever we allow to enter our minds will be there and affect what we think. If we want to control our thoughts then we need to be careful what we allow to enter our minds – through images, movies, advertising, lustful looks, pornography, and so on.
2. Control your sexual desire
Even if we control our thoughts we will still struggle at times with sexual desire. As Jesus said, “the flesh is weak” – Mark 14:38. Our desires often seek to do what is unrighteous. But Jesus also said, “the Spirit is willing” – Mark 14:38. The same Spirit that gave us a new heart with new desires when we were first born anew, can strengthen our desires for righteousness so that they are stronger than the desires of our flesh. As Paul said, “walk by the Spirit (the power or strength of the Spirit), and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” – Galatians 5:16. So when we are struggling with sexual desires, we can call out to God in prayer for strength from the Spirit to do what is right.
As the Spirit strengthens us, we are, as it were, crucifying or killing the inappropriate desires of our flesh, our fantasies or lusts. Jesus tells us in Luke 9:23 that we are to deny ourselves and take up our cross in this way “daily.” Paul writes in Romans 8:12-13 “we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” By the Spirit (the strength the Spirit gives us) we put to death the deeds of the body (we deny ourselves, we crucify or kill the desires of our flesh), in order to follow God. Pray, “God take this inappropriate desire and put it to death by the power of your Spirit. Give me the strength I need to do what is right.”
3. Cut off stumbling blocks
Stumbling blocks are things that are not necessarily sinful in themselves, but they lead you to sin. So, access to the internet is fine, but if it leads you to give in to viewing pornography it is a stumbling block for you. Friends are fine, but if certain ones encourage you to see inappropriate material they are a stumbling block for you. Being with your date is fine, but if spending too much time alone with him/her leads you to act in inappropriate ways, this is a stumbling block for you. When you don’t deal with these things you are putting yourself in a situation where you will most certainly sin; where your inappropriate sexual desire will overwhelm you.
Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” – Matthew 5:29. We have to cut off what leads us to sin. This can mean unrestricted access to the internet or certain friends or certain ways of dating. Jesus calls us to act, even if it is difficult and painful.
4. Find righteous expression for your sexual desire
God gave us our sexual desire, in part, to cause us to seek out a relationship with a spouse. If we are struggling with our desire and are not married, Paul says, “it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion” – 1 Corinthians 7:9. In a marriage relationship, our spouse is to be the focus of our sexual desire. This is the context in which to give expression to our desires.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:3; 5, “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. . . . Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Work on your marriage, love and care for your spouse. Then you will have the kind of relationship in which your sexual desires can find righteous expression – as a part of a loving, committed life-long relationship.