This is the final post in this three-part series. You can read the other two posts in this series here and here.
It happened. You went one step too far with your boyfriend and did something you claimed you’d never do. Or maybe you’ve gone one step too far many times, and now you feel like you’re suffocating under the weight of your transgressions. Whatever the scenario, I’ve been there and I know the guilt you’re facing. It’s tempting to let that guilt control you and push you further away from God. That’s what the devil wants after all. He wants you to hide from God, just Adam and Eve did in the garden, so he can continue to wage war in your disarmed soul
But I have good news for you. Guilt and shame is not your destiny. Through the blood of Jesus Christ, God has a plan for redemption and reconciliation that can defeat ALL of our sins, even sexual sin; and he has promised forgiveness to all who seek Him through confession and repentance (Titus 3:5-7, 1 John 1:9, Hebrews 11:6). God wants to forgive you, and He wants you to be victorious in the battle against lust. While the defeat of lust and sexual sin depends on his grace and transformation through the Holy Spirit, there is a great deal of work required on our end as well. Instead of wallowing in your shame, channel your despair into active repentance and consider implementing the following tips in your battle for purity.
Repent without regret.
There is no getting around this step. You need God’s help to overcome the powerful hold of sexual sin; but, you cannot experience God’s love and mercy when you haven’t truly repented (Proverbs 28:13, Luke 13:5). Repentance is absolutely crucial, and I’m not talking about simply feeling sorry for your actions with no intent to change. That’s worldly sorrow that leads to death. As we learn in 2 Corinthians 7:10, Godly sorrow “produces a repentance without regret.” True repentance entails that you will not only work to avoid sexual sin, but also that you will not regret leaving that sin behind. As I’ve learned the hard way, regret is a barrier to true repentance. Regret indicates that you still desire to engage in the sin you’re repenting of because you have not come to see that sin for what it truly is – an immoral act that’s grievous to God and jeopardizes your soul (and possibly the soul of another person).
Repenting without regret will require you to close the trap doors to sin that you created while you were in sin. What are trap doors to sin? They are hidden gateways to the secret sin in your life. One of my trap doors was texting with a guy with whom I previously had sexual relations. I told him I didn’t want to have sex with anymore, but I didn’t tell him why and I didn’t completely cut things off. So we continued to sporadically text flirty test messages back and forth. Once I realized where those messages could lead, I decided to be completely upfront with him: I told him I couldn’t do anything sexual with him again because I was a Christian committed to living a pure life. I also told him our relationship couldn’t continue in ANY way unless he wanted to discuss my faith or the Bible. That message was effective, as I haven’t heard from him since. Reflecting back, I realize I didn’t initially cut him off because I wanted the opportunity to “accidentally” fall into sexual sin with him again. I thought I would regret not being able to be with him anymore. I had to completely shut the door, and God gave me the strength to do so.
Don’t leave room for regret in your repentance. Seal shut the trap doors in life that lead to secret sin. Pray earnestly that God will help you see how destructive sexual sin is and help you to not desire it.
Remember you have an advocate in Jesus Christ.
Sometimes I wonder if we superficially discuss Jesus so often that we become desensitized to his power to save us from our sins. Consequently, we stop believing in the power of Christ to save and begin to feel hopeless. In the moments of despair after I’ve sinned, I’ve found it immeasurably helpful to reflect on the compassion Christ with help from these verses:
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2 ESV)
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV)
Christ is not a lofty king who is emotionally detached from his subjects. He can sympathize with our weaknesses because he too was human and he too was tempted. He KNOWS what we are going through, but he also knows that we can overcome temptations with his help. He is our perfect, righteous advocate to God when we sin and humbly appeal to him in the spirit of repentance, so that our sins are not held against us forever. Christ died so that we could receive complete forgiveness for our sins; it would be a shame to waste that blessing because we stopped believing in his power to save.
Reflecting on Christ’s love for us, even after we sin, should give us incredible confidence the power of God’s grace and strengthen our love for Christ. I’m continually learning that true love for Christ and appreciation for his sacrifice (for what God has already done to save us) fuels obedience, not rules. When you fail, love and conviction and TRUST will bring you back to God when your gut reaction may be to run from Him.
So now is the time to pray more than you’ve ever prayed and immerse yourself in His holy and precious word more than you ever have before. When you commit yourself to purity for God’s sake, he will transform you through the love of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.
Identify your lust triggers and make a plan to counter them.
Lust is the root of sexual sin, and it springs from the desires of our hearts, develops in our thoughts, and manifests in sinful actions (James 1:14-15). A lust trigger is anything that feeds your desire to lust and encourages you to commit sexual sin. Because lust is such an internal opponent that feeds on your soul, I’ve personally found that it takes radical faith and intentional actions to fight it. You have to identify your lust triggers and create a plan to diligently guard yourself from those triggers. Here are some illustrations of what I mean.
Time of Day: Nighttime can be a trigger for me. I’m most susceptible to lustful thoughts at night, right before I go to bed. To guard myself from such thoughts, I have to set my mind in things of above by reading the Bible (typically a Psalm), praying, and listening to worship music before going to bed. Lest I sound holier than I am, I’ll admit I do not always diligently carry out this nightly regimen. However, I have noticed that when I become lax in this regimen, destructive thoughts start creeping in.
Media: Don’t be fooled — what you watch and what you listen to have a great impact on the health of your thought life. If sexy music or sensual TV shows are triggers for you, here’s a simple plan to guard yourself: stop watching or listening to music that promotes sensuality or glorifies sexual sin. I’m not just talking about the raunchy rap and R&B music that plays on the radio — chances are you don’t even listen to that kind of music. I’m also talking about the slow and sexy electro music that may not have any words but still arouses feelings of desire. If it encourages you to daydream or even briefly think about sex, delete delete delete.
Feelings of loneliness: Yes, feelings can be triggers too. This happens to be a HUGE trigger for me. While I’m a true introvert who values alone time, I sometimes struggle with feelings of loneliness and the desire for a relationship. In moments of self-pity, I’m tempted to fantasize about having relationship and the physically intimacy I can experience in a relationship. A good way to counter this is to: 1) buffer indulgent thoughts with scripture (more on that below) and 2) become more invested more invested in my friendships with other Christians. It truly helps to surround yourself with people who reflect the love of Christ.
Place: Maybe going to the gym is a trigger due to the number of men (or women!) prancing around shirtless or in skintight spandex. If so, consider joining a women’s only gym or invest in fitness equipment you can use at home. Don’t let your quest for fitness and health allow you to linger in a setting that is spiritually harmful.
Your phone: If you struggle to with an addiction to pornography, the privacy your phone offers can be a trigger. Don’t give yourself an opportunity to slip up. Try to restrict your phone to public use. If that’s not helpful, replace the normal web browser with parental control browser that automatically blocks X-rated and adult content. Here are some services I recommend: Net Nanny and Mobicep.
If you want more information on creating a custom plan for your lust triggers, I HIGHLY recommend reading Josh Harris’ Sex is Not The Problem (Lust Is).
Get an accountability partner ASAP.
Consider lust a ravenous beast that preys on your loneliness and lack of self-control. Trust me, you cannot win the battle against lust on your own. You need the strength of God first and foremost, but you also need strength and encouragement from fellow Christians who will be committed to helping you win this victory. As I mentioned in my last post, we can only help each other when we start getting real with each other,
So seek out a faithful woman in your congregation (it helps if she’s older and wiser), and ask her to be your accountability partner. Tell her everything you’re struggling with — your triggers, trap doors, etc. — so she can effectively and specifically pray for you and guide you. A good accountability partner will even be able to help you come up with a plan to counter your lust triggers.
Memorize at least one or two passages that you can recite when struggling with lust.
This tip may seem elementary, but it’s crucial. Don’t take for granted the power of scripture to guide and strengthen you in this struggle. Try to memorize at least two verses that can become your ‘buffer’ verses when you need to bounce lustful thoughts. When a tempting arises in your mind, get in the habit of buffering those thoughts with scripture.
I recommend memorizing two kinds of scripture: scripture that reminds you of the ultimate goal as a Christian, and scripture that reminds you of the seriousness of sexual sin. Here are some passages that have been incredibly helpful for me:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14, ESV)
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9)
I hope this post has provided useful and practical tips on what you should do after you’ve sinned. God in his grace has granted a way out from the bondage of sin through Jesus Christ, but we shouldn’t take that freedom for granted. In our appreciation for that freedom, we should seek to do everything we can to avoid sins that threatens to enslave us.
I also hope this series has been an encouraging and insightful exploration of sex and purity. If you take away nothing else from the past three posts, know this: 1) Purity is worth seeking because God values it; 2) While sex is a blessing we should value, sexual sin is not. It provides momentary pleasure in exchange for a lifetime of pain (and often that pain manifests itself in unforeseen ways); 3) If you have already sinned, God can make you pure again; and 4) God can help you overcome your battle with lust, and there are steps you can take to be mentally and physically on guard.
As I’ve mentioned throughout this series, most of what I’ve learned about sex and purity in the Bible has been reaffirmed in my own life experiences (or rather, my mistakes). This is a judgment-free zone. If I can pray for you in any way, please let me know in the comments below or in a personal message.
Great advice! I remember how tough that was as a teen. You really get tested when your hormones are running wild! You are so cute…I love all your fashion posts! Can’t wait to read more from you. Visiting from The Peony Project. 🙂
Sadly this was tough for me as an adult as well (*hide face*). Thank you for the encouragement, Jebbica!
I think sometimes it’s hard for us as Christians to grasp the fact that God’s grace can completely cover our sins. We live in a world where we constantly see people judged by their past actions and we see people every day who are still haunted by things in their past, no matter how long ago it was. So for us to think that God really does forgive and forget, that goes completely against human nature and can be hard to comprehend. But without redemption, then what did Jesus die for? That’s what the Blood is for! I’m so thankful you decided to write this series. I hope it helps many people. And yeah, we have to guard our hearts and mind every single day. Because, think about it, any sin done physically was one that originated in our heart. That’s where it starts! TV is something I have to be really careful with, because there’s so much junk on there. Sometimes it’s easy to say “I’ll just fast-forward through those scenes” when it’s best just to not watch it at all!
Amen! Why even give that temptation an opportunity? If I’m blessed with my own family in the future, I will have a no-TV household for that very reason. We’ll have enough issues with the internet…
You’re so right. To forgive and forget is completely contrary to our nature. But that’s what’s so radical about the blood of Christ. It can wipe our slates clean. It’s so important to hold onto that fact when satan tries to hold the sins of our past over us. As Christians, we’d do well to remember that as a reason to extend compassion to people with spotty posts who are now trying to live pure lives. I’m glad you understand this and likely will not be one of the Christians who judges others for their past sin. As always, you’re a great encouragement to me, Elizabeth!
I agree about the no-TV household. That’s a decision I’ve already made as well 🙂
Love this! Definitely going to refer back to this when ministering to my students. Great post! I can relate as well, thank you!
Elizabeth> Kimberly Clervois
Oh, wow! I hope it is useful for them. Thank you, Kimberly!
This is so good, Elizabeth!! So honest, and so much truth. Although I can not relate to this post on a personal level, I know that it will touch so many lives. Simply amazing. <3
Thank you so much, Brittany! It was difficult to be so honest. I truly hope this post helps someone who needs to read the messages within it.
I have enjoyed this series so much! It has encouraged me to strengthen my relationship with God and helped me realize my triggers and different pitfalls that I could fall into if I’m not diligent in my quest to be closer to Him. Thanks so much!
Elizabeth> Toyin Alli
I’m so glad! It’s so important to be faithfully diligent in the battle against lust, and pinpointing triggers is a crucial step. Thank you for being a constant source of encouragement, Toyin!
I really took something from this series. (: This past Sunday, we talked about the sin of lust at Bible Study. It can really do damage, but thank God for his healing grace! I also can relate to how you found strength in God even though you didn’t realize it. In my past, I’ve felt the need to end relationships for completely different reasons, and then later saw that it was God’s doing. I thank Him that even though I was never taught how to handle these relationships, He can lead me, and does!
Christ’s grace and power in our lives is truly awe-inspiring. ^.^ Great series, very well done!
Thank you so much for being a kind, faithful supporter of this series, Kiera! Yes, God’s healing grace is truly incredible, and I wish for all to experience its power. I’m thankful he changed out hearts before it was too late and led us to the path of righteousness even when we resisted Him.
This was so powerful, and largely because it’s so practical! I so appreciate your suggestions about removing triggers and trapdoors. This is always the difficulty for me: figuring out how to stop sabotaging myself and then actually following through. Thank you so much for your honesty; I know that must have taken a huge effort and true humility. …Actually, you are literally making me cry right now.
Aww! Rachael! I miss you and kind heart. Thank you so much for the encouragement! Honestly most of the information on triggers I received from Teresa, so much of the credit goes to her. God used her to change my whole approach to fighting lust, and I’m immensely grateful for her wisdom.
Wow, I came across this after you commented on my blog and I wanted to check yours out. The honesty and vulnerability you share here is remarkable. What a sincere heart you have for purity. I especially appreciate your focus on how to turn around after messing up. Purity was a huge struggle for my husband and I before we were married, and it is not a struggle to be minimized. I admire you for openly and gently sharing the truth and your experiences!
Thank you so much for those kind words, Kelsey! I’d anything good can come of my past mistakes, it’s the testimonies I have of God’s grace, patience and kindness in dealing with me and my rocky pursuit of purity. I’m just happy to share those lessons with other women, and it means the world to get support for kind, faithful women like yourself!
I am always impressed by your words of wisdom based on the scriptures and your experience. Nice to see outer and inner beauty
Thank you for those very kind and encouraging words, Paul!
you are welcome Liz, also remember with your attractive beauty it will still be hard for any guy to stay focused on what is right
You may have written this a while ago, but bless your heart for obedience and for yielding to Him and going on to write this. I’m an introvert ,a blogger and have also struggled with sexual sin so I’ve related more than ????% to this post! I rpay for more wisdom to be imparted to you that you may continue edifying the church with your words. Plus I looooove your fashion sense as well!!! Love and blessings all the way from Kenya ????