We’ve made it back to our home and city of service, so next week I’ll pick up with more writing again. For today, here’s one more article that over the years has proved extremely helpful. It’s Sexual Sin and the Deeper, Wider Battle by the late biblical counselor David Powlison, and it deals with the other issues of the heart and flesh that are often fueling sexual sin. As a young man laser-focused on killing sexual sin, and often frustrated by its stubborn nature, I remember being greatly helped when I first learned that there was wisdom in widening the war. What? If I fight greed by giving generously to the church I might be undermining the power of lust? Yes, sin is connected. Breakthrough in one area almost always spills over into another.
Consider this quote about a man who turns to sexual sin as a false refuge from a stressful job.
Erotic sin is part of his picture, but there’s lots more. Every deviant motive—each lust of the flesh, lie, false love—is a hijacker. It mimics some aspect of God. It usurps some promise of God. Consider that about two-thirds of the Psalms present God as “our refuge” in the midst of the troubles of life. Amid threat, hurt,disappointment, and attack, God protects, cares, and looks out for us. Our friend has faced troubles: people out to get him, threats to his job, intolerable demands, relentless weeks. But he’s been finding no true refuge during this frenzied month. Now, in a spasm of immorality, he takes “false refuge” in eroticism. His erotic behavior serves as a counterfeit rest from his troubles. Psalm 23 breathes true refuge: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” This man pants after false refuge: “After I’ve walked through that god forsaken valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because the photograph of a surgically-enhanced female wearing no clothes is with me.” A false refuge looks pretty silly when it’s exposed for what it really is.
The idea that there are deeper things going on of which sexual sin and temptation is mainly a symptom, a piece of evidence of something broken – this piece of wisdom has been marvelously helpful time and time again. A good God-given desire for refuge – and a failure to place that refuge in God – will result in counterfeit refuge. Every time. If I am being tempted toward false refuge in sexual sin that almost always means I’d better press into actively taking refuge in Christ. The main battle is the battle for refuge! The sexual sin is the aftermath of ignoring that first crucial battle.
More often for me, it’s the desire to be fully alive that is most susceptible to hijacking. If I am not finding my whole self (especially my affections and emotions) engaged with God’s beauty, then I am in danger. On the other hand, when I am finding my heart, my soul, my affections deeply engaged in my relationship with God, that is when I most strongly feel (rather than only know) that I don’t need the counterfeit.
There are deep waters in the soul which fuel the struggle with sexual sin. Widening the war can be extremely helpful no matter where we are in our struggle with the flesh, whether naive and just beginning or decades in and jaded. There is always hope for change. Read the whole article by Powlison here.
Photo by Birmingham Museums Trust on Unsplash