Reading through Future Grace by John Piper this morning was an enlightening experience. I was revisiting Future Grace because a few friends of mine and I just had a 3 + hour-long conversation about sexual sin and pastoral employment. Though we did not agree entirely on how a church should handle the sexual sin of their leaders, it was clear that the issue is incredibly complex and completely detrimental to one’s relationship with Christ. Many of my podcast listeners will write in, asking questions about sexual immorality and this feels like a better time than any to explore how one can fight sexual sin effectively.

The First Obstacle

From my personal experience, I can say with confidence that my intention and moral values do not override my sin amidst temptation. I had sex before marriage as a Christian; I literally cried after breaking my promise to myself to abstain because I felt like such a failure. What was my problem? Ultimately, I suck at defeating temptation in the moment and have something deep inside me that wants to sin. When I read Romans 7:15-20 it was as if someone had taken my thoughts and just spilled them onto the Bible. (Who would have thought the Bible was so relevant? Lol)

Rom 7:15-20 states:

“15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

In the moment, something inside me would always say: “It’s not a big deal.” Piper makes the argument that many of us look at the world through a lens of material in which we consider actions as comparable to other material things like animals or plants. In a world where humans are just biological creatures that operate for the benefit of their genetic pool it can be easy assume that sexual impropriety is but a less-than-honorable action but no less significant than saying a curse word. Piper is clear that this is not the case and that unlike other material beings, humans are spiritual and will live forever, meaning that their actions carry eternal significance. Thus, what we do and think really matters since we don’t just stop existing at the material level.

The Second Obstacle

First Peter 2:11 makes sexual action a spiritual event stating that one who does not fight sexual sin will lose his soul. That is a weighty assertion. So then why does it not stop us from engaging in sexual immorality!? Why do we keep looking at inappropriate images!? Why did I keep sleeping around, knowing full well that what I was doing was not pleasing to God? Why do we just not care about the threat of eternal punishment amidst temptation? The answer to all of these questions is that we BELIEVE, in the moment, that the sin of sexual immorality will bring us a pleasure that is beyond what Christ can bring.

The Solution

As we function in the practical world there is an unnecessary division that takes place in our mind, a separation between the justification that comes from faith in Christ and the process of sanctification that takes place by our work. That is, many of us think that there is a separation between our status as saved by Jesus and the results of that salvation being good deeds. A right understanding is that your good deeds are not a product of will but of the Spirits work in you (Romans 8:13).

What does the Spirit have to do with our practical decision making? The Spirit shows us the value of Jesus. Therefore, Piper explains that we Christians are called to fight sin with the “massive promise of superior happiness.”

The solution can be summarized with this statement: “The way to fight lust is to feed faith with the precious and magnificent promise that the pure in heart will see, face to face, the all-satisfying God of glory.”

This blog post is a summary of chapter twenty-seven, Faith in Future Grace v. Lust in Future Grace by John Piper.

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