The Bible gives us many ways to overcome temptation, mainly by commanding us to remain in Jesus Christ and to rely on his strength (John 15:5).
Sometimes, however, the Bible gives us specific steps we can take to overcome specific types of temptation. This is the case with sexual temptation. While all the Bible verses on overcoming temptation apply to overcoming sexual temptation, in this article I want to look specifically at the parts of Scripture where God teaches us how to overcome sexual immorality.
My hope is that this list can be used as a sort of diagnostic test for people who are struggling in this area. By studying this list, you should be able to answer the question, “Why am I consistently falling to sexual temptation? What is going wrong?” And then you will be able to correct what you are doing so you can continue down the road of sanctification, specifically in this area of overcoming sexual temptation.
1. A Lack of Prayer Will Cause You to Fall to Sexual Temptation
One reason many people consistently struggle with sexual temptation is that they are not connecting enough with God in prayer. A lack of prayer may be the source of your failure not because you are not requesting freedom enough. I don’t mean that you should just ask God to help you more. Although that is good, the Bible talks about the need for consistent prayer in a way that you are truly connecting with God and walking in the Spirit. For example, 1 Corinthians 7:5 states:
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.”
In this passage Paul says that a married couple should only not have sex if they are going to engage in an intense season of prayer. Not just the prayer of asking God to help you overcome sexual temptation, but the type of prayer where Paul says “devote yourselves to prayer.” A lack of consistent, meditative, lengthy prayers will cause you to fall to temptation.
For example, before the trial of the cross Jesus stayed up all night and prayed. He told his disciples in Mark 14:38, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The disciples fell to temptation because they did not pray like Jesus.
2. Not Actively Crucifying the Flesh in Prayer and Not Walking in the Spirit Will Lead to Falling to Sexual Temptation
If you want to overcome sexual temptation, prayer is essential, but what should you pray about? While connecting with God personally is the most important part of prayer, it is also crucial that we use prayer to crucify the flesh. When we remember who Jesus has made us through the gospel when we meditate on his truth in prayer, it takes hold of our lives in a deep way. If you are not actively putting to death the sinful nature, you will not overcome sexual temptation:
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” (Colossians 3:5-6)
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” (Galatians 5:16-21)
“And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Matthew 7:20-23)
“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” (1 Peter 4:1-3)
3. A Lack of Sex with Your Spouse Could Be a Cause for Falling to Sexual Temptation
According to 1 Corinthians 7:5, if you are married you need to have consistent sex with your spouse. If you are unmarried and you burn with passion, you must refer to point 1 which is to pray consistently. As you gain self-control you will also be prepared for marriage. So if you have a strong sexual desire, you should be open to marriage. You shouldn’t seek marriage just to have sex, but your sexual passion is a sign you should be open to marriage. 1 Corinthians 7:2, 5, 8-9 explains:
But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own 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. . . . To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
4. Tolerating and Not Fleeing Sexual Temptation Will Cause You to Fall
When it comes to sexual temptation, the Bible is very clear that we should avoid it whenever possible. What we look at directly affects our desires (Matthew 6:22-23). One reason many people keep falling to sexual passion is that they are providing the flesh with too much fuel. Their sinful sexual passions keep burning so brightly because they are tolerating sexual temptation in their lives.
If you watch provocative shows, look at scandalous pictures on social media, or even go places like the gym or the beach that could expose your eyes to too much sexual temptation, this will cause you to fall to sexual temptation. You cannot tolerate even the smallest amount of sexual temptation in your life. Sexual temptation will come into our lives whether we want it to or not, but it is our choice on whether or not we tolerate it and let it fester which will then lead to us eventually falling.
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18)
“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” (Ephesians 5:3)
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 5:1-5)
“Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house . . .” (Proverbs 5:8)
“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-11)
“I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.” (2 Corinthians 12:21)
“But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.” (Revelation 2:20)
5. Minimizing the Seriousness of Sexual Sin and Minimizing the Blessing of Self-Control
Perhaps the most overlooked part of sexual sin in the Bible is the judgement that God continually warns in response to sexual sin. Of course God’s grace is always enough, but whenever a list of sins is given as a sign that someone might not truly be a Christian, sexual sin is almost always mentioned.
If we want to overcome sexual sin, we must take these warnings serious. In addition to seeing the seriousness of sexual sin, we must also be careful not to minimize the rewards and blessings God promises to those who practice self-control and resist sexual sin.
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 6:9-11)
“He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself.” (Proverbs 6:32)
“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28)
“Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8)
“Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:6-13)
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” (Colossians 3:5-6)
“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (Romans 1:24-27)
“That you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” (Acts 15:29)
“Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 1:7)
“For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (Ephesians 5:5)
“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)