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4 Ways to Flee Sexual Temptation

Written By James Bunyan 

James Bunyan is a bit of a fidget, to be honest. His inability to sit still tends to spill over into all sorts of areas of his life: he loves travelling, good writing, all sports (except Frisbee), the sense of purpose that the gospel gives him, exotic teas and the satisfaction of peeling off a sticker all in one go. He lives in Twickenham (London), where he works as a Christian Union staff worker for UCCF: The Christian Unions, a student mission movement, and he recently married his best friend, Lois. That was a good move.

 

I read about a recent pastors’ conference in the United States where, during the Q&A session, the inevitable question came to the old preacher sitting on a stool in the middle of the stage: “What is the one thing you want younger pastors to know?” The preacher put his head in his hands for several minutes to think. He then lifted his head and simply said, “Never touch another man’s wife.”

Now that shouldn’t surprise us. Adultery wrecks lives. And it’s actually a familiar scene. In fact, Proverbs opens with an old father sitting with a son, sharing some hard-earned wisdom. And, similarly, out of everything he could share, he warns his son to avoid adultery. It’s honest, it’s caring, it’s brilliantly written, and it gives us a few helpful pointers for avoiding sexual immorality* ourselves.

 

1. Don’t go anywhere near!

“At the window of my house
I looked down through the lattice.
I saw among the simple,
I noticed among the young men,
a youth who had no sense.
He was going down the street near her corner,
walking along in the direction of her house
at twilight, as the day was fading,
as the dark of night set in.”
Proverbs 7:6-9

This poor sap’s first mistake is obvious. He knows the adulteress is there and he is walking along “the street near her corner . . . in the direction of her house.” In other words, he is bound to bump into her and a story that ends with his destruction wouldn’t have begun if he had just walked another way.

Unlike the “youth with no sense”, make sure you don’t go near situations that you know are going to tempt you to do something wrong. Don’t follow the first slightly-less-innocent link you see late at night. Don’t watch movies with your girlfriend on a laptop in bed. Don’t go for a drink with your married colleague. It’s far easier to simply avoid certain situations than it is to get out of them later.

I heard of one new university student who promised a friend back home that he would phone him if ever he was tempted to do something he would regret. Well, a few weeks into term, he realised that one of the girls in his halls was pretty keen on him and kept trying to get alone with him. One night, she decided to do something drastic: she walked into his room, late at night, in just a towel—and dropped the towel.

The student, at first, wasn’t precisely sure of what he should do. So he got up, trying hard not to look at the naked girl in his room, walked across the room and picked up his phone and rung his friend. His friend told him not to panic but if he just went for a 30-minute walk, he would find her gone when he returned.

So that’s what he did. And she was gone when he returned.

I love that simplicity. I’m sure that’s not how she expected the evening to go and, funnily enough, she never brought it up again.

 

2. Don’t be flattered!

“Then out came a woman to meet him,
dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.
(She is unruly and defiant,
her feet never stay at home;
now in the street, now in the squares,
at every corner she lurks.)
She took hold of him and kissed him
and with a brazen face she said:
‘Today I have fulfilled my vows,
and I have food from my fellowship offering at home.
So I came out to meet you;
I looked for you and have found you!
I have covered my bed
with coloured linens from Egypt.
I have perfumed my bed
with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.
Come, let’s drink deeply of our love until morning;
let’s enjoy ourselves with love!
My husband is not at home;
he has gone on a long journey.
He took his purse filled with money
and will not be home until full moon.’ ”
Proverbs 7:10-20

The adulteress makes such an effort to make him feel special! She kisses him in the street, she says she’s been looking for him, she has decorated her bed, she promises him a long night of love and, bizarrely, she claims she’s even done her religious duties and sacrifices.

But she’s a liar. She’s “crafty”. No matter how special she promises to make him feel, it won’t be as good as she promises and he is not the only one for her. Don’t forget, she probably made her husband, who has gone away on business, feel just as special one day, possibly even a few hours previously. As her feet “never stay at home”, who knows who else she has made to feel special?

And what’s true of this adulteress is true of other sexual temptations. The lie of pornography, for instance, is that you can enjoy a special few hours with a beautiful person you probably wouldn’t have been able to pull normally. But the reality is that the same video arousing you has aroused thousands of different people alongside you. And what the video doesn’t show you is the sexual abuse involved in the porn industry. It doesn’t show you the crowd of production staff watching every moment. It doesn’t show you the girls vomiting off camera. It doesn’t show you the medication necessary for all those takes. It’s a lie.

And when put like that, your special night does become a very grubby few minutes.

 

3. Don’t be short-sighted!

“With persuasive words she led him astray;
she seduced him with her smooth talk.
All at once he followed her
like an ox going to the slaughter,
like a deer stepping into a noose
till an arrow pierces his liver,
like a bird darting into a snare,
little knowing it will cost him his life.”
Proverbs 7:21-23

Well, the simple bloke is sold; he follows her inside, happily swapping lasting happiness for an evening of passion. But, like all sin, it’s short-sighted and short-lived. This will lead to his destruction.

The reality is that sexual immorality promises life but delivers death. It leads to broken relationships, broken trusts, broken lives. Sleeping with someone else’s wife might be electric for a time but it will leave both of you broken, not to mention what it does to your standing before God. And in practice, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who doesn’t regret cheating once they’ve done it.

So before you do what you’re tempted to do, just take a second to think ahead. Is this going to leave you feeling sick in the morning? Will this mean you won’t be able to look your future spouse in the eye one day? Do you want to be that kind of person? As my old vicar used to say, “the problem with living for the moment is that you very often screw up the next one”.

 

4. Don’t get complacent!

“Now then, my sons, listen to me;
pay attention to what I say.
Do not let your heart turn to her ways
or stray into her paths.
Many are the victims she has brought down;
her slain are a mighty throng.
Her house is a highway to the grave,
leading down to the chambers of death.”
Proverbs 7:24-27

And so the father turns back to his son, urging him to pay attention to the warning. After all, the old man in his wisdom knows that, although all this may seem pretty obvious, people still fall for it. Sexual immorality is far too common, even among Christians—“many are the victims she has brought down.” The son would do well not to be so complacent as to assume he’ll be stronger than everyone else.

And this doesn’t just go away in marriage. Some might assume that once you’re hitched, sexual immorality is a thing of the past. But, after being married for two years now, I am convinced that all your problems don’t simply melt away! Discipline still matters and, not only could it be far too easy to take your spouse for granted, but it becomes more important than ever to not take a second look at someone and to stay far away from certain websites and situations. It’s not just myself that I’d be hurting now.

The reality is that the stakes could not be higher. The God of the Bible promises life in all its fullness to those who love Him. He promises that His people will one day sit by His side, having inherited all that belongs to His Son. He promises that they will see Jesus face to face in a place where perfect relationships are totally normal. And He gives us marriage in this life as a temporary, imperfect picture of His great love for His people. Loving commitment in marriage is good because it echoes God’s loving commitment to people that will stretch into eternity.

You don’t want to endanger that.

 

*I know that adultery and all other kinds of sexual immorality aren’t exactly the same. But the Bible, or Jesus himself, would often lump adultery together with all other kinds of “sexual immorality” as simply wrong. Sex is for binding husband and wife together as one and the Bible doesn’t recognise any other kind of sexual activity as good. So, Proverbs isn’t just for avoiding adultery; it’s for fleeing any kind of sexual immorality.

Here’s why Christians will Suffer

Written By James Bunyan

James Bunyan is a bit of a fidget, to be honest. His inability to sit still tends to spill over into all sorts of areas of his life: he loves travelling, good writing, all sports (except Frisbee), the sense of purpose that the gospel gives him, exotic teas and the satisfaction of peeling off a sticker all in one go. He lives in Twickenham (London), where he works as a Christian Union staff worker for UCCF: The Christian Unions, a student mission movement, and he recently married his best friend, Lois. That was a good move.

Having decided to follow Jesus while away from home studying at Edinburgh University, Matt was looking forward to sharing his new faith with his family.

They didn’t react as he had expected.

His parents’ reaction was, at best, cool. “We hope this doesn’t mean you’re going to stop taking your studies seriously,” they commented. His sister laughed at him and told him that she had been through that phase once, whereas his brother reacted angrily and told him that he was becoming a “judgmental jerk”.

Over time, their scathing comments subsided, but what came after was even more difficult to face: their pity. They were constantly suggesting better ways for him to spend his time—than at church—and it reached a point where they would take the car on unnecessary journeys on Sunday mornings, just so he wouldn’t have it in time for church.

It wasn’t long before Matt was wishing he hadn’t told his family. Actually, maybe he should never have started following Jesus at all. This wasn’t what he signed up for. Was it?

If we want to believe that being a Christian will make our lives easy, we should probably avoid reading Mark’s gospel. In fact, the reason Christians throughout the centuries have found Mark comforting is his brutal honesty. He teaches that if we want to be a Christian, there will always be people who oppose us.

And why believers will suffer opposition gets really obvious when we get to the heart of Mark’s story at Mark 8:22–9:1. There, as Jesus takes a break on His journey to Jerusalem in order to gather His closest followers, we get to overhear a couple of truths He wants to teach them about the persecution they will face one day:

1. Jesus has been there

“He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected…”Mark 8:31

Jesus suffered opposition. Because this would surprise His disciples, Mark tells us that Jesus told them plainly about it three times before it happened. And, somehow, when Jesus was eventually arrested, it still managed to catch them all unawares.

We often fall into the same trap as the 12 disciples, in that we forget that not everything was easy for Jesus. As the rest of Mark’s gospel shows, Jesus was rejected, mocked, betrayed, abandoned, isolated, judged, and executed by the people He came to save. Therefore, Jesus is not only someone who can sympathize with our sufferings, but He is also someone who actually went through a lot worse than we ever will.

2. Jesus tells them to expect it

“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”Mark 8:34

If that sounds painful, we’ve understood it correctly. Christians seek to follow a guy that people hated enough to kill. For this reason, Jesus told His disciples that anyone who follows Him will have to deny themselves (cease putting themselves first), take up their crosses (follow Jesus even to the point of death), and follow Him. It seems that opposition is part of the package of being a Christian.

This may not sound encouraging, but in a way, real opposition can be a confirmation of our identity as belonging to Jesus. Plus, there is the comfort of knowing that, in suffering for Jesus, we stand within the rich heritage of a Church that has endured all kinds of persecution for Christ’s sake.

Now, we could be forgiven for wondering where the Good News in all this is. We may be wondering with Matt: “If it’s this hard to follow Jesus, what’s the point?”

Well, Jesus doesn’t stop there. He also gives Matt three reasons why persecution is worth enduring.

 

  1. There is much to gain

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”Mark 8:35

The gains are massive. If we hold our own life and priorities lightly enough to trust Jesus, we will actually be doing the most eternally sensible thing we can do. We will be entrusting our eternal destiny to the only one who is eternally qualified to guard it. Put like that, it’s a no-brainer.

Notice that Jesus says that the cause for which Christians suffer is Himself and the gospel. Christians don’t suffer for the sake of it but suffer opposition to prove the truth of the gospel, the Good News about Jesus. Yet, they’re not just suffering for the sake of abstract truth; they are doing it for King Jesus Himself, a King kind enough to reward His own wonderfully. And the Bible is clear that if we’re prepared to follow Jesus to death, we’ll also follow Him into His resurrection.

And when we realize all this, the cost seems tiny.

 

  1. There is little alternative

“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”Mark 8:36

Jesus is happy to talk straight. There is an alternative. We don’t have to suffer opposition for Him if we don’t want to. In fact, we don’t have to follow Him at all. We could live for ourselves and have a life full of reputation, money, power, comfort: everything the world has to offer! But if we don’t follow Jesus, we’ll die at the end of it. Because Jesus is the giver of life, if we don’t want Him, He’ll take back what’s His.  And what’s good about that?

 

  1. If we don’t yet, Jesus will help us see that opposition is worth enduring

“Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”Mark 8:25

This part of the Bible starts with Jesus healing someone from blindness. Mark is saying that our big problem is that we can be blind, unable to see who Jesus is and what He offers. It can be really difficult to see that following Jesus is worth it when it’s blocked by a cost in front of us.

Jesus is in the business of helping people see clearly.

 

If, like Matt, you find it difficult to believe that following Jesus is worth it, then you need to ask God to do the same in your life as He did in the lives of Jesus’ disciples. He will open your eyes to Jesus’ majesty and the joy of following Him through anything.

Because, I promise you, it is worth it.

Is Christianity just a “Get Out Of Hell Free” Card?

James Bunyan is a bit of a fidget, to be honest. His inability to sit still tends to spill over into all sorts of areas of his life: he loves travelling, good writing, all sports (except Frisbee), the sense of purpose that the gospel gives him, exotic teas and the satisfaction of peeling off a sticker all in one go. He lives in Twickenham (London), where he works as a Christian Union staff worker for UCCF: The Christian Unions, a student mission movement, and he recently married his best friend, Lois. That was a good move.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”—John 3:16

Christianity is simple, isn’t it?

After all, don’t Bible bits like John 3:16 show that all you need to do to be a Christian is to believe in God now and then you’ll go to heaven (good place) rather than hell (bad place) when you die? Isn’t Christianity basically a kind of divine life-insurance that mostly affects my (hopefully distant) future?

Well, in short, the answer is amazingly yes! And also definitely no.

You see, John 3:16 explains that the wonderful news of Jesus starts with the truth that anyone who trusts Jesus need not be lost to death but can live forever. And never must we lose sight of what a wonderful truth that is.

Christianity is never less than avoiding hell. But I want to suggest that it is so much more.

In fact, reducing the good news of Jesus to the point that it only has one real consequence is dangerous, because you end up throwing out so many of the incredible gifts that God really offers.

Thankfully, the Bible doesn’t let you do that.

John’s gospel doesn’t let you do that.

Even John 3:16 doesn’t let you do that.

If we live like avoiding hell is the only important truth in Christianity (what I’m going to affectionately name “GOOHF faith”), then here are just a couple of things that John 3:16 shows we’ve thrown out.

 

“For God so loved the world…”

If “GOOHF” is true, then Christianity is individualistic at best and deeply selfish at worst. After all, heaven is all about me and my comfort, right? Jesus died for me and that needn’t concern anyone else.

And, while we’re at it, why go to church? The only thing I have in common with that lot is that they, too, have bought into the same insurance. I have as much in common with them as I do with other people who get their jeans in H&M. Well done them. Splendid choice. Leave me alone.

Happily, this kind of individualism is not actually an option for the Christian. John 3:16 says that God so loved the world. His purposes in sending Jesus were not to flatter your individualism, but were cosmic in scale: He came so that the whole world might have a chance of eternal life—that’s all kinds of people, of all ages, from all kinds of backgrounds.

And out of this multitude of people, God builds a Church family. As London vicar John Stott wrote, “For His purpose . . . is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to build His church.”

Christianity is not just about you but is about all people everywhere; they need to have the same chance you had. And it’s not just about dodging hell, either—it means belonging to the new community that God is building in Jesus. It means loving, welcoming, and accepting all those others who believe in Jesus.

For God so loved the world.

 

“…that he gave his one and only Son…”

If you’re a GOOHF believer, then you’ve already acknowledged that God gave you Jesus—after all, He’s the guy that you need to get to heaven. And that’s about as far as it goes, really, because once Jesus has died for you, He has ceased being useful to you.

Thankfully, the Bible doesn’t merely talk about Jesus in the past tense, as someone who has done everyone a grand service in the past. Jesus is also someone who occupies the present tense—He is the risen Lord who continues to love, build, and shape His people by the power of His Holy Spirit.

And it doesn’t even end there!

GOOHF believers already know that heaven is the place where Christians get to experience the very best that this universe has to offer. And what is the most precious thing to Christians? Is it not the One the Bible refers to as the author and perfecter of their faith?

Indeed, the Bible says that at the end of time, the new mankind of the church will find its rightful place around the throne of Jesus, worshiping Him passionately forever. Heaven is less about a comfortable place for you to retire, and much more a place where you will meet the most important person in your life.

Has it ever occurred to you that one day, you won’t have to read your Bible to see what Jesus is like? At the end of it all, you’ll be able to see Him face to face!

And if that doesn’t excite you, you’ve missed the point of the Christian faith, because Jesus is not the means to an end—He is the point of it all.

 

“…that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life.”

Christianity is anything but an insurance guarantee that doesn’t affect your present. Rather, when you decide to follow Jesus, there’s not one aspect of your past, present, or future that will remain unchanged, not one iota of your instinct, priorities, and character that will not be revolutionized beyond recognition, and not one part of your future that will not belong to Him. Eternal life always starts immediately.

It’s uncomfortable stuff, isn’t it? All of a sudden, Christianity becomes costly! How on earth, you must be wondering, can this be worth it?

Well, later on in John’s gospel, Jesus defines eternal life as this: Knowing the Father and the Son He has sent. That’s it. He means that there is simply nothing better than knowing and being known by the One who created this whole universe, who lovingly placed the stars where they are, and who thought of you before anyone else had.

Why is GOOHF faith ultimately lacking? Because it neglects to mention the incredible truth that you were made to know and follow the loving God of everything, and to be known by Him in return.

And that is why it’s not as good as the real thing too.

Sharing Your Faith: What Not to Do

Written By James Bunyan

James Bunyan is a bit of a fidget, to be honest. His inability to sit still tends to spill over into all sorts of areas of his life; he loves travelling, good writing, all sports (except frisbee), the sense of purpose that the gospel gives him, exotic teas and the satisfaction of peeling off a sticker all in one go. He lives in Twickenham (London), where he works as a CU Staff Worker for UCCF: The Christian Unions, a student mission movement, and he recently married his best friend, Lois. That was a good move.

Sharing our faith can be pretty tricky.

Christianity is contagious and yet, in this world of easy communication and hundreds of different beliefs, sharing the gospel with family, friends, dentists, garbage collectors, colleagues, enemies, taxi drivers, teammates or others can often go awry pretty quickly—without us even knowing why. Well, it could be because we are making some classic mistakes when we interact with people with other beliefs and worldviews:

  1. Speaking more than we listen.

We think: The person opposite us has nothing to offer when it comes to matters of faith, so we make sure we enlighten them by dominating the conversation. After all, they need to hear about Jesus, don’t they? And that’s not going to happen if we just sit there and listen to them, right? Maybe we should even interrupt them when they try changing the subject . . .

  1. Always winning the argument, whatever the cost.

We think: Whenever we engage anyone in a conversation about faith, the truth of the gospel is at stake! It’s Christianity vs Whatever-Nonsense-They-Believe, so don’t let Jesus down! So hammer their arguments into the dust, using all our powers of persuasion, logic, and wisdom (and, if it helps, do some shouting as well). Actually, Facebook is the best for this, because we can write however much we like without having to look at our readers or acknowledge that they are people just like us.

  1. Keeping it intellectual and hypothetical.

We think: If we’re talking about faith, then there’s no need to discuss how this works in practice or talk about what Jesus is currently teaching us. Besides, they may either find that odd. Or, they may find out that Christians don’t always live perfectly themselves—that would not only be embarrassing, but we would also lose the argument (see above).

  1. Avoiding talking about Jesus or the Bible.

We think: If they have a different worldview, they don’t believe in Jesus, so there’s no need to talk about Him. Besides, He says some pretty odd things that won’t make us look too good; bits about angels, violence, and hell. Stick to talking about things like “searching for ourselves” and “not being perfect” that we can all relate to.

  1. Packing the whole gospel into one conversation.

We think: We are this person’s last hope of becoming a Christian! So make sure we never leave anything out, even if they don’t seem too keen to listen. Follow them out the door and down the road if we have to, so long as we finish what we’re saying!

As you’ve probably worked out by now, sharing your faith like this would be a total disaster. Yet many of us make these mistakes. And the biggest mistake is that we don’t respect people enough as precious humans made in the image of God. So the only message we end up sending to them is that Christians don’t listen, don’t care, are opinionated and, worst of all, consider people with other worldviews stupid and not worth engaging with.

In contrast, the Gospels show us that Jesus never talked to two different people in precisely the same way. Was it because He understood that each person’s worldview is unique and worthy of respect? Perhaps it means that sharing our faith is not so much about downloading information to people, as about dignifying them by appealing to and challenging their whole humanity, emotions and all. After all, imagine what Christians can achieve when they do the opposite of what we saw above. Imagine Christians who:

  1. Are confident enough to ask questions and humble enough to listen to people more than they talk, understanding that there is plenty to learn from others and to affirm in them.
  2. Value people enough to try and win the person, rather than just the argument, understanding that the other person has real value and dignity.
  3. Can share how Jesus is relevant to them today, understanding the importance of consistency between belief and practice, while at the same time admitting how they need Jesus to help them in their weaknesses.
  4. Take every opportunity to share the life, death, and resurrection of the real, historical Jesus they so clearly love, understanding that He alone is the author and perfecter of their faith and the power behind the message.
  5. Don’t desperately ram the whole gospel into every conversation, understanding the liberating truth that God’s Holy Spirit can use all sorts of opportunities to bring people closer to Him.

All this takes a little patient practice; it isn’t as easy as just following a recipe or memorizing a method.

But it could be a lot more exciting, couldn’t it?

Photo credit: thematthewknot / Foter / CC BY