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Fighting Sexual Sin

March 13, 2008

In an article entitled “When the Problem is Sexual Sin,” John F. Bettler breaks down the problem of sexual sin into three areas: 1) Objects of lust 2) Relationship Lusts and 3) Life-meaning Lusts. Arranging these sins into a pyramid (Lust Objects at the top and Life-meaning lusts at the bottom), Bettler makes the point that removing the lust object only deals with the tip of the triangle. Of course, the tip needs to be dealt with, temptations should be removed, software installed on the computer, codes on the T.V. and so on; however, this is simply remedial, not redemptive.

In order to move beyond accountability and into grace-based victory over sexual sin, our heart issues must be exposed, our relationship lusts revealed. Sexual sin is frequently the result of unmet or over-met relationship desires. Thus, we must ask ourselves, What is it that we are looking for in our relationships? Do we want intimacy or safety, affirmation or space? Honest answers in this area will reveal how lust functions as a misdirected relational desire. It will help us understand some of the deeper issues and deviant beliefs that guide us into sexual sin. Once we honestly answer these questions, we can turn to asking the life-meaning lusts questions. Bettler defines life-meaning questions as: What do we believe we must have in order for life to work, to be successful? This will bring our idolatrous desires out into the light. It will show us the false promises we are believing…like “God owes me a spouse” or “I don’t need anybody.”

After answering these questions honestly, we can move into accountability, assess our relationships, and take action in cultivating proper belief and delight in God’s true and faithful promises in order to redirect our desires for safety, spouse, and intimacy into God himself. This will require repentance and big gospel, a message of hope and the person of Christ, who dies our death and lives our life offering us true acceptance and joy. Here is an outline to summarize Bettler’s advice:

  1. What are the objects of lust?
    1. Question: Where, when, how are the patterns of temptation?
    2. Action: Accountability is needed for this level. (1 Tim 2:22)
  2. What are your relationship desires? Close, distant, safe, risky, affirmation, space?
    1. Question: What do you desire most from your spouse, parent, and friend?
    2. Action: Assess relationships—excess or deficiency?
  3. What are your life and heart desires?
    1. Question: What do you really want/desire out of life or from God?
    2. Action: Act to take redirect ungodly desires in order to cultivate trust, hope, faith in God. (1 Tim 4:7) Discover how God in Christ rebukes misplaced desires and satisfies our true longings, demonstrating his infinite worth.
6 Comments leave one →
  1. Not Just a Men's Issue permalink
    March 13, 2008 10:45 pm


    This is a great post. Very insightful.

    However I would like to address the fact that you addressed this “For Guys…”

    As a woman who has struggled / struggles with sexual addiction / sin it is extremely isolating to have this problem labelled as a mens issue. It makes it seem more abberant and that you are more depraved than men who struggle with it. (It’s almost seen as strange if a man DOESN’T have an issue with sex!) It makes you feel like the worst woman EVER.

    For this reason I really fear that many more women struggle with it than would admit it, because they believe they are the only woman who struggles with it.

    Even for men I know there is a tendency to hide this kind of sin, because it is seen as so shameful. Add to that the “No women struggle with this” idea and we make the issue insurmountable for a woman on her own. To address sexual addiction / sin we need to be in community and be open, honest and accountable. It takes ruthless honesty on the part of the person struggling, but it also takes the grace and acceptance of the community.

    Let’s get past the myth that lust is just a mens issue. Interestingly, in the gospels I can only remember examples of women caught in sexual sin — where are the men?? Jesus clearly saw this as a women’s issue too.

    God bless.

  2. March 14, 2008 1:19 am

    Just a little reaction from the comment… the last paragraph… I think there are several examples of lust concerning the men….


    Just digging a little deeper…
    Nice post. :))

    God bless.

  3. March 14, 2008 6:23 am

    Funny, after I posted and went to bed I told myself that I should remove the “for guys” label for those exact reasons. I apologize if this was polarizing and I do understand that this issue cuts across genders, like all sin. The issue is not gender; it is sin, sin that Jesus died and rose to conquer. Grace to you in your struggle and thanks for your comment.

    By the way, here is a helpful article on sexual struggles often unvoiced by women.

  4. March 19, 2008 10:55 pm

    Great post. Any idea where I can find the original article?

  5. March 20, 2008 5:41 am

    Sure. Journal of Biblical Counseling.. email them.


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