The fight for sexual purity
Men, let’s face it: sexual temptations lurk at every corner. The fight for purity is a daily one.
It is no secret that men have a predisposition to visual stimulation; we are easily turned on by what we see. My vision is consistently assaulted on a daily basis as I go about life in Singapore: sensual movie posters, shorts skirts being blown upwards by a draft, loose-fitting or translucent tops that are too revealing. These sights are unavoidable as we commute to and from work or school. I find myself inexplicably drawn to them, moving deeper down the continuum of glance, gaze, stare, and ogle.
When a woman bends over too low or does not sit too carefully on the opposite side of the MRT, I figure that it’s my lucky day; after all, she is in a public space, so it must be a free-for-all. Not true. I have come to learn that visually feasting on this view is dishonouring to her purity, my integrity, and God’s holiness. A stolen glance or an extended gaze is tantamount to stealing her purity, which also belongs to God and her husband or future husband. Lingering on a lascivious fantasy compromises on the integrity of my thought-life and character. Allowing myself to enjoy something that I should not indulge in defiles me; I should be living a life that is holy, just as He is holy. What my mind does with what my eye sees can bring honour or dishonour to the Father.
Oftentimes, I find my eyes getting distracted and led on by the sensuality I see. The accumulation of such sensory stimulation eventually necessitates release, opening up the trapdoor to sexual sin. The root of the problem is not that women are dressing immodestly; the fundamental issue is about what our heart desires and what we do with those desires. When it comes to sexual sin, it is my heart that is enticed by the seduction of something seemingly impermissible.
James writes that, “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death” (James 1:14–15). When we desire the quick-fix of false intimacy or the thrill of stolen purity, temptation develops. The allure of the forbidden fruit coupled with a lack of self-control draws us deeper into sin like buffalos being dragged by their nose rings.
The book of Proverbs offers some wisdom:
“Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it…
Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.”
Guarding our hearts
Indeed, the safeguarding of our hearts is of supreme importance. At the core of the fight against sexual temptations is the desire of our hearts. My flesh desires promiscuity and flirting with the forbidden, but our Father desires our allegiance and loyalty. He implores us saying, “My son, give me your heart; and let your eyes delight in my ways” (Proverbs 23:26). He wants our wholehearted devotion to His way of life. Our entertainment of lustful thoughts can be likened to a butterfly flitting from flower to flower sampling the sweet nectar of sin. The challenge is, then, to be single-minded in desiring to live a life pleasing to God. It starts with a decision to submit our desires to God.
At the turn of 2015, God firmly convicted me to offer my body as a living sacrifice, and that the fire of my altar of sacrifice should be perpetually burning — day and night. This means that during the day as I am exposed to the many temptations around and at night when I am alone and sometimes bored (you know it, guys; this is a red flag), I remind myself to keep that fire of sacrifice and obedience burning. This fire needs to be attentively kindled; I periodically check the motivations of my heart for any wayward urges. The Bible promises that Jesus is able to help those who are being tempted, and even so, we will not be tempted beyond measure, and there will be a way out! (See Hebrews 2:18 and 1 Corinthians 10:12–14.) God has helped me many times — an abruptly disconnected wifi link, someone blocking a “good” view, or a robust nudge from the Holy Spirit.
As we learn to keep in step with the Holy Spirit and allow Him to work within us, He develops self-control in our lives (Galatians 5:19–25). We mature as men, bearing fruits to the Father’s glory.
Guarding our eyes
We need self-control in keeping the purity of our eyes. Our longing for physical intimacy is a natural one — sexual appetite is something God-given. For unmarried men (and women) living in an environment of highly sexualised imagery, it can be perplexing to be gifted with a sex drive that cannot yet find its full expression in loving matrimony. It is a very real struggle for many of us, including myself. Particularly for men, we need to discipline our eyes and control what we consume visually. Arterburn and Stoeker advise in Every Young Man’s Battle: “To combat years and years of this reflexive action, you need to train your eyes to immediately bounce away when it comes upon a sexy image — much like the way you jerk your hand away from a hot stove”. This is a habit that I have been developing and it has helped me greatly in many unforeseen situations.
The development of the habit of “bouncing my eyes” in an effort to guard my heart and mind is a daily process. It was hard when I first started adopting this strategy of “bouncing my eyes”. I still fall on some occasions, but I pick myself up again because I know that God is working in me, giving me the desire and the power to do what pleases Him (Philippians 2:13). He works by reminding me that I have “made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman” (Job 31:1). His empowering grace is like the attraction of a magnet — constant and always drawing me to holiness. The more I align myself to Him, the easier it is to follow His will, and the closer I am to Him.
Faced with the multi-sensory onslaught of sexual temptations in today’s world, we need to recognise that this fight happens everyday. It is won by building a strong inner-life where our hearts are protected from carnal enticements and our eyes are resolutely set on Jesus.
The call to holiness
In addressing the conditions of this world, Paul exhorts us in 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” A healthy fear of the Lord keeps our heart in check. Ultimately, we are called to a higher standard:
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honourable, not in passionate lust like the pagans…and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister…For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. (1 Thessalonians 4:3–7)”
The benchmark God sets for us is one of honour and holiness. Followers of YHWH should be distinguishable from the ungodly, instead of flirting with the perverse surroundings.
Men, let us “come out…and be separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17). Sexual innuendos, promiscuity, and lust are the norms in our society; men crack lewd jokes about women; NS buddies trade stories about their sexual exploits. However, I believe that Christian men can raise up a Godly standard against this riptide that is engulfing Singapore society. As the Holy Spirit empowers with His grace, I am convinced that we can be a generation of men who are the rare-breed in our highly sexualised society, championing the values of purity and integrity! This starts with the daily fight for pure eyes.