Every advertiser knows that sex sells… because sexy images are a surefire way to grab people’s attention. They have a lot of sexy strategies up their sleeves to entice and draw them in. At times, they are very overt as they appeal directly to the male and female mind by using a beautiful woman or a good-looking guy to demonstrate a product. Sometimes they are subtler in their use of provocative images or seductive language. And then there are other instances where they are extremely covert, such as when they ascribe alluring feminine and masculine characteristics to their products.
Advertisers use sex to sell their products because it works extremely well. Businesspeople have tapped into the fact that sexual attraction and expression are woven into the very fabric of our being. I guarantee that if you say the word “sex” in a crowded room loud enough for others to hear, heads will immediately turn toward you…or at least the heads of all the men in the room! God has “hardwired” men and women for sexuality…and not only have businesses learned this lesson, the Devil has, too.
Satan’s sexual attack
Since Satan is unable to achieve his greatest desire—his yearning to dethrone God—he settles for turning people away from God by drawing them into sin. Satan, the master of deception and manipulation, exploits humanity’s innate desire for sex by luring and then entangling them in his web of sin. And the fact is, this has proven to be an effective strategy.
Even a novice in the Scriptures soon discovers that the Bible includes a lot of sexuality.
As early as Genesis 6, we learn about sinful sexual misconduct between the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” (a very intriguing story, but one that goes far beyond the scope of this article) (Gen. 6:1, 2). There’s the story of a young slave named Joseph, where his master’s wife attempts to seduce him (Gen 39:6-18). We also read stories about adultery (David and Bathsheba – 2 Sam. 11:1-5), incest (Lot and his two daughters – Gen. 19:30-38), homosexuality (Sodom and Gomorrah – Gen. 19:4-5), rape (Dinah and the men at Shechem – Gen. 34:4, 5), prostitution (Judah and Tamar, his daughter-in-law – Gen. 38:15-18) and much, much more. And we must also add the many regulations concerning proper sexual behavior written in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. The point of all the sexual references in the Bible is that God is attempting to communicate proper sexual behavior and the pitfalls that we encounter when we go outside the godly boundaries.
Learning to deal with sexual temptation requires being proactive—not reactive
Sexual temptation can be like a shiny lure flashing past the nose of a fish. We see that tasty little morsel and without thinking we are fast on the heels of it, ready to chomp down and devour it, unsuspecting that there is hook in there! Of course, the bait looks great…that’s why it’s called BAIT! But before you know it, you are wriggling on the hook of sin—a fish snagged in the mouth.
The best time to deal with sexual temptation is not after the snare is sprung or when the hook is set. The first mistake many make is to try handling sexual sin when they are in the middle of a temptation. This is like buying a burglar alarm system while the intruder is in your house robbing you of your goods. Effectively dealing with sexual temptation and sin requires us to be proactive, thinking ahead and applying much wisdom. Being reactive to the Devil’s schemes is a guaranteed way to fail.
It has been rightly said that, “those who fail to plan…plan to fail.” This is true with all temptation in general, but it is especially true in the area of sexual sin. Dealing effectively with sexual sin requires deliberate, aggressive, and zealous action. No one will ever conquer sexual temptation with a half-hearted, weak-kneed approach. This is not something that we can grit our teeth and successfully get through. It is too strong an opponent for that to work.
One of the things I learned years ago is that when I have an issue in my life, I have to face it head-on and confront it. I must deal with it…or it will deal with me. If I try to ignore it, pretend it isn’t there or isn’t really a big deal, then sooner or later it will surface again; and usually when it does, it comes out on top and beats me. When it comes to matters of sexual temptation, God is clear: we cannot mess around. We must be proactive by taking clear, calculated, and predetermined steps.
Proverbs 7—an object lesson in sexual sin
God has taken the time to reveal to us the nature and consequences of sexual sin. Proverbs 7 is a detailed portrayal of the path of sexual temptation leading through the lures of the various senses—it’s fertilization, gestation, and culmination in death. The story describes a young man who is seduced into sexual sin by a very cunning and crafty woman. Enthralled by her words and her appeal to his need for love, he is drawn into her trap by what he sees, hears, smells, and feels. God warns that this is the path to destruction as he slides downward into her lair, like a bird in a snare or as one with an arrow piercing his liver (Prov. 7:23).
There is much we can glean from this proverb. I won’t go into exhaustive detail, but consider a few of the insights Proverbs 7 gives us about how sexual temptation unfolds:
First, we see that the young man is “simple,” which means “naïve” and is a way of describing a “fool” in Proverbs He lacks knowledge and experience and is devoid of good “sense.” He is reactive and does not have a solid plan to avoid temptation.
Proverbs 7:7 NIV
I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who had no sense.
We also see that the enemy has a well-orchestrated plan of sexual attack carried out by those with evil and “crafty intent.” We need to be vigilant and wise because the snare of the Devil lurks everywhere.
Proverbs 7:10-12 (NIV)
Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent. 11(She is unruly and defiant, her feet never stay at home; 12now in the street, now in the squares, at every corner she lurks.
Sexual attacks use deceit, concealment, and camouflage. This woman makes herself appear righteous, uses the appeal of food, and his need to be desired (the desire to be desired is one of the most basic needs of every heart).
Proverbs 7:13-15 (NIV)
She took hold of him and kissed him and with a brazen face she said: 14“Today I fulfilled my vows, and I have food from my fellowship offering at home. 15So I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you!
There is always an appeal to the flesh nature through the senses (touch, sight, smell, taste and hearing):
Proverbs 7:16-18 (NIV)
I have covered my bed with colored linens from Egypt.17I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon. 18Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning; let’s enjoy ourselves with love!
The time to avoid sexual sin is not when you are falling headlong into the trail of temptation, but long beforehand. It is much too persuasive to resist in a reactive way!
Proverbs 7:21-22 (NIV)
With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. 22All at once he followed her…
God knows well how strong sexual temptation is, which is why he gives us explicit instructions that this is the one sin that we must not only resist—we must flee from it (1 Cor. 6:18). Many fail in this area because they have never developed successful strategies against temptation. They are reactive instead of proactive—big mistake! Successfully dealing with sexual sin requires actively developing and then following proven strategies.
Five proven strategies for dealing with sexual sin
Years ago, I began to see that that there are five specific fronts on which sexual sin must be aggressively faced. Although this methodology can be applied to any pervasive sin pattern, it works very effectively for sexual sin. I call these the Five A’s of Sexual Temptation, and they are expressed in the following areas: Attractive, Available, Accessible, Anonymous, and Addictive.
Any effective temptation plan, such as one using the five “A’s” above, requires an understanding of how the temptation works in these particular areas, and it helps us to develop counter measures in each area.
Let’s face it, sexual sin is attractive, meaning it appeals to us. It is alluring, enticing, and captivating. It is our very nature to be drawn to it, which is why we call it “sex appeal.”
To some degree, all sin is attractive, but sexual sin holds a special pull for many because sex is such a strong physical, emotional, and spiritual act. Sex involves all of our physical senses and connects with our strong inner desires, especially the desire to be desired. It connects us with others on the deepest level possible, a visceral level of intimacy and exchange. It also culminates in an orgasm, which is one of the strongest human sensations we experience, releasing hormones and neuro-transmitting chemicals causing bonding and euphoric feelings. The fact is, sex is very powerful stuff.
God designed us to be “attracted” to members of the opposite sex, but we can develop an effective temptation strategy to help assuage the attractiveness of sexual sin. When tempted, instead of entertaining thoughts and images of sexual satisfaction, we must turn our minds to the negative consequences that would result from giving in to it. In other words, we must make sexual sin unattractive by focusing on the betrayal, hurt, harm, and all the other ungodly results of walking this thorny path. Consider just how many men and women look back with deep regret after giving in to sexual temptation. There is little doubt that many would never have crossed the line had they really thought ahead about the loss their infidelities would cause; losses of marriage, family, job, ministry, personal integrity, and much more. We counteract the attractiveness of sexual sin by making it unattractive.
Availability refers to the tremendous prevalence of sexual imagery assaulting us every day. Sexual imagery is everywhere in our culture today. No matter where you turn, if you pick up a magazine, watch television, go to the movies, listen to music, or get on the computer, it is right there in front of you. Movies that at one time would have been considered R rated (restricted-over 18) are now commonly rated PG-13 (parental guidance-over age 13).
Young girls and guys are especially vulnerable to the sexual messages filling the environment. In the July 2017 issue of Teen Vogue there was an article titled “Anal Sex: What You Need To Know.” This is a magazine directed toward a teenage, female audience! This kind of thing would have been unheard of and been rightly censored even as little as a decade ago. There is so much sex “in the air,” so to speak, that we could list example after example. The point is that sex is available, and it is coming at us from nearly every angle in life.
How do we escape the prevalence of the sexual images and messages that seem to be everywhere? It is true that we can push for change by putting pressure on the media, arts & entertainment, and business, but any change resulting from that would be slow, if it came at all. Instead, we must take responsibility for ourselves and control our own environment, which we can do by removing ourselves or removing the ungodliness from around us. I can’t control what’s on my television, but I can control what I choose to watch. We counteract the pervasive availability of sex by making it unavailable.
Sexual immorality has always been around, but it has not always been as accessible as it is today. I was shocked by some of the facts I recently learned concerning the availability of sexual imagery in a book by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle titled “A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World.” (As an aside, I highly recommend this book to anyone who struggles with the things they see happening in the world, the social shifts and culture changes we are experiencing, but I also must warn it is not a read for the faint of heart.) As Stonestreet and Kunkle state, “…we don’t have a porn problem. We have a porn epidemic.”
Consider some of the following statistics about the accessibility of sexual imagery today, as reported by Covenant Eyes, an Internet Accountability and filtering service provider:
- One out of every 8 online searches and one out of every 5 mobile searches is for porn.
- Pornography takes up to one-third of the Internet’s bandwidth.
- 69% of Internet pay-per-view is pornographic.
- In 2006, the estimated revenues for sex-related entertainment businesses were just under 13 billion (a number which may have doubled or tripled by now).
Pornography and sexual sin have always been present, but when I was growing up someone who wanted to engage in it had to go to an adult bookstore or take special steps to order it. But now people can access it 24/7 every day of the week from their computer, smartphones, and tablets. For those with a weakness in this area, this becomes a temptation on steroids.
Because it is so accessible, proactive steps must be taken to prevent it from being attained. Thankfully, this can be simply done by placing apps on your smart devices that block all pornographic images. These are software tools for computers and apps that interface with the internet browser, blocking access to sexually explicit materials. Many apps like these exist now, such as Pornblocker, Blockade, and others. If you have a real struggle in this area, then the best ones even require passwords, which can be only given to a spouse or trusted friend so you cannot circumvent the app. The point is that you can and must take steps to prevent access if you are serious about overcoming sexual temptation.
As I mentioned in the section on accessibility, there was a time when someone wanted to view pornographic material, they had to go to an adult book store or order it through the mail. The fact that everyone in town would see your car parked outside or that the mail person even would know what was being delivered to your home was enough to prevent many from pursuing pornography.
One of the most pernicious aspects of sexually explicit material and the ensuing sexual sin is that people can do it in complete anonymity now, behind closed doors, and anywhere, at any time. Sin breeds and grows in darkness…in the hidden, secret places. After all, would you really do these things if you knew others would know? Of course you would not!
Since sin hates the light, the simple way to counteract it is to bring it to the light, which we can do by creating true accountability with others. Genuine accountability is not just where we involve others in our lives. It is where others know what we are doing, can check on us, verify our actions, and then hold our feet to the fire by taking appropriate actions to help us. If you seriously want to eliminate anonymity, then you need to involve others by exposing your actions.
The reason men and women (yes, pornography is both a male and female issue) struggle so much with pornography is because it is very addictive. Because we are hardwired for sexuality, when we view sexually explicit material, and especially when we act out on the content, we develop neurological pathways in the brain.
This becomes addictive because sex, like other addictive drugs and behaviors, causes the release of powerful chemicals and hormones. Science has proven that pornography and ensuing sexual behaviors release norepinephrine (the brain’s version of adrenaline), serotonin (elevating the sense of excitement and enjoyment), dopamine (promotes cravings and satisfaction), oxytocin and vasopressin (help to lay down long-term memory and bonding), and many more.
This is why the more we yield to sexual sin, the deeper the pathway is worn into our brain. What was once a simple twig of a neural connection can grow into a full-blown tree in the mind. Think of it as the difference between an obscure animal trail in the woods, and a five-lane superhighway. The more we travel down a path, the deeper and wider it becomes.
The bottom line is that addiction distorts brain function. Treating it requires deliberate mental, physical, and spiritual steps. The mental and physical steps require actions in all the “A’s” above, and spiritual intervention requires prayer (both personal and intercessory), spiritual discernment, and at times, deliverance from spirit influence.
Sex is a very personal and can be an embarrassing matter for most people to talk about. The last thing many people want is for others to become aware of their struggles in this area. Acting out in this way is always accompanied by shame—the sense that if others know the truth about us, they will reject us. But this is all part of the emotional trap and lie of the Devil…part of the web of his lair of sin.
Remember, God tells us to “resist” and “flee.” If you struggle with sexual sin, implement an action plan that addresses all five “A’s” (Attractive, Available, Accessible, Anonymous, and Addictive). Include others and seek out whatever help you need from someone you know and can trust. Jesus is clear: “if your right hand offends you, then cut it off”—in other words, do whatever you need to do to get the help you need to conquer sexual sin. With God fighting for and with you, you can succeed!