Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live (Romans 8:12-13).
In my last five years at Covenant Fellowship, I have been impressed with the sermon series that have been brought to us. Two that stand out are the Redeeming Sex series we did last summer and the Romans 8 series this past fall. Before I explain how these series began to open my eyes, here’s a little background about me.
My name is Sarah and I am a recent West Chester graduate. I was raised in a Christian family and was a goody-two-shoes through and through. Any thought of disappointing anyone makes me cringe, and I desperately try to avoid letting anyone down at all costs. Another important attribute about me is that I love learning and am driven by curiosity. When people ask me a question I can’t answer, I can easily get lost on the internet or in books researching the information. Lastly, I struggle with pride that often drives me to bottling up failures, flaws, and disappointments. All of these things put together led me to the biggest area of sin that I have ever had to wage war on in my life.
I cannot even remember how or why it started, but one day it dawned on me that I didn’t fully understand what sex was or how it worked. I have had health classes that explained these things to me, and my mom talked to me about the “birds and the bees”, but I think I was too embarrassed to really pay attention. I remember starting college and being a part of a team that talked very openly about sexual encounters and being confused because I had never felt tempted in that area, and I didn’t know much about it.
The more I heard about sex, the more curious I became. I wanted to understand the appeal and was also becoming fearful that someday I would get married and have no idea what I was doing. Even as I’m writing this, I feel myself trying to defend my actions, and this is exactly what I felt like the moment I began frequenting websites about the topic. I told myself and God that these research sessions were going to help me in the future and that learning about science and biology could never be a sin. But the longer I continued my research, the less scientific the sites and media became.
Throughout this time I became an overnight worker at Giant, and on the night shift I was often the only one in the store. This gave me plenty of time to read the tabloids and other magazines that sexualized everything, without feeling nervous about getting caught. You would think that my fear of being caught would have tipped me off to the fact that I was treading in dangerous territory, but sin is sneaky like that.
The longer I “researched,” the more my thoughts became impure and I began to lust after guys. My curiosity was beginning to change to powerful desires to act on this newfound knowledge. My thought life became so muddled in impurity that my brain was crafting any possible excuse to justify my thoughts, so I still didn’t realize I was sinning. Besides, obviously none of this would be a problem as soon as I got married… right?
This brings me back to the Redeeming Sex series I mentioned earlier. During one message, I distinctly remember a couple coming up and giving their testimony about how their relationship struggled when one of them was addicted to porn. As they spoke, my heart raced and my brain continued to tell me lies saying I was fine. I wasn’t watching or looking at porn, just sites that explained how to be good at sex, and that’s totally different, right? Besides, someday I’ll be married and not only would my husband thank me for my knowledge, but everything would be fine then.
As soon as that thought crossed my mind, the man speaking said something like, “This all started when I was a single guy, and I thought that as soon as I got married everything would be better. But in getting married, my sins continued to be a problem and were now affecting my wife.” And something clicked inside me and said, Well, I guess I have a problem. At that point, God began to make me aware of my sin, but not yet to its fullest extent.
Each night after that testimony, I would feel myself giving in to thoughts swarming in my head as I went bed; and the guilt of disappointing people, especially my future husband, grew. So now I was fully aware that I was drowning in sin, drowning in guilt, and too prideful to tell anyone I was as broken as I was.
Again, God spoke to me through his Word at church. On September 7th, we were in the middle of the Romans 8 series, and we hit Romans 8:12-13 where Rob talked about putting sin to death. His sermon detailed four ways to put sin to death, and in the third point, “We must actively put sin to death”, I took more notes than I ever had before. I remember going back and watching the sermon the next day because I missed writing so many things that I needed to hear. Clearly this sermon was written for me.
God not only was calling me out on my sin, but telling me I needed more than that. I needed to be actively putting my sin to death. To top it off, I was handed a how-to guide after the sermon which outlined eight steps that I needed to work through! God seemed to be sitting me down for an intervention while I was listening to this sermon. I could hear him clearly telling me that this needed to be the end of my sin; no more excuses; no more guilt. This needed to end now, and I apparently needed the exact directions on how to do that.
I could share many stories about the process I walked through after this sermon occurred, including having to get over my pride and tell someone what was going on. I had to lay out my brokenness to a good friend, and although I was afraid of the judgment that would follow, I was met with comfort and a great accountability partner.
Over the next couple of months I was able to get through each of the eight steps to put sin to death, and I can happily say my war against lust is not completely won, but I am winning more battles than losing. If you feel you are drowning in a particular sin, I encourage you to tell someone. God will meet you as you take this step of humility, and he will provide all the grace you need to follow him.