This sermon was preached to the Kenyatta University Medical Students’ fellowship on Wednesday 03/10/2018.
I am extremely honored to share with you guys this evening. I am because I am least deserving to speak on matters sexual purity. I have failed a couple times in the past, and so I do not speak as one who has been proven faultless, but as one who’s been shown mercy.
I believe most of you expect quite a candid discussion on sexual sin and addictions. Perhaps some of you have pretentiously readied themselves to act embarrassed, the fact that they look forward to a bit of explicitness notwithstanding. I should notify you that beyond just meeting your expectations, however tempting to make that my ultimate goal that is, I hope to be faithful to the Lord’s expectation of me tonight.
I’d love to begin with something rather obvious to all of us. And perhaps might strike you at first as very unrelated to sexual addictions. The irrefutable fact that the two things we all seek in this present life are meaning and fulfillment. Those can also be stated as identity and pleasure. We are made for these, and whatever we find meaning in, therein shall our pleasure be.
As children our identities and pleasures were tied to our moms for the most part. We cried whenever they would leave us for even just a few minutes, and felt happy and peaceful whenever they fondled us in their arms to sleep.
But soon we would be exposed to toys and nothing in the world brought us more fun. Our pleasure was shared between our parents and our toys. Some of you wouldn’t sleep without first cuddling their dolls and others would only bathe on condition they were allowed to bring their toy cars to the bath room.
We grew older, making neighborhood friends, and the trouble took a new form for our parents. They struggled to keep us away from neighboring kids. Often, we cared little about eating, and whenever we showed up back home we’d be so dirty they would hate the neighbor’s kids whom we’d play with (the neighbor parents hated us too).
At some point we became teens and we found pleasure in music, fashion, and many other things. We admired celebrities and would give away anything just to be like them. We learned of love and would never stop thinking about some fly girl or cool boy.
But ultimately we would become adults, join college, and discover different things. The man who once as a child would never keep away his toys now can’t stay away from his books. A lady can’t get over her obsession with clothes. Another cannot help but watch a scintillating series however close to exams the semester is. Another would die if separated from the boyfriend, and yet another wouldn’t survive a day without watching porn.
All of them addicted! They didn’t just start when porn hooked them, or masturbation got the best of them. They started when their natural affections were focused on the wrong object.
The Object of Affection
Several Bible passages show that God intends that he becomes our greatest fulfillment in life. He intends that our identity will be found in him, and for our joy to flow from that. The child should treasure his toys only by way of learning, not as an end. If toys take a lifetime possession of his heart, he will never drop them for the thrill of playing with other kids, and he’ll never savor the self-finding adventures of teenage life, and he will never exchange them for the pleasure of a career as a doctor, or engineer, or anything else.
Every new affection, every new enjoyment, is meant to usher us into a greater one. Along the way we discover God, rather he makes himself known to us, and as our knowledge of him grows, our affection towards him should only increase to the point that none else matches it.
The God-man himself calls doing his Father’s will his food (John 4:34). That is to say to him, the Father was the most satisfying object. Job, the most devout man who ever lived declares the same when he says;
“I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food” – Job 23:12.
And David treasures God in a similar way when he confesses;
“For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness” – Psalm 84:10.
Later in the New Testament Paul makes that beautiful declaration we all know;
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” – Philippians 3:8.
When Paul uses the word ‘suffered’, he means it hasn’t been easy parting with these things, but he has because he has found Jesus worthier. A child may struggle to give up something he loves until he realizes another thing just happens to be better. And when he gains the new thing, he just might despise what he formally loved and wonder why he even loved it in the first place. That thing, like to Paul, becomes of no good. It becomes rubbish.
But why did Paul, and David, and Job value God the much they did? Because, as we find out in Genesis 15:1, God himself desires to be treasured that way. Of all the rewards he could give Abraham, he promises himself as Abraham’s exceeding great reward. As our team leader Andy often says, God cannot give us any gift greater than himself. He is the lone greatest treasure and reward.
The question is, has he become that to you? In all honesty, our addiction struggles are worship struggles. The porn, lust, masturbation, all have greater shares of our hearts than Jesus does. Though we find lifting hands in worship fun when with other believers, we enjoy our addictions more.
And we don’t enjoy these things because they are any pleasurable. The alcoholic loathes who he becomes when drunk and uncontrollable. The young lad caught up in masturbation often feels so much resentment towards self immediately after giving in to the sin. The only reason they keep going back is that they’ve assigned these things the place of Christ in their hearts. They ascribe worship where it’s not due.
“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him – in other words use his gifts as he wills for them to be used, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” – Romans 1:21-23.
That exact same idolatry is what fosters our addictions. If you read further to verse 24, you will appreciate that it is after men have withheld worship from God that he gives them over to their depraved minds. That’s always the sequence. You are hooked in sin because you withhold worship from God, and your freedom cannot come unless you reorient your worship.
We do have hope. It is only in allowing Christ to dominate our hearts not just more than other things we may treasure, but entirely. I remember once going to my mentor and confessing purity struggles. To my surprise he didn’t cast out sexual demons like I thought he would. He simply helped me see how my struggle with laziness contributed to my sexual sin thriving.
Often we fail to realize that though we may put out sexual fires, other sin struggles we consider less consequential will light up the fire immediately after. It will help you a great deal to always remember that gluttony feeds the flesh just as much as sexual sin does. That even though it might look less harmful compared to masturbation, your indulgent phone use gives life to the flesh just as much.
Also of necessity is to confess our sins to God and to others. There’s a great deal of freedom in confession. But often we struggle confessing because Christ is yet to be fully treasured. He’s yet to be fully worshiped. We care more that we are shamed for people knowing our flaws than we care that we please him and walk in his freedom.
Such an attitude cannot help us to properly grieve over our sin and turn away from it in repentance. The only way to properly grieve over sin is by realizing that the Person most grieved by our sins can only be the Person who sacrificed the most because of them. Our sins nailed Jesus on the Cross, and that very treasure who died, descended to the dead, and on the third day rose again, he alone is our way out of sin! He must be loved if sin will be despised. But if we love sin by repeatedly going back to it, we have hated him even though our lips may claim we love him.
I warned when we began that I might disappoint some expectations. Perhaps you came hoping to hear how you can will yourself not to click on that link, or not to look at some skimpily dressed lass, or not to allow lustful thoughts in your mind. I am sorry that I do not come bearing a formula, but I am happy I bring you a Person. If Christ doesn’t have your heart, your eyes will look where they shouldn’t, and your mind will wander off to thoughts it shouldn’t, however much you try not to.
For some here you need to truly commit your life to him today. For others, you need to return to your first love. You need to ask his Spirit to help you study the Scriptures, and memorize them, and pray, and actively love people around you, all with joy. Otherwise you will walk back to your hostel, to your routine life, and like you’ve done after many sermons and deliverance prayers before, head right back into the same sin struggles you now have.