God's Prescription for Killing Sexual Sin (Meditation on Psalm 119:9-11)
Imagine this with me. It is Sunday morning. The music team has just stepped down, the offering is being taken and your pastor steps up to begin the message. However, before he dives into the text, he makes an announcement that at the conclusion of today’s service everyone will need to exit the building in a timely fashion. He explains that your church has rented out its space to be used by another group that day. He continues to explain that in order to help with some financial issues in the church they are opening up their doors for other groups to utilize your space, and today after service, a group will come in to hold a service for the worship of… themselves. This group will sing songs that make them happy. They will hold on to their money. They will praise each other and seek to exalt themselves. They will participate in anything that will further their kingdom. There will be acts of self-worship during this service like sexual relations, cursing, anger outbursts, coveting, laziness, slandering etc.
Now I imagine that everyone would look at this pastor and cry out against him! They would put an end to that real fast. For indeed, the church building is no place for this kind of false worship. How horrific, how blasphemous, how evil.
In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. Paul says “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Here we are faced with a pretty serious hypocrisy. It is amazing how closely we cling to the cleanliness and holiness of a building of brick, wood, metal, and sheetrock, that will one day no longer be there, yet, our soul will live forever. It is amazing to me when I see signs of “No food or drink in the sanctuary” and yet the sanctuary is full of people who have sin that leave much dirtier stains than a cup of coffee.
I’m reminded of what R.C. Sproul said about Uzzah in his book The Holiness of God. Sproul notes that the Israelites were carrying the ark back to their land against the way God had prescribed for His presence to be carried. The Ark should not have been on an oxcart. In fact, according to God’s prescribed law, not only was Uzzah not allowed to touch the Ark, but he was also forbidden to look upon it. R.C. then says “He touched it anyway. He stretched out his hand and placed it squarely on the ark, steadying it in place lest it fall to the ground. An act of holy heroism? No! It was an act of arrogance, a sin of presumption. Uzzah assumed that his hand was less polluted than the earth. But it wasn’t ground or the mud that would desecrate the ark; it was the touch of man. The earth is an obedient creature. It does what God tells it to do… the ground doesn’t commit cosmic treason. There is nothing polluted about the ground.”
What a sobering thought. People cry out “injustice” over Uzzah’s death. And yet, Uzzah was not an innocent man. He was dirtier than the ground. He was more concerned about outward cleanliness than inward cleanliness. In the same way we have become so focused on the physical temple of God, which is obeying Him according to the laws of nature that God has established, when the real issue of uncleanliness is our own hearts. Every Sunday our sanctuaries are full of people worshipping self.
The Never-Satisfying Pit of Sexual Sin
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 6:18 warns us “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” Your body is a temple of the living God. And the Bible commands us to keep that body pure. You were bought by Jesus Christ who laid down His life, not just so you would be forgiven, but so that you would be cleansed (1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 John 1:9). In fact, Paul tells us that sexual purity is God’s will for us (1 Thessalonians 4:3). There is perhaps no other sin like sexual immorality so pervasive in our day. Far too many men and women, young and old, have found themselves in this addictive, delusional, and never satisfying pit. It is a habit that leads to unbelievable regret, shame, secrecy, distortion, and destruction. My Dad used to always tell me “sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you ever thought you’d have to give.”
Proverbs 22:14 says “The mouth of forbidden women is a deep pit.” Proverbs 5 warns us that this sin leads to death. John Owens said “Sin aims always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin in that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head. Men may come to that, that sin may not be heard speaking a scandalous word in their hearts - that is, provoking to any great sin with scandal in its mouth; but yet every rise of lust, might it have its course, would come to the height of villainy: it is like the grave that is never satisfied.”
So what do we do? How can we keep our temple clean? How on earth can a young man, or a young woman, or an old man, or an old woman be pure? If every other sin is outside the body but sexual sin is against the body, then what do I do? In fact, the question may be even more urgent than we are willing to admit. Indeed, many of you may have strong sexual addictions. Everything from flirting, to lustful thoughts, to fantasizing, to pornography, to full blown adultery. In fact, the majority of those who are enslaved to these sins have been for years if not decades. You may even feel like you have tried everything to change and stop. You may have even thought that this is something that you will just have to deal with until you die. As if this were your thorn in the flesh (an unbiblical hermeneutical understanding of Paul’s thorn). Well, praise be to God, you have been given freedom in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit to be able to STOP this sin. To turn from it. To find greater delight in God. To actually be able to glorify God with your body. And the answer is found, literally, in Psalm 119:9-11.
God’s Prescription to Kill Sexual Sin
The Psalmist gives us an exhortation about this very thing. Psalm 119:9-11 says “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” That is the answer. But we must understand what the Psalmist is saying. If all it takes to remain pure is guarding our ways according to God’s Word, then what does that mean? Well it means several things:
Know God’s Word
The Psalmist doesn’t say to guard according to one book, or verse, or chapter, but the totality of God’s Word. In other words, you must know the story being told throughout Scripture. The story of God’s creation, man’s fall, the reality and seriousness of sin, God’s redemptive plan executed perfectly in Christ who gives us His righteousness and cleanses us from all unrighteousness giving us His Spirit to sanctify us completely and guard us until the day of Christ Jesus when we will spend eternity feasting on His joy free from not only the power of sin, but also the presence of sin (yes – this is a run on sentence, but just like Paul in Ephesians 1:3-14, I cannot contain the joy found in this truth). In other words, I cannot fight against sexual immorality with a shallow understanding of God and His gospel.
Guard Yourself with God’s Word
Be proactive and diligent here. Put on the armor of Christ (Ephesians 6) and protect yourself against the fiery darts of the devil. Know your weaknesses and avoid circumstances and situations that will cause you to fall. Avoid certain people (with grace), avoid certain places, avoid certain drinks, avoid certain shows and entertainment, avoid being alone when you shouldn’t be. You guard yourself with God’s Word by taking God’s Word with you everywhere you go. This is what David means in Psalm 1 about the blessed man being the one who, out of His delight for God and His Word, meditates on His Word day and night.
Seek God With Your Affections
The Psalmist says “with my whole heart I seek you.” This isn’t a passive fight. This isn’t a fight against satisfaction and joy, it is a fight for lasting satisfaction and joy. This is a fight for your emotions and your affections, with your affections. In 2 Corinthians 5 Paul says some amazing things about the new believer. We are a new creation (vs 17), the love of Christ controls us (vs 14), we no longer live for ourselves (vs 15), Jesus took our sin and gave us His righteousness (vs 21), we are ministers of reconciliation ( vs 18) and ambassadors for Christ (vs 20). And then he says something powerful in the next chapter. He acknowledges that the believers in Corinth are struggling to live according to this new identity. But it isn’t because Paul has given them a stumbling block, it isn’t because of persecution or affliction, no they are restricted by their own affections (2 Corinthians 6:12).
This is where every one of us are restricted in our fight against purity. It isn’t our spouse’s fault, it wasn’t our parent’s fault, it isn’t our friend’s fault, it isn’t entertainments fault, it isn’t cultures fault (though all of these are huge influencers and contribute greatly to the struggle). No, when it comes to our sin, we cannot blame anyone else! Our affections have restricted us. Therefore, if I want to kill the sin of impurity, the fight isn’t just against television, the internet, friends, or relationships, the fight is against my own flesh. It is against my own affections. Therefore, I must seek God with my whole heart, my affections. This is true repentance, a renewing of the mind, not just actions. New behavior will return to old behavior if affections aren’t renewed.
Pray Without Ceasing
The Psalmist humbly acknowledges his desperate need for God. “Let me not wander from your commandments.” The old hymn says it perfectly “prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” We see this even in this Psalm. The most powerful verse in this entire Psalm to me is verse 176. The Psalmist has just written 175 verses of his love and devotion to God and His Word. I don’t know that you can find a more exhaustive testimony of love, joy, delight, and obedience in all of Scripture outside of Psalm 119, and yet look at the end of the whole chapter: “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant” (vs 176). The Psalmist knew well that he was prone to wander.
I wonder if the first 175 verses are a desperate prayer for God’s sanctifying grace from a heart that is full of sin and waywardness. I wonder if verse 176 is the context for the first 175 verses. Brother, and sister, if you are going to defeat this sin, you need to pray without ceasing. You should pray, like the psalmist did, something like 175 verses of affectionate joy in God and His Word, all the while you understand that you live in a constant battle of going astray like a lost sheep.
Store God’s Word in Your Heart
This is the purpose for this website and this ministry. Psalm 119:11 is one of the most powerful verses in all of Scripture. I decided years to take this verse seriously. I began to embark on a journey where I wanted to abide in, delight in, and obey God’s Word. I prayed over this verse and said something like this: “Lord I am a filthy man. I have lived a life of rebellion and self-centeredness. And I am miserable. I hate my sin. I hate my habits. I am ashamed of my past. I don’t want to live like this. I want to rid myself of greed, anger, laziness, deceit, sexual immorality, arrogance, and every other sin. I want to live for You and Your glory. Your Word says that if I store up Your Word in my heart than I will not sin against You. Challenge accepted. Give me grace. Give me diligence. Give me the ability to memorize. Give me the desire to live for you. Change my heart oh God.”
I am not the man I hope to be, and that by God’s grace I will continue to become. I am not perfect. I still struggle with all of those sins. But, by God’s grace, I am not the man I once was. I have stored up God’s Word in my heart so that I won’t sin against Him. I am being renewed. I am being sanctified. I am experiencing victory.
Brother, and sister, can I give you the same challenge. I hope that many of you have read this far into this meditation. I hope that you have shown a desire to change and to kill sin. I hope that you have the desire to glorify God with your body. I hope that you will rid yourself of the lies that you will always struggle with this sin. I hope that you will rid yourself of the lie that reading God’s Word will never be enjoyable. I hope that you will rid yourself of the lie that you don’t have the ability to memorize scripture in bulk. Away with all of that! God has given you His Spirit! This Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. This God spoke the world into creation. This God breathed you into existence. This God is currently holding the world together with His voice. He can certainly change your affections and give you victory over sin. In fact, He died for that very purpose.
Sing The Prescription
We have written a song that goes with these verses. I have sung this song the last two weeks dozens of times a day. I sing it in the morning, in the car, with my wife, with my daughter, and I sing it over and over in my head when I am tempted to sin. I go to bed singing this song, clinging to God’s promise. I hope it is an encouragement to you as you pursue purity with all of your heart. These verses were literally written to be sung. So sing them. And sing them often. You can find the song here: https://www.storedinmyheart.org/music
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Jude 24-25