Clean Upstream

Pastor Doug Wilson notes in this book

Recognize that sexual sin is not just a sin for which there will be consequences later (although that is true)-sexual sin is itself a judgment for antecedent [prior PJ] sin. Find out what that sin is, and deal with it. Stop floating towards the falls. Work your way upstream.

Many men see lust and sexual sin in isolation from the rest of their sins. Lust is what happens when you see a girl and keep staring and staring or click on that link you swore you wouldn’t or when you roll that scene from the movie over and over in your mind. Because this sin is often committed in the dark or in our minds we assume it has little connection to the rest of our sins. But there are clusters of sins that at first glance have little to do with sex that make it easier to cheat on our wives, flirt at work, look at porn, or indulge fantasies in our heads. Here are a few sins upstream that lead to sexual sins downstream. Naturally these intertwine with each other and you can probably think of others.

Laziness: Proverbs 15:19 says the way of a lazy man is like a hedge of thorns. Many a man has found himself entangled in sexual sins because he was lazy in other areas of his life. A man who cannot put in a hard day’s work, cuts corners, refuses to maintain his home, hopes he wins the lottery, is too lazy to discipline his children or help his pregnant wife is not likely to work hard when it comes to resisting  the buxom blonde on the screen.

Grumbling:  Throughout the Scriptures God’s people are called upon to give thanks. When they don’t bad things happen. One could argue that sodomy, one of the greatest sexual sins, begins with a failure to give thanks (Romans 1:21). But we treat grumbling and complaining with kid gloves.  A man addicted to porn has a huge problem. A man who spends most of his life complaining is complimented for being insightful and wise. But porn and grumbling go together. A man who is discontent with his children, his job, his house, and his dog will not be content with his wife. A complaining mouth is a sign of an unfaithful heart.

Lack of Self-Control: Self-control is a central character trait necessary for true holiness. Without self-control other virtues, such as kindness and mercy, lose their balance and beauty.  A man who cannot control his eating, his temper, his schedule, his movie watching, his gaming, his hobbies, and his speech is not likely to control his sexual urges. Yet we are surprised when a man who spends dozens of free hours and hundreds of dollars on hunting or golf cheats on his wife. Why?

Coveting: Of course, lust is a sub species of covetousness. But we don’t take other types of coveting as seriously as we take coveting a woman. We recoil at lusting after a women. But a new job…not so much. We just wink. When we are jealous of a friend’s pay raise or new house or new truck or…fill in the blank then we are coveting. We believe we deserve more than we have. We believe God has withheld something good from us (Genesis 3:4-6). A longing for a new job, car, house, etc. naturally leads to sexual sin. Covetousness is compared to idolatry in Ephesians 5:5 and Colossians 3:5. If we bow down all day we will not suddenly stop bowing at the computer or with a co-worker.

The trouble is the sins listed above do not make our short list of “big” sins. We are lazy, grumbling, out of control, coveting men and then wonder why we cannot resist the cute waitress.  Acre after acre of our lives are untended and full of weeds and we wonder why this one little area has so many snakes in it.

We should fight against sexual sin by regulating our computer habits, guarding our eyes at work, being accountable, memorizing verses, and other regularly suggested means. But we will never  kill our lusts until we begin to put to death these other sins. We will never defeat sexual immorality until we work until we don’t want to and then work some more. We will not turn away from porn unless we stop grumbling about God’s hard providences.  When we learn to hold our tongue we will also learn how to hold back sinful thoughts. And when we give thanks to God for his gifts we will stop lusting for what he has withheld. These Spirit filled disciplines will help us find victory over our sexual sins. Otherwise fighting lust will be a losing battle, like cleaning up downriver while the sewage continues to pour in upstream.