Sexual addiction in the church is real.

 After listening to a friend in their late 20s share about their sexual addiction, it hit me that they have been struggling with this for over 10 years, a decade of their life. They shared feeling shame, unproductivity scholastically and professionally, stunted in relationships and distance from God because of this struggle.

For some, if it’s been less than a decade—it may be getting close to that, if not longer, for millennials in their 20s and 30s who are struggling with some form of sexual addiction, whether male or female (it is definitely not just a guy thing).

Sexual addiction in the New Testament is understood by the Greek word porneia. Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 tells us, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: abstain from sexual immorality (porneia).”

The word itself can mean a slew of many sexual acts that would be deemed perversions. For millennial Christians though, three main forms of “porneia” stand out in this generation, porn (sound familiar to the Greek?), sexual encounters (non-intercourse sexual experiences) and pre-marital sex, aka fornication.

To find some form of freedom from sexual addiction does not begin by denying our desires, simply praying more or having an accountability partner.

Redefining Sexual Desire in God’s Kingdom

Theologian John Howard Yoder commented about a greater vision Jesus had for the world when He shared some of His sexual ethics on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): “When [Jesus] called his society together Jesus gave its members a new way of life to live. … He gave them a new pattern of relationships between man and woman … in which was made concrete a radical new vision of what it means to be a human person.”

The crux of sexual addiction must begin by viewing the person behind the screen, or in our bed, as a real genuine person of God’s Kingdom, beloved, prized and a child of someone and future spouse of someone else if not you. To find some form of freedom from sexual addiction does not begin by denying our desires, simply praying more or having an accountability partner. Saying something doesn’t exist when it really does will not make it disappear.

Rather, giving back personhood—realizing they have parents, they are children of God, possibly someone’s spouse to be one day—to the people we have become addicted to watching and seeing behind a screen or interacting with inappropriately is crucial. Our human sexuality needs to be understood in the greater context of the kingdom.

Stanley Hauerwas, a professor at Duke University, put it like this:

Too often technologies of the self, used to free ourselves of … lust, make those passions possess an even greater hold over our lives. Jesus, however, is not recommending that we will our way free of lust or anger, but rather he is offering us membership in a people that is so compelling we are not invited to dwell on ourselves or our sinfulness.
Alone we cannot conceive of an alternative to lust, but Jesus offers us participation in a kingdom that is so demanding we discover we have better things to do than to concentrate on our lust.

Stepping into the ring with sin with a few quick tricks is not going to solve the problem, but it can help along the way if you have already created a strong foundation in Christ and His community. This whole discussion should take place in the community of God, while being consumed with that which is greater and beyond us so as to provide something meaningful for our time and desires.

There are great Scriptures to memorize to replace Satan’s lies with truth.

Tips for Dealing with Sexual Addiction

The following list is given with mild caution. These are not dealing with the greater issue, but only tips to use in desperate moments, as well as a few preventative ones.

“Confess your sins one to another.”
This is really the first thing you should do. When someone you trust knows your struggle, you no longer struggle alone. So surround yourself with friends who will rally behind you and journey with you in this. Meet or communicate in some way with them every week, invite them to ask you how you’re doing, and be honest—there is no reason to lie to a friend. Preferably, this would be a friend of the same sex.

Run like Joseph.
Joseph knew what he was doing when he ran from Potifer’s wife. Sometimes you just need to drop your phone, computer, get out of the car or room with that person, and walk away. Literally.

Know your sexual triggers.
Reflect on people, places, times and even moods you get in where temptations are the most difficult to deal with. Then, as Joshua Harris wrote in Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is), create a customized plan for yourself before you get into the way of temptation, so you can be preventative, rather than having an emergency always.

Cut your hands off.
Ok not seriously, but kind of. When Jesus was addressing issues of dealing with sexual addiction he said, “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than your whole body go into hell” (Matthew 5:30).

Set serious security measures on your technology and cut certain friendships out of your life

Leave doors open.
When you know someone can walk past you at any moment, it has a way of killing heated passions, whether you’re alone behind a computer or your significant someone is with you. Privacy is great when you want to have a meaningful prayer time, but not when you’re struggling with sin and need the blessing of others to keep you in check, even if it’s unintentionally with a door open. This doesn’t work very well when you’re living alone.

Spend time in public spaces or where others are present.
It’s kinda tough to watch porn or get frisky with your girlfriend or boyfriend when you’re around other people.

Leave your technology outside your room at night.
Boredom, or even longing for someone’s touch can open a portal to evil curiosity with cell phones or computers, so just leave them outside your room and get a regular alarm clock. It also helps you fall asleep better as your melatonin production can initiate sooner without the light.

Accept mentorship from another couple.
Invite a meaningful couple into your dating journey that will love you with straight questions and pray for you during your dating experience or single years.

Fast weekly.
Fasting is a way of receiving from God an extra measure of power and connection to the Father that is not normally available to someone. Jesus explained to His disciples who were not able to remove dark strongholds over people that it can only be done “by fasting and prayer” (Matthew 17:21). Fasting forces one of the most basic human needs to be suppressed for something deeply Holy, which similarly causes one to do the same with sexual passion.
Preach truth to yourself.
Jesus never dealt with Satan apart from Scripture. Look at Jesus in His compromised state, famished, but connected with the Father after fasting, He quoted Scripture to Satan each time He was challenged (Matthew 4:1-11). There are great Scriptures to memorize to replace Satan’s lies with truth. So the moment lust begins to well up within you, start your sermon, say out loud: “‘The pure in heart shall see God’ (Matthew 5:8), and God I want to see you clearly, so take my heart right now and make it clean, because my ‘body is not made for sexual immorality, but for the Lord.’”

Make a covenant with your eyes.
“I have made a covenant with my eyes not to lust after a girl,” said Job (Job 31:1). Whether you’re a guy or girl, make a pact with your eyes not to dwell on the opposite gender, whether they are on a page in a magazine, on the computer, in a gym, in your mind, a movie or song. Bounce your eyes away after you realize you’re going to want to dwell on them, and tell yourself “I have made a covenant.”

Halt in your compromised state.
Years ago I heard it said, “You fall to temptation in all aspects when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired, HALT.” I would add an S, for spiritually detached, i.e. neglecting church, running from God or just apathetic to spiritual things. When you’re in this space, halt! Take a chill pill, and get sleep, go eat, take a walk, go find a friend, and start praying.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, not your sin.
One day my brother-in-law saw me reading a book about sin and lust, and he told me, “Stop staring at your sin, and stare into the eyes of the one who will take away your sin.” He encouraged me to study the life of Jesus and meditate on Him instead of my sin.

When dealing with this addiction it starts with grounding your sexuality in Christ, by giving Him your desires, and committing yourself to His Kingdom causes. Then, when you are in places of danger utilize whatever you need to get out of harm’s way.

Filip Milosavljevic is the pastor for Youth Ministry at the Loma Linda University Church in Loma Linda, CA, where he lives with his wife, Elena.

Post originally published via