Purity strategy #4 is found in 1 Cor. 9:27. Here’s the context:
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, NAS)
Consider the clear implications:
- You need not be a slave to your appetites.
- If you are a Christian, no matter how strong your lustful desires can feel, you need not be a slave to them.
- You are not helpless.
- You can exercise Spirit-empowered self-control.
Paul makes a related point a little later on in 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV):
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
God. Is. Faithful.
He will NOT let you be tempted beyond your ability.
With the temptation he will also provide the way of escape.
You can endure the temptation until it passes.
Don’t be fatalistic. Your sinful cravings will attempt to deceive you and commandeer your mind for their lustful mission – to carry the body into sin.
Have you noticed how this happens? Have you seen how your sinful flesh (i.e. your sinful nature) attempts to hijack your mind to fulfill its lustful mission with the physical flesh? It positions itself to enslave you to do its will.
You begin pretending you don’t know where this path leads. You hoodwink yourself. You pull the wool over your own mind. You begin rationalizing.
“I’m just curious.”
“I need to know what’s out there so I can help guard my kids.”
“I’m interested in the article.”
Your sinful desire also pulls in all the reinforcements it can muster.
Self-pity? Sure. If you are single, you know this narrative. If you’re married and sexually dissatisfied in your marriage, you know this narrative. Your sinful flesh, manipulative whore that it is, pulls self-pity up to its breast and nurses it along in you.
Self-justification? Absolutely. You’re tired. Purity and holiness is unrealistic in our day of easy-access titillation and porn. “What’s wrong with just…” “It’s not like I…” You begin justifying.
All of the sudden your body is ruling your actions, because you have submitted to your fleshly desires.
Do you see why Paul fights like this? Because he knows how easily we get inverted – our bodily appetites ruling our minds rather than the other way around.
So, what can you do?
You can wake up and refuse to be lust’s lackey. You can preach to yourself! Remind your mind! Tell yourself (i.e. your redeemed self), “You don’t have to be submissive to the flesh. You are not its slave. You are its master!” And then your soul can command your body. Your redeemed soul can crack the Spirit’s whip of self-control on the back of your lustful flesh and subdue it. You can then freely present your body as an instrument for righteousness.
Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. (Rom 6:13 ESV)
Your mind/will can say to your body, “You are my slave. I am not your slave. I will rule you. You will not rule me. I am not an animal.”
Jesus is Lord. He has redeemed you from the slavery of sin’s tyranny. You have been bought with a price. You can and must glorify God in your body. The Father has given you the Spirit to empower you to live free and self-controlled in Christ. When your sinful appetites begin to rise up and rage, you can say to your body, (with the triune God backing you!), “I will beat you and make you my slave. You are my slave, I am not yours.”