How Do We Fight Sexual Temptation? (Paul Washer)

Paul Washer addressing sexual temptation and pornography..
Christian preacher Paul Washer recently sat down for a short interview with Jonny Ardavanis (Image: Jonny Ardavanis).

Today, I’ve transcribed a substantive clip from a few weeks ago in which University of Texas-alumni and international evangelist, Paul Washer, addresses the topic of sexual temptation. You may remember him from Flee Youthful Lust (Paul Washer) and Saving Yourself From Sexual Sin (Paul Washer). Given how fundamental sexuality is to human nature, it is no surprise that Washer is frequently peppered with questions on the theme. The age-old challenge of sexual integrity is further complicated by easy access to pornography via the internet.

Washer’s Biblical perspective on sexual temptation is premised on two beliefs: 1.) the danger and seriousness of sexual sin–“Sin’s desire is for you” (Genesis 4:7); and 2.) human character vulnerabilities. Washer first reiterates the Apostle Paul’s directive to the young preacher Timothy to “flee sexual temptation” (2 Timothy 2). The first way we fight sexual temptation, Washer argues, is by avoiding it.

The second thing Washer says–which I really resonate with– is that we fight sexual temptation with gratitude, for what God has already given us, and faith, in what he will provide. Washer highlights the following interjection in James 1–the big chapter on temptation.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17

While many assume that the author is changing the subject from temptation to something else, Washer understands this verse to be in keeping with the theme of the chapter. Sin, Washer argues, is a counterfeit. God has something better for people, and has already given us things we can be grateful for. Faith in God’s goodness, Washer expounds, is the “greatest motivation for avoiding temptation and fighting temptation.”

Finally, Washer counsels that we fight sexual temptation by “making no provision for the flesh” (Romans 13:14) and “renewing our mind” (Romans 12:2), per the Biblical mandates. We accomplish the former by controlling things like the media we consume and surrounding ourselves with the right people (“Bad company corrupts good character.”) We accomplish the latter through the likes of meditation on the Word of God, fellowship, conversations, and so on. Christianity, Washer reiterates, is “not a lone-wolf religion.”

I like how practical Washer’s approach is, which is really the Christian approach. To a wise man, defeating temptation is not about mustering a heroic willpower. Rather, it happens when we place ourselves in an environment to be successful based on an understanding of our weaknesses as people. Indeed, you don’t need to be a Christian to understand just how important a role the environment plays in shaping life outcomes. Have a look at this quote from by 21st-century motivational speaker, James Clear, who wrote one of the best-selling books of all time.

When scientists analyze people who appear to have tremendous self-control, it turns out those individuals aren’t all that different from those who are struggling. Instead, “disciplined” people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control. In other words, they spend less time in tempting situations.

James Clear In Atomic Habits

Check out the complete video and transcript below! If you are a Christian and value sexual integrity, it is well worth your time. If you are not a Christian, you may still gather a lot of wisdom from the preacher’s take.

For more, visit Christian resources on sexual integrity.

Transcript Of Paul Washer On How To Overcome Sexual Temptation:

Ardavanis: Paul, thanks for being with us. One of the most common questions I have with young men, students–anybody in general–is how they can fight sexual temptation? What would be your Biblical input on how we can fight temptation that seems to wage war against us?

Washer: Well, fighting is correct terminology, but we really need to understand it Biblically. Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2, “Now flee youthful lust.”

So, I’m not going out and looking for a fight. Following what we see throughout the book of Proverbs, I am going to fear sin. In Genesis, sin is waiting at the door. Its desire is to have you. I’m going to fear sin. So, the first thing I’m going to do is avoid those things that are most likely to trip me up, whether it be media, or proximity to another person that may offer temptation.

So, you want to say, “first of all, I don’t trust myself, and so I’m not going to put myself in situations that make me more vulnerable.” So that’s the first thing—flee youthful lust.

#1: Fight temptation by avoiding it.

The other thing is something that—it amazes me that people don’t talk about this. You know, James Chapter 1 is kind of the big book on temptation, or the big chapter on temptation. But right after he talks about temptation, people think that automatically he changes to another subject, because he says, “Every good thing given, and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” And I don’t separate that from temptation.

Why? Because I believe that the greatest motivation for avoiding temptation and fighting temptation is this: everything that the world, everything that the devil can offer me, is a counterfeit that eventually will become like gravel in my gut. A young man, let’s say. He desires a relationship with a young woman. He desires intimacy. That’s normal, that’s Biblical. But he’s tempted to go about it the wrong way. What he needs to realize is, “Hold it. If I go about it this way, it will not turn out to be a good and perfect gift.”

I need to look back at all the kindnesses of God, and also my faith in what God is going to provide. I can take the counterfeit now, or I can wait for the better, which God offers. And that’s a tremendous motivation that is oftentimes overlooked. So, we need to flee those things and those circumstances that put us in almost, “You-can’t-do-anything-but-fail situation.” Get away from that. But also look at the goodness of God. Realize, that in his sovereignty and his omniscience, he knows that many of our desires that can be perverted, are actually, in themselves, good desires, and he has a plan for them.

#2: Fight temptation by being grateful for what God has given us, and having faith in what he will provide.

Ardavanis: Can you talk just briefly on the extent of what Paul is including when he says “Make no provision for the flesh.” You said media, other things that might cause us to be tempted. Talk about the radical nature of “No provision.”

Washer: Right. First of all, we need to be careful about that. Why? Because some people say, “I’ll make no provision for the flesh.” And that’s true. But none of this works unless, as a life discipline—first of all, we must be regenerate. I know lost people who fight sin, and they’re not very successful.

Secondly, even as a Christian, the foundational thing is renewing my mind in the word of God, that I might know what the will of God is—Romans 12:1-2. So, in that, that’s the foundation.

Now, this thing of making no provision for the flesh is not just media, computers, being with someone that I’m attracted to in a certain circumstance that makes both of us vulnerable. But it’s also—and I find this to be one of the most important things—that bad company corrupts good morals.

When I was in college, people said, you know, that I grew really fast. There was a reason for it. It wasn’t that I was special. God surrounded me with other college students that were godly. I was in a church where righteousness was preached, and so a lot of times, you’re making a provision for the flesh by hanging out with people that really do not take sin very seriously, especially immorality.

One of the things I always go to is that Christianity is not a lone-wolf religion. If I am surrounded by godly men. Or someone surrounded by godly women–a young lady. That’s what we have to have.

Ardavanis: So, if someone comes up to you, Paul, and says, “I’m fighting my sin. I’m fleeing temptation. And I know I need to renew my mind. How can I do that? How can my mind be renewed?”

Washer: You know, when it talks about renewing your mind in Romans 12, it doesn’t say renewing your mind with the Word. It’s not in there. But we do know from other passages, Psalms, and throughout the Bible, that the greatest way in which we renew our mind is with truth, and the only infallible truth is the Bible. But it’s also talking about renewing our mind in fellowship, conversation. Colossians 3:16-17. Renewing our mind with the music that we listen to. The reformation was a dance through the hymns they were singing.

So, that’s the way we do it. That’s the way we do it.

#3: Fight temptation by renewing our mind and making no provision for the flesh.

Ardavanis: So helpful. Thank you so much.

Washer: But let me also say this. How do I study the Bible? And yes, there are a lot of ways. But I find that very few people have ever read Matthew to Revelation. I find that there are even fewer people who’ve read Genesis to Revelation. Just read the Bible through over and over and over.

Ardavanis: And it will renew us?

Washer: Yes.

Leave a Reply