We’ve known for ages that the celebrity world is a fertile environment for sexual scandal. Hollywood is rife with stories of unfaithful spouses, secret mistresses, and, most recently, widespread sexual abuse and misconduct perpetrated by some of Tinseltown’s biggest names.
These stories, though relatively common, are always difficult to hear. Serial adultery and unrestrained sexual indulgence are all activities that rightly garner holy repulsion.
Sadly, marital infidelity isn’t a sin exclusive to unbelieving celebrities. The church has also endured the sin of adultery, even from among some of its most visible leaders.
We should feel legitimate moral disgust in the face of such treacherous sin. We should pray for the salvation of these celebrities—that God might deliver them from the dominion of their sinful desires and draw them to Jesus Christ. And, especially in recent months, that God would protect those who are in Christian leadership.
Yes. But, brothers, how many mistresses do you have?
Mental and Digital Harem
There are few things worse in Scripture than covenantal unfaithfulness, and those of us who are married may respond to stories of unfaithfulness with vows to never commit adultery against our wives.
That’s good, but Scripture doesn’t allow us to remain satisfied with avoiding illicit sexual intercourse while we entertain a whole harem of women in our hearts and on our digital devices. Lust, Jesus tells us, is mental adultery, and it’s serious enough to send us to hell (Matt. 5:27–29).
Scripture doesn’t allow us to remain satisfied with avoiding illicit sexual intercourse while we entertain a whole harem of women in our hearts and on our digital devices.
Jesus, of course, isn’t suggesting that genuine Christians can lose their salvation (see John 5:24; 10:27–30). Rather, he’s teaching his disciples that true faith loves purity so much that it deals radically and ruthlessly with sexual sin and temptation. The warning about hell serves to spur on true disciples to do whatever it takes to not lust after a woman. Those who’ve evaded the physical expression of adultery while feeding their hearts with pornography, images of scantily dressed women, or sensual thoughts about the women in their church may avoid outward scandal, but they won’t escape eternal judgment. “Without holiness,” the author of Hebrews tells us, “no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).
So the fight for purity is infinitely more than a fight for a life free from marital scandal and a broken home. It’s a battle for heaven. Yield to lust, give yourself over to impurity and stalking ill-advised Instagram profiles, and you’ll be placing yourself in eternal danger.
But the other side of the Hebrews warning is the glorious promise that “the pure in heart will see God” (Matt. 5:8). We don’t gouge out eyes and cut off limbs because we enjoy a kind of spiritual masochism. Indeed, any approach to purity that pursues asceticism for its own sake will lead to larger problems (see Col. 2:23).
The fight for purity is infinitely more than a fight for a life free from marital scandal and a broken home. It’s a battle for heaven.
Instead, we deal ruthlessly with lust because we want to taste and see the holiness of God more than we want to gaze at half-dressed women or cultivate fantasies about our neighbor. As we battle lust, then, let’s eagerly anticipate fellowship with God, for our Father is ready to dwell with and fill us with joy as we keep his commandments (John 14:23; 15:10).
Three Exhortations for Pursuing Purity
But how do we pursue this kind of purity and put sexual lust to death? I can’t be exhaustive here, but I can offer a few urgent exhortations.
1. Stop looking at porn and other illicit websites and apps immediately.
Those who are repelled by strong commands to “stop” doing something, viewing such appeals as shortsighted and contrary to the gospel, may not think too highly of this counsel. But this kind of admonishment is biblical—and it follows directly from the good news of grace and justification by faith alone. After laying the groundwork of God’s work in Christ, Paul often instructed his readers to cease and desist from outward expressions of sin (e.g., Eph 4:20–32). He also told believers to give themselves over to righteousness, and to make no provision for the flesh (Rom 6:19; 13:14). And here’s the really good news: by God’s Spirit, you can stop sinful practice (Rom. 8:13).
Perhaps you don’t often hear it straightforwardly, but you need to stop making excuses and quit looking at sensual websites, magazines, and smartphone apps right now.
If you need to cancel the internet, drop Netflix, and delete every seductive app off your phone (or ditch your smartphone altogether), do it. And don’t wait until you feel like it. Jesus’s imagery of self-mutilation in his teaching on purity reminds us we’ll never feel like making such radical separation with our sin.
Just as we don’t wait until we feel like losing our diseased hand before we allow a doctor to remove it, so we must have the spiritual wherewithal to make final separation with sin when it feels utterly contrary to our present happiness to do so.
2. Prepare for war.
Once you engage lust and begin the work of expulsion, you’ll find your enemy has no intention of surrendering quietly. You may follow through with scrubbing apps off your phone and deleting websites from your laptop. You may commit yourself to no longer indulge in masturbation. Good. But just wait a few days. After about a week, your body and mind will begin to cry out for gratification, and the straightforward teaching of Scripture may, in moments of intense temptation, sound either like folly or mere suggestions rather than life-or-death commands.
You must be aware of how the battle will go, especially in the first stages, so you won’t fall prey to sin’s deceit. Yielding to the temptation may feel like the right thing at the moment, but it will only feed your flesh, further entrench your enemy, and undermine your assurance (Rom. 8:6; Gal. 6:8).
3. Confess your sins to godly brothers in the church.
Don’t attempt to battle lust alone; you were never meant to. Confess your sins to other brothers. Don’t email online pastors from other churches. Instead, open yourself to godly men in your local church so they can pray for you, offer wisdom, pick you up when you fall, and encourage you to maintain a soft heart toward God’s Word (Heb. 3:12–14).
Don’t attempt to battle lust alone; you were never meant to.
And be honest! I’ve seen men overtaken by sin they appeared to be defeating because they didn’t open themselves fully to godly counselors. Like Ananias and Sapphira, they kept back a bit of vital information, and that dishonesty allowed a small root of lust to remain safely planted in their hearts. Over time, that noxious plant re-sprouted and overtook them again.
“Confess your sins to one another,” James exhorts us (James 5:16). Why? Because lust, like any sin, thrives in the dark. But when we confess our transgressions to one another, the light breaks in on our lust, and it begins to wither and die.
Brothers, lust is adultery of the heart. Whether you are married or single, you must forsake all your mistresses. Don’t allow your heart to meander near her digital abode (Prov. 7:8), for she will ensnare you with tantalizing yet false promises that only lead to death (Prov. 7:23). Flee from them now. The fight and the flight are worth it.