“There’s an app for that,” has become a cultural banner for a society that loves to “have it your way” and “have it now." Modern culture isn't a microwave society (that's about eight years behind). We’re now a culture shaped by the convenience of downloading an app for just about anything. If there’s not an app for that, there will be tomorrow. In fact, you could probably develop it on your iPhone. Many have commented on the dangers of this kind of culture. We are losing the ability to reflect. We’ve lost the patience for it. With this loss comes a decline in our understanding the sacred. The rise of selfies reflect a preoccupation with the iconic self. Our social skills are diminished in favor of pseudo social circles we “friend” or “follow.”
Technological engagement can be legitimate, but there are also dangers to be avoided. Many have drawn attention to the “hookup” culture, which has accelerated as a result from having the world at your fingertips. Apps like Down, Snapchat, and countless others feed right into our assumed right to have our lusts instantly satisfied.
Have hookups always been an issue? Absolutely. Has anonymity ever been this easy? Absolutely not. Driven by our sexual appetites, we have made it possible to hookup with someone on neutral ground without even exchanging real names. Moreover, we live in a culture in which there is a national conference for literally every field of study. Throw 1,000 widget manufacturers from up North together in a central Florida resort for three days, and all bets are off.
Has this hookup culture infiltrated Christianity? Perhaps that’s a question for someone with a greater vantage point, but from where I sit, I know we are all vulnerable. When we enter into environments where accountability is virtually non-existent, and anonymity is almost guaranteed, we have entered the danger zone. King David assumed a certain level of anonymity when everyone else was away at war and he slept with Bathsheba. He got what he wanted pretty quickly, and he didn’t have an iPhone. But most of us today don't possess that power...or do we? More than any other time in history, the common person possesses royal privilege. We can get what we want when we want it, with just a few clicks.
When a culture is given over to the god of sex, you can find worship of what it offers everywhere: billboards, chat rooms, magazines, blogs, ads, and much more. How are Christian men and women to avoid the pitfalls of sexual sin in such a culture?I propose three ways.
1. Recognize the war.
Anyone who denies there is a war going on is simply diluted. Paul reminds us:
The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. —Galatians 5:17
If you are united to Christ, your old man is dead (Gal. 2:20), but the indwelling flesh remains until he returns. If you fail to recognize your vulnerability to the flaming arrows of sexual temptation, your defenses will be down. How many well-meaning, God-fearing people have simply been fooled for lack of vigilance?
One way to remain vigilant is to build a pattern of daily prayer in which you ask God to keep you aware of your vulnerabilities . Paul reminds us that,
This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor. —1 Thessalonians 4:3-4
Why should we know how to control our own bodies? Because our vulnerabilities are not universal. What becomes temptation for your brother might not even phase you. On the other hand, things most would not even give a second glance might be your Achilles Heel. Know your weaknesses, recognize the battle, and ask God to strengthen you each day.
2. Build an Army
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. —Hebrews 10:24-25
This passage is one among many that echo God’s heartbeat for biblical community. No man is an island, and when you pretend to be, you open yourself up to destruction. Each of us needs a multitude of people in our lives who know us well and know our vulnerabilities and outright weaknesses. We need to be exhorted to do good works and abstain from the lusts of the flesh. We need to be reminded of the big picture, looking forward to that Day when we will inherit bodies free of sin! When we try to be lone rangers, our sight becomes destructively narrow, allowing us only to see the immediate desire.
One note about an army—it needs weapons. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, as Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6. Therefore, we ought to arm ourselves with the full armor of God. But wisdom also tells us that there are so many practical weapons at our disposal. Men, if we do not have Covenant Eyes or some other software on our devices (and real Christian brothers monitoring these), we are almost begging for destruction. Women, if you do not have biblically wise, God-honoring ladies walking alongside you, asking hard questions about things you post on your social media accounts, you may be defenseless during a battle field much bigger than you realize.
3. Remember Grace has won.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. —Titus 2:11-14
Though we may recognize the battle, we often forget that it is won. The grace of God in Christ has appeared. We are not lost in darkness, without the beacon of God’s redemptive grace to carry us home to Christ’s appearing.
All humans share a common problem. We lack the strength to do what we know we must do. It’s not as if we don’t know the law. We do. Our problem is that we know it and we still can’t keep it. That’s where grace comes in. Ever since God called Israel to be a people for his own possession, he has been changing hearts (Deuteronomy 30:6). The fullest expression of this gracious heart-change is seen in the New Covenant. God has put his law on our hearts, indwelling us with his Holy Spirit, who empowers us to live the very way God has commanded.
Remember this, we are no longer slaves but sons and daughters. Grace has appeared, totally transforming our wayward state. And as we await the Day when we won’t need articles like this (Come, Lord Jesus), we are empowered by the Spirit of God who transforms us. Without the past grace of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, we are dead. Without this present grace of the indwelling Spirit, we are lost to our lusts. Without the promise of future grace at Christ’s return, we are hopeless. And yet, the grace of God has appeared. Look to Him. In every temptation, there is a way out. In every failure, well, there is a grace for that.
Alex Dean (@AlexMartinDean) is a pastor in Lakeland, Florida. Holding an undergraduate degree from Dallas Baptist University, Alex is currently completing his graduate work at Reformed Theological Seminary. His book, Gospel Regeneration: A story of death, life, and sleeping in a van, is available on Amazon, iBooks, and other online retailers. Follow his blog at www.GospelRegeneration.com and follow him on Twitter.