The Difficulty of Lust – 1 Corinthians 6:18-7:9

The eleventh message in the 1 Corinthians Study.
(Find the other messages from this series here)

 Sermon Video

Sermon Audio

Sermon Notes

The Corinthian Culture and Church struggled with immorality, so Paul had to deal with the topic several times tackling different misunderstandings and different types of disobedience.

Because we’re working our way through Corinthians and we did a series of messages on Marriage earlier in the year, we have talked about sex quite a bit this year.

Hopefully you recognize that just as it was appropriate for Paul to speak to this issue on several occasions because of the Corinthian Culture, it’s appropriate for us to deal with it regularly because of our own culture’s obsession with sex.

“A 2008 study surveying college students found 93 percent of boys were exposed to pornography before 18.”


Read – 1 Corinthians 6:18-7:9

How many of you have seen Pinnochio? We rented this movie for the kids recently. As I understand, the Disney animated movie is quite a bit sanitized from the book, but the basic plot is the same. Gepetto a, a puppet maker is blessed when a puppet of his creation comes to life. Pinnochio wants to be a real boy and be free. In the movie he runs from his father. In the book he does awful things to his father. He runs away to the carnival on Pleasure Island.

At the carnival there are all types of amusements and entertainments- all types of pleasures. There’s the memorable scene where Pinocchio sings:

I’ve got no strings
To hold me down
To make me fret, or make me frown
I had strings
But now I’m free
There are no strings on me
I’ve got no strings
So I have fun
I’m not tied up to anyone

Other puppets sing and perhaps you don’t remember or didn’t remember what they sang, let me share those lines with you:

Dutch Puppet:
If you would woo
I’d bust my strings for you

French puppet:
I’ve got strings
But entre nous
I’d cut my strings for you

Russian puppet:
Down where the Volga flows
There’s a Russian rendezvous
Where me and Ivan go
But I’d rather go with you

But what happens to Pinnochio? He is transformed into a donkey and then sold as a slave.

That’s what happens to us, we long for a life with no string attached, and we become a jerk, a donkey, we care only four ourselves, and then we are enslaved and the life of freedom becomes a life of bondage.

In this passage Paul circles back around again to make the case as to why immorality is so destructive and what the alternative is…

  1. Immorality is a sin, but unlike any the other sin.

Paul says quite strongly every other sin is without the body but sexual sin is against your own body.

The point that he is making here in this passage is that sex is the joining of two to make them one, not just literally or physically but also figuratively and emotionally.

Every person you sleep with you not only become one with them in the act of sex but you give a part of your heart away to them. Paul says, sexual sin- immorality is a sin that harms us.

I covered this in depth from a couple and marriage perspective in February. I talked about how cohabitation and sex before marriage actually harms the sex life of the marriage- I talked about how sex with multiple partners hurts your capacity to be intimate and committed to your spouse one day-

I talked about the hormone that is produced in the female body after childbirth that causes bonding and nurturing to take place is also produced during sex- causing a female to feel a close bond with the male- leaving her feeling empty when that relationship turns out to be about nothing more than sex and building up a resistance that will affect her connection to her husband and children one day.

Today I want to turn more of my focus on the individual and I want to tackle a subject that is more specific to our current culture.

If Paul was writing this letter today I think rather than using the example of prostitution he would have used the example of pornography.

The Greek word that Paul uses here for “Fornication” is πορνεία (Porneia) and it refers to all forms of sexual sin.

Much of the information and material that I’ll use this morning on Pornography I found through the great resource, If you would like more information about the affects of pornography on our culture and world, which I will not cover this morning, I suggest you check that site out.

Porn harms you because:

Porn is addictive like a drug, 

Deep inside our brains we have a “reward pathway.” 

This pathway specifically rewards you when you do something that promotes life, such as eating food or achieving something you’ve worked hard for. [3] And the way it rewards you is by releasing chemicals in your brain—mainly one called dopamine.

The way that drugs make a person highway is to push the petal to the metal on dopamine release.

It’s like the part of your brain that releases dopamine switches all the way open.

Opioid drugs do this.

So does pornography.

Pornography works on the brain just like heroin.

Because the chemical response is exactly the same, trying to quit is the same- the brain now starves for the dopamine it once had and without it goes into withdrawal.

Dr. Jeffrey Satinover of Princeton University said, “It is as though we have devised a form of heroin … usable in the privacy of one’s own home and injected directly to the brain through the eyes.”

Porn harms you because:

Porn is addictive like a drug, 

Porn rewires your brain, 

Dopamine creates new brain pathways which become grooves or habits. The surges of dopamine from drugs or pornography are not merely sensations or feelings, they’re powerful chemicals that alter the brain.

Studies are showing that pornography addiction weakens concentration and creative thinking.

Causes depression and social anxiety.

In a Ted Talk, Gary Wilson explains that there are porn support groups coming together all over because men are realizing that their health has been so greatly affected by pornography.

Porn harms you because:

Porn is addictive like a drug, 

Porn rewires your brain, 

Porn escalates your dependence,

When your brain starts dumping large amounts of dopamine into the system it starts rewiring your brain and one of the way is that brain attempts to protect itself from this overload-

so it does away with the pleasure receptors that take in the the dopamine giving the feeling of happiness or euphoria.

With fewer working receptors, it feels like there isn’t as much dopamine so you need greater quantities just to match the previous highs.

Basically, porn and drugs make it harder and harder to experience happiness and joy because they kill off pleasure receptors.

Wendy Seltzer—an attorney and fellow at Yale Law School—explains the reason that the porn industry makes billions of dollars a year even though there is tons of free pornography available is pretty simple:

once porn users get hooked, they’ll want more and more. “Seeing [free porn] just whets their appetite for more,” Seltzer said. “Once they get through what’s available for free, they’ll move into the paid services.”

Porn harms you because: Porn is addictive like a drug, Porn rewires your brain, Porn escalates your dependence, 

and Porn changes your behavior.

The types of behaviors we link our pleasure response to tend to become habits and stick around.

When this chemical learning process happens with healthy behaviors it helps us live well, but when it happens with destructive and unhealthy behaviors it has the opposite effect.

A researcher named Jim Faust did an experiment with rats. As you’d probably guess, rats usually don’t like the smell of death. But Faust found a way to change that instinct. Faust put virgin male rats in cages with female rats that had been sprayed with a liquid that smelled like dead, rotting rat. As it turned out, the drive to mate was more powerful than the instinct to avoid the smell, and the rats hit it off.

Once the male rats learned to associate sex with the smell of death, Faust put them in cages with dowels soaked in the same death smell. Consistently the male rats would play with the smelly dowels as though it were soaked in something they loved.

If you’re wondering how rats could possibly be trained to go against such a powerful natural instinct, the answer is dopamine. Since dopamine is released during sex, the rats’ brains wired together the pleasure of dopamine’s release with the rotten smell.

This is why sexual attraction can push a person to do something that everyone else would consider a ridiculously foolish choice or even a harmful or disgusting one…

Some of you are living your life in a way that 5 years ago you never would have thought you would, but because of sexual attraction you’ve crossed boundaries, forsaken dreams, betrayed friends, and disappointed yourself.

Porn harms your relationships because 

Porn lies to you about what sex is like,

In porn, everything from the way people look to how and why they have sex is a lie. Porn users often get so obsessed with chasing something that isn’t real that they miss out on actual relationships.

In 2006 in the Journal of Research on Adolescents a study title Using TV as a guide: associations between television viewing and adolescents’ sexual attitudes and behavior. by Ward and Friedman found that both teen boys and girls both were viewed women differently and were more likely to objectify them.

Porn harms your relationships because

Porn lies to you about what sex is like,

Porn hinders your capacity to love, 

Pornography is absolutely the opposite of true relationships, real sex, and actual love.

Relationships are made up of honesty & trust, respect & admiration, unselfishness & kindness.

Pornography is the complete opposite.

The experiences (not relationships) are based on selfishness, disrespect, abuse, violence, and detachment.

The act of viewing porn is the exact opposite of a relationship.

Romance is about falling in love with someone, coming to appreciate them as you get to know them.

In real relationships this takes effort, work, chasing the persons heart, getting to know them, showing them kindness and love and appreciation.

The act of sex is to be the consummation of all of those things- sex is to come after all of those other emotional experiences and acts of devotion.

Pornography on the other hand is about being passive and watching other people act- it’s not about taking initiative, showing kindness, leading with appreciation.

So overtime some experiences pornography they are training themselves, their brain, their heart, to fail at love.

Porn harms your relationships because

Porn lies to you about what sex is like,

Porn hinders your capacity to love,

Porn leads to less satisfaction with your spouse, 

“Back in the 1950s, two researchers, Dr. Nikolaas Tinbergen and Dr. D. Magnus, played a trick on butterflies. [1] After figuring out which marks on female butterfly wings were most eye-catching to their mates, they created their own cardboard butterflies and painted them to look like super-females. Their wing patterns were based on the wings of normal butterflies, but with more exciting marks than would ever be found in nature.

And the butterflies fell for it. Even though real female butterflies were around and available, the males kept trying to partner with the cardboard versions. It wasn’t getting them what they wanted—which was the chance to mate—but they had been tricked, so they ignored the real females and kept trying to charm the decoys.”

Porn harms your relationships because

Porn lies to you about what sex is like,

Porn hinders your capacity to love,

Porn leads to less satisfaction with your spouse,

and Porn and eventually leaves you isolated.

As a result, many users start feeling like something’s wrong with them; they don’t know how to be turned on by a real person, much less form a deep personal connection with one.

Naomi Wolf, an author who speaks to college students on campuses around the country said,
“When I ask about loneliness, a deep, sad silence descends on audiences of young men and young women alike,” she says. “They know they are lonely together … and that [porn] is a big part of that loneliness.”

From a business perspective, the porn industry has a pretty clever racket going. Their product offers users temporary relief from anxiety, depression, and loneliness in exchange for making these same problems much worse in the long-term. [1] That works out really well for pornographers, since the worse their customers’ anxiety and isolation grow, the more reason they have to turn back to porn. But for the user, the end result isn’t nearly so nice.

When Paul says, sexual sin is a sin against your own body he was pointing out that you are joining your body to a harlot or prostitute and you are doing more than just breaking a command, you are breaking your own mind and heart.

This brings me back to a point that I’ve tried to make often-

It breaks God’s heart when we break His commands because He knows that sin breaks us.

God wants the very best for you.

He wants you to be happy.

He wants you to experience joy.

He gave you a brain with the capacity to produce and absorb dopamine- a wonderful system if it isn’t damaged with poor choices.

  1. Immorality is a sin, but sex is a gift.

Paul refers to a letter that the Corinthians had sent him, in which Paul had gotten these slogans or backwards principles that he was dismantling.

Last week we mentioned that he took apart their concept that “Everything is permissible.”

Now he will take apart the idea that sex is sin.

You see, the Corinthians were like us, they struggled with balance. In the Corinthian church there were people who were carrying on with prostitutes and people who were saying that all sexual contact was sinful.

The church struggles to moderate on this as well. There have been churches that permit immorality and churches that forbid marriage.

Paul makes it clear- immorality is a sin, but sex is a gift from God.

    1. Sex was intended to be enjoyed within marriage.  (v.2)

Paul says, let each man have his own wife and each woman her own husband. Rather than participate in immorality, have a spouse that you are committed to and faithful to.

God designed for sex to be enjoyed within that relationship-

If you aren’t ready for marriage you aren’t ready for sex.

    1. Spouses have an obligation to one another. (3-5)

Paul goes on to make it clear that sex isn’t just privilege but also an obligation.

Gordon Fee points out that most of the time we think of sex as the joy of one spouse and the obligation of the other, but here Paul speaks to it being the obligation AND joy of both.

Paul says in verse 5, do not defraud one another-

In other word to withhold sex from your spouse is to defraud them.

This is the same word that he used in chapter 6 about the people who were taking advantage of one another and taking one another to court.

Paul is saying that to refuse your spouse is wrong.

He then makes the qualification that the only instance where it would be permissible would be if both husband and wife determine together to abstain from sexual relations for the purpose of fasting and prayer but then that it should not be for a long period of time so that Satan would not use it as an opportunity for temptation.

Paul just said, don’t withhold sex from your spouse, even for the purpose of fasting and prayer, because it will become a matter of temptation for them.

I don’t think you could come up with a more noble excuse than fasting and prayer and even Paul takes that one apart.

God gave sex a a gift to married couples and it should be enjoyed by married couples.

I’m tired of the world parading in front of our teenagers and young people this idea that marriage is boring and immorality is fun.

I heard a great interview with a marriage counselor and he pointed out that of all the sexual interactions that are on TV and in Movies, a very low percentage are displaying intimacy between a husband and wife- that is portrayed as boring-

what popular culture displays is that sex with someone new or a stranger or someone outside of your marriage is where the real action is at, and it is absolutely reverse of what God established and we know to be true from thousands of years of human experience.

The most satisfying sexual experience comes from a place of trust, affection, and commitment.

    1. Marriage is not a necessity and carries unique challenges. (6-8)

Paul wasn’t married and he believed that his singleness gave him greater opportunity to serve God.

He could go into a city and not be afraid that he would be arrested and his family put in danger.

He had no wife and children to be afraid for…

There are some people that God has called to do great things that they will be best able to do those things as a single person.

I heard a great story about a woman who lost her husband and she went overseas and served as a missionary because she realized she had opportunities to serve in her current status…

Marriage is not a requirement for the Christian life—-

Let’s stop treating Christian Singles as if they are less than…

Stop trying to hook them up with someone.

    1. Marriage is better than lust & judgment. (9 & 5)

Paul ends this train of thought by saying,

it would be better to marry than to burn.

Marriage is better than lust and judgement.

This is extremely counter cultural.

Marriage is under attack today-

I don’t mean the redefining of marriage. Long before that battle came along we lost the battle for what marriage was supposed to be. We allowed it be neglected- people stayed in loveless marriages.

It’s no wonder that the next step was for marriage to be forsaken- people got divorced and left their spouse at alarming rates-

then it’s no wonder that a generation that grew up watching their parent split up has no use for marraige.

First it was neglected, then it was forsaken, and now it’s forgotten.

Today, marriage isn’t even a part of the plan for many couples.

In Corinth, marriage and relationships were broken and messed up…

but when the gospel came into their lives, the people were called to leave immorality and give themselves to marriage.

That’s what God’s Word encourages.

That’s what the gospel produces.

I was so thrilled a couple of weeks ago when a couple reached out to me. They are engaged and planning to have a wedding in September, but they said Pastor Daniel we feel like God is working in our hearts and we want to make the commitment now so that we can do the right thing.

They’ll still do the big ceremony for all of the friends and family, but that Saturday I led them in their vows in front of their parents and I read from 1 Corinthians 7 and 13.

The Gospel will free you from the bondage that a life “with no strings attached” has trapped you in.