Tuesday, January 6, 2009

For Men Only!

Sexual temptation is everywhere we turn, isn’t it? Unfortunately, our society is intoxicated with sex, be it on television, movies, magazines, music, or the internet. One cannot even go to the grocery store for milk without having provocatively dressed women either next to you in line or on the cover of the magazine as you wait to pay for your purchase.

Men, we have a choice: give in to the temptation or resist it in the power of the Holy Spirit. God assures us we can resist it with His help: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Sexual sin is not the new kid on the block. Throughout the Bible and modern history, many men have fallen to this fatal flaw. I personally know quite a few men who have fallen.

Even the Apostle Paul struggled with sexual temptation. After giving us a list of items he struggled with in his life (i.e. danger, persecution, sleeplessness, hunger, concern for churches, etc.), he says in 2 Corinthians 11:29, “Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” What does he mean by “inwardly burn?” This phrase is actually one word in the original Greek (puroo), and Paul uses this same word in 1 Corinthians 7:9 when he challenges a couple who is struggling with self-control in the sexual area. He tells them it is better to marry than to “burn with passion (puroo).” Therefore, this word can refer to burning with sexual passion – to be tempted to have sex with someone with whom you are not married.

Why is the sexual area such a struggle for so many men? The most obvious reason is that we are visually stimulated, and our culture bombards us each day with sexual images. Keeping a pure mind and body is one of the greatest challenges of our day. Jesus knew this when He said, "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away” (Matthew 5:27-29).

Deeper still is our desire to be affirmed and validated. The greatest need a man has is for significance. God made us this way. It goes all the way back to Adam being given the task of taking care of the Garden. This need for significance can be good, and it can be bad. It can be good if it motivates us to give our lives for what is eternally significant. It can be bad if we get our significance from our sex lives and look to that form of validation.

We can easily be lured into the trap of believing if a woman wants us sexually it means we are significant. A woman showing interest in us tends to affirm our worth, especially the older we get. It can communicate to a man, “I still have it. I am wanted. I am a real man.” Granted this is all a lie, but it is very easy to believe this lie.

The pull of pornography is also connected to this need for significance. We look at the beautiful picture and think, “She is inviting me to come to her. She really likes me. She is attracted to me.” You might read this and think, “That is ridiculous. No one really believes such things from a picture of a naked woman.” However, Satan will play with your mind and get you to believe such lies. Furthermore, pornography can easily lead to habitual masturbation. Once entrapped in pornography, masturbation, or a flirt with an affair, it can be very difficult to get out.

Another reason sex is an intense temptation is because sex is indeed “giving oneself to another.” In this act it can feel like we are totally loved and accepted for who we are. After all, we are totally unclothed and wanted. This can falsely feel like we are unconditionally loved. And unconditional love is a God-given need. Therefore, we are particularly vulnerable to this temptation.

Randy Alcorn is one of my favorite authors. I love his eternal perspective. His writings have inspired and challenged me on numerous occasions. In the Winter, 1988 issue of Leadership Journal, he wrote something I will never forget. I keep it in the front of my Bible at all times. It is called “Consequences of a Moral Tumble”:

“Whenever I feel particularly vulnerable to sexual temptation, I find it helpful to review what effects my action could have:
  • Grieving the Lord who redeemed me.
  • Dragging His sacred name into the mud.

  • One day having to look Jesus, the Righteous Judge, in the face and give an account of my actions.

  • Following in the footsteps of these people who immorality forfeited their ministries and cause me to shudder: (list names)

  • Inflicting untold hurt on Nanci, my best friend and loyal wife.

  • Losing Nanci’s respect and trust.

  • Hurting my beloved daughters, Karina and Angie.

  • Destroying my example and credibility with my children, and nullifying both present and future efforts to teach them to obey God (“Why listen to a man who betrayed Mom and us?”).

  • If my blindness should continue or my wife be unable to forgive, perhaps losing my wife and my children forever.

  • Causing shame to my family (“Why isn’t Daddy a pastor anymore?”).

  • Losing self-respect.

  • Creating a form of guilt awfully hard to shake. Even though God would forgive me, would I forgive myself?

  • Forming memories and flashbacks that could plague future ministry with my wife.

  • Wasting years of ministry training and experience for a long time, maybe permanently.

  • Forfeiting the effect of years of witnessing to my father and reinforcing his distrust for ministers that has only begun to soften by my example but that would harden, perhaps permanently, because of my immorality.

  • Undermining the faithful example and hard work of other Christians in our community.

  • Bringing great pleasure to Satan, the enemy of God and all that is good.

  • Heaping judgment and endless difficulty on the person with whom I committed adultery.

  • Possibly bearing the physical consequences of such diseases as gonorrhea, syphilis, Chlamydia, herpes, and AIDS; perhaps infecting Nanci or, in the case of AIDS, even causing her death.

  • Possibly causing pregnancy, with the personal and financial implications, including a lifelong reminder of my sin.

  • Bringing shame and hurt to these fellow pastors and elders: (list names).

  • Causing shame and hurt to these friends, especially those I’ve led to Christ and discipled: (list names).

  • Invoking shame and life-long embarrassment upon myself.”

Wow! If this list of consequences doesn’t make you think twice, I don’t know what will. It reminds me of Proverbs 6: “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? … But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself” (v. 27, 32).

If you sin in the sexual area, it will be like the “feather story.” Once upon a time a man was tempted to sin. The thrill of the sin far outweighed his perception of the consequences that would follow. So, his spiritual advisor wanted to help him understand the gravity of his offense and the many lives it would affect. The advisor told the man to visit a nearby chicken farm and collect a large bag of feathers. Once he completed this first assignment, he was instructed to wait for a very windy day. Once that day arrived, he was told to go up to a neighbor’s house, knock on the door, and confess his temptation. After doing so, he was to dump the bag of feathers on their doorstep, and watch them blow in multiple directions. Then his spiritual advisor wisely said to him, “Everywhere those feathers travel is like the far reaching effects of your sin. Not only will ‘your sin find you out’ (Numbers 32:23), but also your fire will burn down the houses of many others. Is the sin really worth the temporary pleasure it brings?”

The deceitfulness of sin is this: it never shows you what is on the other side of the offense. Temptation only wants you to see the immediate gratification. Let’s not beat around the bush: sin promises and delivers satisfaction. The problem with this satisfaction is that it is very temporary. “Moses chose to endure ill treatment with the people of God rather than enjoy the passing pleasure of sin” (Hebrews 11:25 NASB). Sin does give pleasure for a season, but once the pleasure passes, much garbage is left behind … for someone to clean up.

I counsel many men to “do a Joseph” in the sexual area. When Joseph was repeatedly tempted by Potiphar’s wife, even to the point of her begging him to “come to bed with me” (Genesis 39:7, 12), he “ran out of the house” (Genesis 39:12). Doing a Joseph involves running as fast as you can from temptation. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regards to its lust” (Romans 13:14). Take whatever action is necessary to avoid sexual sin!

Let me suggest some ways to “do a Joseph”:

  1. Immediately end any relationship that could lead to an affair.

  2. Be sure you have a good filter against pornography on your computer.

  3. Do away with any form of temptation (i.e. computer, television, movies, etc.) if you have to. Remember, Jesus said to take radical measures (i.e. gouge your eye out) if you have to.

  4. Be accountable to at least one other man.

  5. Avoid places that are tempting.

  6. Read the books “When Good Men Are Tempted”, “Victory Over the Darkness” by Neil Anderson, and "Porn Again Christian" by Mark Driscoll. "Porn Again Christian" just came out, and it is very powerful. Every man should read it. You can google it to find it, and his ministry gives you permission to download and print it at no cost.

  7. If married, do everything you can to keep a strong sexual relationship with your wife.

  8. Saturate your mind with the Word of God because, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living it according to Your Word … I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalms 119:9,11).

  9. If and when you fall in this area, be quick to confess and repent of your sin. Claim the forgiveness and cleansing offered through the blood of Jesus (see 1 John 1:9).

  10. Resist the accusations of Satan and claim your identity in Christ.

  11. Get professional help if you are entrapped in any form of this sin, be it visual or physical. I would recommend Dr. Mark Laaser’s ministry: http://www.faithfulandtrueministries.com/. He even has an intensive program for those who are addicted.

  12. Never give up. Even if you fall, get back up in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately, the movement of our culture is going to make this area of temptation greater and greater in the years ahead. We cannot expect things to get easier. Therefore, we must take radical measures to stay pure.

Let’s seek to be men who love God, are filled with the Spirit, and do everything we can to stay sexually pure. God will richly bless the man who seeks to live a holy life!