History has proven that sexuality is one of the most powerful motivations within us. But that is not a negative because the Bible tells us that God intentionally created us with a sexual nature. On the sixth day, God created them male and female and commanded them to “be fruitful and multiply.” Here is a paraphrase of what He said to them on that very first day; “He blessed them, and said now go have sex, and produce some children.” (Gen. 1:27-28) They were obedient and; “Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant.” (Gen. 4:1 NLT) Significant pleasure was part of that experience, because it is God’s plan that marriage is the place for sexual love. However, after sin entered the world, humanity is free to express their sexuality, morally or immorally. As followers of Jesus we should; “Flee from sexual immorality” (1st Cor. 6:18)
However, even though one is a committed believer it can be a challenge to do so, because the sexual drive in most men is so strong. Nevertheless, by the power of the Holy Spirit it is possible to live a life that is pleasing to God. A good example comes from the oldest book in the Bible. “There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless–a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil.” (Job 1:1) Even though God affirms that Job is a righteous man, he struggled with the temptation to have unrighteous sex. That obviously caused him to make the following statement. “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman.”(Job 31:1) He motivated me to make the same covenant with my eyes.
In the two verses that followed God creating them “male and female,” and therefore the potential for sex, He gave them a variety of food to eat. (Gen. 1:29-30) Food and sex are wonderful, but they both require us to use self-discipline. If we eat unhealthy food, we can become sick, and if we eat too much, we can become obese. Likewise, we must exercise self-control over our sex drive, or this wonderful gift will damage our human relationships as well as our spiritual life. I believe that and choose to live my life within the boundaries that God has ordained. Here are a couple of verses that address that; “For it is the will of God…that you abstain from sexual immorality.” (1st Thes. 4:3) “The works of the flesh are evident; sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality.” (Gal. 5:19)
This issue affects both male and female, but since my ministry has been to men for more than fifty years, this paper is primarily for them. Guys, we have to get serious about this because we’re becoming like the Corinthian Church. The Apostle Paul wrote to them; “it is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you…” (1st Cor 5:1) He wrote that two thousand years ago, but it could have been written today. It could be called “The First Letter to the Californians” because immorality may be more prevalent now than at the time of the Corinthians. Today’s church tends to address it when a crisis develops, but we must become more proactive and address this head-on.
While speaking at a weeklong Pastor’s conference, they asked me to address the topic of sexual purity. I intentionally started that session with the following statement. “I’m not sure I’m the right person to talk to you about sexual purity. I confess that on my desk I have pictures of a couple having sex, another one of men having sex with each other, and there are also pictures of three women having sex, and I’m tempted to look at them….(Pause for impact) It’s called the internet, and it’s on your desk too. Now that I’ve got your attention, I want to address male sexuality in a way you probably don’t speak about at your Church.”
In the modern era, America has had at least two periods of radical changes regarding attitudes about sex. The 1920’s were a time of loose morals and sexual liberation, but it did not affect the majority, and certainly not the church. However, the 1960’s sexual revolution profoundly changed everything, not only in America but also the entire western world. It was so pervasive that it eventually invaded every aspect of our culture. I could write a lot about the cost to society, and it is enormous, but my primary concern is the spiritual health of my brothers in Christ. At first, the body of Christ resisted it, but we did not resist enough, so the erosion of our values was inevitable. In my view, it is because we left the entertainment/media door wide open. Erosion is the right word because no serious follower of Jesus would make a conscious decision to lower their moral standards. However, over time, they did as they accepted the Movies, Music, and TV, which is saturated with sex and produced by a God-less entertainment industry. It’s common for many believers to recommend a movie with this caveat; “There’s a little too much nudity and sex, and the language is pretty rough, but the acting is phenomenal.” That is a self-indicting statement, but sadly, they are unaware that while their salvation is intact, their moral values are compromised.
The last few years have seen an epidemic of moral failure in the body of Christ. Sadly, it involved many of our spiritual leaders. There are the well-publicized cases like Ted Haggard, a pastor in Colorado Springs who was President of the National Association of Evangelicals. When confronted, he confessed that he was involved in homosexuality and drugs. However, there are hundreds of others who are not as well known. A highly placed Para-Church leader I know ruined his life with porn addiction, and it started while doing research about porn. A few years ago, my former pastor fell while counseling a 17-year-old girl. Each of these were Godly men who yielded to the subtle or not so subtle temptation they face daily. It wasn’t the only cause, but pornography by way of the internet was on each one’s computer. However, the eye gate doesn’t need the internet for sexual temptation to confront us. Job and the Corinthian Church are good examples of that. This paragraph could become a complete book if I presented all the details of the moral failures I am aware of, and it wouldn’t include those you know.
I was only mildly surprised when I learned the results of an anonymous survey of evangelical pastors by a well know seminary. It revealed that a third of them report they have been involved in inappropriate sexual behavior. That prompted me to raise the issue while speaking at another retreat with thirty-three pastors. I told them, “I would bet that at least ten percent of you are involved with pornography.” That would be three men, but two days later, five admitted to the group that they were struggling with porn. I believe they were the brave ones and the true percentage is actually higher. Regrettably, pastors are not immune to the sexual culture of the day. A pastor wouldn’t deliberately rent an “X” rated DVD, but the same thing is on his desk constantly. Additionally, many of them have HBO that presents “X” rated material in the privacy of their home. Pray for your pastor.
Before you condemn the pastors, what do you think the situation is in the pew? After meeting with men for more than fifty years, I know that a higher percentage of men in the pew are losing the moral battle. In private meetings, many men have confided to me that porn and masturbation are habits they can’t defeat. One man told me, “I yield to a certain habit way too often as I fantasize about one particular woman.” My response was, “I don’t think that’s a problem. Of course, that shocked him, but then I said; “I believe it’s a symptom of a problem, are you willing to look for the problem?” He was, and of course, we quickly got to his internet habits.
A man in one of our small groups recently said; “Nudity in the movies doesn’t bother me anymore.” He thought it was a victory and that it is a good thing, but he was unaware of what it is doing to his psyche as well as his soul. It’s telling that our exposure to raw sexuality and over stimulation has led to men spending billions of dollars on Viagra and Cialis. Those were never necessary before the sexual revolution.
For nearly every male, sex without boundaries would bring them great pleasure. God is not against us having pleasure, even sexual pleasure, but He wants it to be moral. Pleasure is actually His idea, in fact, He invented it. King David said; “At the throne of God there are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11) Since He created us, He knows that some pleasures are uplifting and others are destructive. Solomon who Jesus said was the wisest man who ever lived, was also incredibly rich. He had the potential to have any pleasure he desired, but he also knew the consequences that his father David reaped for adultery with Bathsheba, and it led him to pray; “God help me understand the end of these pleasures.” The Lord gave me a very practical example to help me think the same way. One senior executive, I meet with was using marijuana, had experimented with cocaine, and was very open with me about that. One day he told me that he went to a party and tried heroin, and it was amazing, but he would never do it again. Then a month later, he tried it again, so I asked him why? His explanation was; Glenn think of the best sex you ever had or could imagine. Heroin is ten times better than that because the pleasure is so much more intense, it hits every part of your body; even your toes feel good. I like pleasure, so why don’t I try heroin? That’s easy to answer because I am convinced that it is destructive. As a follower of Jesus, I let the Bible inform my view of sexuality, and it says that sex outside the boundaries is destructive to everything I hold dear.
While I’m speaking about sexuality, I will comment briefly on homosexuality. I’ve met with numerous homosexuals and they usually tell me, “I was born with the desire for sex with men. God wouldn’t have made me this way if it is wrong.” I disagree that they were born with that desire, but to move the discussion to another level, I don’t debate it. Instead, I ask, so you think that everyone should yield to the desires they find within themselves? What about people with the natural predisposition towards alcoholism, obesity, or anger? The Bible and reality say that some areas of natural inclinations must be resisted because they are destructive to ourselves and others. I tell them that I was born with a desire to have sex with any woman I find attractive. Do you think I should act on that desire? Most say no, but one man said yes. In order to shock him into reality, I very brazenly asked, would you want your daughter to know me? That did get his attention, and it opened a very productive conversation. I have a little more about homosexuality on my web page at: “glennmurray.net”
Let me remind you that being tempted does not equal sexual immorality. I have the same response that most men have when an attractive woman walks by. In the past, that temptation always brought me self-condemnation, because I wondered, how can I have a thought like that if I am a new creation in Christ. (More about this on my web page; See, “Thoughts about an important Bible verse”) However, I now know that yielding to the temptation is the problem, NOT the fact that I am tempted. Remember; Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, and yet without sin.
Even though temptation is not a sin, I’ve decided to limit the temptations I choose to bring into my life. Because I know that I’m not as strong as I would like to believe. In the battle between my imagination and my will, the imagination always seems to win. Also, I have decided that I don’t want to be entertained by what God calls sin. Therefore, I skip most movies and TV that I wouldn’t invite Jesus to watch with me. Actually He does whether I invite Him or not. If I can’t say to my wife, mother, children, or grandchildren, “You must see this movie,” then I don’t go. Of course, that limits me to “G” rated movies. You may think of this as prudish, but to me, it has proved to be wisdom. My life has been full and meaningful without those movies or TV, and I am thankful that I prevented their harmful influence on my soul. In so doing, I avoided the proverbial frog in the hot water metaphor.
Here’s what I practice and recommend when overcome by a temptation of any kind. I remind myself that God still loves me and that I am still his son, then I confess and repent quickly. (Repent means to live life in the opposite direction) Even though David fell into temptation, he was called, “A man after God’s own heart.” (Acts 13:22) I believe one of the reasons was that after he committed adultery with Bathsheba, the Prophet Nathan confronted him, and he was quick to repent. I also try to be quick to repent, then I pray something like; “Lord I agree with you that I’ve sinned and I’m truly sorry. I don’t want to live like that; please help me be more consistent in my behavior. Thank you that when I received Jesus, you forgave even my future sins and that you’re not mad at me because on the cross you took out all your anger on your Son Jesus. I believe what you say about me: That I am completely forgiven, and You’ve made me as spotless a new snow. Once again I surrender and ask you to continue to live your life through me.” Then I move on and live like a person whose sins were forgiven and hopefully a bit wiser about the temptations of this world.
In dealing with temptation, I have several different methods and apply them as needed. The first is avoidance and the seventh chapter of Proverbs, and several others are full of warnings. Another is; Like Job, I’ve made a covenant with my eyes not to look at a woman lustfully. (Job 31:1) It also helps me to watch other men as they watch the ladies walk by. It is so disgusting how some of them leer at women that it motivates me to avoid looking like that. Additionally, I use the well-known “Bounce Technique.” It is impossible not to notice a woman who is provocatively dressed but then I immediately bounce to another person and often it is to other men who are looking at her. One other thing is useful. When traveling, I block the adult TV stations at the registration desk. All of these are useful, but two other things have been the most helpful for me.
The first is accountability. I believe one of the main reasons good men fall is because most of them were living unaccountable lives. In fact, the only reason for personal or public morality is accountability. We wouldn’t stop at red lights if we weren’t afraid of getting a ticket or having an accident. Of course, we are accountable to God, but without human accountability, we can slip without being aware of it. For me, accountability to a few close brothers has been super helpful. Each of us has permission and the responsibility to guard each other’s blind spots. I meet regularly with a small group of men, and we hold each other accountable. My definition of accountability is; “Living life with the help of a few friends.
I think it’s telling that the Seminary survey about pastors who failed morally also showed that 70% of them said they did not have a close friend. The enemy will ultimately win this battle if men continue to face it alone. Isolated we are vulnerable, but the strength that comes from men that are together is empowering. King Solomon in his old age gave us this wisdom; “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better…” (Ecc. 4:12) I am very grateful for the brothers who for years have been on this journey with me, and who give me encouragement, counsel, and accountability.
However, the most helpful and practical has been to fill my life with Jesus. Whatever gets your attention, gets you…it’s a law of the mind, so I concentrate on Jesus. At a number of men’s retreats, I have used an illustration to help them understand this principle. I use a small bowl or glass filled with Rice Krispies. I explain that for this illustration each Rice Krispie represents something that should not be in my life. I can begin by removing one Rice Krispie at a time, but there is a better way. If I slowly pour in milk or even water, the Rice Krispies are pushed out of the bowl and when the bowl is completely filled with milk, very few Rice Krispies are left. The power of displacement is the reason they are pushed out. I then explain that as we fill our lives with Jesus, there is less room for those things that are offensive to Him. It’s a perfect illustration because every time I do it, there is always some Rice Krispies still floating on top. So even when we fill our life with Jesus, we never reach a sinless state.
Until we decide to address sexual purity head on, both personally and corporately, good men are going to keep losing this battle. I pray that our leaders will wake up and provide classes “for men only,” on how to resist the lust for forbidden pleasures. The class would have teaching and discussions about the material in books like“; Every Mans Battle” by Stephen Arterburn, “Wild At Heart,” by John Eldredge, or “When Good Men Are Tempted,” by Bill Perkins. There are others, but these three are very helpful. This paper is simply meant to speak about the elephant in the room that everyone knows is there but we don’t address it directly. For some definitive content about this subject, I encourage you to order any or all of these books from Amazon.
These thoughts were written with a spirit of humility and without any sense of finger-pointing. I fully understand the difficulty of living for Jesus in a world that is constantly pulling us the other way. I am in the battle with them because it could not be said of me, “he faced all the temptations that are common to man and yet without sin.” So, I thank God for his total forgiveness and the grace of His daily sustaining power to follow Jesus, however imperfectly.