Friday, January 5, 2018

The Sin that So Easily Besets Men

This post is intended for men. It’s not that women can’t read it or won’t get anything out of it, but you’ll see. Virtually all men struggle at various times with the temptation of pornography.[1] This comes from men’s struggle with lust. Much of the time, we pretend like only the “bad” men struggle with this, so we leave it to ourselves to figure out, on our own, instead of utilizing the resources of our fellow brothers within the body of Christ. When I say it’s virtually all men, I am serious. I can only think of one guy I’ve ever met who didn’t struggle with it (and I believed him). I am nonetheless continually surprised that even pastors struggle with it (as though they were not human).

What do I mean by “struggle”? People often get the impression that “struggle” means a continual falling in this sin. It may surprise you to know that by “struggle” I mean being presented with a temptation (regardless of whether you fall). Thus, one can struggle with a sin even if he has not fallen into it for quite some time. This is an everyday struggle for men—even the spiritual men, even the godly men, even the men who would never say anything about it. This includes me. Christian women may find themselves incredulous that nearly every man they know struggles with this, but they do!

Some men think, “So what’s the problem with what I think, or see? It only affects me, not others.” While doubtless few Christian men would say this, I wouldn’t be surprised if this were an occasional attitude. The problem is that it does affect you. It affects the way you see women; instead of as creations made in the image of God, you start to see them as objects to be desired, pursued, and obtained or conquered. Sin affects a person, and a person affects the people around them. Thus, what you think in your heart and what you see and allow your mind to be influenced by has an affect on those around you—and it’s often the ones you love the most who are hurt.

So if we’re going to talk about it, what should we do? What I propose is neither original to me nor exhaustive, but here are some suggestions nonetheless:

1.     Be honest about it. We must start with confession and repentance if we’re going to go anywhere. Confess and repent before God. He shows grace, mercy, and forgiveness!
2.     Find accountability partners, both “on your level” and “above your level.” By that I mean find someone who is going through the same thing you are (wherever on the struggle you might be), and find someone else who has gained more of a victory in his life who will help you. The fellowship in these two relationships will help you. Too often, we only find someone who is on the same level, and one of two things happen: A. We end up dropping the accountability, since no one wants to admit they are struggling, or B. We both end up falling and are honest, but the consistent refrain is basically “that’s OK.”
3.     Get accountability software. This doesn’t ensure you have a pure mind—far from it—but it does help give you some peace of mind. Your accountability partners are notified each week of your activities online. It isn’t for the purpose of “gotcha!”—rather, it’s for the purpose of encouragement and interceding for each other in times of weakness.
4.     Get a Scripture reading and prayer plan. This can be a formal program/devotional that you know of, or one of your own making, but being in the Word is essential. As Chuck Lawless recently wrote on his blog (paraphrased), I don’t know of anyone who was daily and deeply in the Word and in prayer who fell while doing this. It’s not a legalistic remedy; you have to want to be in prayer and in the Word. But it’s strange: as you do it, you want to do it more. Good habits perpetuate good habits; bad habits perpetuate bad habits. And if you allow the Word to take root in your heart, you may find yourself starting to grow!
5.     Know that “victory” is relative and on-going. I am the kind of person who expects and wants to get to a particular point, have a one-time victory, and never struggle again. But this is not always (or even usually) the way it works with sins that truly tempt us. Some sins’ temptations never go away, and thus victory isn’t a one-time event; it is instead an everyday battle. This is simultaneously discouraging and encouraging. It is encouraging because you can gain a victory every day!
6.     After you have had a bit of success, consider mentoring others. Why keep victory to yourself? Others need prayer and intercession, wisdom and discussion. Don’t perpetuate the false idea that this is something dealt with alone, in shame and guilt. That leads to . . .
7.     Recognize the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to provide forgiveness and grace, and praise Him for it. Too often, we act as though anyone guilty of this kind of sin is branded with this kind of sin for life. Nothing could be more anti-Gospel. God has forgiven us, and we must forgive and restore also. When you are discouraged, or if someone else is, speak and meditate on the Gospel. Jesus Christ died for you and for your sins, for your forgiveness, and to show you grace in becoming the type of person you were always meant to be, in the power of the Holy Spirit, in the name of the Son, and according to the will of the Father. God’s grace is so much more glorious than my failures, and yours too!

Lastly, know that I will stand with you and pray with you (most of you know how to contact me; if you don’t, you can always ask in the comments section of any post). We’re all in this together; this is why God created biblical community (of course, be connected to your local church, too)! Any other advice you would give to someone facing down sins of sexual purity in thoughts or actions? Talk about it below.

[1] While increasing numbers of women struggle with this, I am quite unqualified to speak to women in this manner. Nonetheless, some of the principles I suggest could be used by them.


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