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When are desires sinful?bigstock_Successful_Business_Man_(bW-lrg)

In Part 2 we noted that lust (or strong desires) can sometimes be good. The Bible uses the same Greek word for both positive and negative desires. So we need some kind of criteria to determine which it is. Of course, the scriptures, not human ideas, must be our guide for determining whether strong desires (“lust”) are good or bad. Simply, if the Bible condemns it, then it is sinful.

Sexual Desire Is Normal

An entire range of desires are a normal part of our human existence. We desire food to eat and liquids to drink. We desire comfort in life. We desire rest each day. These and similar desires are not condemned in scripture, except when indulged to excess, as in gluttony, drunkenness, complacency,or laziness.

In like manner, sexual desire is a God-given gift built into us so that we would long to unite with another person in the one-flesh expression of marriage. That sexual desire is positive and good. You see, the problem is not the desire, but the misuse of the desire to pursue something illicit. Only then does that natural and good desire manifest its expression as sinful desire, or “lust.”

Where We Cross the Line

In Matthew 5:28, Jesus is making the point that “to lust after a woman” is just a mental version of violating the Fifth Commandment which forbids adultery. It is a mental decision to experience a woman sexually who is not his wife. Since that woman is not his to experience sexually, and the desire for that experience may not be righteously fulfilled, it must be judged a lust that is sinful.

The “lust” of Matthew 5:28 is the desire to sexually experience a person you have no legitimate right to. To lust (desire, covet) in this way fails to treat the other person as someone to love and respect, but rather it treats them as an object to be used or consumed for personal sexual satisfaction. The sinfulness of such lust is not determined by the simple presence of sexual desire, but the intent of enflaming or fulfilling that desire illegitimately.

If we are expressing that illicit desire with a live person, we are failing to act in true love, for godly love never endorses or expresses itself unrighteously. If instead we express that illicit desire towards an image (such is in pornography,) we are objectifying, sexualizing, and dehumanizing the image of that person for the purpose of self-gratification.

The IVP New Testament Commentary Series speaks to this in the section on Matthew 5:27-30.

“The Greek tense probably suggests ‘the deliberate harboring of desire for an illicit relationship’ …. Jesus refers not to noticing a person’s beauty but to imbibing it, meditating on it, seeking to possess it.

“Lust is antithetical to true love: it dehumanizes another person into an object of passion, leading us to act as if the other were a visual or emotional prostitute for our use. Fueled by selfish passion, adultery violates the sanctity of another person’s being and relationships; love, by contrast, seeks what is best for a person …”

(The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, Matt 5:27-30, n.b. paragraphs 7&8)

Desire for food is legitimate, but when indulgence in eating becomes an obsession, it becomes sin. Likewise, sexual desire is legitimate until it is focused upon and indulged with a person that we have no right to experience sexually. The desire is God-given; the misuse of that desire is sin.

Leave It to Our Enemy to Confuse Us

Our enemy has convinced us that our normal legitimate sexual desire is evil, making us feel guilty of sin. And—sadly—the Christian culture has unwittingly cooperated with the deception.

  • Sexual desire is not sin. Using it to mentally possess and use someone else for self-gratification is sin.
  • Being sexually alive is not sin. Objectifying others for the sake of pursuing illicit sexual expression is sin.
  • Simply feeling a physical sexual response in your loins is not sin. But assuming that such feelings are lust and giving in to them as if you have no responsibility for your thoughts or choices… that is sin.

No wonder so many men feel defeated by their own bodies. They have normal sexual desires but anytime they become aware of those desires, they immediately feel guilty. And because sexual desire persists, they give up, give in, and fall into sinful lust. They descend into hopelessness, not recognizing that their sexual desire is normal. They don’t realize they have legitimate ways of addressing that desire without giving in to mental adultery (a topic for another article). Fundamentally, sexual desire is a good gift from God which we must learn to manage righteously.

Just To Be Clear…

We are attempting to draw a fine line here… There is a difference between being made cognitively aware of one’s own sexuality and focusing sexual interest on someone specific. When we focus that interest on someone specific, we are in the danger zone, if not already across the line into lust. Where the “fine line” is difficult to assess is when it is a person who triggers that cognitive awareness… and that someone is a person to whom we have no sexual claim. When that happens, we have a choice… either to focus our sexual attention on that person (which would be sin), or to reject that focus, refusing to inflame our desires with thoughts of that person.

The thrust of these articles is not to excuse a sexual focus and response to someone besides our own spouses, but to release people from the lie that presumes that any conscious awareness of our own sexuality must also be defined as lust. Each person is responsible before God to find that “fine line” in their own heart. Chances are, it will vary from person to person.

Think About It!

Before you challenge this, be sure you understand the truths taught at the MCAG website. In particular, read the series of articles found here: “The Lies We Have Believed.”

At this point, you may be wondering what the Bible has to say about masturbation. I recommend that you read Pastor David Martin’s blog articles on masturbation

— Pastor Bill

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Previous Posts in this series:

Sexual Desire and Lust – Are They the Same? Part 1
Sexual Desire and Lust – Are They the Same? Part 2

For more on this topic:

MCAG Articles: The Lies We Have Believed
MCAG Blog Articles: FAQ–What about Masturbation?

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Are sexual desire and sinful lust the same?Anguish

Summary of Part 1

In Part 1 I described my experience (and that of many men) of being conflicted between the acceptability of sexual desire for my wife, but unacceptability to have sexual feelings or fantasies at any other time. Such conflict led me to frustration. After fighting it so long I’d give in to pornographic lustful thinking. Previously I said that this frustration was eliminated when I finally realized that sinful lust and sexual desire are not necessarily the same. Let me explain!

Yes, Desire Can Be Sinful

Clearly Matthew 5:28 teaches us that to lust after a woman is equivalent to adultery.

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heartMatthew 5:28 (ESV)

But what does it mean to “lust after a woman” (or any other person, regardless of gender)?

Not All Desire Is Sinful

Let’s look at what the bible says about “desire.”

In the scriptures the Greek word translated in Matthew 5 as “lust” is used in both positive and negative ways. The word is epithumeo  in its verb form and epithumia in its noun form. By itself, the word is neutral… and may be right or wrong. The word is also translated “desire,” “earnestly desire,” “long for,” “crave,” and “covet.” Any strong desire is an epithumia.  What makes it good or bad is whether or not the thing desired  may be righteously obtained, then it is not sin. Sinful Lust then is the desire for something which may not be righteously obtained.

Consider a positive usage of the word: Jesus “earnestly desired” (epithumeo) to eat the Passover with his disciples in Luke 22:15. This was a righteous desire that Jesus pursued and fulfilled. In 1Timothy 3:1 when Paul says that a person who aspires to be an elder “desires” (epithumeo) a noble task, he is using the same Greek word to speak of a righteous desire.

By contrast, in Matthew 5:28 when Jesus talks about looking at a woman “to lust after her” (KJV) epithumeo is used for an unrighteous desire, condemned as equal to adultery. This same Greek word is used to translate the unrighteous desire called “coveting” in the Ten Commandments when quoted by Paul in the New Testament (Romans 7:7). The essence of sinful lust is coveting—a desire to possess something which is not ours.

“Covet” equals “Lust” – Including the Intent to Possess

While we’re talking about lust and coveting, it’s worth noting that from a biblical standpoint, they should be considered synonymous. We may correctly think of “covet” as the word used in the Old Testament and “lust” as the word used in the New Testament. In both Testaments, the original language words are used to describe both righteous and unrighteous desires.

It is also evident in the scriptures that these words indicate not just the desire, but also the intent to possess.

I suspect that most people already think of the word “covet” as implying the intent to possess, but here’s where we make a mistake in our understanding of lust… “lust” is typically assumed to mean any evidence of a desire at all!

Or more simply:

  • Covet = Desire AND a Plan
  • Lust = Desire alone.

That notion is biblically false! The correct understanding is this:

  • Covet = Desire AND a Plan
  • Lust = Desire AND a Plan

Faulty Interpretation Leads to False Guilt!

This should help us see why it is important to understand “covet” and “lust” as the same biblical concept. If we misunderstand the word “lust” in the New Testament, we may conclude that the Bible teaches something it doesn’t really teach. And this could result in false guilt, for it would be founded on a false definition of “lust”!

So, both “covet” and “lust” imply an intent to possess the object desired. But here again, it is not the intent to possess which makes a desire right or wrong, but whether or not the object may be righteously obtained.

In summary, it is biblically accurate to draw a distinction between desires that are righteous and those which are unrighteous.

Now we are ready to talk about the difference between normal desires (not sinful) and sinful lust. I’ll cover that in Part 3.

— Pastor Bill

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Other posts in this series:

Sexual Desire and Lust – Are They the Same? Part 1
Sexual Desire and Lust – Are They the Same? Part 3

Feel free to Leave a Comment on this post.

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For years I felt constantly defeated by lust.Anguish

Lust and Desire Conflicted

I knew the desire for sex with my wife was OK, but I believed that any sexual feelings beyond that context was sinful lust.

I would awaken in the morning with an erection and strong sexual desire. I felt guilty so I’d confess it to God. I would see an attractive woman which would heighten my sexual awareness. I believed that it was sinful lust in my heart.

One minute, I’d have strong sexual feelings that I believed were lustful. So I would try to suppress them. At another time, I would be with my wife where I am permitted to feel strong sexual feelings. One moment, those sexual feelings and desires were wrong (lust) but in the next moment they were good (spousal love). I was conflicted.

To be honest I was frustrated and weary of trying to not lust… yet I experienced sexual feelings and desires frequently almost every day. I could not eliminate it from my life. Eventually, I would quit the battle and just give in to the outward expression of those sexual desires… and indulge in pornographic lust.

Most Men are Frustrated

I know I wasn’t alone. As a preacher, I could easily make men aware of their “sinfulness.” All I had to do was quote Matthew 5:28, “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Every man I knew felt that his heart was lustful if he merely looked and acknowledged the attractiveness of any women other than his own wife.

My Journey to Victory

I have since realized that I was confused between sinful lust and natural sexual desire. My journey to victory began with understanding the lies that I had learned and believed about the human body. The truth taught at My Chains Are Gone replaced the lies and my battle with pornography ended. I soon realized I had also believed a lie about what constituted sinful lust… a lie that had contributed to my bondage.

Could you be caught in this same trap, believing that any sexual desire, dreams, thoughts, or fantasies other than for your wife are sinful lust? I am convinced that many men are unnecessarily defeated because of this confusion. Stay tuned for part 2 where we will look at two different ways the Bible uses the words for lust. Not all lusts are equal.

— Pastor Bill

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Previous Posts in this series:

Sexual Desire and Lust – Are They the Same? Part 2
Sexual Desire and Lust – Are They the Same? Part 3

For more on this topic:

The Lies That We Have Believed – Lie #3

Feel free to Leave a Comment on this post.

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Equal_Sign_question2After reading a post from a young Christian who is choosing the culture’s view of homosexuality and so-called “Gay Marriage,” I got to thinking about how and why young people—our own children, even—could so easily set aside the Scriptural understanding of marriage.

Then I realized… they rejected it because their parents’ already had!

No, we parents haven’t endorsed same-sex marriage, but our understanding of the meaning of marriage has already been exchanged for a meaning that is culturally—not biblically—defined.

Here’s What I Mean…

For at least a generation, it has been commonly acknowledged and practiced that marriage exists for personal fulfillment. Consequently, marriages have been forged in a moment of passion, then dissolved in a moment of frustration. I’m over-simplifying, of course, but you see my point… a person has the right to be married to whomever makes them happy. And conversely, they don’t have to be married to anyone who doesn’t make them happy.

As you probably know, the divorce rate among Christians is not much different than among non-Christians.  So, while Christians should know better, these statistics belie the fact that even Christian marriages are still—too often—based on the culture’s “personal fulfillment” ideal.

We’re Not Teaching the Truth!

What does marriage mean, though? What is it really for? Has the church been teaching it?

I don’t think so…

We give lip-service to the biblical truth that marriage is a picture of Christ and the church, but do we really know what that means? For example… what does sexual union teach us about Christ and the Church? In all my years in a pastor’s home, Bible College, full-time ministry, and listening to thousands of sermons, I have never once heard a biblical answer to that question.

Imaging God…

God made us in His image… and evidently, it took both male and female for God to adequately paint the portrait. Have you or I ever been taught why? I can’t remember ever hearing why.

When God made the man and the woman, you remember what He told them… to be one flesh, and to be fruitful and multiply. These are commands to engage in sexual union. And He told them these things right in the context of making the man and the woman in His own image!

So… exactly how does sexual union contribute to the “Image of God”?

Perhaps a few have heard this answer, but it sure hasn’t been emphasized in our teaching on marriage or sexuality. I believe the answer is this:

God is a “Trinity”—that is, He is a plurality expressed as a unity. Sexual union is a physical picture of that divine unity… it is literally a plurality expressed as a unity.

It’s right there in Genesis 1 & 2… the God who is ONE said “Let US create man in OUR image,” so now in human flesh, the “TWO become ONE.”

Marriage is a Portrait of the Divine

Marriage is not about human-fulfillment. Marriage is not about the pursuit of happiness. Marriage is not about self-expression. It reveals the very nature of God.

Marriage is not about rights. Marriage is not about equality. Marriage is not even about human love. It expresses of the glory of God.

When a man and woman come together in marriage, they reenact the creation of mankind in God’s image as a plurality—male and female. When that man and woman unite sexually, they expand that image by making tangible a picture of the perfect unity of the Godhead.

This… this is the deepest meaning of the sexual union of a man and a woman in marriage.

Have They Rejected This Picture of Marriage?

Today’s generation of young people have not rejected this truth… they’ve simply never heard it.

Today’s generation of young people have accepted our definition of the meaning of marriage—to find personal fulfillment—but they have wondered why we would be restrictive about what sort of personal sexual fulfillment is “OK.”

Today’s generation of young people have embraced our value of human love as the ultimate purpose of marriage… but they also correctly recognize that real love doesn’t just happen between opposite genders.

Do You See How Far We’ve Strayed from This Truth?

It is we who have failed to understand the true meaning of marriage from God’s Word.

It is we who have, instead, embraced the culture’s man-centered definition of marriage.

It is we who have laid aside our glorious calling as Divine Image-Bearers—Male and Female—designed by our maker to physically join in one flesh… and made sex only about ourselves.

So let us not be shocked that our children have mutated our distorted definition of marriage into one that we find offensive.

Perhaps our own distortion of marriage has been offensive to God for a long time already…

A Call to Truth.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in the Supreme Court. I don’t know what laws will be enacted regarding these issues. But I do know that we—as the church—need to be restored to God’s Truth.

And regardless of what the law of the land is or becomes, we can embrace God’s calling on our marriages. We can begin to seek out the riches of God’s Glory, revealed in human flesh as described in God’s Word. We can put the truth of God-given gender distinction into practice in our lives.

… And only then will we truly have a voice to speak to the next generation what sex is really about, and what it means to play the God-ordained, gender-determined role in that divine portrait.

— Pastor Ed

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(The following story took place about 8 years ago…)

Checking Out the Artwork

Lovely

This is the sculpture we saw that day.

My daughter had a violin recital. We had to get there early, so while they prepared for the performance, the rest of the family had to wait. Thankfully, the recital was held at a community arts center that had lots of artwork around the grounds to look at.

So that’s what I did… I looked at all the art work… all—that is—except one.

That one was a nude.

To be honest, I wanted to look at it, too… but since I still held the pornographic view of the body, I would not allow myself to look at it for fear that it would incite lust in my heart.

A Startling Question.

“Hey, Dad… did you see that one sculpture?” It was my 10 year old son. “Isn’t that disgusting?

I was a bit surprised by his question, but apparently, I had already taught him my very distorted view of the body… without even realizing that I had done so. But he took that view to its logical conclusion… a conclusion that was self-evidently false!

And it was an uncharacteristic moment of clarity that informed my answer…

“Actually, it’s quite lovely.”

I’m not sure why I said that… I guess I was just too surprised by the question to respond with anything but the truth.

Look at it… how could such a sculpture ever be described as “disgusting”? Yet that’s exactly the perspective that I had somehow communicated to my son… without ever saying a word about nudity!

What Are We Teaching Our Children?

I can’t remember what I ever told my son about nudity. I don’t recall ever telling him to spurn the sight of human skin. I never told him that a woman’s nude body was “disgusting”… but that’s obviously what I had taught him.

In fact, it seems that he was confident that by coming to me and declaring it “disgusting,” he would be rewarded by affirmation and earn my approval for his insight. I must have taught him really well…

It’s a Lie…

The sculpture my son saw was not disgusting.

Yet I was as guilty of teaching him that lie as if I had spoken it from my own lips.

You see, we have culturally defined the unclothed body as a sexual condition, so we’ve concluded that it is “indecent” to be seen in any context other than the one where sexual expression is condoned (marriage). We have supposed that this perspective promotes moral purity… but instead, it promotes a lie… which leads inevitably to impurity! (That’s just what lies do.)

The Beginning of Understanding.

This incident with my son and the sculpture happened probably eight years ago. And it was several years thereafter before God more fully corrected my thinking about the meaning of the unclothed human form. But this was a beginning. I had been startled into speaking the truth instead of  just reaffirming the lie that I had unwittingly taught my son.

It was moment of clarity from which—thankfully!—I’ve never recovered.

Ultimately, it was part of a transformation of perspective that delivered me from pornography and drove me to establish the MCAG website.

It’s time we teach our children the truth.

— Pastor David Martin

Sculpture above by Joan Bankemper, found at joanbankemper.com.
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For more on this topic:

The Pornographic View of the Body
Lies That We Have Believed
Can You Spot the Pornographic Version?

Feel free to Leave a Comment on this post.

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We’re Not Alone

centerfold-syndrome-gary-r-brooks-hardcover-cover-artWe launched the MCAG website knowing that our articles would be unique and controversial. We ourselves had been converted from skepticism to realism, and we could not be silent about the truth. Imagine our surprise at discovering that our website was validated by the teachings of a published psychologist.

Not long after our website was up and running, a lady wrote to congratulate us. Our message, she said, was similar to that of psychologist Gary R. Brooks. She attached an excerpt from his book, The Centerfold Syndrome, photocopied from a college anthology (See her blog post here). What an encouragement to find ourselves “on the same page” with this counselor!

Insightful Observations

Here are the five principal components of “the Centerfold Syndrome,” with quotes from Dr. Brooks:

  • Voyeurism: “The culture at large seems to be generally indifferent to this trend [of female body glorification], seeing it as harmless titillation, pretty much a natural product of men’s biological makeup. I strongly disagree with this position. It is my contention that this mania, this explosion of glorification and objectification of women’s bodies, promotes unreal images of women, distorts physical reality, creates obsessions with visual stimulation, and trivializes all other features of a healthy psychosexual relationship.”
  • Objectification: “. . .when a man in a relationship is continually distracted by a fantasy life dominated by visual images of idealized bodies of strangers, that man will frequently be emotionally absent from his partner; he will be unable to have intense, here-and-now experiences with her. Tragically, if he spends most of his emotional energy on sexual fantasies about inaccessible people, he frequently will not be available for even the most intimate emotional and sexual moments with the most important person in his life.”
  • Need for Validation: “[Men] are programmed to crave validation of their masculinity, and they frequently view women’s bodies as a medium for that validation. This need for validation disempowers them and creates an odd yet vitally important inversion of the traditional power relationship between women and men. . . . When women are envisioned as sexual objects and made the centerpiece of men’s visual world, they become imbued with enormous psychosocial power.”
  • Trophyism: “While collecting new and different sexual trophies may be celebrated among adolescents, it is a sign of emotional immaturity in the world of adults. . . . Women’s bodies age, losing their trophy-like characteristics, especially in comparison to newer varieties. Hence, the trophy-hunting man, initially satisfied with his trophy-wife, must eventually face the maddening reality that his prize will eventually lose her luster, while other potential prizes will emit near-irresistible allure.”
  • Fear of True Intimacy: “. . .men are taught to suppress their needs for intimacy and sensuality, and come to invest too much emotional and psychological power in some women’s bodies. Fearing their potential overdependence on women, men develop a preoccupation with sexuality, which powerfully handicaps their capacity for emotionally intimate relationships with men and for nonsexual relationships with women.”

Worth Reading…

Dr. Brooks sees the Centerfold Syndrome as epidemic in America. His personal experience in counseling men suffering from it has made him an expert in describing the problem of a pornographic view of women’s bodies. In fact, even if you have no trouble grasping the concepts we share on MCAG, studying his perspective will reinforce your understanding. For that reason, we obtained his permission to use two large excerpts from his book as a resource for our readers. We encourage you to purchase and read the whole book.

— Pastor David

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For more on this topic:

Excerpts from The Centerfold Syndrome
The Pornographic View of the Body
The Centerfold Syndrome
on Amazon.

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bunny specs

Some people can say a lot in a very few words. This post is the first in a new blog series where we’ll present a rich quote, and make a few comments.

This quote for the New Year is from Kenich Ohmae, a Japanese business and corporate strategist. He was probably speaking here of business, but his words are equally applicable to our effort to understand human embodiment.

We Need New Lenses…

It is hard to let old beliefs go. They are familiar. We are comfortable with them and have spent years building systems and developing habits that depend on them.

Like a man who has worn eyeglasses so long that he forgets he has them on, we forget that the world looks to us the way it does because we have become used to seeing it that way through a particular set of lenses.

Today, however, we need new lenses. And we need to throw the old ones away.

Comments…

In our world today, the pornographic view of the human body is a pair of glasses that—it would seem—almost everyone wears. So many wear them that we find both the church and the porn industry affirming the same false perspective… so we’ve all just assumed that it must be right… as if we’re really not seeing through any lenses at all!

But we are… and we are in desperate need of new lenses. It’s time to view the human body through the biblical lens of the Imago Dei.

— Pastor David Martin

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For more on this topic:

The Pornographic View of the Body
The Imago Dei

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It was the perfect day to build a snowman.

Snow Venus - nude Or snow-woman, if preferred.

And so Eliza Gonzalez and her two children created their own snow version of the famous Venus de Milo sculpture, albeit without the head.

One neighbor evidently complained and soon the police were knocking at Ms. Gonzalez’s door requesting that she cover or destroy the nude snow woman.

So, rather than just destroying fruit of their labors, her daughter found a bikini top and a sarong to make the snow woman “legal.”Snow Venus - clothed

One of these snow sculptures is pornographic…

Can you identify which one?

The nude?

… Wrong.

The nude sculpture accurately portrays God’s beautiful design for a woman’s torso. It makes no “statement” and tells no lies.

The “clothed” version, however, definitely does make a statement.

It says that even the representation of a woman’s breast in snow is lewd. It is sexual. It is provocative. It is dangerous to our moral purity to be observed. It is, in fact, indecent.

And the sarong? Well, everyone knows that it’s wrong to see a woman’s loins uncovered… even if she is only made of snow.

That’s a Pornographic Perspective!

Only one of these two versions of the Venus de Milo insults the woman’s form it displays… the one in the bikini.

And it tells us a lie about what that form means. That lie is that the most significant thing to be observed in the female form is its sexual impact. (see this article)

Clothing the snow sculpture gives us permission—and even encourages us—to continue thinking pornographically about a woman’s body!

Ironically, it was not the artist who crafted the nude snow-woman who sexually objectified the female form, but the neighbor who complained about it! In fact, after her daughter had dressed the sculpture as seen in these photos, Ms. Gonzalez was quoted as saying, “I thought she looked more objectified and sexualized after you put the bikini on.” (See this online article about the Snow Venus.)

I think she’s right.

nude_snowoman

Pornographic Thinking Empowers Pornography

It matters how we think about the unclad human form. It matters what we think it means. It matters because how we think about it drives how we respond to it. That is simply inescapable.

I like to say it this way:

We sinfully view the unclothed human form because we have a sinful view of the unclothed human form.

— Pastor David Martin

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For more on this topic:

The Pornographic View of the Body

The Lies We Have Believed – Lie #1

Gordon College: Policy on Nude Art Models 
— A Christian College Art Department uses live nude figure models.

A Christian Perspective on Nudity in Art by Matthew Clark

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still_life_with_open_bible_candlesti

“But godly men will not masturbate, even if the Bible is silent about it” — or so people say.

Is it OK to create “rules” for living that God didn’t include in the Scriptures? Can they help? Can they hurt?

Man-Made “Rules” for Righteousness

Man-made rules for righteousness always make sense. They’re really pretty easy to defend.

But… that doesn’t make them God’s Rules. We are not obligated to follow them. We should not assess our spiritual maturity or health by them.

Why? Because those man-made rules—no matter how wise they appear to be—are of no value at all in the promotion of righteousness.

God really couldn’t be more clear on this… let me show you:

If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.(Col. 2:20-23)

Need I say more?

Listen, it is absolutely senseless to waste time defending a rule for righteousness that God didn’t give to us. Even if you can defend its “wisdom” impeccably, the rule is still worthless.

And if I read Paul’s words correctly here, we should actively reject those rules… if for no other reason, to demonstrate to ourselves and others that we will not be submissive to man-made rules for righteousness (be ready for some criticism from the defenders of those rules, though…).

No, man-made rules cannot help.

But it Gets Worse…

There’s another very significant reason to reject the man-made rules…

Man-made rules for righteousness are counterproductive to purity!

Those false rules for righteousness do not keep us from being enslaved to our sin… they actually  make it worse!

How can I say that? Let me explain:

  • We can’t expect God to support them!
      • God will not contribute to the “success” of a man-made rule for righteousness; He’s already told us that they are worthless.
      • If any real success were to be attained by following man’s ways, it would ultimately mean that God is untrue. Therefore, our commitment to man-made rules for righteousness invite God’s active opposition.
  • They Distract Us From the “Real” Rules.
      • God has real rules for righteous living… but if we are trying to follow false rules, we do so at the expense of a proper focus on the real rules.
      • Time, energy, and spiritual focus are given to fruitless efforts… rather than efforts that will yield fruit.
  • We lose out on God’s Grace.
      • When we fail to live up to false rules, it results in false guilt.
          • False guilt is not God’s will
          • False guilt does not lead us to grace.
          • False guilt results in hopelessness, defeat, condemnation, and despair.
      • God gives us His grace to follow His true will. We lose out on that if we’re pursuing something else.
      • All effort expended to follow man-made rules are going to be completely in the power of the flesh. And that’s a recipe for failure.

Let’s Get Practical…

So, how does the “No Masturbation” rule actually impede someone’s progress towards sexual purity?

I’ve known of many young men who battled continuously with masturbation, trying desperately to follow that “rule.” As a single man, I was one of them! The rule was and is never any help to sexual purity. Instead, it creates a persistent state of frustration and failure.

Let me lay out the progression of how I believe this particular rule has such a debilitating impact on a young man who wants to live his life in purity before the Lord. Let me say up front here that this is my speculation based on my own observation, reasoning, and experience. Hopefully, however, it will resonate with men who are struggling… and serve as an encouragement to them.

A Recipe for Failure

(Note: I’m going to describe what could potentially be the experience of a single man who is committed to celibacy and sexual purity until marriage, and who therefore does not have the opportunity for sexual release with his own wife. For married men, this should only apply when the opportunity to unite with your wife is not there.)

  • I commit to “No Masturbation”
      • This false rule is treated as if it is God’s rule, and therefore also a measure of sexual purity for a young man.
  • Increased (and ever increasing) physical sexual pressure.
      • This is simply how the male body works.
  • Heightened sexual awareness and interest
      • When sexual pressure is elevated, everything about the man feels and responds to that pressure.
  • Frequent involuntary sexual responses.
      • All the plumbing works as designed (that’s a good thing!)
  • “Oh, by the way, that is LUST that you’re feeling there…”
      • Satan whispers a lie in the man’s heart to induces false guilt and erode resolve.
  • I might as well give in… to masturbation… and  lust…
      • The desire to have release is powerful.
      • The man feels like he’s already failed (although he really hasn’t).
      • The man gives in to masturbation.
      • The man does not know that it is possible to masturbate without lust, so he doesn’t even attempt to avoid lust while masturbating.
  • After release, there’s a deep sense of shame and guilt
      • The guilt for the lust is legitimate, but it is assigned in his mind equally to the masturbation.
  • “You’re a no-good, hopeless, dirty-minded failure… how can you think you’re of any use to God at all?”
      • Another lie from the enemy, who doesn’t play fair…
  • Live in hopelessness, despair, and on-going defeat
      • After yet another failure, the resolve to live in purity is gone, and the man feels like any renewed effort will be just as fruitless, so he stops trying to fight it all.
  • Finally cry out to God in desperation and repentance
      • God’s grace is greater than our sin, so the man’s heart is restored to fellowship with God.
  • Repeat… and repeat… and repeat.

Result: A man who truly loves that Lord and wants to serve Him lives in a perpetual cycle of defeat and guilt.

Yes, man-made rules can hurt.

Unintended Consequences

As is typical with “rules” based on man’s wisdom, there are unintended consequences to the commitment to a rule that God did not give. Because purity has been defined by man in a way that God did not require, the rule is false. Following the false rule results in increased strength in the temptation that God never intended us to face.

The commitment made to pursue purity becomes the very reason that purity is so difficult to maintain!

So… Where Is the “Way of Escape?”

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Cor. 10:13 – NASB)

I can only guess how many men have come to scoff at this verse—the “promise” of a way of escape—when they’ve never consistently found it.

I suggest to you that the way of escape is to reject the commitment to something God never asked of you! Learn how to masturbate without objectifying God’s daughters. Learn how to masturbate with gratitude in your heart for God making you sexually alive and virile. Learn how to gain release righteously.

It is much easier to avoid lust and sexual thoughts or responses to women when your body isn’t screaming for sexual release!

A Recipe for Relief.

  • I commit to “No Sinful Lust”
      • This is God’s rule. And it’s the only one needed.
  • Increased physical sexual pressure.
      • This is simply how the male body works.
  • When needed, masturbation is employed to release the pressure.
      • The heart is committed to thank God and reject sinful lust.
      • No false guilt. No shame.
  • The power of temptation to sinful lust is greatly reduced…
      • …When not combined with pent up sexual pressure!
  • Daily life is focused on pleasing the Lord… not on “avoiding masturbation.”
      • Because physical sexual pressures are managed effectively, the man’s mind is free to focus elsewhere.
  • Live in… and by… God’s Grace!

Result: A man who lives in freedom can live for the Lord he loves.

Summary

Yes, these characterizations are probably oversimplified and idealistic… but hopefully you see my point.

It is better to learn how to masturbate in purity before God, than commit to a rule for “purity” that God did not give.

It is never OK to justify the rejection of God’s true rules for righteousness… that’s why I didn’t start the Masturbation FAQ articles with this one… I had to first demonstrate that “No Masturbation” is not one of those God-given rules. Only then, can we look at it and see that following it is a mistake, or discuss how following it contributes to impurity rather than purity.

— Pastor David Martin

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still_life_with_open_bible_candlestick_and_novel_thumb[1]I might be ‘addicted’ to masturbation? How much is ‘too much’?”

In Part 1 of this FAQ, we showed that the the Bible mentions, but does not condemn masturbation. In Part 2, we saw that we do have freedom to masturbate, provided it is not an expression of sinful lust.

But if we’re “allowed” to do it, can we do it too much?

Compulsive Masturbation…

I’m not a psychologist nor have I studied compulsive behavior, so my statements here are only my opinions based on my understanding of truth, my experiences and observations, along with my own reasoning from the Scriptures.

If a person is so compulsive about masturbation that they have no control over it, they should consider seeking assistance from those who are trained to help people with compulsive behaviors of any kind.

It’s Not About the Masturbation

First of all, we need to acknowledge that—as with all habitual behaviors (eating, drinking, nail-biting, etc.)—it is not that the activity itself is wrong or unhealthy, but that a person is somehow driven to repeatedly engage in the activity to an unhealthy degree.

And so it is with masturbation. Simply because someone struggles to control a habit, we need not assume that the behavior is wrong. Each of us simply needs to be the master over the behavior rather than the other way around.

There are many people who have tried but failed to break a masturbation habit for years. While they may now know that it’s not forbidden by God, they may still wonder if there should be a limit to how big of a role that habit should play in their lives. This is what I want to address.

But How Much is “Too Much”?

The bible says so little about masturbation that many claim it says nothing at all. in Part 1 of this FAQ, we saw that there is a scripture passage that applies directly to masturbation… at least for men. But if we can conclude that masturbation is not forbidden in the Bible, can we discern any guidance that would help us answer the “how much” question?

Let me share a couple of passages that might guide us to a reasonably practical answer to that question.

“I Will Not Be Mastered…”

“All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” These are the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 6:12.

The first point we must acknowledge is that we should not allow ourselves to be “mastered” by even a good thing. If we are totally consumed by any activity—be it eating or drinking or video gaming or masturbation—we need to examine our hearts to see if there is some sort of idolatry there (i.e. devoting ourselves to something other than God). If so, we should deal with it in our lives.

It’s Not Always About “Need”

It is true that there is a physical need for sexual release, and masturbation can meet that need. But if we’re honest about it, no one is so virile that they “need” that release on a daily basis. The body has to replenish itself after every release and that takes time. For the young, that time is much shorter than for the older among us, but for none will the pressure become unbearable after just a day. For most (and maybe all), 2-3 days or more could be endured without any trouble.

Remember, self control is still a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). If someone is so driven to engage in masturbation on a daily basis, there is most likely a different problem in their spirit that is the root cause, and that’s what should be explored. It is not merely an issue of physical “need.”

The Adrenaline Rush…

I believe that part of the reason that so many men believe that they “need” sexual release so frequently is because they are addicted to the adrenaline rush that they get from viewing and masturbating in response to pornography.

The “allure of the forbidden” is very real, and the anticipation of experiencing that “forbidden” view of sexually charged images initiates an adrenaline rush. That adrenaline joins forces with natural hormonal responses and propels the individual to find release of the artificially heightened sexual tension through masturbation. In other words, their drive to masturbate is more than justa simple physical need.

Back to the Bible…

I am not trying to create any sort of “rule” that will tell anyone how much is “too much.” The Bible doesn’t give such a rule, so neither will I.

However, if we take another look at Lev. 15 where masturbation is regulated in Old Testament Law, we can at least discern that God did not expect masturbation to be a daily habit and occurrence in a man’s life.

“Private” Wasn’t So Private Back Then…

Masturbation makes a man ceremonially unclean for a day. When someone was ceremonially unclean according to Hebrew Law, it meant that they were not to enter the temple or participate in any of the other required ritual expressions of their faith.

So, when anyone was ceremonially unclean, it would typically be public knowledge. When a woman was on her period, for example, everyone needed to know about it because they had to avoid even sitting on the same chair that she had sat upon (Lev. 15:19-23). If a husband and wife made love the night before, they would have to decline any involvement in religious rituals for the day (Lev. 15:18). And… if a man had masturbated, he too would have to decline (Lev. 15:16-17).

In other words, the timing of a woman’s cycle, the occasion of a couple’s marital intimacy, and the frequency of a man’s masturbation habits were all—at least to some degree—common knowledge.

“You’re Still Unclean?!?”

That a person would be ceremonially unclean on a given day—for any of these and many other reasons—was no big deal. But if someone was ceremonially unclean perpetually, then something had to be amiss.

There is no “rule” here about how much is too much, but the law in Lev. 15:16-17 seems to imply that no one was expected to be ceremonially unclean every day. Religious rituals were required of everyone and they had to exercise enough self control to ensure that they were ceremonially clean when they needed to be.

So, What’s the Conclusion?

The Bible doesn’t give an answer to the question, “How much is too much?” But it does seem to assume that you won’t need a daily fix. Paul’s words definitely warn against allowing ourselves to be “mastered” by any sort of habit.

If you find that you’re still “mastered” by this habit, I rather suspect that you’re also in bondage to porn or some other false means of sexual arousal. If so, you should first deal with that addiction (read through the MCAG web site… multiple times if necessary) and most likely when you experience freedom from porn, the masturbation habit will lose its grip in your life as well.

If masturbation is simply a tool for sexual release, then you have the freedom to use the tool when you need it. Just as you eat when you can sense that your body needs food, you can also tell when your body needs sexual release. In either case… don’t be a glutton!

A Bit of Advice…

To the single men out there… relax. Take care of yourself and make sure the internal pressure never gets so strong that it weakens your resolve to stay pure and avoid treating women or their bodies as sexual objects… either in person or virtually.

To the married men out there—whenever possible—save that release for times of intimacy with your wife. Your body—including your sexuality and your sex drive—belong to her (1 Cor. 7:4). Allow that internal pressure to drive you to her… that’s God’s design!

To everyone,

  • DO have a heart of gratitude towards God at all times for creating you as he did… sexually alive and virile. It’s His will that you are as you are. It certainly doesn’t bug Him.
  • Do NOT ever mix masturbation with lust or pornography… if you need porn to successfully masturbate, your body still doesn’t really need release.

— Pastor David Martin

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