|He bravely confessed his sin. This was my initial response.
I understand the risk you took in being so open and honest. It took quite a bit of courage I know. There is no need to hold your breath regarding my response, if that indeed was what you are feeling. My respect for you has only increased. You are not alone in your battle. Where you stand among the few is in your willingness to both seriously battle your lust as well as to talk about it and ask for help.
Believe it or not I love the fact that you wrote a lot! I tend to write long tomes and appreciate someone else who is willing to afflict me right back! J I also want to be very clear. I do not consider any of the time or effort that I have or will invest in you as a burden. The church is far to full of young men who couldn’t care an iota about Jesus Christ, obedience to him, growing in sanctification, purity, the lost around them, or any of the other things that have eternal value. You will not have a real sense for how encouraging it is for ME to get a message like the one you just sent until you have enough years under your belt to be looking back at the next generation. If some time, prayer, genuine concern, well meant nagging, and annoyingly specific questions can help you thrive in your growth as a man of God then I am perfectly willing to do these things with a happy heart. You get my drift?
I do ask a few things from you in return.
- Promise to be honest
- Promise to discerningly help other young men
- Promise to train your sons so that YOU become their chief source of accountability. In this way your sons will be spared the heartache that you and I experienced due to the abdication of the previous generation regarding these “taboo” subjects.
Isn’t it interesting how in the Church, of all places, where we teach and understand the total depravity of man and the deceitfulness of sin, we feel this dastardly ironic compunction to wear masks and erect facades of sinless perfection? We of all people should be open and honest, right? Not gratuitously, but honestly. Some of us adults think that we can protect our children from lust in all its forms by simply keeping the world out. Even assuming that this is possible, as one Puritan put it,“lust is a gibbering ape within our loins.” Ultimately, lust derives from within us, right in our heart. You can’t shield someone from that. Better to equip our children to recognize sin, to confess it and seek help. Instead we tacitly if not explicitly teach a modern form of phariseeism in which dead men’s bones are allowed to lie festering in our hearts as long as all the “acceptable sins” are confessed and dealt with. The other ones, well, we’d rather pretend that our children aren’t dealing with … those.
I shake my head as I think back on how many years of struggle and confusion I might have been spared from if one of the Godly men in my life had been willing to get a bit uncomfortable and bravely asked me about these things. We should get together sometime and we can talk a bit more thoroughly, but my lust first found expression in masturbation and an unruly thought-life. Porn was a problem off and on but fortunately never became what I would call a habit. I think primarily because it was much harder to get at the time, not because of some innate goodness in me. I knew what I wanted even though it was not accessible to me. My heart was certainly pining for the “leaks and onions of Egypt” even if they were harder to get than nowadays. Unfortunately for you, the blessing of the internet has dragged along with it a huge porn problem.
It was because of this struggle with Lust that I was, from a young age, very serious about getting married as soon as God made it possible. God was gracious and I was able to marry at 21. What no one told me was that marriage is no panacea for lust. The problems you have before you marry will still be there after you marry. That should be a further encouragement to you to prepare yourself now so that when the time comes you will have nothing to hide and everything to give to your bride. By the grace of God I think I can say that he has given me a great deal of victory in this area now. Though for me it was a long process not one moment of divine inspiration. That is not to say I’m now perfect in this area or there is no struggle. But God is faithful and I have developed some decent habits in terms of my eyes, thoughts, internet habits, and masturbation.
My own personal struggle, along with the fact that the Bible identifies lust as a big problem, added to the fact that I am finding this a constant and huge issue among pretty much all men, has given me a burden to help prepare the next generation. Not just in the area of lust, but in a bunch of other areas as well. It just so happens that the church has been virtually silent on identifying and dealing with the specific ways that lust manifests itself and practical ways to find victory. So that has left a few generations of men in growing bondage and shame. Don’t you agree it is time to break the pattern? Sin loves the darkness, so let’s bring it out into the light. Truth and transparency are a wonderful disinfectant and protection.
I hope that as we move forward “shoulder to shoulder” that you will feel free to ask any questions you’d like. Nothing is taboo that the Bible says should be dealt with. So we just need to practice dealing with these real life issues in a discerning, mature, appropriate fashion.
In this regard I’ll at least begin responding to your request for some additional thoughts on fighting lust and self-satisfying desires. The best way to answer that request would be to ask some questions first so that I can give you some practical, specific and helpful suggestions. I hope you don’t mind the specificity of them, but specific advice requires understanding your specific struggle.
- In what situations do you find it hard to guard your eyes?
- When you catch yourself looking where you shouldn’t how do you respond?
- Though you’ve stopped watching pornographic videos, how do you do with still pictures? How about ads like the ones on the side of facebook and some news websites, magazines in the store, girls walking around campus etc?
- On a scale from 1-10 how are you doing guarding your eyes? Where would you have put that a year ago?
- In what situation do you find it most difficult to guard your thoughts?
- When a rogue thought knocks on the door of your mind how do you typically respond?
- On a scale from 1-10 how are you doing guarding your thoughts? Where would you have put that a year ago?
- How often are you masturbating?
- What tend to be the places/times this is a problem?
- At its peak how often were you masturbating?
- Have you thought about what might trigger your desire to masturbate? It could be simply not guarding your eyes, but oftentimes masturbation can be used as a mechanism for coping with stress, discouragement, rejection etc.
- How’d you discover masturbation?
- How confident are you that Masturbation is truly sinful? I ask this because the lack of an explicit “though shalt not masturbate” in the Bible was the main excuse I used for license in this area.
I would also be happy to provide some accountability in the area of your personal devotions. It is no burden (remember what I said earlier?). Because of the ministry I have been called to I have had the chance to interact with a good number of young men, and one of the common factors in either their success or failure in the area of lust is their relationship to God’s word and prayer. If they are in the word and reading it as a means to be changed then their success is always far far greater. The inverse is also true. I have a few questions that should be helpful in helping to provide some accountability in this area as well.
- When have you found success in doing daily devotions consistently?
- What typically distracts you?
- What times of day seem more amenable to doing devotions?
- Are you a morning person or a night person?
- What excuse do you typically use for why you didn’t spend time in the word that day?
- How do you choose what to read?
Generally speaking, though, I think a few things working in concert with one another would be a good way to help you jumpstart consistency in this habit.
- I can check in periodically via face book, email and/or texting. Do you get text messages?
- You can proactively let me know what you’ve been reading and what God has taught you in it. I would even suggest doing this daily for the first few weeks.
- You can choose something to memorize, set a goal, and I’ll hold you to it. Shoot, I might even join you in the goal J
There is no better way to strengthen yourself for the fight than to grow in your intimacy with God. Hearing him speak through his word, and speaking to him in prayer are fundamental means to that end.
I saw a major theme in your message yesterday was the important role that father’s play in the discipleship of their own sons. Not laying that responsibility on the backs of the pastor, Sunday school teacher, peers etc. is a really important realization. Unfortunately, abdication is a natural tendency given our Adamic pedigree. I’d love to hear where you think your dad did well in that regard, where you think he could have done better, and what you envision your family life being when you are blessed with one of your own. Is there anyone alongside your dad who you have found to have been a major influence on you? You don’t have to answer this right now unless you feel compelled, but sometime I’d love to hear.
What I meant by “Stop trying to be the head when God has made you a hand” was simply that each of us are gifted in different ways. You expressed envy at those who have been gifted with a natural academic or intellectual ability (the head). I was suggesting, by contrasting head and hands, that maybe God has called you to learn diligence and hard work so that your gifts, whatever they may be, can be put to some task that will require those abilities. I was just making the point that you were not being content with who God has made you and suggested that you stop envying in light of 1 Corinthians 12.
On a related thought, consider the simplicity of the kind of men that God uses to do great things. The academic elites may look down their pointy little noses at fishermen and farmers but that’s the kind of meek men that God has often enjoyed using. It confounds the wisdom of the world. I say all this, but even as I do, I am guessing that you are no intellectual slouch. So please don’t misconstrue my words into thinking so.
We really should get together in person sometime soon. There’s lots to talk about and I can’t help but thinking it would be both fun and encouraging.
I look forward to your response Mike. In the meantime I will be praying for you.
Walking side by side with you,