After a 3-week sidebar about managing through the current COVID-19 pandemic, I return to my planned follow-up to the series on The Biggest Challenges Men Face. In my last post about Isolation and Temptations During Crisis, I alluded to it but I feel the challenge of Maintaining Sexual Purity deserves its own post. In fact, it needs a series of posts.
Although our biggest challenges can be grouped into three categories: Managing Work-Life Balance, Reordering Priorities, and Resisting Temptations, resisting the temptation in order to maintain sexual purity is probably the toughest of them all for men!
It’s Every Man’s Battle
Several years ago, I read a book called Every Man’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker. The book was widely praised for its man-to-man tone and practical advice about what many men grappled with— lust, unchecked sexual desires, wandering eyes, and self-gratification. The book was published in 2000 at a time when Internet-based pornography was just beginning to run rampant but before the problem was widely acknowledged.
Every Man’s Battle sold briskly and remained steady until 2013 when it sold its one-millionth copy and was awarded the Platinum Sales Award. Its success led to several related titles including Every Young Man’s Battle, Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle, Every Man’s Challenge, Every Man God’s Man, Every Young Man God’s Man, Every Man’s Marriage, Every Single Man’s Battle. There were even similar books for women: Every Woman’s Battle, Every Young Woman’s Battle, Every Single Woman’s Battle for a total of at least 16 books in the franchise. By 2013, Every Young Man’s Battle and Every Young Woman’s Battle both surpassed 500,000 sales.
Some critics felt the book only offered a behavior-modification solution rather than providing a gospel-grounded solution. It taught the reader to replace bad habits with good habits but lacked a sufficient exploration of the root sin of lust and the help needed to fix our deep sinful heart condition. The critics said the franchise’s approach focused too much on fixing the externals and too little on addressing the internals.
Personally, I believe replacing bad habits and lustful thoughts with good behaviors are always helpful. However, expecting a change in habits without a gospel solution is an insufficient, works-based approach to beating sexual impurity that is not very successful.
We need sound practices but also something deeper to help the transformation of our hearts.
Winning the Battle Retreat
A few years after reading Every Man’s Battle, I covered the topic of sexual purity in a weekend-long retreat for our church’s men’s group.
The retreat centered on understanding our natural sexual appetite but also God’s higher standard for our sexuality. We discussed the reasons why sexual impurity is so pervasive today and how Satan uses the weapon of deception in his war for our souls.
I then explained why we must rise above our natural tendencies to misuse our sexuality and gave a biblical foundation for sexual purity. I finished with some tactics to help us win the battle over our sexual sins.
It was a powerful weekend of men learning how to replace their impure sexual desires with a better understanding of how a godly man behaves.
So before I provide more about those tactics from the retreat, let me provide some context about why men are sexual beings.
A Man’s Needs
God wired men and women very differently. That’s widely known but not fully understood.
Dr. Willard Harley asserts in his book, His Needs, Her Needs that a man’s view of romance is focused on a single experience: sexual affirmation.
In contrast, a woman’s view of romance revolves around emotional needs and her thirst for a relationship with her husband.
So while a man has emotional needs too, these different approaches often set the stage for clashes in marriage since the husband generally pursues romance based on his sexual passion while the wife looks first for romance based on the emotional relationship.
The first two chapters in Genesis teach that man and woman were made in the image of God. Our maleness is as essential as a woman’s femaleness in God’s design for marriage which enables us to be fruitful and populate the world. (Genesis 1:27-28). It is also why God commanded that a man leaves his father and mother to be united to his wife so they become one flesh (Genesis 2:24).
God created women with multiple avenues for expressing her sexuality—her femaleness, by participating in sexual intercourse and experiencing the miraculous process of creating a life in her body, then physically nursing it afterward. The experiences of childbearing and nursing affirm a woman’s ability to nurture life.
Men, however, can only watch and wonder about what giving life to a baby is like. We can feed a baby with a bottle and experience the same deep fulfillment and satisfaction of raising a child. But it is not the same.
So God created a man’s sexuality —his manhood per so to affirm our masculinity. Of course, sex is not the only way men demonstrate their masculinity but it is –by God’s design, used to affirm it.
The Biblical Warnings to Men
So is it any wonder why there are so many warnings about sexual temptation in the Bible directed at men?
Sure, women are not immune to sexual temptation any less than men. But the examples throughout Scripture of men falling into sexual sin are numerous: Judah sleeping with his daughter-in-law thinking she was a prostitute, David seducing Bathsheba, Samson’s pursuit of Delilah, Amnon raping Tamar.
There are also examples of women trying to seduce men like Potiphar’s wife luring Joseph to her sofa, and the warnings by King Solomon of the seductress in Proverbs.
But sexual sin is most often a man’s problem.
So I encourage you to follow along to learn some of the tactics that can help you win the battle for sexual purity.