In my last post, I stated the toughest of all the challenges men face is the battle for their sexual purity. In fact, it’s Every Man’s Battle and the reason why authors Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker sold so many books on the subject.
I also described a weekend-long retreat for our church’s men’s group that I conducted about man’s battle for sexual purity based on 5 sessions:
- Where We Are? Distinguishing between addictive sexual behaviors, a stronger than normal sexual appetite, and God’s standard for our sexuality.
- How We Got Here. Reasons for the pervasiveness of sexual impurity today, understanding our natural desires as a male, and why we must rise above sinning through those natural tendencies.
- Choosing Victory. Biblical foundations for following God’s definitions for masculinity and sexual purity.
- Time to Fight. Understanding how Satan uses his greatest weapon of deception in the war for our purity and what we can expect to gain by choosing God’s standards.
- Victory with our Eyes, Mind, and Heart. Gaining some tactics for overcoming the addictive nature of our sexual sin, learning how to cherish your wife, and becoming consumed with God’s purpose for marriage.
We concluded at the retreat that winning the battle against sexual sin was not just about managing our behavior but about going deeper to fix our hearts or as author Patrick Morley best describes, “it’s about heart transformation, not behavior modification.”
Changing our Behavior
In today’s #MeToo world, it’s painfully important that there are still men who need to learn how to treat women better. Just read the news about the numerous women who have shared their stories of sexual harassment which has lead to litigations, million-dollar settlements, and jail-time.
Sexual harassment is not just committed by high-profile men in the media, politics, Silicon Valley, and Hollywood. It is now at center stage for every man– and the bad behavior has to change!
A recent survey found that 57% of women in the workplace report that they’ve experienced some form of sexual harassment such as hearing sexist jokes or comments and being on the receiving end of inappropriate touching.
There is some good news though since 63% of workplaces have implemented new training to reduce sexual harassment incidents. More than half (51%) of employers have updated their human resources policies and handbooks this year; an increase from 38% in 2018.
All of these measures are needed and are helpful. But the deeper work of heart transformation is needed more than any workplace training or policy changes or handbook updates.
Re-conditioning Our Hearts
The goal of being a follower of Jesus Christ is to change us from the inside; not just to reform our outside behavior.
For example, Jesus spoke specifically about the condition of our hearts when He said this in the book of Matthew:
“What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart . . . For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man”—Matthew 15:18–19
This verse reflects the real issue of where the secrecy of our thoughts and feelings reside. It is what is in our hearts; not how we act.
The Good News is that Jesus didn’t come into the world because we have some small bad habits that need to change. He came because we have such deeply sinful hearts that only His death on the cross can purify us from our sins.
Practices to Win the Battle
Our men’s retreat culminated by learning 3 concepts to help us gain victory in our battle against sexual sins: Bouncing our Eyes, Starving our Minds, Protecting our Hearts summarized as follows:
Bouncing Your Eyes
Our first battle is against all the sexually charged images and subtle messages in today’s media, including the easy access to pornography. Most of these images are intentional but some are unintentional.
Regardless of the intent, we men must understand that we men are wired as visual beings and thus are generally more responsive to sexually arousing, visual stimuli than women.
So this first tactic is to learn how to “bounce” our eyes whenever we see an attractive woman. Bouncing our eyes means looking away immediately and not returning for a second look.
Like most bad habits, this practice may take at least 21 days to change a habit. So get started today.
You can start by making a covenant with God to work at reducing this sin with your eyes. Become like God’s faithful servant, Job who said this:
“I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.”—Job 31:1
Starving Your Mind
Another impact on our sinful heart that comes through our eyes is what stays in our mind. It’s all those stored images and thoughts of the past.
Coming back to the book of Matthew, Jesus reminds us about the power of our mind and how even a slight lustful stored image is considered adultery:
You have heard that it said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” ––– Matthew 5:27–28
So we must begin to stop the inflow of impure inputs to help eliminate the storage of those images in your mind that cause you to fantasize. These include the first Playboy magazine of your youth, the recent Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, or that pornographic movie you keep coming back to from a friend’s bachelor party.
For this tactic, you should start by studying your habits to know when and where you are most vulnerable.
- Is it late in the evening after your wife goes to bed?
- Is it watching those “R” rated movies?
- How about walking along the beach during the summer bikini season?
- Do you take a second look in your rearview mirror at that female jogger?
- What about lingering in the lingerie section of the catalog that comes in the mail?
Once you start limiting the traffic, the ramp becomes less congested so you can allow God easier access to your mind to help fill it with cleaner thoughts.
Protecting Your Heart
The next tactic is protecting our hearts. Scripture reminds us that we are the guardian and gatekeeper who decides what goes in and what comes out.
God calls us to “be alert and of sober mind,” so we must watch out for the schemes of the devil who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
One way to be alert is to remember the acronym H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired) which helps u recognize the reasons why you are feeling vulnerable to the sin of lust.
You are the only one who can decide you longer give temptations of impure images and thoughts permission to enter your mind. Setting up blockers helps clean up your mind and protect your heart.
More Weapons for the Battle
It’s easier to avoid satan’s evil schemes when your thoughts are more often on God and on your wife, and you become accountable to your God Buddy.
Become Accountable: As I outlined in the post on confession and accountability, you should tell your GB about your sin of lust. Give him permission to ask you often about the condition of your eyes, mind, and heart.
Love Your Wife: You should strengthen the affection for your wife and renew your promises to her. Honor and cherish her in your actions and your thoughts. Remember all the reasons why you dated and why you married her.
Follow Jesus: Lastly, make Jesus the Lord of your life. Once He becomes the keeper of your eyes, mind, and heart and you use these other tools when you’re tempted, you are beginning to win the battle for your sexual purity!
My next post asks the questions: “Can men and women be close friends?” so join me next and provide any suggestions in the Comments section below.