We live in a sexually-charged culture that seems to be wearing less and less every day.
In fact, I'm currently writing this blog in the gym, having to put these things into practice at this very moment.
The question is, how can a young man in the 21st Century, keep his way pure?
HONESTY MOMENT: I was introduced to pornography when I was six years old. I have a rough sexual past - but 7 years ago - I received serious breakthrough that set me free from a porn addiction and sexual immorality . However, sexual purity is something that I have had to LITERALLY fight for. I'm not perfect and I wish I could tell you that temptation never comes or wins - but I can say that, by the grace of God, I walk in victory! I have leaders in my life who know my past and keep me accountable to my destiny. I can only share because I have struggled - and I know that we can do this together.
So here are a few things that have worked for me:
1. Change Up What You're Looking For
First of all, if you don't see sexual purity as an absolute necessity to an effective and blessed Christian life, you will never fight for it. You can only fight for something you see the true value in. So let me just tell you - coming from someone who has lived on both sides of the tracks concerning sexuality, other than my decision to follow Jesus - my decision to walk in sexual purity was the most important and freeing decision I could ever make. I hope you feel the same way. Only then can we move on in this blog in agreement.
Anyway, let's deal with perspective. Our society has taught us that it's culturally acceptable to, when a girl passes by, check out her body to see "what she's got." We've trained ourselves to inspect her sexually before we interact with her spiritually. This is wrong for a couple of reasons. First of all, the girl might be beautiful on the outside but dead and disgusting on the inside. Looks can be deceiving, and I know she might have that thigh-gap but she also might have a spiritual-gap that will last for eternity. The other one will probably go away when she has kids.
Secondly, we end up training our perspective to first look for physical or sexual attributes that attract us instead of seeing them for who they really are. Perceiving girls this way keeps us in a sexually charged state. Look, I'm not saying that you shouldn't be attracted to your mate, but I am saying that Biblical attraction goes deeper than how she looks in yoga pants. The Bible tells us to...
"Know no one after the flesh." (2 Cor 5:16)
This means that we should be looking to connect with people's spirits, not just their sexuality. Once we change our perspective, we begin to interact with people in a way that truly discovers who they are.
2. Make An Eye Covenant
This comes from the book of Job:
"I made a covenant with my eyes, not to look lustfully at a woman. (Job 31:1)
The eyes are more than just lenses to behold beauty; they are gateways to our soul. This means that whatever we let ourselves behold, we will ultimately become. I used to think that this was a silly idea, until I put it into practice. There's something about a "covenant" that releases to us a powerful grace to keep it. If you study what a covenant actually was in the Old Testament, you'd realize that it is not something that can simply be broken by divorce papers - or even an unfaithful act. A covenant is something binding by blood, water and spirit. When we make a covenant with our eyes we decide to alter our lifestyle based upon the severity of the covenant we have made. This allows us to take it seriously and guard ourselves from anything that would try to divide it.
By guarding our eyes, we refuse to look at women in a way that would objectify them for our own sexual gratification. We refuse to look at porn as a way to appease our momentary desire. We must control our eye gates before anything else; they lead to our very souls!
(A great book on this idea can be found here.)
3. Don't Count Yourself Out, But Don't Coddle Your Sin
There are two common mistakes that Christian leaders make when dealing with sexual sin. The first is to soften its sting by making amends for it out of compassion for the one struggling. I understand this approach, simply because I pastored young men for 3 years who consistently called me after they struggled. However, coddling someone's sin is not a way to deal with it - it simply makes it worse.
The other mistake Christian leaders make is to communicate the idea that, because we have the power of the Holy Spirit, one should never struggle or deal with sexual sin again. By doing this, they create unrealistic expectations for the believer. When they mess up, they feel disqualified and shamed.
The only way to deal with sexual sin is to deal with it realistically - and that means Biblically. Do we have the power of the Holy Spirit in us to keep us from sinning? ABSOLUTELY. Are we going to sin again? PROBABLY. You're not counted out because you messed up, but just because you messed up and God has grace for you DOESN'T mean it's not a big deal. Let's strive to kill this stuff while having grace for ourselves and others - and let's not do it alone.
4. Trust God's Timing
I truly believe that the main reason for sexual failure is due to a lack of trust in God's timing. Let me lay it out for you like this:
"A wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, a husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife." (1 Cor 7:4)
The Bible is basically telling us here that the power of our orgasm belongs to our spouse. It might seem explicit, but if we're really getting down to what the text is trying to say, that's what it's telling us. Now, I know what you're thinking - "what if I don't have a spouse?" Good question - who does your body belong to?
"An unmarried girl (or guy) or virgin can be fully devoted to the Lord and can focus on being holy in her (or his) BODY and spirit." (1 Cor 7:34)
As a single, our bodies belong to the Lord. I know that completely goes against culture's message of taking control of our own sexuality, but it's the truth. When we choose to masturbate or look at porn as a sexual release we take control of our sexuality instead of trusting in God's timing. Yes, we were created with a sex drive and sexual desires. These aren't sinful or wrong - but activating them outside of God's design IS. When we take our sexuality into our own hands (pun intended) we choose to take control of our lives instead of giving control to the Lord. In our season of singleness, we are called to trust God and His timing concerning our sexuality.
**OPINION** I know this can be difficult and sometimes, seem impossible. Every time I write on this, someone comments or messages me telling me how it is healthy for people to masturbate and how my stance on it is outdated or limiting. I believe they are just plain wrong. Masturbation, even without lust being the driving factor, will lead to lust. It will awaken sexuality before its time. Sexual desire has a way of snowballing - it wants more, the more you feed it. So although, it may be possible to masturbate without lusting, I guarantee that the more you do it, the more you will desire it. The more you desire it, the harder it will be to keep from lusting. Plus, sex was intended for two people - not one.
5. Fight For Her
When I first started walking with the Lord, seriously at the age of 16, it was difficult for me to understand sexual purity. I also didn't understand the value of offering sexual purity to someone else. To be honest, I wasn't sure I wanted to be one of those "prudes" who knew nothing about sex. I figured I would love God but hold onto my "sexual understanding" so that when I got married, we could have a real, good time.
I couldn't have been more wrong. Unfortunately, the majority of guys I have spoken to about this stuff feel the same way I did - it's a major misunderstanding of sex and healthy sexuality.
I've walked with the Lord seriously for almost 10 years now. I can tell you that the worst possible thing you can offer to someone is a sexual past - it only makes things complicated. (If you have a sexual past, don't be discouraged. So did I - but it's not who you are anymore, if you choose to be washed by the blood of Jesus. He can restore your virginity and make you pure again) I used to think that, for sex to be good when married, I would need to know all I could before I got there. The truth is that if you have a sexual past - you are going to have to forget everything you knew about sex before you get married - even before you start dating. Sex inside of marriage was meant for the wonderful adventure of exploring each other forever. It's not about bringing your past experiences to the bedroom to compare and contrast. The very idea of sex is knowing someone intimately - and to do that, we must fight to know no one else this way until we say, "I do."
6. Be Honest and Transparent
Sexual purity is not never making a mistake. It's not perfection. In fact - no one is perfect and, chances are, you will slip up. The key to sexual purity is transparency. What does this mean? It means that you refuse to let anything stay hidden in your life. Sin only has power in the dark.
Whenever I find myself being tempted or falling short, I call my mentor. I let him know what happened and how it happened. Can I be honest with you? I hate those calls. It has never gotten easier after all these years - but I do it because I know that as long as my sin stays hidden, it has power over me - shame, guilt and another opportunity to just give up and keep sinning. The power is not in being able to say "I've never sinned." You won't connect with anyone that way. The power is in being able to say, "there are people in my life that know everything I struggle with and keep me accountable to my destiny."
Get a mentor - someone who you're a bit afraid of telling your "stuff" to. Let them in on what's going on in your life and don't hold back. There's freedom and healing in sharing your struggle with someone else. You can't do this alone and you weren't meant to!
7. Do Whatever You've Got To Do
"If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It's better to be without a hand than for your whole body to burn in hell." (Matt 5:30)
We've got to know our triggers and deal with them. Do you find yourself tempted to masturbate or look at porn more when you have long periods of idle time ahead? Is it your phone late at night? Twitter? Instagram? Is it when you and your girlfriend are Netflix & Chilling?
Look - whatever it is, deal with it. Don't let anything have power over you. Sometimes we have to sacrifice CONVENIENCE for the sake of our CONVICTIONS. Do whatever you have to do to keep yourself from falling into temptation so that you can guard your sexuality from guilt and shame.
Men - we can do this. You're not alone and you're not a failure. I believe in you and I know that if we can fight successfully, we can see a change in our generation. Our future children are counting on the choices we're making right now so let's rise up and be the men we were created to be!
Jared Ellis was called into ministry at the age of 16 years old, after being delivered out of a life of darkness, depression and depravity. He has traveled all over the world, preaching the good news of Jesus Christ and has worked with some of the leading churches in the nation such as Bethel Church and Elevation Church. He pastored in Abilene, Texas for 3 years and grew a youth ministry of 12 students to over 300 - signs, wonders and miracles happening each week. Jared is the author of "Unlocking Your Destiny: Keys To Accessing God's Master Plan For Your Life." He travels full-time as an evangelist and preaches at churches, conferences and events. He is also the GE Director at Christ For The Nations Institute where he teaches and trains Youth Pastors. While at home in Dallas, TX, he serves as a worship leader at Trinity Church.