Note: This is part two of a two-part blog mini-series by Pastor Brad Bigney on masturbation. Be sure to read yesterday’s post: So What about Masturbation? This brief series is part of the BCC’s desire to address real-life issues with grace and truth from God’s Word.
We Need to Understand that Every Acts Starts with a Thought
Someone struggling against masturbation doesn’t just try to avoid masturbation; they learn to avoid the earliest thoughts that lead to it. That’s why Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart [mind] with all diligence, for out of it flows the issues of life.” As the mind goes . . . so goes our actions. Proverbs 23:7 adds, “… for as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” We have to guard against thoughts like, “I deserve a little pleasure.” “Nobody appreciates me.” “My wife doesn’t respond to me the way I wish.”
We’re the ones who decide where we’re going to park our minds. Too many people are living their lives in an unconscious stupor, giving little or no attention at all to what’s going on in their heart and mind, thinking it doesn’t really matter unless they act on it. But, this way of thinking and living makes us very vulnerable—we’re a high-risk candidate for serious sexual sin if we don’t get a hold of our thought life and reign it in.
That’s why the Bible teaches that we have to take control of our thoughts, because those thoughts feed our emotions, and those emotions in turn drive our actions. That’s why the Bible goes after the mind so much. Colossians 3:1-2 tells us, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” The Message paraphrase says, “So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from His perspective.”
It was Patrick Morley who said, “Some people have spectacular failures where in an instant they abruptly burst into flames, crash, and burn. But the more common way people get into trouble evolves from hundreds of tiny decisions—decisions which go undetected—that slowly, like water tapping on a rock, wear down a person’s character. Not blatantly or precipitously, but subtly, over time, we get caught in a web of cutting corners and compromise, self-deceit and wrong thinking, which goes unchallenged by anyone in our lives” (Man in the Mirror).
We Need to Understand that Masturbation and All Sexual Sin is Just a Counterfeit to Real Intimacy that Start with God
Apart from God’s redemptive work, we hide from Him… and from each other… longing for intimacy… but afraid to be known… Sexual encounters, private or shared, will never fill the God-shaped void inside every single one of us. It’s God we’re looking for.
The sexual relationship was meant to demonstrate the intimacy and oneness that we have first with God through Christ; that’s why sexual relations in the Bible is described as ‘being known.’ Genesis 4:1 says, “Adam knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain…” With the private pleasure of masturbation who is really “knowing” anyone else? The isolation of masturbation itself is a tipoff that we’ve wandered from God’s original, good design for sexual pleasure.
Back in 1943, C.S. Lewis gave a critique of the sexual confusion he saw in his culture, and you’d think he wrote last week.
“The [sexual] appetite is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its function… You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let everyone see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food?” (Mere Christianity, p. 75).
Later Lewis paints a great word picture for this when he says, “You must not isolate sexual pleasure and try to get it by itself any more than you ought to try to get the pleasures of taste without swallowing and digesting, by chewing things and spitting them out again.” (Mere Christianity, p. 81).
Imagine approaching food that way… just wanting to chew it for the taste, but then spitting it out again. There’d be no real satisfaction and benefit. Food would not be doing what God intended it to do, and the same thing is true for our sexual appetite. Private sexual pleasure and other sins of the mind are just cheap, false substitute for the real thing. They can’t deliver what God designed the sexual relationship to accomplish in the context of a loving, committed marriage. It’s like chewing your food and spitting it out again.
Strengthen Our Relationship with God through Christ
In a broken, sinful world our only hope for real intimacy and love starts with God. Only God can know us and love us completely. Jesus said in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Similarly, in John 14:19-23 Jesus said , “… because I live, you will live also. At that day you know that I am in my Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him… and we will come to him and make Our home with him.”
There’s real intimacy. There’s what the God-shaped vacuum in our hearts is really longing for. Christ in our life can do more for us than a thousand sexual encounters, private or otherwise. In fact, trying to satisfy our sexual appetites is a dead-end without Christ. So we keep God and our relationship to Him through Christ in the forefront of our mind as we fight to stay sexually pure in a sex-saturated world.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer had a telling comment about this great danger:
“In our members there is a slumbering inclination towards desire which is both sudden and fierce. With irresistible power, desire seizes mastery over the flesh. All at once a secret, smoldering fire is kindled. The flesh burns and is in flames… Joy in God is in course of being extinguished in us and we seek all our joy in the creature. At this moment God is quite unreal to us, He loses all reality, and only desire for the creature is real… Satan does not here fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God… The lust thus aroused envelopes the mind and will of man in deepest darkness. The powers of clear discrimination and of decision are taken from us… It is here that everything within me rises up against the Word of God” (Creation and Fall and Temptation, pp. 116-117).
The first steps towards sexual sin are not hatred for God, just forgetfulness of God. Scripture warns us of this danger in Romans 1:28. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.”
Join the Conversation
What additional biblical principles should people apply in overcoming masturbation and other sexual sins?