Category Archives: Personal Struggles

Is Masturbation Wrong?

The fact that the Bible doesn’t specifically mention masturbation implies that we should approach this topic with sensitivity and caution. Most teenagers and single adults face an enormous struggle coming to terms with their sexual longings. Often the individuals who are most conscientious about their sexual feelings are the ones most likely to be tormented by unrealistic guilt. If we add to Scripture and weigh them down with even more unwarranted guilt, we become like the Pharisees and their legal experts. To protect holy principles, they added their own laws to Moses — like fences around fences — and in the process they heaped on others burdens that they themselves were not willing or able to bear (Luke 11:46).

If we are honest, each of us will acknowledge the difficulty of keeping sexually pure in a permissive and sexually obsessed culture. We struggle to avoid either of two extremes. We must not surrender to the hedonistic spirit of the age, but we also want to avoid the spirit of asceticism and proud self-denial that has often marred the history of Christianity. Any belief that our sexual desires and feelings are evil in themselves is based in the Gnostic1 denial of the goodness of the body and the natural world, not in the teachings of Scripture (1 Timothy 3:1-3).

On the other hand, we can’t entirely discount the significance of habitual masturbation as a moral issue simply because it isn’t mentioned in Scripture. One doesn’t speak of “habitual” eating or “habitual” sleeping unless someone is eating or sleeping much more than they should. The fact that you realize you are caught up in a cycle of habitual behavior implies that you know that something is wrong.

All of life’s pleasures have an appropriate context. When we eat entirely for pleasure, we become flabby and unhealthy. When we sleep much more than is needed for rest and bodily health, we become mentally and physically ill. Any misuse of legitimate pleasure has bad consequences.

The purpose of sexual pleasure is to nurture intimacy and unity between a husband and wife (Genesis 2:24 ; Mark 10:6-8 ; Ephesians 5:28-32). Sexual desire is related to our deepest longings, our profoundest potential for intimacy and joy. It is like a fire. In the right circumstances a fire provides warmth, light, and food. In the wrong place it has enormous capacity for destruction.

The Bible doesn’t provide a detailed discussion of human sexual issues. It tends to refer to sexual matters indirectly and with considerable delicacy. For example, even the term sex isn’t used in the Bible, and the male and female sexual organs are referred to only indirectly, as is the act of intercourse. Even such a serious issue as pedophilia isn’t mentioned specifically. It’s likely, therefore, that although it isn’t mentioned specifically in Scripture, habitual masturbation would be included under the categories of “lasciviousness,” “impurity,” and “uncleanness” (e.g. Leviticus 15:16-17 ; Mark 7:20-22 ; 2 Corinthians 12:21 ; Galatians 5:19 ; Ephesians 5:3,5 ; Colossians 3:5).2

What are some of the illegitimate uses of sexual pleasure that we should be on guard against?

Sexual pleasure shouldn’t serve merely as a “pressure valve” for the release of physical and emotional tension. There are more constructive, loving ways to release — and even to harness — our physical and emotional tension.

Sexual pleasure shouldn’t be fed by sinful fantasy. Jesus made it clear that sexual sin isn’t limited to physical act. Sin occurs equally in fantasy and imagination. There is a healthy imagination that leads to actions that honor one another, and a self-absorbed imagination that inclines us to use others for our own pleasure (Matthew 5:27-30; 15:19). Sexual fantasy can be a destructive expression of rage, revenge, or lust. Such unhealthy fantasies can scar and harden our hearts even if they aren’t carried out in the real world.

Sexual pleasure should never be a way we demand that God satisfy us immediately, on our terms. We should never expect sexual pleasure to compensate for our loneliness, disappointment, powerlessness, or sense of rejection. If we use it for these reasons, it is illegitimate.

Followers of Christ have been given freedom and forgiveness to love and honor one another, but not to be enslaved again to the flesh (Romans 6:16). We have been given God’s Spirit and wisdom so that we can understand that our bodies make good servants — and cruel masters.

  1. . Gnostics represented a wide range of beliefs, but they universally believed that a certain gnosis (wisdom) could be attained that is far more important than “mere obedience” to God’s moral law. Paul’s strong words in 1 Corinthians 6:13-20 were written in response to a Gnostic heresy that claimed one could sin “in the body” without sinning “in the spirit.” The Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) were also written largely to counter an early form of Gnosticism, as were a number of other sections of the New Testament.
    Gnostics tended to deny the goodness of the material world and of physical life. They glorified the spirit while maintaining that the body was evil and the source of every kind of corruption. If you are interested in Gnostic beliefs, it would be well worth your time to read about Gnosticism in a good Church History text, like A History Of Christianity by Kenneth Scott Latourette, or A History Of The Christian Church by Williston Walker. Back To Article
  2. Leviticus 15:16-17 makes it clear that masturbation would have been considered “unclean” under Old Testament Law. On page 12 of his highly regarded book, Homosexuality And The Politics Of Truth, Dr. Jeffrey Satinover comments:

    On the basis of the Pentateuch, the Talmud treats all sexual activity outside of marital relations, including masturbation, unequivocally as sins, though it makes careful distinctions concerning their varying severity.Back To Article

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How Can I Break the Spiritual Bonds Passed on from My Ancestors?

Some Christians believe that people can be “demonized” by ancestral sin. They believe that in such cases the demonized individual needs to be freed of inherited demonic influence by a “power encounter” in which the inherited demonic influence is exposed and expelled.

In our view, there is no scriptural precedent for using power encounters or exorcisms to deal with the sinful patterns of living that are passed down from our ancestors. In fact, Scripture seems to place a clear limitation on the power of evil ancestral influences, comparing it to the much greater influence of godliness:

I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments (Exodus 20:5-6 NIV).

Practically speaking, how could we possibly distinguish the sinful tendencies inherited from our parents from those we learned by exposure to them and other significant people in our lives? Throughout the New Testament, deliverance from sin involves repentance and confession. Whatever the origin of our sinful tendencies, the biblical approach to dealing with them is neither quick nor easy. The New Testament gives us no reason to believe they can be “cast out” in the same way Jesus and the disciples cast out demons of the possessed. (See the ATQ article, Can Christians Be Demon Possessed?)

All of us are deeply affected by the sinful patterns of living of significant people in our lives. Our behavior is largely shaped by the behavior of our parents, whose behavior, in turn, was shaped by the behavior of their parents, and so on. John describes how God can cleanse our hearts of sin’s influence:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9 NKJV).

This doesn’t mean that our struggle is merely psychological or emotional. Satan is a real and personal foe, attacking us relentlessly, systematically (Ephesians 6:12). Yet the biblical pattern for overcoming inherited sinful patterns of living is not to obsess on the demonic element of our sinful traits, but to accept the direction of the Holy Spirit in uncovering and overcoming them.

A person who wins a lottery is much more likely to squander his wealth than someone who earns it in years of patient effort. Likewise, Christians need to understand their sinful tendencies and struggle with them before they can fully appreciate the value of being delivered from them.

The New Testament doesn’t promise power encounters that deliver us effortlessly from our sinful ways without the growing pains of spiritual renewal.

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Should Children Be Taught to Fight Back or Be Told to “Turn the Other Cheek”?

By word and example, parents should teach kids from an early age to treat others with respect, to be kind and fair, to exercise self-control, and to suppress the impulse to seek revenge.

1 Further, children should be taught how to cooperate with authority whenever possible to defuse situations. But it would be dangerous to teach a child that it is always wrong to protect himself and defend his interests.

Jesus understood children. We can be sure that when He took them in His arms and said that we all need to become like them to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:13-16), He wasn’t naive about how cruel they can be. The playground, in its own way, is a jungle as ruthless as most spheres of adult life.

It’s likely that a child trained to unconditionally defer to others will develop a crippling pattern of avoidance and an unhealthy fear of conflict. An immature mind can easily be shaped to think that it is “loving” to back away from confrontation—to be a coward when courage is called for. If we follow the “golden rule”—”So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12)—we won’t always allow aggressors to carry out their aggression successfully. If we do, we encourage behavior that brings harm.

Kids should be taught restraint—the ability to discern just how much force is needed, and to apply no more force than necessary. This may involve “turning the other cheek.” 2 But children are sometimes confronted with bullies who leave them no choice but to resist or be abused. Sometimes a bully will leave without a blow being thrown, merely at the recognition of a child’s unwillingness to be dominated. On other occasions, a fight may ensue that ends with little real damage to either child, but which will result in a major boost of status and self-esteem for the child who refused to be dominated.

Children aren’t miniature adults. Adults may have the maturity to understand the deep sayings of Jesus, though they struggle to live in accordance with them. We shouldn’t expect children to understand things beyond their spiritual and emotional development. To do so would likely provoke them to wrath (Ephesians 6:4), or to cause them to stumble (Luke 17:1-2). We need to protect them when it’s possible, but we also need to allow them to develop the tools they will need to understand and effectively respond to the challenges of adult life.

  1. Sometimes adults can successfully intervene and guide children through difficult situations, teaching valuable spiritual lessons in the process. Back To Article
  2. See the ATQ article, What Did Jesus Mean When He Said to Turn the Other Cheek (Matthew 5:39)? Back To Article
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Is a Man Harmed by Looking at Pornography?

There are many today who would suggest that viewing pornography is a harmless recreational activity. Many men, including many Christian men, openly and secretly try to justify looking at the smorgasbord of pornography available on the Internet and video tape. The actual truth, however, is that viewing pornography harms a man in several significant ways.

First, looking at pornography affects how a man views women. Nude pictures and videos of women are degrading and dehumanizing. It portrays women as little more than sex objects to be used and discarded. Any man hooked by pornography is likely to develop disrespectful attitudes towards women.

Second, viewing pornography can turn into a sexual addiction. While it’s true that almost anything can turn into an addiction, the lure of pornography pulls a man in like little else does. Not every man who looks at pornography becomes addicted, but everyone who looks runs the risk. And the cost of a sexual addiction is high. As the addiction grows more and more out of control, it can wipe out a man’s job, his financial assets, his testimony, his peace, his family, his health, and even his freedom (James 1:14-15).

If a man is married, there are at least two additional implications to consider. First, looking at pornography violates the marriage covenant. Jesus said that a man who lusts after a woman commits adultery in his heart (Matthew 5:28). Second, looking at pornography leads to an increasing distance between him and his wife. Lusting over sexually graphic images does not cause a married man to desire his wife more. It causes him to desire her less. He may not be drawn into an extramarital physical affair, but every time he fantasizes about having sex with other women, he creates distance from his wife in some way. His wife will sense the growing distance, which will cause problems. She may become angry or blame herself for the distance.

Rather than “spicing up” a married couple’s sex life and building intimacy, looking at pornography compromises the relationship and destroys intimacy. Viewing pornography will cause a man to crave more and more unrealistic sexual stimuli, which his wife won’t be willing or able to provide. Consequently, he will feel cheated and angry; she will feel used and inadequate, and they will grow further apart.

A single man is making a big mistake if he thinks that looking at pornography today will have no negative effect on his marriage in the future. Some single men even believe that getting married will end an affair with pornography, but it won’t. A man that is used to being sexually aroused by pornographic images often begins to crave it again once the novelty of marriage wears off. And the man who gives in to that craving not only violates the marital covenant, but also puts the marriage itself into serious jeopardy. To state it frankly, there are no redeeming attributes to pornography.

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Is It Possible for Me to Lose My Salvation?

It’s been nearly 2,000 years since Jesus Christ personally offered forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Of the millions who have accepted His offer, many have found the peace and joy of knowing they have a secure relationship with their Lord and Savior. Others, however, haven’t felt as secure. Some routinely struggle with confusion and uncertainty, wondering if they’ve lost their salvation in Jesus Christ because of something they have or have not done.

It’s a frightening and tense place to be in when you are uncertain about where you stand in your relationship with Jesus Christ. Understanding the basis and the nature of salvation can eliminate much of the uncertainty that some Christians feel regarding their relationship with Jesus Christ.

The Bible stresses that salvation completely rests on trusting in Jesus Christ’s death on the cross as full payment for our sins ( John 3:15-16,36 ; Romans 3:22-24 ). Faith alone is the basis for our salvation. It is not based on our own merit or performance ( Ephesians 2:8-9 ; Titus 3:4-5 ), nor is it based on the amount of our faith. It is the object of our faith that matters. Trusting in Christ (not anyone else, including ourselves) brings salvation. A strong sense of security settles in our hearts as we realize that while we are the fortunate recipient of God’s grace and mercy, we are not responsible for earning it. It’s free!

Additionally, the Bible teaches that we are eternally secure when we solely trust the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior. This is the eternal and binding nature of the salvation that Jesus grants. Jesus said that He gives us eternal life and we shall never be lost. He declared that no one can take us out of His or the Father’s hands ( John 10:27-30 ).

In the same way, the apostle Paul wrote that those who have trusted in Christ for salvation are eternally saved. He stated, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” ( Romans 8:1 ). He went on to say that absolutely nothing can separate us from God’s love ( Romans 8:35-39 ). So then, according to the Scriptures, we can confidently believe that we are eternally secure if we have placed our trust solely in what Christ accomplished on the cross as full payment for our sins ( John 5:24 ; 1 John 5:13 ).

If we could somehow lose our salvation in Christ, then Jesus and Paul would be liars since they both described the gift of salvation as eternal ( John 3:16 ; Titus 3:7 ). Eternal means that it never ends. Our salvation is permanent. In other words, once we are saved, we are always saved.

God doesn’t give us the gift of eternal life and then take it back if we are bad. Our eternal security is not based on our ability to be good or perform, but on the promises of God ( John 3:16 ). Moreover, any attempt on our part to say that we can somehow earn and maintain a secure relationship in Christ is an affront to God. It strips Him of glory and lessens His remarkable offering of grace and mercy to an undeserving world.

Although we never lose our salvation in Christ, we can lose the enjoyment of close communion and fellowship with our heavenly Father. For example, when my daughter sins against me, it temporarily hinders our ability to be close and enjoy each other’s company. But even though all is not well between us, she never ceases to be my daughter. The same is true for those of us who have trusted Christ as our Savior. Whenever we sin against God and put distance between ourselves and Him, we are still His children who are secure in His love. That is why in Luke 7 Jesus told the sinful woman whose faith had saved her to “go in peace” ( Luke 7:50 ). She could rest and not worry about where she stood with God. That relationship was eternally secure.

We will sin as Christians, and our sin should grieve us. But it shouldn’t take us by surprise. The apostle John said, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” ( 1 John 1:8 ). Most importantly, there is no sin we could commit that would cause us to lose our salvation. The apostle John added that God is willing to forgive all of our sins if we confess them ( 1 John 1:9 ). He didn’t just mean the total amount of our sins, but the various kinds of sins as well. In other words, God forgives and cleanses us from every kind of sin possible. His mercy has no limits.

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