Tag Archives: sexuality

How Can I Overcome My Urge to View Pornography?

Each of us is vulnerable to the temptation of sexual fantasy. When our faith is weak and we feel that real fulfillment and joy are out of our reach, it’s difficult to resist the powerful illusion of fulfillment that sexual fantasy offers. We shouldn’t be surprised when we are tempted, nor should we be surprised when we don’t quickly “outgrow” this temptation. Writing specifically about sexual temptation, the apostle Paul said, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man” ( 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 ).

It may be that pornographic fantasy and sexual addiction draw their strength from a natural desire to return to the world of intimacy and security that we may once have enjoyed as infants. In adult relationships, it takes a long time to develop real interpersonal intimacy and trust. We often feel lonely, powerless, and rejected. By contrast, wrongful sexual fantasy offers the illusion of instant intimacy, respect, and acceptance with anyone we want. The powerful illusion of sexual fantasy makes sexual addiction much more enslaving than it would be if it were the mere expression of a biological appetite.

The first step toward freedom is acknowledging that your sexual obsession has taken on a life of its own. A great deal of time and energy can be wasted trying to rationalize and conceal our secret sins.

The next step is facing the fact that there will be no quick cure. No matter how resolutely we pray for deliverance, sexual obsession never disappears in an hour, a month, or even a year. No miraculous spiritual gift will instantly free you from a habit that has had years to develop. You have much work to do.

Withdrawal from any addiction is painful. Withdrawal from sexual addiction involves agony that can’t be avoided. Heroin addicts sometimes take methadone in hopes of avoiding the pains of withdrawal. They soon discover, however, that their heroin addiction has been replaced with addiction to methadone. There can be no real cure without pain.

To jaded senses and underdeveloped emotions, the first experiences of real intimacy are too subtle and uncompelling to offer much comfort. Initially, no relationship or activity will provide the intense, short-term pleasure of sexual fantasy. Like the rush from a line of cocaine or the quick euphoria of an alcoholic when he “falls off the wagon,” sin offers pleasure for a season ( Hebrews 11:25 ).

Intimacy in relationships is a living thing that must be nourished and given time to grow. Like a beautiful flower that blooms at the end of summer and wafts fragrance to every corner of the garden, intimacy is the product of discipline and commitment. Soil must be tilled, seed planted, water carried, weeds removed, and plants protected. These activities offer little immediate encouragement to a person whose will and emotions have for a lifetime been responding only to immediate pleasures. But genuine love is the gateway to joy and fulfillment, and addiction to sexual fantasy directly obstructs real relationships with real people.

In the long term, effort expended in resisting sexual addiction will be rewarded many times over. But movement toward freedom from addiction requires obedience, and obedience requires faith. You have used sexual addiction as a means of avoiding the legitimate growing pains of life. Now it’s time to learn to embrace the legitimate pain you’ve been trying to avoid.

Trusting God in spite of emotional pain, loneliness, and frustration produces sensitivity to the depth and richness of life. To a child, the sun-dappled beauty of a woodland meadow in springtime is less appealing than the garish lights and glitter of a traveling carnival. But it’s time to move on to better things ( 1 Corinthians 13:11 ). Resist wrongful sexual fantasy over a period of time and you will begin to notice changes in your perceptions as the Holy Spirit gains greater influence in your life. Paul wrote:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Be grateful for the feelings of guilt, hypocrisy, and contamination that you experience when you fail to resist sexual temptation. These feelings don’t mean you are worthless or condemned in the eyes of God. His grace is still available to you ( Hebrews 13:20-21 ). These feelings are signs of spiritual life flowing within, the conviction of the Holy Spirit as He grants growing awareness of the repulsiveness and sterility of sin.

Don’t be ashamed to take steps to avoid circumstances and behavior that nourish your obsession. Satan, the “accuser of the brethren” ( Revelation 12:10 ) delights in making you feel as though you are inauthentic, a hypocrite, or a prude because you are resisting sinful thoughts and desires that are still part of you. Every Christian struggles with the same sense of dividedness ( Romans 7:21-23 ; Galatians 5:17 ), but don’t forget that you are fleeing from an addiction that leaves you empty and unsatisfied and are climbing toward the source of all pleasures ( John 4:14 ). Don’t forget too that the Bible promises that you will be given the strength to succeed ( 1 Corinthians 10:13 ).

One of the first steps you should take is to remove the source of temptation from your home. Then, instead of planning how you can do the things that have kept you in bondage, consciously avoid situations that expose you to temptation. Don’t lose sight of the fact that with time your healthy sensitivities and wholesome desires will grow, and the power of your addiction will fade into insignificance. Also, remember that God doesn’t judge you solely on the basis of your failures but on the basis of what you can become through Christ. Although your sin is an offense to God, He always loves you.

A book you may find helpful is False Intimacy by Dr. Harry Schaumberg (Navpress).

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Why Is Pornography Addiction a Serious Problem?

In ancient times, pornography was “writing about prostitutes.” (See the ATQ article Is Sexual Sin and Temptation a Bigger Problem Today Than It Was in the Early Church?) Today pornography is a multibillion dollar industry that is spreading a wide net by providing sexual arousal on demand.

1 Unlike most cultures that restrain and channel eroticism and sexuality so that a people’s energy isn’t squandered through dissipation and compulsive sex, modern culture is drenched with sexual images, sexualized. It is so obsessed with short term sensual pleasure that sexual self-control and chastity tend to be popularly viewed as manifestations of mental or emotional disorder.

Paul’s warnings against intercourse with a prostitute in 1 Corinthians have been too easily overlooked in respect to pornography.

All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 2 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-20 NIV)

If large numbers of evangelical Christians began using cocaine on a regular basis, we wouldn’t be surprised when many of them developed serious problems relating to cocaine addiction. Yet although pornography is as addictive as cocaine, legal, and available anonymously, we are surprised—even shocked—that large numbers of Evangelicals are pornography addicts.

“Porn is not swallowed or rubbed on the skin. It enters the body directly through your senses, such as your eyes and ears. This gives it a direct link to your central nervous system, specifically, the pleasure centers in your brain. Porn provides instant arousal, a real enticement in these days of “give it to me now!” The physiological changes that happen when using porn happen almost immediately: your heart beats faster, your breathing gets shallower, and you start to feel a throbbing in your genitals.” 3

Pornography provides a high-quality counterfeit of the sensual ecstasy of sex. Rather than experiencing sexual and emotional pleasure as part of a meaningful relationship with a real person, the pornography addict deceives his own body to substitute arousal through illusion and fantasy for real relationship.

For many centuries Christians have contemplated the impersonal religious prostitution associated with fertility religions in other times and places with rightful abhorrence. Yet they largely overlook the fact that a new form of “fertility worship” has moved in to fill the void of loneliness and meaninglessness in our rootless culture, and that the modern form is far more subtle, insidious, and addictive than those of the past.

Physiological effects of pornography are as great (or greater) than actual sex with a prostitute. 4 Sex with a prostitute involves a degree of realism, and more likelihood of remorse, sympathy, or disgust. Pornography has all of the perfection of illusion, with no physical-relational strings attached.

The social and familial consequences of overstimulation and obsession with sexual pleasure are “coming home to roost”. Until recently “conventional wisdom” about pornography held that it was either harmless or beneficial as a means of overcoming “sexual repression.” Today many secular psychologists are acknowledging the escalating effects of rampant pornographic addiction and describing its symptoms and effects.

  1. We are so awash in pornography these days that most of us don’t recognize it anymore. Of Internet users in the United States, 40 percent visit porn sites at least once a month. The number rises to more than 70 percent when the audience is men aged eighteen to thirty-four. The Internet has long been a driving force for the porn industry, pushing the bounds of access speed, streaming downloads, and file sharing. Now the cell-phone industry hopes porn will do for it what it’s done for the Web — make it very, very rich. The pornography industry brings in between $10 billion and $20 billion in the United States alone, and around $60 billion worldwide. (Hard numbers are hard to find, since cable giants and hotels chains are loathe to publicize their take from the skin industry.) That’s more than all professional sports. It’s three times more than Google, Yahoo, and MSN make in a year—combined. (quoted from “Not Your Father’s Pornography” by Jason Byasee). Back To Article
  2. Because they are “sins against the body,” sexual sins utilize the body’s powerful instinctive drives to create degrading forms of addictive behavior that wreak havoc both for the sinner and everyone within his/her sphere of influence.
    The Bible exalts human sexuality within marriage. It uses the image of husband and wife to portray the intimacy that exists between Christ and the church (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:21-33; Revelation 19:7), which is why Paul describes sexual sin with special concern. By means of sexual sin, the human will becomes the instrument by which the body’s reproductive instincts are misdirected to destructive ends, and, in turn, the body’s wholesome physical drives become complicit in enslaving the human will. The personal and social repercussions of sexual sin are extreme. Back To Article
  3. “Studies have found that just by being exposed to graphic sexual material, males . . . and females [become sexually aroused]. The reactions are instinctual. Porn is so powerful as a sexual stimulant that the physiological changes can happen automatically even when the viewer doesn’t like the idea of porn or feels uncomfortable with some of its content. In terms of triggering a sexual response, our eyes see no difference between sex on the screen and sex in real life. So as far as your sexual arousal system goes, when you are watching porn, you are there. . . .
    ‘Oh come on,’ you’re probably thinking. ‘How can porn be like a drug? I can’t smoke it, drink it, or shoot it up.’ But the fact is that porn can have as powerful an effect on your body and brain as cocaine, methamphetamine, alcohol, and other drugs. It actually changes your brain chemistry. Porn stimulates and area of the brain known as the ‘hedonic highway,’ or median forebrain, which is filled with receptors for the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is released when you get sexually aroused. It is also released by other pleasurable activities, such as kissing, intercourse, smoking a cigarette, or taking other drugs. Porn causes the dopamine production in your system to spike. This dramatic increase in dopamine produces a drug-like high some researchers believe is most similar to the high caused by crack cocaine.” (quoted from pages 18 and 19 of The Porn Trap, The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography, Wendy and Larry Maltz). Back To Article
  4. “As we mentioned earlier, watching porn stimulates the release of powerful chemicals, such as dopamine and testosterone. These chemicals not only relate to sexual arousal and pleasure, but also are released in real life when someone is sexually attracted to and falls in love with someone else. In addition, powerful human bonding hormones, such as oxytocin and vasopressin, are released with orgasm. They contribute to establishing a lasting emotional attachment with whomever, or whatever, you happen to be with or thinking about at the time. The more orgasms you have with porn, the more sexually and emotionally attached to it you’ll become.
    “A relationship with porn can act like an affair. It can take time and energy away from an existing intimate relationship. People who use porn often operate with the same kind of secrecy and deception as someone having a sexual affair. When a porn user is confronted by a partner, there is often denial, lying and attempts to cover up the wrongdoing. Without realizing it, maintaining a “love affair” with porn can become more important than staying connected to someone in real life. Also, if you use porn regularly, the mental images and scenarios of porn can keep playing in your mind during sex, making it hard to feel connected and intimate with the real person in your life. (The Porn Trap, The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography, Wendy and Larry Maltz, p. 23.) Back To Article
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Why Is Dressing Modestly Important?

Is dressing modestly just an outdated cultural standard from the 50s? Turn on the television, go to the movies, or flip through the pages of just about any magazine and it appears that our society has lost the value of modesty. People dress in clothing and styles that are designed to reveal and to bring considerable attention to their bodies.

To suggest that we need to dress with modesty is often looked on as “restraining” or “limiting our freedom.” This argument, however, overlooks the personal rewards of living and dressing modestly.

Modesty in dress sends a message of purity and honor. It puts an emphasis on and values the inner person over outward attractiveness. It says that a person is worth far more than what meets the eye. There is a depth of character that rises above beauty or charm. When we dress modestly, we are saying that we posses inner qualities for which we should gain appropriate attention and value from others.

When we choose to dress in a provocative way, we send a message that we believe our value comes from our looks rather than from our heart. Skimpy clothing says that our worth is in our sex appeal. This is a weak foundation to build self-esteem or self-worth. What happens when we age and the wrinkles start showing? Where will the sense of value and worth come from then? For various reasons (e.g. past sexual abuse, low self-esteem) some believe that their worth comes from how good they look and how many heads they can turn. But that can leave a person feeling empty and alone. All of us, ultimately, want to be pursued and loved deeply because of our hearts and minds, not for our bodies. Dressing in a showy fashion puts the focus on our outward appearance, not on our heart.

The Bible places a high priority on modesty. In 1 Timothy 2:9 , for example, it teaches that Christian women are to dress modestly. They are to focus on their inner attractiveness rather than being overly concerned about outward appearance. This does not mean that they shouldn’t take care of themselves, look their best, and enjoy their beauty. It means that they should not use their God-given beauty for selfish, self-centered reasons, like competing with other women or gaining the lustful attention of men.

Modesty demonstrates self-control, which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit ( Galatians 5:22-23 ). Those who understand the principles of modesty acknowledge human sexuality and the tendency toward self-promotion. But they control those inclinations by choosing to express themselves with humility. Immodesty, on the other hand, can create a false sense of security and self-esteem because it puts too much emphasis on outward appearance.

It can be difficult to maintain modesty when we think of it in terms of it being “limiting.” But if we consider the personal rewards of modesty — self-respect, honor, and self-control — the price is too high not to be modest.

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Why Are Christians Opposed to Public Nudity?

Sexuality and individuality are sacred gifts. Although nudity is necessary under certain special circumstances, as when a person is examined by a physician1 or taking a shower in a locker room, indiscriminate nudity is degrading.

Humans were created as image-bearers of God. Although we share many characteristics with the animal world, we have been entrusted with a degree of dignity that surpasses our animal kin.

While it’s true that prolonged exposure to nudity tends to make a culture less sensitive to it, no culture could ever be completely desensitized. Indiscriminate nudity is a misguided attempt to recapture an innocence that, since the Fall ( Genesis 3:6-11,23-24 ), is no longer available.

It would be wonderful if lust and wrongful sexual attention weren’t a problem, but realistically, in our imperfect world, there is a tendency to look upon others merely as objects for personal sexual gratification or control (Matthew 5:28). Westerners also place an inappropriately high value on physical attractiveness, as well as setting unrealistic standards for it. To idolize a temporary, culturally defined standard for beauty is destructive. It bases individual worth on physical attractiveness rather than character, objectifies people, promotes exploitative relationships, empowers the pornographic industry, and is doubtlessly an important factor in the modern epidemic of bulimia and anorexia. Indiscriminate nudity would place an even higher value on anatomical perfection, further degrading our human values and making self-esteem even harder for the average person to attain.2

The Bible doesn’t dictate the norms for the type of clothing to be worn in every society, but it requires modesty.3 First Peter 3:3-6, for example, exhorts women to seek the beauty that comes from within (“the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit”). Peter said that women should place a greater emphasis on spiritual beauty than on mere physical adornment. They shouldn’t dress merely to accentuate their physical beauty, but be concerned as well with the effect their appearance has on others, using beauty as a means of edification.

The Bible also tells us that our bodies are holy, temples of the Holy Spirit:

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-21).

It isn’t that the nude human body is “dirty” and needs to be covered. This idea is a perversion of Christian teaching. The body isn’t something of which we should be ashamed. It is a creation of God, and, in spite of human irresponsibility, something that we should celebrate and honor. Nearly everyone in the West, including conservative Christians, agrees that Western art would be impoverished without work of great artists who treat nudity with dignity. Exposed skin isn’t the only issue—otherwise we would be in agreement with the strict Muslim view that modesty requires a woman to cover as much of her body as possible.4 It isn’t that the sight of the nude body is “dirty” but that it is holy—too precious to be shared with strangers. Indiscriminate nudity deprives husbands and wives of the joy of reserving the visual part of physical intimacy for each other alone. In our fallen world, the love between husband and wife is the only place where sexual intercourse still expresses the innocence of Eden. Only in a loving marriage—where genuine intimacy is nurtured by fidelity—is the beauty of each individual partner free to bloom.

Working through our culture, our enemy strives to degrade our perception of sexuality to mere expression of animal instinct and pleasure. Christians need to be on guard against anything that degrades the God-ordained dignity of human sexuality—including indiscriminate nudity.

1. Interestingly, under such circumstances, there are specific required procedures and special legal protections shielding patients from sexual advances by caretakers. These laws not only apply to physicians, but also to counselors who have a privileged access to the secrets and intimate facts of a person’s life. Back To Article

2 . Most people realize that besides wearing clothing to protect ourselves from the elements, we clothe ourselves to enhance our appearance and enable modesty. The testimony of thousands of generations of people in nearly every culture is that the world would be a less attractive place if everyone went around naked. Even the most beautiful people know that clothing enhances their attractiveness. But even more important, appropriate attire serves as a shield against voyeurism at the same time it protects others from an uncomfortable sense of being subtly (or not so subtly) manipulated. Back To Article

3 . The Jews were modest people. Jesus’ disciples probably shed their outer garments when working as fishermen, but they, along with other God-fearing Jews, would have been scandalized by public nakedness that was part and parcel (as in the Hellenistic gymnasium) of a Hellenistic culture whose degeneracy easily surpassed the seediest “tenderloin district” of a modern metropolis. Back To Article

4. Strict Islamic culture requires women to wear long gowns and veils in public. Such cultural requirements place an unfair burden on women, requiring them to be the primary guardians of sexual dignity while depriving them of the opportunity to become fully developed persons and full partners with men. Back To Article

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Why Should Christians Wait for Marriage to Have Sex?

Sex is not only a hot topic in our culture, it’s also on the minds of most couples in love. It’s a natural, God-given desire — a gift intended to give us pleasure and express our intimacy.

But did God have a plan in mind for sex? What are the freedoms and guidelines? Let’s look at Scripture to find some answers to these questions.

First, God intended sex to be enjoyed between a man and a woman in marriage. God created Eve for Adam because Adam needed a mate comparable to him. He needed companionship, relationship, and intimacy. So God chose marriage as a sacred and honorable relationship in which to meet those needs ( Genesis 2:23-25 ).

Second, throughout Scripture we are commanded to avoid all forms of sexual immorality ( Acts 15:29 ; Romans 1:29 ; 1 Corinthians 6:13-18 ; Galatians 5:19 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:3 ). That God is concerned about sexual purity is clear in the Old Testament ( Deuteronomy 22 ). In the New Testament, Paul said that satisfying one’s burning passions before marriage is not an option for the believer ( 1 Corinthians 7:2,8-9 ).

Third, when we enjoy another’s body (physically or mentally) for sexual pleasure outside of marriage, we are guilty of covetousness. Exodus 20:17 says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” To covet means “to desire, take pleasure in, and delight in.” The point is that you may not take what is not yours. You may not take illegitimate delight in what does not belong to you. One must ask, “Am I selfishly delighting in (coveting) what is not mine?” Our bodies belong only to God and to our spouse ( 1 Corinthians 6:19; 7:4 ).

Last, as followers of Christ, we must govern all of our behavior, decisions, and thoughts with the principle of love ( Matthew 22:37-40 ). What does it mean to love your date? Loving means to put your date’s welfare, both short-term and long-term, above your own desires. To love is to respect and protect ( 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ). We should test our intentions and actions by asking ourselves some questions: “Am I really seeking to do what God wants me to do?” “Am I placing my date’s welfare above my desires, thus loving that person?” “How does my dating life stand up to the test of love?”

The world wants us to believe that sex outside of marriage is okay. But without the commitment of marriage, sex is a shallow illusion of intimacy. It is nothing more than erotic stimulation and/or a temporary escape from loneliness. It is basically selfish. Consequently, it often becomes a means to manipulate and control others. This easily leads into the strange perversions of sexuality to which we as a sinful, desperate people are prone.

This is far from what God intended for His children. God loves us and wants only the best for us. God has given us all good things to enjoy, sex included (John 13:34 ;James 1:17 ). So how will we best enjoy our sexuality? Within the security of a committed marital relationship. Within a loving marriage there is assurance, accountability, and a commitment to work on the relationship when times are difficult.

You may wonder, “How far can I go before marriage?” Except for intercourse, Scripture does not specifically outline what is and what is not forbidden. God leaves that up to us to decide, keeping in mind the principles above. However, it is wise to prepare ourselves before we enter into a romantic relationship.

First, set your standards now! Don’t wait for a passionate moment to decide what is off limits. Holding hands, warm hugs, and kissing are all natural expressions of true love and genuine care for a person. If a touch like this does not cause you to lust and it is done out of respect for another, it can be considered an appropriate touch. There are, however, more intimate physical expressions that should be reserved for a married couple. They are designed to stimulate and excite and to culminate in sexual intercourse. These activities should be avoided by a dating couple because their purpose is to prepare the body for sex. Examples of these activities are fondling of breasts or genitals, heavy and passionate kissing, necking, petting, and oral sex. This list is not conclusive, however. If touching another causes you to lust, or if it defrauds that person, it’s time to back off.

Second, listen to the little voice inside! If you are doing something or are in a situation that is causing you to feel uncomfortable, guilty, or violated, listen to those feelings. They are there for a reason. Because there is a natural drive within each of us to protect ourselves, the feelings we have are “early warning” indicators that we may be experiencing personal harm. We need to trust our feelings, speak up, and exercise listening to that “little voice.”

Third, picture it! Imagine that the person you are dating is your future mate. That’s not so difficult. But now picture that person with someone else on a date. How would you want that date to go? How far would you want that sexual relationship proceed? What kind of activities would be off limits then? Now think of the person you are with as someone else’s future mate. How are you going to leave this person? A little used? Is that how you want your potential mate? How do you want your sister to be treated on a date? How do you want your brother to act? This little exercise puts our dating life in perspective, because we all have people so special to us that we want to love and protect them. This is how we should approach the person we are dating — as someone special to be loved and honored.

Waiting for sex until marriage can be difficult. We’re often tempted to choose what will give us instant pleasure. A man and a woman who are tempted to give in to their strong sexual desires will do well to admit their struggle before God, trust Him that He will meet their needs, and use wisdom and self-control to avoid falling into the trap of premarital sex.

Will God still love us if we choose the path that leads away from Him? Will He forgive us if we have not lived up to His standard of purity? Of course — we all struggle with living up to God’s standards. David is a good example of a man who gave in to the temptation of sex outside of marriage ( 2 Samuel 11:3-12:20 ). He and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, had sex. David lied and committed murder to try to cover his tracks. After he was confronted with his sin by the prophet Nathan, he repented and God forgave him. However, David still had to live with the consequences of his choices. He had to live with the fact that he had a man murdered. David’s reputation was irreparably marred, his son died, and his household was thrown into disarray. David suffered greatly because of his choice to have sex with Bathsheba. How will you choose to live?

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