Don’t Offend Yourself

Matthew 5:27-30

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

 

About 15 years ago I attended a conference in Des Moines, Iowa for people in ministry in the Assembly of God church. These were all pastors, youth pastors, worship leaders and evangelist. One of the first speakers was Fed Stoeker, who was from Des Moines. Fedr had co-authored a book with Steven Arterburn entitled “Every Man’s Battle : Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time”. My pastor knew that this was an area where I struggled deeply and brought me specifically for this session. I will never forget the opening statement made by Mr. Stoeker.”According to polls done over the last few months, over 50% of the people in this audience have a problem with pornography.”

He was addressing a group of spiritual leaders! People who were supposed to set the example and be above this type of temptation. We all knew the dangers of pornography. We preached against it In our pulpits, citing the dangers of even a little glimpse at the taboo. We told our churches what a rabbit hole they could sink into if they even ventured there and how hard it was to get out of once we had fallen. Now we hear that 50% of us struggle with the very thing we know is so poisonous! If we were struggling so deeply, what percentage of our congregation was? Fred want on to say that over 75% of our men and 25% of our women were in the same situation. I have to state here that this seminar was for male church leaders only, thus the high percentage. He also said that the fastest growing demographic was the women. He had our attention right from the start.

There are many ways our eyes can offend us, but the quickest and most damaging is sexual imagery. For me it started with the Sears catalog when I was young. Those pictures of women’s undergarments were titillating to me and I would stare at them for hours. By my teens I was with a group of boys who could get Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler magazines. I also remember cleaning houses with one of my friends mom’s and finding some sexually charged books in some of those houses. Later we would go to XXX rated drive-in movies and theaters. I was deeply hooked and it took me places I will not talk about here. Let’s just say it nearly ruined my life. I have shared some of this before in this blog. It is a lifelong struggle that many men have. I was fortunate to have this pastor who loved me enough to take a hard stance and get me the help I needed. It was not easy. In fact, I still confront temptation on a regular basis and have to guard my eyes continually.

This offense to my eyes may only go away if I do pluck my eye out! How can I overcome so great a thing that has a hold on my life. Research shows that an addiction to pornography is greater than that of cocaine, heroin or meth, The chemicals released into out body by a sexual high are much more powerful. The truth is you cannot fight this battle and win. The only way you win it is by overcoming your pride. That’s right, pride. Because pride is rebellion against God in any form. Pride is putting our thoughts and our ideas above God’s law. Pride is having a high opinion of ourselves. Pride is spending an inordinate amount of time thinking and worrying about ourselves. Pride is thinking it’s OK to break God’s law because He loves us and will forgive us. Pride is our worst enemy. God hates pride and it is spoken against dozens of times in the Bible. Until our pride is overcome, we will never win the battle against sexual addiction.

And how can our hand offend us? Many would say the quickest way is masturbation. That fact that Jesus mentions this in the same context with lust after women tells me this is a viable supposition. It typically goes right alongside sexual addiction and is offensive to God. It is only mentioned once in the Bible that I am aware of, and the person who committed it was slain by God (Gen 38:9-10). This is another area I have struggled with all my life, for the same reasons as mentioned above. And the same remedy is prescribed by God. Get rid of pride.

Steve Gallagher is an author who has written many books on this subject. He is also the President of Pure Life Ministries (PLM), which is where I spent 8 months learning about my pride and how pervasive it is. A few of those books are “At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry”, “Irresistible to God”, and “When People are Big and God is Small.” He also put together a tremendous 24-week, daily bible study entitled “The Walk of Repentance.” That study deals with this subject extensively. I highly recommend these books if you struggle with sexual sin. I would love to talk with you further if you would like more information on this subject. Just email me at pgard7@gmail.com.

The truth is that we cannot get rid of our pride, we can only learn to control it. We do not get rid of sexual sin by trying to put it out of our mind. This will only strengthen its hold on us. We must replace it in our mind, and that replacement must be Jesus. It must be a dying to self and living for Him. It must be taking all our creative, knowledge seeking mind and centering on a thirst and hunger for His word and His truth. We must replace what the enemy has used to try and destroy us with the life-giving word of God. It is the only way. We cannot think our way out, or try to rid ourselves of the thoughts without replacing them with something stronger.

Look at Luke 11:24-26

24 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out.
25 And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished.
26 Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

It is clear by what Jesus says here that riding ourselves of the unclean spirit of lust is not the answer to riding ourselves of sexual sin. That spirit will wander around and if we have not filled ourselves up with Jesus and the Word, the enemy will come back in stronger than before. I have witnessed this in my own life. My actions would go progressively downhill each time I would try and get rid of the lust in my life without filling back up with God.

This is a difficult subject for me because of the deep struggle I have had with it since my very early years. I am 66 now and wonder if I will ever completely overcome in. I have worked extensively on my pride and my wife is a huge helper. Together we have overcome quite a bit of that pride. The fact that I still fight the battle with lust also helps me give insight into it’s workings in men’s lives. God has entrusted me with some wisdom in this area, and I am thankful.

Look at what Paul says in Philippians 3:12-14:

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Paul knew He was not perfect. He had not attained the perfection He was looking for in Christ. I am not sure what sins kept Paul from that state, but it does not matter. We all have something we could dwell on. But Paul laid out a formula that we should remember and follow. It is powerful when you learn how to accomplish this on a regular basis, because when we battle sexual sin we need this routine a lot!

I have learned that the worst thing I can do is stew and lament over the times I slip and fail. That only draw attention to the sexual act again, drawing me back into it. I must live a life of daily repentance, bringing those things to God and laying them down at the altar. I must do my best not to dwell on the sin, but leave it behind me. Paul said I must forget those things which are behind. When we repent, we must leave those things behind.

Then I must spend time with Him, basking in the light of His word and drawing closer to Him. I must reach for the things that are ahead of me. Reach for His grace, mercy, love, peace, joy and so many other things He has promised to us. I must press toward that calling of God that is on my life. He has a plan for me, and it is up to me to walk the path He has laid out and fulfill that plan. Part of that fulfilling process is going through the trials and test placed in our path.

James 1:2-4 says:

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

These verses have become a beacon in my life. The trials and test we go through should be seen as joyful because they cause our faith to be exercised, which builds up our faith. That building faith takes time and patience, though. As we work through this process, we are perfected for the plan God has for our lives. This is a beautiful thing! God uses what He allows the enemy to toss into our lives as a perfecting agent!
This should excite us!

My friends, I have been brutally honest with you in this post, and I am hoping I struck a chord with you. I will say again, if you are struggling with sexual sin and would like to talk to someone, I am here for you. We share common ground. Email me at pgard7@gmail.com and lets try and bring you some victory in this area. To the rest, I pray this has opened your eyes to the poison that is out there and perhaps you can share this post with them and let them know there is hope! We serve an awesome God!

 

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