Masturbation And The Bible
Like most of my peers I discovered masturbation at the age of 13, early in puberty. A friend showed me how, and at the time I thought we had discovered the secret of the universe. My ongoing, follow-up early sex education took place in my Junior High boy’s locker room.
In the ensuing years I read all I could find on M and on sex in general at various libraries. I was in college when the Kinsey Report came out. The college library had one copy which could not be checked out, so I read it at a reading desk. My learning curve concerning sexuality continued during a season in my life when I “checked out” San Francisco with the help of a friend. (See The Seamy Side of Life written in 2018 to address questions from a friend).
I did not begin to gain the elements of a Biblical world view of sexuality until 1962. The account of my conversion to faith in Jesus Christ in1962 is available for anyone interested.
Between 1954 and 1962 I was a resident on the San Francisco in and around Stanford University. I still live here in the Bay Area. A philosopher from England named Alan Watts held sway over the culture in those days, through his books and lectures and talks on KPFA, Berkeley. Alan Watts, born in England, was a great iconoclast who toyed with Christianity but preferred Buddhism and the religions of the East. He excelled at smashing idols.
I roared when Watts spoke of his boyhood embedded in the “muscular Christianity” of England, which was rampant before WW2. In a KPFA broadcast he described being held captivity along with other 12 year old boys in a Catechism class--in a lofty cathedral with soaring pillars and stained glass windows. On Conformation Sunday the boys were eager to--at last--be welcomed into the vast mysteries of the ancient Christian religion. Instead, Watts said, the priest lectured the boys for an hour on the evils of masturbation. Watts said was let down dramatically by the priest's revelatory lecture, as were his peers. No wonder Watts fled for refuge into the ancient religions of the East. (Not that Buddhists have deep answers either).
I appreciate Alan Watts to this day. As far as I know he never became reconciled to Jesus Christ. He died in 1973 at 58 years of age.
How often do you watch porn? From a survey of “virgin males.”
Masturbate? Man A: I don't watch any porn. Not much of a desire to watch it either. I looked at pornographic pictures when I was 12 and got caught and never really had an urge to go back to it. Masturbation is probably three to four times a week.
Man B: I don't watch porn anymore since I feel uneasy with the reality of porn industry.
Now I masturbate about one or twice a week, to the images of a celebrity or a friend.
Man C: My habits ebb and flow. Sometimes my sex drive is higher than at other times. Typically a few times a week, often every other day. Other times, I can go a week or so without doing it. I actually didn't masturbate until I was 18. I guess I figured doing it would just make me feel worse about not having a girlfriend. Nowadays, it's an outlet for sexual frustration.
This is self-deception for sure! Celibacy means no-sex, not ever. How to get there is quite another matter! Only Jesus can tame a man's libido. He will if you ask. (Added 2/14/2020).
Pagan or Christian?
Is masturbation, as discussed below, on the list? Yes, certainly. This very common practice is selfish, (self-centered), augmented by fantasies and usually followed by guilt, real or imagined. Masturbation is often downright idolatrous! It's contrary to the Designer's intent. It tends to be addictive but how to stop is not easy for many.
The norm for followers of Jesus Christ is agape (self-giving love). Younger children do (I believe) start out relatively innocent. Adolescents can not be expected to manage their hormone rockets when they turn on at puberty, let alone manage the deluge of "the flesh, the world, and the devil" as well---that is, without lots of help from God, especially in our pagan world.
There is really no hope for purity or wholeness without Jesus Christ in full control within. Sadly few marriages these days portray what "Holy Matrimony" was designed to be. There is no point in the pot calling the kettle black when the older generation is as messed up as the kids in many cases. The mighty onset of hormones at puberty is a big shock for many guys (and girls)---for which most are ill prepared.
Because of the hypocrisy and poor overall performance by the older generation, it is easy to see why Millennials today live by a different consensus and march to the beat of a differer drummer. (A very insightful message on this subject is Ray Stedman's Dangerous Times on 2 Timothy 3. It is well-known that men and women under 30 are disinterested in church these days. Ray explains some reasons why.)
The resources Jesus offers are more than adequate to heal and make whole our brokenness in any area of life. That's the really good news.
"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)
In today's world it seems insane for anyone to insist on celibacy, abstinence, waiting till marriage, or embracing the ways of a eunuch. Masturbation is widely accepted as normal and harmless. Biological drives demanding fulfillment are powerful without doubt. Self-control without God is nearly impossible.
Followers of Jesus Christ who take God seriously, almost universally state that control of their sexuality and all the related issues, has only been possible for them because they have maintained a daily, intimate walk with the real Jesus. In other words, self-effort, will power, human resolve, and cold showers don't solve the problems of meeting God's stated norms for us. Conformity to externally imposed standards only goes so far.
The man Jesus himself never married. (See Jesus is a Single Man). He was killed at about the age of 30 after living a pure and obedient life before God (in harmony with the Law of Moses). Jesus returned from the dead three days after He was killed. After an interval of time (40 days) spent meeting with his disciples and other believers, Jesus ascended into heaven. There in heaven this same Jesus is now in charge of all of human history. From the unseen realm He will soon return to rule mankind in perfect justice and with perfect, holy (wholistic) love. Meanwhile, He always lives to make intercession for us, the letter to the Hebrews says.
The true church is spoken of in the New Testament as the Bride of Christ. She is made up of millions of men, women, boys and girls. This virginized (and revirginized), group of people from every nation and people, waits eagerly for the event called in the Bible "The Marriage Supper of the Lamb" (the Lamb is Jesus).
God alone makes broken people whole! Men and women, boys and girls, without exception.
"There is none righteous, no not one."
"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
But the love Jesus has for all of us is more than enough to make any sinner whole.
"If anyone is in Christ he (or she) is a new creation. Old things have passed away, behold all things are made new."
Added 4/24/2018. Edited October 11, 2018.
Medical textbooks prior to the 18th Century seldom mentioned masturbation at all. In 1758 a Swiss physician named Tissot published a treatise claiming that masturbation was the principal cause of mental illness---a terrible sin to be avoided like the plague. In spite of many rebuttals and critiques by contemporaries, Tissot's views became a standard reference found in most all medical textbooks published until the early part of our century.
In 1834 Dr. Sylvester Graham wrote that the loss of semen during sex was injurious to health (a popular idea at the time); men, Graham believed, should not have intercourse more than twelve times a year. Masturbation was especially pernicious, he taught. To reduce sexual cravings, Graham advised mild foods to decrease sexual appetites. The graham cracker was the result! In 1884, this curious connection between food and sex appeared in another guise.
Dr. John Harvey Kellogg created cornflakes to curtail children's inclinations toward masturbation! Kellogg, who was quite a health eccentric, wrote:
"The use of the reproductive function is perhaps the highest physical act of which man is capable; its abuse is certainly one of the most grievous outrages against nature which it is possible for him to perpetrate."
The Smithsonian has published an interesting article, The Secret Ingredient in Kellogg’s Corn Flakes Is Seventh-Day Adventism which shows how much our world views have changed in ~200 years!
William Acton, a late 19th century prominent physician, wrote: "There is now in Pennsylvania---it seems unnecessary to name the place---a man thirty-five years old, with the infirmities of 'three score and ten.' Yet his premature old age, his bending and tottering form, wrinkled face, and hoary head, might be traced to solitary and social licentiousness." Many doctors of that time taught that masturbation led to insanity, dark rings under the eyes, and other terrible maladies. Guilt and fear were instilled in young people from an early age.
Between 1856 and 1919 the U.S. Patent Office granted patents for forty-nine antimasturbation devices. Thirty-five were for horses and fourteen for humans. The human devices, made for boys, consisted of either sharp points turned inward to jab the penis should he get an erection during the night, or an electrical system to deliver shocks. How many of these devices were actually used, or what effect they had on the children no one knows. Masturbation by girls was even more shocking, shameful, and unmentionable! The pendulum of sexual mores has now most certainly swung to the opposite extreme in the last century.
May I recommend a humorous recent video https://youtu.be/0de2nV8OHJk
More Modern History of M
Secular medical authorities nowadays almost universally proclaim that masturbation is physiologically harmless and that it may even be a normal, natural form of release. Physiologically there seems to be no harm in masturbating, though most psychology text book writers admit that associated guilt and shame afflict millions, especially during adolescence. This guilt is usually blamed on strict and legalistic religious upbringing and Victorian prudishness about sex. Textbooks on human sexuality seem to all go to great length to explain away the guilt that results from illicit sex, and thus many of these secular writers end of writing polemics against the Bible and openly endorsing hedonistic living which is in reality thoroughly pagan. Attempts to explain M as normal and natural have largely failed. Boundaries for holistic sexual expression have eroded away in our culture, especially since the disastrous Alfred Kinsey Report in 1948. These are secular claims, unsupported by the Bible.
But because the Bible apparently says nothing directly on the subject of M, Christian counseling books vary in their approach in dealing with masturbation. Few Christian youth pastors or psychologists are willing to endorse masturbation as normal and natural. A minority are willing to suggest that self stimulation can provide a release from excessive tension when one is single. "Better masturbation than excessive obsession with sex," they may say, "and better masturbating than risking a fall into more serious sexual immorality involving another person." The Bible does not suggest such a rationalization, however. In 1 Corinthians 7:9 the Apostle Paul cites marriage as God's alternative to "burning with passion."
The word "fornication" (porneia) is a broad word in the New Testament, actually encompassing all forms of sexual immorality. In this light, the admonition in First Corinthians 6:16 takes on deeper meaning beyond merely merely referring to heterosexual premarital intercourse, all forms of sexual expression independent of Jesus are out of bounds. Marriage is not inherently a safe sanctuary where anything goes, either. The body is the true temple of God!
"Flee fornication (porneia). Every other sin a man does is outside the body but he who fornicates (porneuo) sins against his own body."
Youth pastors and psychologists also know from counseling experience that masturbation is often a huge source of much guilt and anxiety for many Christian young men. Therefore they feel the problem is best dealt with by reassurance of God's grace and forgiveness --- focusing on spiritual growth and healthy living to the end that the individual moves on to spiritual and emotional maturity, leaving masturbation behind as a symptom of spiritual immaturity. "Take up your cross and follow me," Jesus said.
Counselors who work with adolescents also sympathetically recognize that masturbation can be a tenacious habit, often an addiction not easily overcome. It can be a habit only made worse by prohibitions, stern warnings or critical, judgmental attitudes. Vows to quit masturbating usually fail and cold-showers are often to no avail. Masturbation can become obsessive to some, producing endless guilt and self-consciousness in young sufferers who find they can not overcome the habit by their own self-effort. Some young people may even feel they are committing the unpardonable sin. Not so! All sin can be forgiven.
"He who commits sin becomes a slave of son -- but if the Son of Man (Jesus) sets you free you will be free indeed" (John 8:33-36)).
Masturbation often goes unresolved for many years, perhaps as a "secret sin," until the desperate sufferer gets up the courage to share with a fellow-Christian or a pastor. Many married men admit to masturbating surprisingly often, even when they also claim to be enjoying a happy marriage and normal sex life with their partner. Sharing the secrets of one's defeats in masturbation with a trusted Christian brother, mentor, or accountability group usually brings a real sense of relief and helps the person to be more objective about himself and his place in the world. All of us are sinners and we are all sinners who have been justified by God, made worthy by grace alone, members of the kingdom of God. False guilt and self-condemnation (especially in "shame-based" individuals) surely is more serious source of defeat for some people than their true moral guilt before God who is gracious and full of mercy.
"As a Father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust." (Psalm 103:13, 14)
Although the Old Testament records the sexual failures of a number of men and women there are non-sexual sins that are more serious in the eyes of God, though they usually get less attention than sexual failures:
six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
proud look, A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.
|Circumcision in Ancient Egypt (6th Dynasty). This ancient ceremony, instituted between God and Abraham as a sign of their covenant, symbolizes the consecration of one's sexuality and one's life to God. (Genesis 17). In the New Testament, circumcision is accomplished in the inner man, "by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ," according to Colossians 2. The health benefits of male circumcision are debated today but this issue is not a relevant Biblical issue any longer under the terms of the New Covenant.|
Christian writers on Biblical mores and ethics often point to the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell." (Matthew 5:27-30)
Here Jesus teaches that it is possible for a person to commit sexually immoral acts in one's imagination and fantasy life. This means the thoughts and intentions of the heart can be very important, and as implicating as outward acts. Although deliberately feeding on lustful thoughts and acting them out in one's mind is "already adultery" in the heart, temptation which is not acted upon does not constitute sin.
As an old Proverb says, "One can not prevent the birds from flying over one's head, but one can keep them from building a nest in one's hair."
When the factor of fantasies is added into the equation of masturbation there is no doubt we are now referring to fornication and sexual uncleanness. One can no longer claim that masturbation is a "gray area." In actual fact, masturbation is virtually always closely connected with lustful thought life. Pornography (highly addictive) is everywhere in today's society, suggestive TV programs and films laced liberally with sexual promiscuity and implicit sex, can only be avoided with difficulty.
Kids get into Internet porn on their iPhones even before puberty these days and they soon want to experiment! Why not? Advertisements and a spirit of sensuality barrage the mind constantly in today's sexually permissive society, severely aggravating the problem of gaining and maintaining purity and personal holiness as a Christian.
Many individuals who masturbate will admit that they need to use pornography, photographs or sexually suggestive stories to heighten the pleasure and vicarious enjoyment of sex. All of these are, in reality, forms of idolatry involving the worship of another person, the worship of sex itself, or the worship of an "image," or a fantasy -- rather than God. An individual whose life is centered around fantasies is not likely to do well when attempting to relate with a real flesh-and-blood marriage partner and the many demands of adult life, child rearing, and fidelity to one's spouse. Single men and women don't fare much better, especially if guilt and shame from past transgressions have not been handed over to Jesus. Porn is addiction is a huge problem thee days.
In those cases where masturbating is used occasionally to relieve what seem to be unbearable sexual pressures, then eliminating fantasies is certainly one step in the right direction. Many Christian young people can not imagine Jesus Christ loving them deeply enough to help them overcome the shame of their masturbation. Thus masturbation is not an area of one's life where Jesus is welcome --- it is usually private and secret. Excluding Jesus from any area of our lives is of course risky since we are then left in darkness and in bondage to sin in one form or another. This is because "Anything not based on faith is sin." Nothing we do, even in private, is hidden from God. The Psalmist says, "Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance." (Psalm 90:8)
To be more objective, the Bible is clear that sexual activity is always wrong outside of the sanctuary of holy marriage. Yet many elements in today's society promote, encourage, and teach young people to explore their sexuality and to become sexually active in early adolescence. Biblical values have been overwhelmed and cast aside in most all schools today, with the result that a whole generation has become openly pagan and promiscuous. This tragic, terrible state of affairs is associated with a breakdown in family ties and widespread divorce. It is therefore very difficult for Christian men and women who are not yet married to stay clear of sexual experimentation, pornography, and peer pressure to get involved.
Claims that all forms of sexual expression are normal, healthy, natural, and desirable may be fraudulent and false, but such views are widely accepted today. In this environment modesty, chastity, purity and celibacy are virtually never discussed---yet they are paramount values in a Biblical view of godliness and spirituality. The fact that masturbation is "encouraged" as normal and healthy by a majority of educators and secular leaders today definitely does not mean that the majority viewpoint is the correct one --- the opposite is more likely to be true. In overcoming the excessively inhibited sexual mores of an early generation, the sexual revolution has obviously gone completely over board in the direction of total moral looseness, unrestrained hedonism and unbelievable promiscuity. Billy Graham's wife, Ruth Bell Graham, has well said, "If God doesn't judge America for her immorality, he will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah."
The fall of man in the Garden of Eden was a fall into self-centeredness. Our fallen natures are today often infected with lust and covetousness and envy. Our minds are easily programmed by TV, movies, and even school textbooks---all of which now bombard us with sensual images and antichristian values from the cradle to the grave.
Masturbation is often narcissistic. Narcissus was the Greek youth who, upon seeing his reflection in a pool, fell in love with himself. He then fell into the pool and drowned.
In other generations masturbation was called self-abuse, solo-sex, self-love, or self-gratification. The emphasis here is on "self," not on one's relationship with God or one's family and peers. We can surely say the "solo-sex" is not part of God's original design for man which is for sexual expression in the context of love and commitment in a marriage. Masturbation can never be fulfilling and satisfying since it is inherently an incomplete act to which there is no response or appropriate answer-back from a complementary partner. Masturbation also tends to turn one's focus inward upon oneself, leading to shame, sometimes excessive introversion, often low self-esteem, self- consciousness and detachment from normal social roles. Fantasies play a big role in masturbation. Not fixating on an imaginary partner of the opposite sex can produce more guilt -- as in SSA (Same Sex Attraction). Freud was probably right in believing that everyone was "polymorphous perverse." But I have met people who are loaded with guilt and shame resulting is low self-esteem, when they appear to me to have done nothing wrong. God knows.
God did not design sex to be a solitary experience. It is supposed to be shared with another, and only in MF marriage. Sexuality is intended to be part of the complementary interaction of self-giving love between a man and a woman who are committed by covenant to one another for life. First Corinthians 7:4 states that husband and wife are to give up the right to their own bodies to one another in marriage. Within marriage the dynamic interplay between opposites can bring healing and wholeness for both the man and his wife. Sexual expression in any other context is destructive to wholeness. The Bible certainly shows that God is not against pleasure, He wants us to say "no" to things that hurt us.
Because any sexual activity results in pleasure, sexual habits such as masturbation become conditioned responses that are reinforced with repetition. In a society where instant gratification is the goal of many, few of our contemporaries think in terms of self-control or long term fulfillment. Unlike hunger or other purely physical desires, human sexual response encompasses all levels of body, soul, and spirit. Without food and water man can not live, but living without sexual expression does no harm and can often be of great benefit because they allow libidinal energy to be refocused into socially redeeming activities. Abstinence and celibacy have always been prized by the church as healthy and desirable before marriage, and normative for singles. But celibacy should never to be enforced from the outside as in insisting on an unmarried clergy. In the personal experience of countless pastors and counselors in the church of Jesus Christ, men and women are always far better off if they remained sexually inactive until marriage, and faithful to one's spouse thereafter. Countless married couples regret their premarital affairs and sexual expression prior to marriage because the effects show up later on in making marriage less than it ought to be. Yet, Jesus offers a fresh new start to all who come to Him.
Much can be said about young men and women who have never married, those who remain single for life, for widows and the divorced. But for now here is a powerful guideline given by Jesus,
"Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these sayings, that He departed from Galilee and came to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there. The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?" And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?" He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality (porneia), and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery." His disciples said to Him, "If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry." But He said to them, "All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother's womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it." (Matthew 19:
Isaiah offered great promises for those who remain single for whatever reason,
Thus says the Lord: "Keep justice, and do righteousness, For My salvation is about to come, And My righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, And the son of man who lays hold on it; Who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And keeps his hand from doing any evil." Do not let the son of the foreigner Who has joined himself to the Lord Speak, saying, "The Lord has utterly separated me from His people"; Nor let the eunuch say, "Here I am, a dry tree." For thus says the Lord: "To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, And choose what pleases Me, And hold fast My covenant, Even to them I will give in My house And within My walls a place and a name Better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name That shall not be cut off. (Isaiah 56:1-4)
Sexual selfishness is more difficult to cure than a tendency to eat too much apple pie or roast beef and potatoes. Even if one were to decide that masturbation is not a specific sin named in the Bible, that does not mean it is a neutral issue. In real life not all choices are between right and wrong, but often between degrees of good and better. We can surely say that overcoming masturbation is the better course to seek after. Unfortunately, once sexual desires are aroused it become difficult to reverse course and return to a celibate, virgin status. Still, regaining purity is a requirement for Christian growth. In the Song of Solomon, the Shulamite maiden encourages the Daughters of Jerusalem to "stir not nor awaken love until it please," that is, until the proper time and place. See Love and Relationships.
Admittedly, sexual desires are most intense biologically speaking when we are young and not yet able to marry. The spiritual victory to be gained (with the help of the Lord Jesus) is one of self-control (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8) -- an inner purity that constantly vitalizes one's intimate personal relationship with Jesus the Bridegroom of the church. The Song of Solomon gives us a good picture not only of marriage but also of our individual relationship with Jesus Christ seen as a discipleship of love. God is working in those of us who follow Jesus to produce wholeness and well-roundedness, a self-giving life style not a self-centered one. Previous generations of Christian leaders taught that instinctual energies could be sublimated and re-channeled into productive and creative actions in the world. This concept has largely disappeared in our time when the focus is on self, self-realization, and self-fulfillment.
"For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:14-18)
|Christ--the Only Complete Realist
No man knows how bad he is till he has
tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do
not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who
try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out
the strength of the German Army by fighting it, not by giving in. You
find out the strength of the wind by trying to walk against it, not by
lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply
does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why
bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have
lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the
strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and
Christ, because He was the only man who never yield to temptation, is
the only man who knows to the full what temptation means-the only
complete realist (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).
Abstinence from sexual activity is not harmful to the body. In the male, semen may be occasionally released spontaneously in nocturnal emissions (wet dreams), or will be slowly absorbed into the blood stream. One can not survive without food and water, but many men and women live healthy, fulfilled, single lives in Christ without expressing themselves sexually.
Taking all these things together it is difficult to build a case for masturbation as something innocuous, though it may be less serious a struggle for some as compared to others. Christian life is neither easy nor free from temptation and even stumbling, falling, failing and starting over. The aim of our lives should be to please God, and to do that we must deny the flesh, put to death our selfish desires, starve the appetites of our inner sensualities and lusts, and feed upon the Word of God. We need to develop close friends we can share secrets with and who will keep us accountable in our spiritual walk.
A number of passages in the New Testament are applicable to growing out of, and overcoming masturbation as we seek single sightedness, with purity of heart and motive in following Jesus the Lord.
"Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness." (Rom. 6:13)
"...make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." (Heb.12:13,14)
"But fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints...Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience...Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light." (Eph. 5:3-13)
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming." (Col. 3:1-6)
Masturbation is usually not the only crucial issue of one's Christian walk, though self-consciousness probably makes it seem so to some. God's loyal-love (hesed) is patiently committed to seeing to it that we become whole and fulfilled no matter how much extra grace we may think we need.
Assuming that masturbation is a sin for Christians, one would expect to find consequences, for "whatever a man sows that he shall also reap" (Galatians 6:7). Some suggested consequences include (a) increased self-consciousness, (b) lowered self-esteem, (c) depression, (d) reduced psychological and creative energy, (e) lessened interest in interpersonal relationships, and of course (f) guilt, shame, with fear of being found out. Preoccupation with sexual fantasies tends to substituted imagined relationships with real-life experiences with real persons. The progressively addictive power of pornography is well known.
C.S. Lewis once wrote in one his letters,
"I know about the despair of overcoming chronic temptation. It is not serious, provided self-offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience, etc. don't get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and clean clothes in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one's temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of his presence."
1. In earlier generations some felt that Onan's sin, for which God ended his life, was masturbation (see Genesis 38). Onan disobeyed God's Word and failed to honor his obligation to his family as is clear from the context. Most all Bible scholars today do not fault his coitus interruptus as the root of his sin. But other scholars disagree.
2. The Book of Leviticus provides many illustrations of the defilements that we all inherited from Adam. Leviticus 15:16-18 refers specifically to uncleanness resulting from an emission of semen:
"And if a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water, and be unclean until the evening. And every garment and every skin on which the semen comes shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the evening. If a man lies with a woman and has an emission of semen, both of them shall bathe themselves in water and be unclean until the evening."
Ray C. Stedman comments on this passage as follows:
"It would be a great mistake to judge from this passage that the Bible suggests in any way that sex in marriage is immoral or wrong. This is simply God's reminder of the pollution of nature, of the fact that the nature of humanity is fallen and that man cannot solve his problems himself. He desperately needs a Savior. And he passes on to his children the same fallen, twisted nature and propensities which he himself is born with...
"Life is continually confirming this great fundamental fact which the Scriptures set before us---that there is something wrong with nature. So all that God is doing here when he says that the act of sex results in an uncleanness until evening is simply reminding us that man is a fallen creature and that he must deal with that problem realistically. He can't avoid it. There is no way that he can eliminate it himself. God must handle it, and God has handled it. There is only one way it can be handled---the redemptive intervention of God---and if it isn't handled that way there is no escape from the defilement and the destruction of humanity which will follow. So God reminds us that even in the act of sex which results in conception there is a fallen nature involved." (Ray C. Stedman, The Trouble with Nature, from Commentary on Leviticus).
In the Bible Knowledge Commentary (Victor Books, 1985) F. Duane Lindsey comments on the above passage from Leviticus as follows:
"The second case pertaining to males was the periodic discharge of an emission of semen, whether possibly a nocturnal emission or one during intercourse. For this case no sacrifice [for sin] was required and the uncleanness was resolved by a simple wash-and-wait (till evening). It is noteworthy that while the normal sexual process between husband and wife made both partners ceremonially unclean---no guilt was involved and so no sacrifice was required." (Commentary on Leviticus, p. 195).
It would seem that all forms of sexual activity, even in a marriage where sexual expression carries God's endorsement and approval, carry the taint of original sin. Portions of Leviticus are designed to protect against sexually-transmitted diseases, and much of Leviticus contains the "holiness codes" for sexual conduct which were imparted to mankind as part of the Law of Moses.
3. A thorough discussion of masturbation and other topics of sexual morality is found in the book Sexual Chaos by John Vertefeuille, published by Crossway Books in 1988. The author is college pastor of Faith Chapel in La Mesa, California.
4. Dr. John White's book Eros Redeemed (Intervarsity Press, 1993) is excellent. He writes as follows (pp124-125):
"In Eros Defiled I wrote about masturbation with compassion. I still have compassion for the victims of masturbation, but the time has now come for me to challenge the views that prevail and to call on Christians to face reality. Masturbation is sin. It is not grave sin, not nearly as serious as pride, or cruelty, or even unkindness. But still it is sin.
Let me state my reasons for calling it sin at all. It is sin because sexuality was not given us for that purpose. In masturbating we use our bodily parts for a purpose God never intended for them. To say that the release of sexual tension justifies it is what my grandmother would have called "all my eye and Peggy Martin"---or what logicians might call specious reasoning.
My first argument, then, for calling masturbation sin is what could be called the argument of design. My body is mine only in the sense that I am responsible for its proper use. I am its steward. For what was my body designed? The Westminster Confession asks a similar if not identical question. "What is the chief end of man?" The answer the authors give is, "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever."
Paul expresses the same end for our bodies. He concludes, "So glorify God in your body" (1 Cor 6:20 RSV). The argument I have been using from chapter three onward concerns the offering of our bodies to God as an act of worship. In the NIV version of Romans 6, Paul even mentions the parts of our bodies, saying, "Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness . . . offer the parts of your body to him [God] as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master" (Rom 6:13- 14)
My body was not designed to masturbate. My body was designed to be used exclusively to glorify God. To use it in any other way is to rob God of something that is his by right, for there are no morally neutral actions.
You say: So everything becomes black and white. Are there no shades of gray? Yes, plenty of them. But even the whitest shade of gray has some black in it. So if you should go on to say, "Well, it really doesn't matter that much, does it?" then I must insist that sin always matters. Our sin brought about the death of Christ.
Just as speech was given to us in order that we might communicate truths rather than lies or gossip, so the sexual parts of our bodies were designed to copulate. Remember, copulation is far more than orgasmic experiences. It was to be a sharing, a sort of gateway to deeper sharing, a never-ending mutual revelation of the depths of our souls. Yet copulation can be entirely selfish, a mere using of somebody's body to gratify myself, which is little different from masturbation.
My second argument for calling masturbation sin---closely related to the first argument---is that masturbation is a form of idolatry. Our bodies are to be offered to God. Masturbation is to make a god of my bodily sensations, of relief from the tension that I feel. Again, I know that married lovemaking can itself be a selfish pursuit of bodily sensation. But I repeat: it was not designed to be. At that point it becomes lust.
Yet I know how some men and women struggle. How bitter some people feel in their vain struggle against it! Younger people, young marrieds away from their spouses, have a particularly difficult time. I know a man whose problem began with marriage. Like all sin, masturbation must be dealt with compassionately and in love. I may be in my sixties, but I remember very clearly what it used to be like. Those were dark days when I hated myself. (I do not excuse my past actions, even though, looking back, I can explain them. Nor did my release from the habit occur gradually, dying out as the need for it diminished. It came by the Spirit's revelation.) Let us be compassionate with those who struggle."
As a footnote (Chapter 5) in his very latest (and excellent) book, The Path of Holiness: A Guide for Sinners,(IV Press, Downers Grove, Illinois 1996) Dr. John White says this,
I am fully aware that few Christians nowadays regard masturbation as sinful. If some sins are worse than others, as I believe from Scripture, then sexual sin in general, and masturbation in particular, would be relatively unimportant. Masturbation never used to be talked about. Pastors rarely mention it. But during the last forty years or so, during which time psychology, psychiatry and various forms of Christian counseling have got into the act of giving "expert" opinions on the subject, it has become an understandable and relatively respectable activity, especially for young people. My opinion is at present a minority opinion.
Yet majorities are frequently wrong, and I refuse to follow this one. Masturbation is not merely a habit of young people but continues throughout active sexual life. Some people continue it into their eighties. Significantly many people, in spite of assurances as to its innocence, are deeply ashamed of it, more ashamed than they would be of confessing illicit sexual relationships. Some men, virgin before they married, begin it after they have married.
I believe It is sinful because our sexual parts were not designed for masturbation, but for coitus within marriage. We are using our bodies wrongly when we masturbate, and for purposes they were not designed for. While I lament the excessive guilt of past religious condemnation, I regret equally the present permissiveness. Continence would require only an openness between parents and children.
God forgives absolutely. Our problem is coming to him again and again.
5. Watchman Nee, Song of Songs, Christian Literature Crusade, 1965.
6. Additional references of relevance are listed in the essay Aberrant Sexuality. A short article, Sexual Sin in General compares briefly the Old Testament and New Testament norms for sexual expression. The fact that man created in the image of God is represented by two complementary sexes, not one, is the subject of a discussion Made in the Image of God Several years ago Leadership Magazine published two articles which proved extremely popular and very helpful, The War Within: An Anatomy Of Lust. Self-centeredness is at the heart of what the Bible describes as man's fallen condition. Masturbation has occasionally been symbolized since ancient times in various cultures by the figure of a snake chasing its own tail, The Uroboros Symbol. The Uroboros is fitting symbol for man's basic self-centeredness in all areas of life. Highly recommended is Sex: Should We Change the Rules? by Bishop John W. Howe This booklet on sexuality was prepared by the Episcopal Bishop of Central Florida and is now Online on these web pages. Helpful article: Masturbation: A Sin for Christians? by Dean and Laura VanDruff.
7. The Courage to be Chaste by Benedict J. Groeschel, Paulist Press, New York, 1985, is an exceptionally fine book which I recommend highly. (2/1/00)
8. Theology of the Body, Christopher West (Excellent Roman Catholic Resources)
8. A Mormon view: Steps in Overcoming Masturbation, (Anonymous author but attributed to Mark E. Petersen), is interesting. I have added editorial comments to this paper highlighting a number of theological errors in this approach. The article may nonetheless offer helpful pointers for some.
9. The Roman Catholic Position:
Offenses against chastity: 2352. By _masturbation_ is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. "Both the Magesterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful, have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action." "The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose." For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of "the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved."
To form an equitable judgment about the subjects' moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability. (1992 Catechism).
10. Outstanding Recent Book: The War Within: Gaining Victory in the Battle for Sexual Purity, by Robert Daniels, Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 1997. Practical, transparent, realistic, and relevant. Highly recommended.
11. The importance of dealing with the inner idolatrous roots of our sexuality is the subject of Leanne Payne's book, The Healing Presence: Curing the Soul Through Union with Christ, Baker Books, Grand Rapids 1995. I know of no book with deeper insights in this area.
12. Dr. Grant Martin's book When Good Things Become Addictions: Gaining Freedom from our Compulsions, Victor Books, Wheaton, Illinois,1990, is very good and will be helpful to many.
13. Excellent book on sexuality, religion and culture: The Sanctity of Sex, by Charles Pickstone, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1996, ISBN 0-312-15516. WHERE RELIGION ONCE was ubiquitous, we now find sex. It appears in art, literature, music, film, television, and ads. It occupies a near-sacred spot in our regular activities and dominates our consciousness. In this fascinating new inquiry into contemporary culture, Charles Pickstone, a priest, argues that the pervasiveness of sex in our society mirrors religion's former glory. Indeed, according to Pickstone, sex has usurped religion's position on the spiritual pedestal. In this time of increasing secularization, our traditional views of sex have fallen by the wayside. The religious right bemoans our so-called hedonism as a retreat from religion and values. Yet Pickstone challenges the belief that we have lost our spirituality and have become a world of lost souls damned for eternity. His book provides a sober and lucid response to our concerns about where our society is headed. As he cogently argues, people today have not lost their religious passions and convictions. Pickstone cites one example after another of how we instead find religious ecstasy in sexual intercourse. These powerful examples are clearly linked in an argument that is hard to refute. Pickstone's brilliance lies in his ability to examine what we take for granted and expose its spiritual significance. Whereas one used to pray to ease one's suffering, sex today provides the most commonly used relief from stress. Pickstone clearly demonstrates how we often describe sex in metaphors of natural, and even supernatural phenomena: The earth moves, oceans swell, and storms rage. Moreover, Pickstone argues, we find in both sexual and religious passion the same transcendence of self that constitutes a spiritual experience. Barriers break down as we are transported to another reality of ecstasy and heightened experience. Using diverse and accessible examples, Pickstone charts the seismic shifts in consciousness that have taken place over the last century and a half in a book that may challenge and change the way we think about the world and ourselves. CHARLES PICKSTONE is an Anglican priest who has led congregations in San Rafael, California, and England, where he now lives.
14. Whole and Holy Sexuality," by Kraft, William F., PhD., Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene, OR 1998.
15. "Sabotage also happens when we give our strength away. Taking a bribe, letting yourself be bought off, accepting flattery in exchange for some sort of loyalty, is sabotage. Refusing to confront an issue because if you keep quiet you'll get a promotion or be made an elder or keep your job corrupts you down deep. Masturbation is sabotage. It is an inherently selfish act that tears you down. I've spoken with many men whose addiction to masturbation has eroded their sense of strength. So does sexual involvement with a woman you are not married to." --John Eldredge, Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul," Thos. Nelson, Nashville, 2001.
16. Masturbation: The History of the Great Terror, by Jean Stengers and Anne Van Neck, Palgrave, NY, 2001 (a good history of the subject written from a secular point of view).
17. Not Even a Hint, by Josh Harris Multnomah Press, 2003. "Lust isn't just a guy problem-it's a human problem. And unless we're willing to honestly confront it, lust will destroy our relationships and our lives. Joshua Harris, author of the runaway bestseller I Kissed Dating Goodbye, isn't afraid to tackle a subject many keep quiet. In Not Even a Hint, he calls a generation bombarded with pornography and images of sexual sin back to God's standards and the freedom and joy of holiness. Straightforward about sexual sin without being graphic, this 'PG-rated' book will speak to the person deeply entrenched in lust, as well as to those just flirting with temptation. Honestly sharing his own struggles, Harris exposes the tactics of lust in the heart and shows how to create a personal and practical plan for fighting back. Men and women will find hope in God's grace and learn the secrets to lasting change." (from the author's web site).
18.The Struggle, by Steve Gerali,(2003, NavPress, Colorado Springs) is a good, thorough analysis of all aspects of masturbation. The author is an experienced youth minister and professor. Recommended.
19. A Christian View of Masturbation (Grantley Morris)
20. The "No Fap" Comminity has been helpful to many.
For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back; sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides. And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman. For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no woman can rival. Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover; no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity. In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself. Do read Charles Williams' Descent into Hell and study the character of Mr. Wentworth.
And it not only the faculty of love which is thus sterilized, forced back on itself, but also the faculty of imagination. The true exercise of imagination in my view, is (a) To help us understand other people, (b) To respond to, and, some of us, to produce art. But is has also a bad use: to provide for us, in shadowy form, a substitute for virtues, successes, distinctions, etc. which ought to be sought outside in the real world--e.g., picturing all I'd do if I were rich instead of earning and saving. Masturbation involves this abuse of imagination in erotic matters (which I think bad in itself) and thereby encourages a similar abuse of it in all spheres. After all, almost the main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of the little dark prison we are all born in. Masturbation is to be avoided as all things are to be avoided which retard this process. The danger is that of coming to love the prison.
(From a letter to a Mr. Masson dated March 6, 1956 in the Wade Collection at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL)
Teaching on the Biblical point of view by Ray Stedman is available here:
Sex in Marriage | Living as single person | List of the Symptoms of Sin | Answers on Divorce
What Does The Bible Say About Masturbation? by Dr. David Kyle Foster
PURE PASSION·TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2019
(adapted from his book, Sexual Healing Reference Edition)
One often wonders why the Bible doesn’t directly address masturbation. It is the cause of so much guilt and speculation in the Body of Christ. And so, we are left to cobble together biblical principles to come up with some idea of whether or not it is sinful, just as we do with subjects like gambling, smoking, etc.
Let’s begin with an important biblical principle taught by our Lord – that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28). A person who practices masturbation without imagining sex with someone is rare indeed, if he or she exists at all. On that basis, the practice is tantamount to engaging in adultery, fornication, homosexual behavior or any number of other sexual practices that the mind can imagine – even idolatry, as revealed in Ephesians 5:5, Colossians 3:5 and Ezekiel 23:49. In a certain sense, it could be said that masturbation is a form of mental pornography, which we all know to be sinful.
We also know sin by the witness of the Holy Spirit within, provided we haven’t quenched that witness through ongoing rebellion (1 Thessalonians 5:19; see also Ephesians 4:30). And who doesn’t live with guilt over the practice of masturbation – even those who have convinced themselves that it isn’t sinful?
Additionally, the Bible teaches that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit – a sacred temple (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16) and that it is a member of Christ Himself (1 Corinthians 6:15-20). If we are warned against uniting “Christ in us” to a prostitute, why would we want to unite Him to the immoral thoughts and images in our minds? (1 Corinthians 6:15-17)
The Bible also teaches that sexual immorality is a sin against our own bodies (1 Corinthians 6:18c). Additionally, in 1 Peter 2:11, it says that sinful desires war against our souls (1 Peter 2:11). In that sense, by engaging in masturbation with its accompanying immoral fantasies, we are actually warring against ourselves. And war is hell, as anyone in bondage to this behavior can attest.
Finally, a very important biblical principle that is often overlooked in our search to discover if masturbation is sinful is found in 1 Corinthians 6:12; 2 Peter 2:19-20; and Romans 6:14-23 – that whatever masters us (other than the Holy Spirit) is harmful to us. In short, “a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.”
The Principle of Chastity
(1 Peter 3:2; Revelation 14:4; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:27; Job 31:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4)
Throughout the history of the Church, serious believers have been guided by the biblical concept of chastity. Chastity is the idea that we are to live our lives by the principles of purity and sexual self-control, whether mentally or physically. It is a form of respect for self and others, which empowers the saving of healthy sexual expression for the covenant of marriage. It is the living out of the divine purpose and beauty of human sexuality, which is to prefigure and embody the marriage between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:22-32).
The Principle of Grace
It should be noted that we are not referring to the innocent exploration of the body that goes on among children and adolescents. In fact, a harsh approach in such cases can create a fixation or obsession in the mind of the child. Even worse, if the child doesn’t respect his or her parents, it can create an avenue for rebellion that is safely cloaked in secrecy. Curiosity, guilt and feelings of condemnation are also at play in such scenarios.
We must remember the biblical principle, that it is God’s grace and love that teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions (Titus 2:11-14; Romans 2:4; 5:17; 2 Corinthians 5:14). After all, it is His grace that saved us from not only the penalty of sin, but the power of sin as well.
This provision of grace is also available to the adult believer who continues to practice masturbation in spite of valiant attempts to stop. I’ll never forget when the Lord made this clear to me. After some success, marred by repeated failures, I was remonstrating against myself one night, when the Lord clearly spoke to my spirit, saying, “You are much harder on yourself than I would ever be!” It was a moment of applied grace that enabled me to stop crucifying myself at every failure and take a fresh approach to finding freedom. That approach involved a focus on developing intimacy with God rather than a fixation on my failures.
Downsides to Masturbation That You May Not Have Considered
1. Masturbation can be the vehicle whereby the inhibited person maintains their propensity to remain self-contained and in need of no one. It deepens the trenches of loneliness, self-pity and self-centeredness.
2. Masturbation is a turning in on one’s self - a narcissistic neurosis that feeds introspection and other dysfunctional directions. This kind of inwardly focused life robs people of the fullness of life that Christ came to give.
3. Masturbation can become a gateway for demonic strongholds to develop. This becomes more and more likely as one delves deeper and deeper into pornography and perverse sexual fantasies.
4. This behavior serves to program the mind to focus on fantasy as the source of pleasure rather than the biblical model of union with one’s spouse. People come to be seen as objects rather than real people. It is an elaborate scheme of the enemy to keep us from learning how to be intimate with our spouse and our God.
5. When someone takes up the practice of masturbation, they are programming themselves to turn to solutions that block or hide problems rather than solve them. This immature life-pattern for problem-solving is highly dysfunctional and is the foundation upon which is laid a lifetime of addictive behavior.
6. Masturbation has a physically addictive side to it that serves to block pain. The chemicals that are released into the brain serve to medicate pain much like any addictive drug. God wants us to bring our pain to Him. He wants us to grow through it and receive the blessing of sharing in the sufferings of Christ.
7. Masturbation is a task master that demands the continual plumbing of new and more perverse depths of lust. On that treadmill, the mind is programmed to more and more highly delineated sexual fantasies which the marriage bed can never match. Normal marital relations become a disappointment and the design for sex thwarted. The body also becomes programmed to achieve release quickly, which serves to frustrate the patterns of healthy sexual intercourse between spouses.
8. Young people (and adults) who use pornography and practice masturbation are often setting themselves up for a diminishment of stimulation and satisfaction in the marriage bed. Since the spouse can never equal the unreal fantasies found in these practices, marital sex can become unappealing. Worse, it can result in impotence for the male. This phenomenon has increased dramatically in recent times – so much so that WebMD has reported that between the years 1998 and 2002, the use of Viagra skyrocketed 312% among men aged 18-45.
9. A clutching at the genitals by infants is often a manifestation of separation anxiety, but that same behavior in childhood is often a sign of sexual abuse or some other cause for significant internal anxiety in the child. If the child uses a mirror during the act, that is a scenario that can result in homosexual confusion, as the child programs their mind to associate sexual pleasure with the sight of their own body. (In such cases, other factors that lead to homosexual neurosis are probably also present, such as molestation or failure to bond on an emotional level with the same-sex parent). Adolescent experimentation at puberty is normal and not a cause for alarm unless it becomes habitual.
The Way of Escape
It is important that we discover the root sin issues so that we can repent of them. (Such revelation comes during intimate moments with God). If we are unaware or unwilling to let go of one or more of these strongholds, we will inevitably remain bound because Satan will continue to have ground in us (John 14:30). Much of the transformation process, therefore, involves discovering where Satan’s ground is and removing it with the tools that God has provided. In other words, we need to discover and confess the right things.
What then are some of the root sin issues that should be confessed?
1. Unbelief - the doubt that God is really good. When I sin any sin, I am in that moment doubting that God is really there for me, that He cares, and therefore, that He is good. I am re-enacting the first sin committed in the Garden of Eden, when Eve became convinced that God was keeping something from her that was good.
Many people only “believe” on an intellectual level rather than a heart level and miss seeing the manifestation of God’s promises. Try pondering, meditating and believing in your heart scriptures such as 2 Peter 1:3-11, Psalm 16:7-8, Romans 8:5-14 and Galatians 5:16.
The truth is, God has something better than the coping mechanism of masturbation - even for the single person. He has something higher, something that will bring completion and satisfaction to one’s sexual self. Understanding this truth is very effective in being persuaded to forsake sin.
2. Idolatry - Ephesians 5:3-5 and Colossians 3:5 clearly teach that sexual immorality is a form of idolatry. As with the worship of any god, masturbation has its own fetish objects and rituals - times, places, triggers, ritual objects, and ritual patterns that draw the person into an almost trance-like progression toward the peak experience and denouement. Confessing such ritual worship and removing and renouncing its various components is key to seeing its power broken.
Additionally, masturbation often becomes a source of life and peace, especially for those who have lived through great pain. In a sense, it becomes a substitute god. Should the Spirit come to offer freedom, many will recoil in terror at the realization that they are being asked to live without something that has been a primary source of peace in their lives - something that has kept them from falling apart. The behavior becomes so entrenched in their sense of being that life without it becomes unimaginable. In essence, they have yet to seek and find healing for their traumas, which is a necessary part of developing trust in God.
3. Rebellion - Sometimes we simply refuse to listen to the Holy Spirit or pretend not to hear Him. The self-care of masturbation often cloaks anger and distrust of God, who never seemed to be there when we needed Him. Often in childhood, when God doesn’t rescue us or change us upon demand, we judge Him in our hearts and develop a root of anger that must be removed through confession and repentance. That means, we acknowledge our rebellion and make concerted choices to love Him and to believe that given the need for free will, (as the foundation for genuine love), God operates with complete love and integrity.
4. Love of Sin - This one is often buried under mounds of rationalizations. We pretend that we need to practice the sin, we deserve to practice it, that it’s the least God can do to allow it considering what we’ve gone through. But the truth is, we love it more than we love God. In order to change this, we need to discover how to love God more.
Greater love for God comes as a fruit of taking the time to know Him intimately. A lifestyle of worship is important. The demonic realm cannot stand that.
Meditating on the Cross is also a major key. As we gain a deeper appreciation for our Lord’s suffering, we become more willing to jettison the “things that have charmed us most” (as the old hymn says). When tempted, we only need ask ourselves, “Who do I love right now - the sin that is tempting me, or the One who loves me so deeply that He died on the Cross for me?” Put that way, the choice becomes far easier to make.
5. Self-deception - It is a humbling thing to realize that over the years we’ve become masters at deceiving ourselves into believing we want freedom from something that we will not give up. Like an onion, we lay down layer upon layer of self-deception, saying the right religious words and thinking the right religious thoughts, while still refusing to forsake the sin that lingers in our hearts. We need to acknowledge before God the ongoing impurity in our motivations, the depravity in our hearts, and our need for Him to give us the true heartfelt desire to be holy and pure. As it says in Jude 24, Psalm 37:23-24 and Psalm 55:22, it is God who keeps us from falling, as long as we really want Him to.
6. Performance-Righteousness - Most of us, even those who know better, continually fall into this trap. Though we talk of “grace alone” and being able to do “nothing without Christ”, (John 15:5), our fallen nature continuously seduces our minds into believing that we must earn God’s love and acceptance and that we must develop our own righteousness. Over and over again we try to make ourselves holy and pure rather than suffering the humiliation of the flesh and truly becoming dependent on God for the power to live the kingdom life that He won for us on the Cross.
There are so many more potential strongholds behind a bondage to masturbation and other sins that it is impossible to list them all. That is why pursuing intimacy and revelation from God and then doing what He says is, in essence, the way of escape. God then takes you the rest of the way by the whisperings and enablings of His Holy Spirit.
* * * * *
Dr. David Kyle Foster (M-Div, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; D-Min, Trinity School for Ministry) is the author of Transformed Into His Image and Love Hunger and is the founder/director of Pure Passion Media (www.PurePassion.us). Read more of his take on sexual sin and brokenness in his newest book, The Sexual Healing Reference Edition.
A man’s pornography addiction has devastating impacts on himself, his wife, and his family. Countless marriages and broken families have been a direct result of men’s porn usage.
Unfortunately, porn is equally damaging to a single man. It can keep him single longer or prevent him from having a lasting relationship.
A 2018 Gallup Poll revealed that the percentage of unmarried Americans (both male and female) who find porn morally acceptable increased 15 percentage points since 2017. That’s the largest increase among subgroups.
Sam Perry, an assistant professor of sociology and religious studies at the University of Oklahoma, noted,
“Perhaps it’s not being unmarried that makes people more inclined to think porn is okay, but that the more people think pornography is just fine, the less likely they are to get married.”
Perry cites two reasons viewing porn may lead single people to delay marriage.
“Pornography could either make marriage seem like an outdated, boring institution. Or pornography (and specifically masturbating to pornography) could remove the ‘need’ to get married as the source where one can find sexual fulfillment.”
Porn Lessens Your Desire For Real Relationships
Of course, there are many reasons why a man may be single. But pornography usage creates unique challenges.
According to Michael Johnson of Covenant Eyes, “When we get our sexual desires ‘satisfied’ by porn, our sex drive doesn’t drive us to marriage. It drives us to more porn. You may want to be married, but porn is just so much easier. The result: you satiate your sexual appetite in a cheap, artificial sort of way, instead of letting your desire drive you to prepare and seek God’s calling in marriage.”
Mark Regnerus, a University of Austin professor and the author of Cheap Sex, said, “At best, porn will augment—or compete with—sex, and stall marriage. At worst, sexual technology threatens to undermine coupled sex altogether.”
Mark Ballenger, a writer at Apply God’s Word, noted a significant problem for Christian men.
“Their use of porn lessens their desire for real women. It also causes them shame and makes them feel they are not prepared for a Christian marriage; therefore they do not pursue a woman like they would if they did not have the shame from their porn use. They feel they are not prepared to be a Christian husband because of their porn addiction, and so they remain single for much longer.”
Will My Desire For Porn Will Go Away When I Get Married?
Many single men mistakenly believe that their porn usage will stop when they get married. But too often, their porn addiction will follow them into their marriage.
Paul Leininger, the Executive Director at Petra Church in New Holland, Pennsylvania, said,
“I struggled with it for 28 years of my life, even into my marriage. I thought marriage would solve my problem. But, no, it didn’t.”
Craig Gross, a Pastor and Speaker, noted that porn addiction does not simply stop when you get married. “Porn is so easy. It’s so accessible. It’s teaching you so much so to be selfish…People are saying, ‘Hey, I’m not having sex, but I just look at porn.’”
“I think in the Christian world the mindset is ‘Ahh, but I’m still a virgin’…This is cheating made pure…but in reality it’s like you’re not helping anybody. You are probably hurting yourself more by bringing that addiction into your future relationship.”
Gross added, “You are setting yourself to want something by watching something that you’re not going to be able to get in marriage. Ultimately, it’s teaching you to treasure just all about what you want, what you desire. But in reality you can’t approach sex or marriage that way and have a successful marriage.”
“The lure of porn is never quenched by marital sex,” said Dannah Gresh, the author of What Are You Waiting For?.
“Because porn has almost nothing to do with real love and real sex. It’s as counterfeit as a counterfeit can be.”
Using Porn As A Sexual Release
Some single men justify their porn addiction by saying they need the sexual release they get by using porn and masturbating.
Noah Filipiak, a pastor and the author of Beyond The Battle, said, “In fact, porn can almost feel like an act of righteousness for some singles—their way of making sure they aren’t having premarital sex. A Christian single man recently told me he has to look at porn because it’s his way of making sure he doesn’t have premarital sex.”
God has created the majority of us with an energy designed to drive us closer to Him. That same energy drives us as single men to seek a Christ-focused wife. In pornography our affections and energy are turned back on ourselves. Serving only our selfish desires.
Andy Farmer, a singles’ pastor at Covenant Fellowship in Philadelphia, said, “Self-gratification through using pornography is the opposite of what God intended, not a premature enjoyment of what God intended.”
Christian author and apologist C.S. Lewis recalled.
“For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back; sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides.“
God created sex for the benefit and enjoyment of a couple within the bounds of marriage. Sex in any other form – whether alone or with someone else – is rebellion against God’s plans.
Take Advantage Of The Opportunity
If you are single and plan to get married, now is a great opportunity for you to begin overcoming your porn addiction. Join a small group that has Christian men who have broken free from pornography and can help support and encourage you.
Also, the development of the brain’s pre-frontal cortex continues until the age of 25. The prefrontal cortex involves such functions as personality development, proper social behavior, and decision making.
According to Mental Health Daily, “If you are under the age of 25 and your brain is not yet fully developed, you may want to take advantage of this critical period. This means that you can effectively be a co-creator in how your brain decides to mold itself. Engaging in healthy behaviors and giving your brain optimal stimulation will help ensure healthy prefrontal cortex development.”
Dealing with your porn usage after you are 25 will be harder. So dealing with it now is a great opportunity.
Remember that once you are married, it will start to affect your wife and family members. So choose to be a man that stands with integrity now. What a great testimony that will be for your wife!
Also, find opportunities to use your energy in ways that will improve your mind, talents, and ambitions. Start preparing now to become the man that your future wife will be proud. Train to be a man who will make your wife feel secure and cherished in your love.
And spend time drawing closer to God. Lean into Him as you need His grace and strength today as you battle porn. Develop intimacy with God now, so in time you can make Him the centerpiece of your marriage.
You May Feel Alone, But You Don’t Struggle Alone
Over 1 million men are starting their journey to freedom through the Conquer Series It consists of 12-DVDs packed with strong Biblical teaching, scientific information about how porn affects the mind, powerful testimonies and engaging action footage.
A personal journal and study guides are available to help keep you focused every day on achieving and maintaining your sobriety.
You are also encouraged to join a Conquer Group at a local church or Online. Or talk to your church leaders about bringing the Conquer Series to your church.
Abram Johnston of Montpelier, Ohio wrote,
“In the last two years God changed my course to search for healing instead of working so hard to gain sobriety. This journey led me last year to the Conquer Series which helped me to intentionally walk through this healing with other men, instead of trying to do it on my own. I can now say that I have been clean longer now than I have been in 20 years.”
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