This was Ron’s (name has been changed for this blog post) conclusion after the second week of the men’s fall intro group at our office. “I look around the room and all these guys are wearing wedding bands and their problem is about porn. But they still get to have sex. How am I going to live without it?”
In his late 20s, Ron is a babe in Christ, coming to faith just six months ago. Although he was raised in a Christian home, he’s lived a wildly promiscuous gay life for the last decade. Beginning in his first semester in college, his last ten years are a blur of parties and sexual decadence. Now he is here after a startling encounter with God.
Ron was deeply moved when I shared my conversion story the first week of the group, describing God’s amazing condescension to me – opening my eyes to His reality while I was tripping out on LSD. Despite our differences, Ron’s conversion experience was similar to mine in its strangeness, so he felt comfortable opening up to me about feeling so disconnected from the other men and their struggles.
Ron is battling with the reality that there is no way for him to engage sexually the way he craves. Life without sex seems unbearable. I acknowledged that, yes, it is hard to remain celibate when your mind and body want sexual release. But it has been made even more difficult for young men like Ron because the culture in which they have been raised proclaims that a life without sex is a tragedy. Sex is now seen as a human right, of sorts, and to live without engaging in it is considered ridiculous—and impossible. Why would anyone want to do that? How stupid!
I shared with him my own “single again” experience following my wife’s sudden death years ago. For more than two years, I had “knock-down/drag-out” conversations with God: what am I to do with my sexual feelings and desires? At times it felt almost tortuous to dismiss my sexual longings and to not give in to sexual fantasy and masturbation for relief. I recall saying to God once: “I really hope it matters to you that I’m not masturbating right now!”
And the Holy Spirit’s response to me seemed to say, yes, it does matter to me; I want to be your comfort and refuge! In your present reality, which to you is hard and painful, I want you to live in the present and not escape to a fantasy world of false pleasures, a fantasy world that is incapable of giving you real life.
Ron and I talked further: we discussed that we have no idea what God has in store for us in our future, but that he promises that it is going to be good! That in obeying him, we are drawn ever closer to his heart. He calls us to obey today, entrusting the future to his nail-scarred hands. Please pray for Ron as his entire life has been uprooted since his conversion.
FYI: for a brief look at how to successfully engage sexual temptation, click the link here on my blog post, Suffering with Temptation.
The call came from a PCA pastor’s wife. “John, an elder’s wife asked me a question recently which I thought I knew how to answer. However, the more we talked the more I realized, as did Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, that ‘We’re not in Kansas anymore.’ I soon realized it was more complicated than I, at first, thought.”
The elder’s wife had asked, “Now that gay marriage is legal in our state, if a gay couple begins to attend our church and if one or both of them claimed faith in Christ, would we encourage them to separate? How can we stand against something which is now legal?” She went on to say, “And we certainly wouldn’t encourage them to separate if there were children involved, would we? I mean, would we want their children’s experience of Christianity to be: ‘My mom became a Christian and it destroyed our family’”?
I heard a similar dilemma in another pastor’s phone call. In his church’s membership class the issue of homosexuality came up and several people, desiring to join the church, expressed support both of homosexuality and gay marriage. While they, themselves, were not gay, they nevertheless supported and agreed with those who were.
These situations are happening in conservative churches right now. How do we think about these things? First, we need to remember that people coming into our churches today come out of a culture inundated with post-modern, totally secularistic beliefs. And while we all bring our faulty and fallen thinking into our relationship with Christ, it must be our job, as leaders in the church, to offer venues to openly discuss these things and offer sound biblical teaching.
As I result, I encourage all pastors and church leadership to begin addressing these issues in membership classes (and other venues as well). It is naïve of us to believe our people are on the same page in how they think about sex and sexuality. Please consider spending an hour or so in membership classes talking about God’s intention for sex and sexuality, and why God intended marriage to be between a man and a woman. If God’s very first words to man and woman were about sex (Genesis 1:28), why are we so afraid to talk about it?
One PCA church recently contacted us, where several people in the congregation had come out in one year. As the Session moved to enter into these situations with gospel mercy and truth, several families ended up leaving the church, having felt victim to a “bait and switch” framework. In other words, the church prided itself in being known as a church of love and mercy, yet when members found out that the church saw homosexuality as sin, they felt betrayed. A lot of turmoil resulted which, now several years down the line, is still being felt in the church. Much of this could have been avoided had the leadership spoken directly about biblical sexuality. Our church community is always impacted by the culture more than we realize regarding these issues. Even those with a more solid grasp of the Scriptures are being impacted.
Much of the turmoil and hard feelings could have been avoided had the leadership addressed these issues in some of the “entry points” in the church, like small groups, membership classes, etc.
Harvest USA is here to help your church leadership in this area. Please contact us if we can be of help. We’d love to talk with your church staff and elder boards/leadership teams about this. If you’re within a few hours of the Philadelphia or Pittsburgh area, we can do this in person. If you’re farther away, we can do this with a Skype or WebEx meeting. We’re here to serve God’s church and leaders.
I’m glad summer’s over and not just because my girls are headed back to school. I’m done with the heat. One of my friends is sick of Philly summers. He’s heading back home to Minneapolis. He’d rather face those winters – 20 feet of snow and 4 months of daily temps below freezing. As a nation we experienced the hottest July on record. And in Philly it’s not just the temperature – the humidity is miserable.
17 Feb 2011
Here at Harvest USA we facilitate support groups for people who struggle with sexual sins. One of our groups for male strugglers incorporates a study of Scripture with an eye toward our behavior. One recent topic we focused on was: What’s really going on in our sexual fantasies?