January 15, 2014

Sexual Sanity for Men: Excerpts from weeks 1 and 2

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The following is an excerpt from Dave White’s book, Sexual Sanity for Men: Re-Creating Your Mind in a Crazy Culture. Published by New Growth Press. Copyright © 2012 by Harvest USA. This Harvest USA resource can be used in a one-on-one discipling relationship or in a men’s group. You can obtain this resource at our bookstore, shop.harvestusa.org

Week 1, Day 5: Jesus restores our manhood

We’ll discuss this in greater detail later on, but realize right now: Jesus’ mission is to make us real men! He wants us to be free from enslaving desires and behaviors. He doesn’t want us to be emasculated men, but “strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” (Colossians 1:11).

Jesus invites us to joy and contentment as we learn that the Christian life is best characterized, not by what we don’t get to do, but by the abundant life Christ offers us. God wants to give us more, not less. Our flesh, the world, and the enemy would have us believe that God is holding out on us, but these are vicious lies against the God who, in love, both created and redeemed us. Jesus describes this contrast poignantly in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Brothers, God is not holding out on us in calling us out of our sinful behavior and desires—he wants to give us life! He offers to liberate us from our bondage and bring us to sexual sanity.

The irony is, Jesus promises to give us what we’re hoping to find in sexual sin. Sex has become an idol for us, but the reality is that our idols are counterfeits that make huge promises, but always fail to deliver. They promise life, but bring only destruction and loss of what is most valuable. They promise excitement and contentment, but eventually lead to emptiness and despair. In a tragic demonstration of the truth of John 10, sexual sin robs us even of the ability to experience sexual fulfilment. As we examined yesterday, we are left only with a “continual lust for more.” Pursuit of sexual sin leaves us sexually insatiable and unsatisfied, filled with yearning and discontent.

But here’s the rub: Often the Christian life doesn’t fit our expectations. It doesn’t seem like an abundant life. We experience everything from minor diasppointments to horrific trauma—even as Christians—that seem to belie the promises offered by Jesus. There are reasons we turn to sexual sin. The challenges of life in a fallen world cause us to question God’s goodness and faithfulness. We’re tempted to live like orphans, taking matters into our own hands and looking for contentment and comfort wherever we can find it.

But Jesus was straight with us. He told us that the Christian life would involve taking up our crosses, denying ourselves, and laying down our lives for his sake and glory. Although some make the declaration, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” this really needs to be qualified. When Jesus invites you to follow him, he hands you a heavy cross—with splinters—that you’re expected to throw up on your shoulder, carry up a steep hill, and when you get to the top . . . they’re going to kill you.

But, Jesus’ promise to us is that there’s a resurrection on the other side of that death. We are called to deny ourselves because the reward he offers is greater than our desires. He says that if you try to save your life you’ll lose it, but if you lose it for his sake, you’ll find it.

You know the experience of slavery. Sexual sin has robbed you of life and strength—your manhood. Jesus is calling you to a hard road, but a much better road than the one you’ve chosen to travel—and with a far greater destination. The road of sexual sin leads to all kinds of death, but the road Jesus calls you to walk leads to life now and life forever. As you follow him on this road, you’ll begin to experience greater life, joy, strength, and even sexual contentment. Only Jesus can give you what your heart is ultimately longing for!

We began this week by looking at Paul’s utter frustration with his sin in Romans 7. But for Paul, it didn’t end there. He doesn’t stop in a place of despair, but cries out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24–25).

Paul remembers the hope of the gospel, even in the midst of being confounded by his sin. And he goes on from that place of struggle to write one of the most glorious passages in all of Scripture: Romans 8, which radically focuses on what God accomplished for us in Christ and the incredible promises held out to us in the gospel. This is perhaps the most beautiful picture of repentance in the Bible. In the face of his sin and utter inability, Paul begins to worship. He reminds himself not only of the forgiveness we have in Christ, but the amazing fullness of our redemption. He begins by declaring, “There is therefore now no condemnation” (verse 1) and finishes by proclaiming that nothing can “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (verse 39). Throughout this chapter, Paul rehearses the mercy showed to us, the outpouring of the Spirit who intercedes for us because we don’t even know how to pray for ourselves, the promise that God will complete his work bringing us to glory, and on and on. In the face of his sin, Paul reminds us of the fullness of life offered to us. He lays hold again of Jesus, gets on his feet, and back into the battle against sin.

Jesus wants you to experience freedom and joy. He promises you abundant life and—in the midst of the battle against sin—wants you to discover in him what will truly satisfy your soul. He wants to free you from slavery and show you what it truly means to be a man!

Week 2, Day 3: Leaky cisterns and broken masculinity

Again, sexual sin is idolatry. It is a violation of the first Great Commandment to love God, as well as a violation of the second Great Commandment to love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:34–40, Mark 12:28–34). Sexual sin is always exploitative. It always takes those made in the image of God and turns them into objects for my pleasure. Do you see how the violations of these commands hang together? We exploit others (violating the second command) and, in the same moment, long to be personally exalted (violating the first command).

At first glance, it may appear that the object on the monitor, the dancer, etc., is the focus of our idolatry. But think about it: What goes on in your fantasies? You’re creating a world where everyone exists to serve, adore, and please you! That is the great offense of sexual sin. In a very tangible way, we set ourselves up as little gods and pretend others are ours to rule. In our minds we refashion the universe, throwing God out of the picture, placing ourselves at the center, and populating it with God’s creatures to worship us.

This is yet another way that sexual sin radically undercuts our masculinity. As men, we are called to cover and protect others, especially women and children. We are created to be guardians over the weak. It is a blasphemous twisting of God’s design that we cease to be protectors, instead using our strength to oppress others, turning them into objects to consume sexually. In Ezekiel 34, God brings a stinging indictment against the leaders of Israel, describing them as shepherds who devour their sheep, rather than feeding them. When we engage in sexual sin, we are guilty of the same charge. We exploit those we are called to care for.

Depending on what behaviors you engage in, this oppression can be either blatant or subtle. Perhaps this seems a little abstract. How exactly are you charged to care for the model on the page, or the actor in the video? As we’ll examine in more depth later, men were created to serve and care for others. When you partake in pornography, you are participating in the oppression. Just because you are not behind the camera, you’re not absolved of guilt. Most people in the porn industry (both men and women) suffered sexual abuse, some as young children. There is a history of pain and exploitation behind the seductive eyes and pretense of pleasure.

Of course, when your behavior involves physical contact with others, the offense is more obvious. Whether prostitution or a long-term affair, in our sin we take advantage of those who are weaker—even when they’re willing and enthusiastic participants—for our own selfish ends. This oppression is in stark contrast to who God calls you to be as a man!

Although this often sounds sexist in today’s culture, men’s greater physical strength is part of God’s design, so that he might cover and protect those who are weaker, particularly in the context of marriage (1 Peter 3:6). Similarly, he is called to be the spiritual head of his wife (Ephesians 5:22–33). This doesn’t mean that men are better, or more spiritually mature, than women. To be head ultimately means to reflect Jesus by laying down our lives for our spouses. In fact, our tendency toward passivity since the fall probably contributes to God’s command that we lead. He knows that in our sin, most of us are naturally bent to sit back and let women take charge. Although bad teaching on gender roles has caused great harm, when a man follows God’s calling, dying to self to serve like Jesus, there is no exploitation. Women are blessed and able to flourish, not treated as servants. In Christ, there is no male and female. There is a fundamental equality among all citizens of the kingdom.

When we live in sexual sin, we are violating who we are created to be. First Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” There are a lot of implications with that statement. We’ve already looked at the reality of diminishing returns and our inability to experience sexual satisfaction. But sexual sin also makes us operate radically contrary to God’s design for us as men. Sexual sin not only emasculates us through robbing us of strength and enslaving our souls, it places us outside God’s design and calling, becoming lesser men, less truly human as his image-bearers—and more like brute beasts. We rob ourselves not only of the good gift and righteous pleasure that God extends through sexuality, but we diminish ourselves as those created to uniquely “image” him in this fallen world.

All this matters deeply to God. Those we exploit are his creation. They exist to honor and serve him, not us. Remember the scary declaration from yesterday, “the Lord is an avenger in all these things” (1 Thessalonians 4:6). Jesus is returning to settle the score with his enemies. Read through the glorious description of Jesus’ triumphant return in Revelation 19:11–21, then ask yourself: Whose side would you want to be on?

And this is crucial: The verses immediately before describe Jesus’ wedding feast. Those we exploit are not mere creatures—the equivalent of God’s pets. They are his bride! If the life of an adulterer is in danger from an enraged, betrayed husband, how much greater are our souls in peril if we take lightly our violation of Jesus’ betrothed?

What does this mean for those of us who are in Christ and continue to oppress others sexually? Hear again this warning: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7–8). Remember, your sexuality is a litmus test for your spirituality.

In the first century the Jewish leaders blew off Jesus’ warning because they were the physical offspring of Abraham. But the New Testament makes clear that the true Israelite is spiritually, not physically, generated. In the same way, I fear many in the 21st century American church have a very flip view of their sin because they’re “under grace.” The Bible always assumes that those in Christ will increasingly live as members of his kingdom, the new created order. Our lives will bear fruit that comes from the heart, not mere outward deeds. If you continue to sin sexually, brother, I urge you to take it extremely seriously. Jesus hates what you are doing and is an avenger of the oppressed. It may be that your sexual behavior demonstrates what is ultimately most true of your spiritual state—much more than your formal profession of faith!

But be encouraged: You wouldn’t be reading these words if you weren’t seeking change on some level. The Christian life is a tightrope. Our hope is never our performance, but only the grace and mercy of God. At the same time, his power is at work to effect change, and we should expect our lives to grow and bear fruit.

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Updated 5.29.2017

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