by Mike Genung
I hear it all the time.
A guy starts going to a group. Gets a little abstinence from sexual sin behind him… maybe three months or so. Thinks he’s done with lust. He drops his guard, cruises on flesh mode, then bam! Temptation hits and drops him. Then he says:
“I thought I was over it.”
Famous last words.
Most guys (or girls) get hooked on porn in their teen years, if not earlier. They binge for 10-15 years on porn while single, then get married, thinking that marital sex is going to resolve their lust problem. Instead, it gets worse. Their wife doesn’t know, and they spend the next 10-30 years living the double life; great Christian guy by day, porn addict by night. How long it goes depends on when they get caught.
Now they’ve spent decades saturating their mind, will, emotions, and spirit in sexual sewage. They don’t realize their character has been corrupted, and that allowing sin free reign in their lives has infected every area of their life. (His wife, however, knows it all… sadly, because she’s the recipient of her husband’s true, unmasked, sex and self-absorbed persona.).
A guy who’s spent decades immersing himself in sexual sin isn’t going to break free in several months. His journey has barely begun. It will take years of hard work and intense battles with his flesh and the enemy before he can get to solid ground. The heart issues that drove lust must be resolved too; fighting with an empty heart doesn’t get him far.
In practical terms, this is what the road ahead looks like, and steps to take:
- Expect many tough battles ahead, especially in the first year. After spending decades of giving lust a stronghold in your life, you can expect an ongoing all-out war with the enemy, and your flesh, which won’t react well to being told “no.”
- Every week, for the rest of your life, it’s important that you meet with another brother or group for the purpose of accountability and encouragement. This isn’t a time to shoot the breeze about your favorite sports team or hobby. Share from the heart, and ask each other hard questions… “How are you doing with lust?… How are you treating your wife and kids?… What’s really going on in your heart? Are you close to God, or are you empty… faking it… too busy…?”
I meet with a friend every Friday for this purpose. Most of the time we shelve the superficial stuff and go at it. There have been moments when my friend has shown me a side of an issue I hadn’t seen before. We open up with our sins, failures, and questions, in addition to building the other up.
This is how the Christian life is meant to be lived. It’s hard to be a poser when you’ve got a buddy who looks you in the eye every week and expects answers to the hard questions.
I hear a lot of Christian wives, some who are married to pastors, say “my husband says he can overcome lust on his own so he doesn’t need groups or counseling.” He’s either totally deceived, or he’s playing game with you and doesn’t want to give up sexual sin. Or all 3. No man overcomes this stuff in isolation.
- Never let your guard down or assume “you’re done with lust;” men who think this way go into “I’m strong enough to do this in my flesh” mode. All of us are one or two bad decisions away from a fall, including me. “Be sober, and on the alert…” (1 Peter 5:8). There are moments when an attractive woman who’s showing way too much flesh crosses my path and I have to go to God and pray something like “Lord, my flesh would love to lust after her. Help me to want only my wife right now. You are the source of my life, not women.” I can’t let my guard down, and neither can you.
- For the first year at least, you will need to remove all stumbling blocks of temptation under your control. If you’re binging on your smartphone repeatedly, downgrade to a dumbphone. You’re like the alcoholic who can’t have beer in his house; all it takes is one drink and he’s on his way to the bar. Remember, you’ve spent decades immersing yourself with lust. It’s going to take years before you’re in a solid place. You have to assume a no-compromise approach on an ongoing basis.
As soon as you thrust your stake in the ground and say “No more, I want freedom from sexual sin,” the enemy will say something like “Yeah, sure you do. I see every one of your weaknesses clearly, and am going to ram them until you cave.” He’ll give you breaks in the action to think you’re okay and drop your guard, then rush forward with a full frontal assault.
Fortunately, for those who have accepted the fact that they are fatally and permanently flawed, deeply broken, and are done playing the Christian game, there is abundant grace, mercy, and power available. Most Christians aren’t aware that they have everything they need to overcome every battle against their flesh and the enemy.
The path to freedom begins with understanding that we are broken, need God’s strength every day, and can never let our guard down this side of eternity.