Recently I wrote about how masturbation is more than just a taboo topic, more than just something done in secret. Masturbation is a sin.
I had found an advice article from a Christian minister that suggested that masturbation wasn’t a sin, that God didn’t mind if a person did it and that any feelings of guilt or shame about this should be dismissed out right.
"All that is to say, Anthony, that it's time for you to stop worrying. Your masturbation isn't troubling God. It doesn't need to trouble you either."
The author of that advice column couldn’t have been more wrong.
Sorry Rev, Masturbation Is A Sin was my response to his article. If you haven’t read that, I recommend that you follow this link. It is out of that blog that I wrote this one.
While telling the author and my audience what the Bible actually says about masturbation and how God feels about it, I realized that I wasn’t helping those that do struggle with it. I was merely pointing out the facts. And while the facts are good and have their place, facts do not change someone that is stuck in an addiction.
Note: while this is primarily about masturbation and how to move away from this sin, that is not all that this advice can be used for. These things can also help you if you find yourself addicted to pornography or if you are having a problem lusting, with or without porn.
To simply say that something is wrong doesn’t necessarily help change peoples’ mind to stop masturbating. Telling someone that something is sinful does not necessitate an alteration in habits, especially regarding sexual sins. People that do struggle with things like these need more helpful, more concrete ways to work through the issues. They need realistic objectives that will actually have an effect on their lives.
I cannot make any promises that following this advice will lead to instant and total freedom from any sexual temptation, whether lusting, watching porn or masturbating. But I can say that these five things will be very helpful in anyone’s ongoing fight against these sexual sins.1. Know that it is wrong.
It is one thing to be told that masturbation is wrong. It is something else entirely to know that it is, to believe that it is wrong.
Nowadays, anyone’s “truth” or any truth statements are labeled as relative. What you think may be true, but only true for you. It is not necessarily true for me. You may think that masturbation is wrong, but that is for you and your religious group over there, or so the world would tell us. Over here, they would say, we believe in a different truth.
Because everyone’s truth is relative, it is only true for some people and not all people, the idea that there is no absolute truth becomes more prevalent. Nothing is true for everyone.
Too often this is what happens in the minds of people that are struggling with masturbation. Because they say that “Masturbation is a sin” is a relative truth, they make for themselves a loop hole. They create a way to do and get away with anything they want, whether they are Christians or not. But in all honesty, this only makes things worse for those Christians.
The problem with thinking that masturbation is a sin as a relative truth, an option to follow, is that the One we put our faith in doesn’t speak in relative truths. He speaks in complete Truth, for He is the Truth. His commandments are not suggestions. That is why they are called commandments, they are firm and unshakable truths that are meant to be followed.
That would go for such truths as “Thou shalt not murder” and “Thou shalt not steal”. These things most Christians would agree are absolute and do not contain any loop holes. But that is also the case with masturbation. Like I mentioned in Part 1, while masturbation is not named in Scripture, the umbrella term of “sexual immorality” is something that is clearly called sin and commanded against. There is no loop hole there. This is not a relative truth. It is absolute. It is the truth.
If we struggle with masturbation, or we are overcome with lust or have an addiction for pornography, all of these things God’s Word speaks authoritatively about and with no room for loop holes. It is wrong, and we need to stop.
There is no wavering, no bending of the rules and no way to deny the truth. It is wrong. And as people that believe in God, we place our faith in His Son and in His Word as Truth. We must wholeheartedly follow what He tells us. We need to know and hold to the same absolute Truth as God is speaking.
We need to believe this, with a certain amount of conviction, with such understanding that these things are wrong, so that this becomes our default answer. If someone were to ask you, “What does the Bible say about masturbation or sexual immorality“, you could answer them without any hesitation. It is wrong. it is sin. It is something that the children of God are to abstain from.
It may not be easy to answer that way immediately. It will take time for the truth of God’s word to replace the lies that we have believed for so long. That is why is it is so important we understand God’s word as not relative, but absolutely true.
And if God’s Word is absolutely true, we need to act like it.2. Decide to stop.
Once we have accepted that what the Bible says about masturbation is true, that what God says is absolute, that there is nothing relative about it, we need to move on. Once we have started repeating and instilling the truth in our minds, we need to start acting on that truth with our bodies.
Now to simply say, “I’m going to stop masturbating” may seem like a very foolish and naive notion. But rather than speaking this out loud, we need to resolve our change of actions. We need to develop or create a conviction, a strong feeling about something. We need to firmly decide that we will stop our current set of actions and do something else.
Let me speak from personal experience to help explain this.
When I have found myself in a place, tempted to give into lust or give into the desire to masturbate, I make a mental choice. It is not a big one. There is not an imaginary devil and angel waiting on my shoulders, eager to persuade me one way or the other. When I am faced with these temptations, I make a quick, mental choice. Will I continue to say no to masturbation or will I say yes? Will I decide to not masturbate again, or will I decide to masturbate? Will I stand strong, hold on to the absolute truth that God says this is wrong? Or will I cave and ignore the truth, doing what I want?
Chances are that you have a similar choice in your mind as well before your temptation. It isn’t a choice that we often spend a lot of time thinking about. In most cases it is a snap decision.
We might stand strong, we may let our guards down. We might hold to our conviction, the truth that masturbation is wrong. We may not. Part of the reason that we fall into this sin is because we stop believing the truth, we stop stopping ourselves from giving into temptation. I know this is a problem because I have seen it in people’s lives, and I have seen it in mine.
We need to make a firm decision to uphold God’s Law, that means not giving into temptation for porn, lust or masturbation. There needs to be a constant adherence to what our Lord has said about sexual immorality. Whether you have to remind yourself every day or just once a week, however often the temptation rears its ugly head, we need to have a conviction in our hearts and minds that we will flee from sexual immorality.
No one else can do this for us, as much as we may wish they would. This decision, the constant resolving to avoid masturbation is up to you alone, up to me all by myself. We need to decide and then hold onto that.
3. Find some support.
No man is an island unto himself. He is an island surrounded by other islands, or he should be. Especially when we are talking about sexual sins, things like lust, pornography and masturbation. Because of the nature of these sexual issues, there is a great deal of shame and disgrace that burdens a person.
I’ve seen people trapped in these sexually immoral acts, there is no joy on their face. They have no hope. There is no gladness inside of them, rather the realization that they are stuck where they are. There is no escape. I’ve seen the deadness in their eyes, as well as in my own. When I finally looked myself in the eyes again, I realized that I had fallen to a place that I could not rescue myself from. I needed help.
And the same goes for anyone that has found themselves in a similar place. The apostle Paul told the church in Galatia this.
"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass,you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself."Galatians 6.1-3 NKJV
I was overtaken by my temptation, even now there are times that it gets the best of me. I was not able to bear the burden alone. But I found people that I could trust and confide in, that made all the difference to me.
Now, I have my wife to talk to should I be struggling with temptation. While I was in college it was my best friend that kept me accountable and challenged me to stay strong in the face of impending sin. Living at home as a kid left me with my parents to help me, which they gladly did.
Whatever stage of life we are at, whatever age we may happen to be, we need to surround ourselves with people that are willing and able to help us through our struggles. When our resolve for our decision to abstain from masturbation, porn or lust begins to wain, we need pillars of strength to help hold us up and weather the temptation’s storm.
In all cases, no exceptions, I would advise you to share with your spouse that you may be having a struggle with these sexual sins. Someone who has vowed and promised to be beside you for better or for worse, through thick and thin, is exactly the kind of person that you want and need in your corner. Someone that has shown you in the past, is showing you now, and will continue to show you an unconditional love regardless of the mistakes you make is what you need.
I am not saying that it will be easy to share these temptations and sins with a spouse, in fact, it may be a very difficult process for the both of you. What I am saying is that as a spouse, we are to be our loved ones first and greatest pillar of support, no matter what the obstacle, even if it is masturbation.
For those of you that are without a spouse, I would encourage you to look to your friends and family for support. While they have not sworn a marriage oath to never leave you, good friends and family will still be loyal to you. They will stick by your side, regardless of the sins or temptation, just as if they had sworn an oath. Just like a spouse, they want what is best for you. They want to see you be victorious in life, and that would include victory over the shame and disgrace that comes from sexual immorality. Call on them in times of trouble. Lean on them when you feel faint.
If there is no family or strong friends around you, I would recommend looking to your local pastors and spiritual leaders. Again, these are people that want to see you succeed. Especially in the area of spirituality, including temptation and sin. They may be busy people, but a pastor or leader with a real heart for a person in need will be able to find and make the time for a member of their flock. I say local pastors and leaders because I have not found that “celebrity pastors” can give someone the necessary support and care for people the same way as local pastors do. Not that these more famous pastors are bad or unloving, but they are often outside of our social circle. They can’t stop by your house when you have a problem. They can’t go out for coffee with you when you need a tangible human being to talk to. While these celebrity pastors may e-mail or tweet you back when you ask for help, it will never be the same as the physical touch and personal feel that a local pastor or leader will give you.
Above all, share with these people what is actually going on. Tell them what temptations and sins you are struggling with. Express why you want things to be different, why you want to stop this destructive pattern in your life. Then be sure to ask for help to bear this burden, to work through this situation. And actually say, “I need help.” Do not assume that your spouse, pastor, family or friends will understand your beating around the bush. As uncomfortable as it may be, you need to be straight with them and say exactly what you want.
I know for myself, as soon as I asked for help, as soon as I shared what my struggle was, my burden felt lighter. It wasn’t like sharing took away my burden. It wasn’t the solution to removing all temptation. But it did make it easier to bear when I wasn’t the only one carrying it. And interestingly enough, my relationship with those people became stronger. Something about humbling yourself, admitting that you make mistakes, and honouring those people by sharing strengthens the bond between spouses, friends and family.
Tell another your struggle, whatever it is, so that they can help you work through it and overcome it.4. Take precautions.
For me, telling my parents, my best friend and then my spouse that I had a struggle with sexual immorality was the first step in working through my sin. But it wasn’t the only thing that I did to work through my sin.
I realized that masturbation was wrong. I decided to avoid it at all costs, resolving to abstain. I shared my struggle and burden with those close to me, but that wasn’t it. I needed to remove any avenue for temptation to attack me. I needed to take some precautions. By precautions I mean this, we need to take steps to remove anything that would or could bring an opportunity for temptation or sin from my life.
A pastor was talking about the subject of lust, purity and sexual immorality once, and he told this story.
There was a Christian man that worked as a software developer. He was a smart man, very good at his game. But he had a pornography addiction. He would go to work, end up working long hours and then finally come home. For most people, after a long day at the office, it would be natural to plop down in front of the TV or the computer. But not for this guy. He had no computer at home. No TV either.
It struck me as crazy and extreme. This guy was going to such lengths to avoid the temptation of porn that he decided to change his lifestyle. No TV. No computer. While he was at work, he was never really alone, making it very hard to give into any temptation to sneak a peek at work. But at home, he was alone. And he knew that if he had access to any TV or the Internet in any way, he may fall into temptation. That wasn’t something that he was okay with. So he removed those things that would lead him into sin.
It didn’t matter to this man that he wasn’t living the normal life, with a TV in the living room and a computer somewhere in the house. He wanted to honour God with his life. He was taking the fact that God commanded against masturbation, lust and pornography very seriously. He knew that God had given an absolute truth in regards to sexual immorality. So he did what he had to so that he did not give into temptation.
We all need to do that. Maybe not to that extreme, maybe not remove all the TVs and computers in our homes. But we do need to be realistic about how we are tempted and where it comes into our lives. For some people, it is supervised Internet access, whether it is on the computer or on a smart phone. Maybe you need to move the computer out of the spare bedroom and into the living room. Maybe you need to downgrade your phone to something that can’t surf the web.
For some people it is television. With so many channels and Netflix and other instant streaming providers, there is so much access to so many shows and movies that may spark the temptation inside of you. It may be time to cancel Netflix or unsubscribe to some TV channels.
If you can’t get rid of something like your computer or your smart phone, for whatever reason, you may want to consider installing accountability software, like X3Watch from xxxchurch.com . (If you know of other accountability programs, please share that with me in the comment section so that I can add it to this article.)
This list of things that I have mentioned is hardly exhaustive. The number of things that may cause or lead someone into temptation is longer and more vast than I could imagine. And there are new ways of temptation popping up all the time, thanks to the modern technological age.
This is not meant to discourage you, that you are hopelessly surrounded by temptation and sin, but a warning. We all need to be aware of what triggers the temptation in us personally. And then we need to seek out and eliminate that trigger, that avenue for temptation to creep in, any way that we can. It may seem extreme, like removing the TV from the house, it may be something simple like adding accountability software to the computer. Whatever it may be, do it.
Do it because we are seeking to honour God and His law, to avoid any form of sexual immorality.5. There is always grace.
I could have ended with number 4, but that could leave you with a false sense of assurance. An assurance that we can master our sin all by ourselves, that we can do these things that I have suggested and never again fall into the trap of temptation.
To leave this article that way would be to lie to you, and to myself. Even following all of these things doesn’t guarantee that you will not fall into sin again. Chances are that you and I will give into temptation. Again, I don’t want to say that as a way to discourage you, but that is a reality.
Reality is, we are all sinful creatures. We will sin again, whether in masturbation, in lusting after someone, or in watching pornography. It may not be today. But maybe it will be tomorrow, or in a week from now. Whenever that happens, it is vital that you remember this: God is gracious.
When we sin, God doesn’t jump off His heavenly throne to slap your hand for the wrong things that you have done. He doesn’t start scolding you, or tell you what a naughty child you have been. Instead He looks on us with love and says, “Try again. Get up and try again.”
Yes, God is not pleased that we break His commandments, His laws about sexual immorality, but His love is quick to surround us, His forgiveness is quick to remove the shame and disgrace, and His Spirit is there to encourage us to keep trying.
While we may be quick to beat ourselves up when we fall into temptation, God isn’t. He is gracious towards us sinners. Do not forget that. Too often I have forgotten that and found myself in a spiritual slump. Even though we fall, even though we fail, God’s grace is right there. It will lift us up and show us His great love for us, in spite of our sins.
Like I said at the start, I cannot promise that following these steps will bring you complete freedom from your temptations and sin. But I hope that what I have shared will help you as you move through these things, and towards real freedom found in Jesus Christ.