EVERY MAN’S BATTLE—THE CALL TO SEXUAL INTEGRITY
BY STEPHEN ARTERBURN
God’s given us the weapons we need to stand strong in the battle for sexual purity. Discover how you can win the battle and protect your sexual integrity.
Most likely as a pastor you’ve read over this verse a few times: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity. . . ” Ephesians 5:3.
So have 1. But in 1983, shortly after celebrating my first anniversary with my wife Sandy, I set out for a trip up the coast of
Southern California. I was driving the car of my dreams–a 1973 Mercedes 450SL convertible, white with a black top–on my way through Malibu to speak for a hospital that wanted to expand its addiction services.
I hadn’t intentionally been girl-watching that day. It was never intentional. But I spotted her about 200 yards ahead and off to the
left. My eyes locked onto a goddess of flesh. She was jogging in a bikini and I became glued to this running lust-magnet. I have no idea what her face looked like–I wasn’t looking at her face–but my eyes covered every other inch of her glistening skin. As I passed her, I just had to see what she looked like from the other side. My eyes followed her and dragged my neck into a 180-degree twisted turn. If I had turned my head around any quicker or farther, I might have snapped it right off or been paralyzed for life.
Then it happened. BLAM!!!
While I was daydreaming about this scantily clad jogger, I rammed my dream car into the Chevelle in front of me. As I hit the car,
reality hit me hard and fast. Instantly my mind went from a fantasy jog on the beach with a woman I’d never met, to thinking of how I my wandering eyes–to Sandy. Would she believe my instant lie that I’d swerved to miss hitting a dog? (She loves animals.)
I got out of the car with my hangdog look–humiliated, embarrassed, saturated with shame, and unable to give a credible
explanation. The driver didn’t seem too interested in one anyway. All he wanted was for me to pay to fix his car. In addition to his car, I was the one who needed to be fixed. Was I a sex addict? No. Was I just doing what a lot of men do? Yes. Did I have sexual integrity? No. Was I betraying my wife? Absolutely And you are, too, if you’re getting a visual fix of sexual gratification off the people in your congregation, your community, and beyond.
That was what I was doing–and my marriage was being hurt and eroded with every lustful glance I took that cheated Sandy out of my full devotion. As a fill-in preacher of the gospel, I had lusted from the pulpits of Willow Creek, Saddleback, and a couple of Calvary Chapels, just to name a few. It wasn’t an easy task to stay on track when my wandering eyes had a hard time connecting with my notes.
The more I looked in other places for visual gratification, the less desirable my wife became. I didn’t realize it but with every
glance at another woman, there was more than just a hint of sexual impurity. The sexual integrity I stood for was absent from my own life. I finally realized I couldn’t just write this off as normal male behavior.
As a minister it wasn’t easy to admit that there was more to sexual purity and integrity than not having sex with other women. It
wouldn’t be easy for you to admit it either. But I wonder if you’re cheating your wife of the full devotion you vowed before God that you’d give her? I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time, and you may not realize the damage you’re doing or what you’re missing. I’d made a lifelong commitment to Sandy, but I hadn’t fully committed my eyes to her. I continued in the darkness for another 10 years, priding myself on not having an affair as I heard of ministers dropping like flies after being caught in the act of adultery. It wasn’t easy for me to admit that I was no better than they were, and I had to make some dramatic changes in the way I looked at and thought of women. Attractive women had to become souls that I cared for, rather than objects that I longed for.
Jesus was very specific about how we should look at women when in Matthew 5:28 he said, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” I know you know that Scripture. But do you believe it enough to stop lustful looking? Or are you willing to suffer the consequences of continual drinking from the well of sexual impurity?
Often the consequences of sexual impurity are difficult to recognize–but they’re there. They come in the form of lost
opportunities for intimacy with your wife. If you’re gradually gratifying yourself all day long with visual foreplay, you won’t desire
her fully. Every lustful glance away from her damages your marriage bond. The less you desire her, the more you’ll search for gratification away from her. When the desire that drew you to her starts to die, you’ll start to look for things in her that will justify your turning away from her. You’ll become her judge so you can feel entitled to play your sexual mind games with the women who cross your path. You’ll never know what your marriage could’ve been because you chipped away at its foundation–one glaring look and visual turn-on at a time.
If you’re like most pastors I’ve met or worked with, you’re not a sex addict. Most likely your life is under control and you live a very moral life by most standards. Sure you struggle here and there with your ego or being totally truthful, but God’s done some great things with you over the years, and for that you’re grateful. When you read about a sex addict, you’re grateful that you’ve not sunk to the depths of sexual sin and perversion that have befallen so many and beheaded the ministries of the mighty. But even though you aren’t a sex addict, there’s probably within you this battle between pure thoughts and mental indiscretions. Just like every other man, you must fight this battle for sexual integrity and win If you I don’t your entire ministry will lack integrity and you’ll lose your passion and joy. If you don’t win the battle, you’ll miss the opportunity to lead every other man you influence to experience the freedom and purity of faithful eyes. That’s a costly consequence for any ministry.
To win the battle, you have to decide you’re finally going to fully be God’s man and not your own. You have to make a clear decision that you’re going to change this once and for all. Perhaps right now is a good time for you to make a covenant to rise above your natural male tendencies, surrender this area of your life, and become obedient with your eyes, your mind, and your heart. Remember this: You’re sexually pure when no sexual gratification comes from anyone or anything but your spouse. That’s God’s undeniable standard that he expects all of us to uphold. If you’re not meeting that standard and you decide that it’s finally time to clean up and come home physically, emotionally, and spiritually, you need a battle plan that will bring victory to the battle that every man faces.
When we’re not living out a complete commitment to our spouses, we draw nonphysical, gradual sexual gratification from only two places: the eyes and the mind. Therefore, a successful battle plan must blockade the gratification shipping lanes of the eyes and the mind. In addition to protecting the perimeter of our minds, we need to nurture healthy, positive, affectionate relationships with our wives. In other words, we want our hearts to be right. That requires establishing three perimeters of defense with your eyes, in your mind, and in your heart.
The first perimeter–your eyes–is the outermost defense where the enemy must “keep out.” Job did it. He said, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl” Job 31: 1). Like Job, you must train your eyes to bounce from objects of lust. Rather than to pleasure yourself visually by letting your eyes linger on the sensual, you pull them away to some other place. The motivation to do this will come when you’re convinced you’re not entitled to look at whatever crosses your visual path any more than you’re entitled to pick up and keep a 10 dollar bill that falls out of someone’s pocket. The money isn’t yours and neither is the image that has distracted you. God wants you and me to leave alone anything that isn’t ours. He wants us to start looking at women above the neck.
The second perimeter–the mind–must be trained to evaluate and capture objects of lust rather than just block them out. A key verse is 2 Corinthians 10:5, “. .. We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” You must train your mind to take thoughts captive if that’s something you’re failing to do. Currently your mind may traffic in lust, double-entendres, daydreams, and other forms of sexual creative thinking. If it does, it’s also soaking up pornographic images from the Internet, magazines, movies, and anywhere else you can change your mood with one glance.
Until now your mind has allowed this because it’s organized according to your view of what is and what isn’t acceptable. If these
thoughts no longer fit your worldview of acceptable behavior, that they’re not just part of being a normal man, you’ll begin to transform your mind. These elusive enemies start to vanish when you no longer think it’s okay to dwell on them and keep them safely tucked away for a needy self-obsessed day. Make the commitment that rather than focusing on images in your mind, you’ll begin cleaning them out of your mind and letting them go for good. Replace them with memorized Scriptures, visions of your best intimate times with your wife, and her greatest talents and strengths. Pray for her rather than allow your mind to be wasted on another woman.
Your transformed mind will take an active, conscious role in capturing rogue thoughts. But in the long run, the mind will wash
itself and begin working naturally for you and your desire to be pure by capturing your thoughts before they capture you. With your eyes bouncing away from sexual images and your mind policing itself, your defenses will grow incredibly strong.
The final perimeter of the successful sexual purity plan involves your heart. This final area of conquest is won by strengthening your bonds with your wife. It’s accomplished through a commitment to honor her as you planned to honor her in the beginning. Repay the debts you owe her from times you neither honored or cherished her. If you don’t, act as if you do and watch yourself become her biggest supporter and fan.
None of this will come quickly or easily. Old habits of the heart are hard to break. You may even fail miserably in the beginning. But you’ll be failing in the right direction, rather than continuing the easy slide in the opposite direction. Don’t give up. Repent and resubmit your life to God and get back in the process of becoming holy and feeling right about yourself.
This really is every man’s battle–every male pastor’s battle. You either win it once and for all or you allow it to eat away at the
integrity of your ministry and the strength of your marriage. Victory has been found by men willing to feel bad in order to feel right. Relationships have been restored as men stopped trying to justify unholy habits. Sermons are being preached with a new clarity from men who’ve cleaned up their minds. You can be part of this band of victorious men, if you’re willing to humble yourself and, if necessary, get professional help when progress eludes you on your own. If you make the commitment and pay the price, you can finally honor God with your heart, mind, and body. Doing that feels far better than any fleeting moment of sexual gratification.
Stephen Arterburn is the founder and creator of the Women of Faith Conferences and the founder of New Life Clinics. The author of 35 books, his latest is Every Man’s Battle–Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time, co-authored with Fred Stoeker and Mike Yorkey (WaterBrook Press). (Sarterburn@newlife.com)
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY REV, MARCH/APRIL 2001, PAGES 55-60.
THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.