Four warning signs for women

(From: When Women Lust, by Eowyn Stoddard)
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We know when a man has sinned as he takes the body he wants through indulging in pornography or visiting a prostitute. But what does it look like for a woman to act out on her lust? She cannot take the body she desires to have, so what does she do? For the most part, her sin remains hidden. Still, there are some tell-tale signs of her sin, which I will describe in the first person because I struggle with this too.

Signs of Struggle

  1. Self-PityThe first feeling lust produces in a woman is dissatisfaction with her own body. We have compared our body with someone else’s and fallen short. We imagine the other woman is sexier, more confident in herself, and overall better off. This leads us to self-pity.
  2. InsecurityFeeling sorry for ourselves makes us feel insecure. We feel threatened in our own femininity and start worrying about our husband or fiancé or boyfriend finding a new woman more attractive. We transpose this subjective fear into reality. Because I am struggling with lust, I assume my man must be, so I fear our relationship is threatened anew with every new attractive woman we encounter.
  3. CriticismWe feel the need to put down other women. We rationalize our struggle by leveling the playing field in our own minds. The thinking goes like this: “Well, she may be very sexy, but she probably isn’t very intelligent,” or, “Her hair is perfect, but I’m sure glad I don’t have those legs.” We would never say anything cruel, but we think it to make ourselves feel better.
  4. ActivismIf none of this makes us feel better, we embark on a never-ending cycle of self-improvement. We feel the need to regain ground because our place at the top has been threatened. This is a form of works-righteousness in which we attempt to prove to ourselves, the world around us, and ultimately even to God that we can change ourselves into our own image, the perfect one we’ve created, one we so desperately want to attain. We make new dietary resolutions, new and better workout plans, and buy new clothes and cosmetics so we can look sexier.

Let’s not waste precious time trying to be someone else. Being satisfied in God alone will make you and me irresistibly attractive women, inside and out, because his love will shine through us for the world to see.

Pursuing Wisdom (p. 3)

This is part three of a four-part study in the early chapters of Proverbs. Each post has study and discussion questions for personal or group use. Since the early chapters of proverbs are words from a father to a son, these lessons are especially helpful for parents who desire to lead their children in the way of wisdom. The study will be based on four main points.

3. Abstain from Sexual temptation

In Proverbs 2:16-19, Solomon introduced his son to another voice of temptation — the voice of the adulteress or wayward wife. Her words are not overtly perverse like those of the wicked men.  Instead, she uses “seductive words” and “flatters with her words.” Three chapters are devoted to this warning (Proverbs 5,6,7).

In Proverbs 2:16, the primary concern is the “adulteress” (NIV); or “strange woman” (NASB).  Some translations refer to her as a “foreigner” or “loose woman” (loose meaning outside the family).  In Proverbs 5:3, again concerns the “adulteress”.  Proverbs 6:24-32 uses a variety of identifications:

      • “the immoral woman”
      • “the wayward wife”
      • “seductress”
      • “the prostitute”
      • “the adulteress”

Proverbs 6:29 and 32 refer to the man who “sleeps with another man’s wife” and who “commits adultery.” 

Summarizing the various terms, the woman is “strange” or “foreign” — not necessarily in the sense that she is from a strange land and different ethnic group than Israel.  Instead, she appears to be an Israelite woman: “who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God” (Proverbs 2:17).

Reference to the “covenant she made before God” implies an Israelite woman.  Therefore, her “strangeness” or “foreignness” which the terms clearly imply has more to do with her deliberate act of violating the covenant and standards of her people. She has cut herself off and distanced herself through her immorality. 

Along these same lines, one commentator suggested that, “By betraying her covenant of marriage, this woman looses herself from the covenant community and turn her back on the covenant of God.” 

We should assume that Solomon is very concerned about the danger she presents since he devotes a significant amount of space to the warning about her to the warning about her. Next to wisdom, no other theme is given more attention than warnings about sexual temptation (See: 2:6-19; 5:1-23; 6:20-35; 7:1-27; 9:8-18). 

There is a tone of urgency and deep concern in Solomon’s warnings.  “Now then, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say.  Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your best strength to others and your years to one who is cruel” (Proverbs 5:7-9). 

Think about it

The intent of these passages is to communicate that, “nothing in life so clouds our judgment and makes stupid fools out of the wisest of us as succumbing to illicit passion. All our useful energies are drained off to defend or conceal that behavior.  The colossal compromise of adultery colors all our other value judgments and causes us to stagger along life’s road half tipsy.  To the teachers it was worth every possible effort to prevent their young people from falling into this bottle-dungeon of perverted sexuality whose walls sloped inward to the top and make escape only a fantasy “ (David A. Hubbard, p. 88, C. C. Proverbs). 

 The larger area of concern here is the reality of sexual temptation— which is not limited to any one culture or period of history. Therefore, as we consider the context of this text, we need to be careful to relate the larger concern of sexual temptation to other scriptures and to our lives.

We face an even greater challenge when addressing this subject — the challenge of living in a culture that has lost its connection with any clear sense of standards for sexual conduct.  More than that, as Tim Stafford has written,

“The old consensus about how we should live sexually has shattered, and we have not yet arrived at whatever will replace it.  We have only arrived at chaos, and with it great pain and confusion.  Families shatter. Children grow up with a series of unfamiliar men.  They move from home to home, experiencing dizzyingly different level of poverty and affluence.  The old ways of courtship, marriage and family are shaky.  We didn’t go looking for chaos.  On the contrary, chaos is the end result of an unprecedented push for pleasure.  Americans have never known so much about their sexuality, talked so much about their sexuality or tried so hard for happiness in the sexual realm.  Magazines and books and TV shows endlessly discuss how to find sexual delight.  But the results have been disastrous on every level . . . we have come perilously close to embracing lust as a fundamental human characteristic — if not a right.” 

A word from God

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality: that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him.  The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.  For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.  Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit” (I Thess. 4:3-8). 

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How would you describe your handling of with sexual temptation?

Victorious, struggling, defeated, overwhelmed, good days and bad days, ____________________.

2. Identify your primary sources of struggle with sexual temptation: TV, internet, movies, magazines, books, relationships, etc…

3.  How does the following teaching of Jesus relate?

Matthew 5:27-30 - “You have heard that it was said, `Do not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

John Stott explains: “If your eye causes you to sin because temptation comes to you through your eyes (objects you see), then pluck out your eyes. That is, don’t look!  Behave as if you had actually plucked out your eyes and flung them away, and were now blind and so could not see the objects which previously caused you to sin. Again, if your hand or foot causes you to sin, because temptation comes to you through your hands (things you do) or your feet (places you visit), then cut them off. That is: don’t do it! Don’t go! Behave as if you had actually cut off your hands and feet and flung them away, and were now crippled and so could not do the things or visit the places which previously caused you to sin” (Sermon on the Mount, p. 89).

  4.   What do I find most helpful for overcoming sexual temptation? (Recommendation: Memorize all the serves on the previous page)

  5.   Read and discuss the following

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov 16:18).  What level of pride is required to believe that sexual sin could overtake Lot, Samson, David (“a man after God’s own heart”), Solomon, the Corinthians and a host of modern Christian leaders, but not me?  Paul’s warnings deserve a prominent place on our dashboards, desks and computers: “But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Gal 6:1); “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”  (1 Corinthians 10:12).

 God does not want us to be presumptuous, but nor does He want us to be paranoid.  We do not have to live each day teetering on the edge of immorality or paralyzed by the fear of sudden fall. In the specific context of seeking to be sexually pure and resisting sexual temptation, the wise man says this to his son:

“My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck.  Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble; when you lie down you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.  Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared” (Pr. 3:21-26).

If we walk daily with Christ, being alert to what’s happening in our minds and implementing steps of  righteousness and wisdom, then we can go our way “in safety” and “not be afraid.” (From: Sexual Temptation: How Christian Workers Can Win the Battle,  Randy C. Alcorn )

6. Relate I Corinthians 7:2-5 to the concern of sexual temptation.

“But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband. The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (I Corinthians 7:2-5, NLT)

Scripture dealing with sexual temptation: 

    • Ephesians 5:3-5 “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”
    • 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body n in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; …”
    • Hebrews 13:4 “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”
    • Proverbs 6:32 “But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself.”
    • Proverbs 28:13,14 “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.”
    • Psalm 32:1-2,5  “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.  Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’– and you forgave the guilt of my sin”
    • 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
    • Romans 13:14 “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”
    • 1 Peter 2:11-12  “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

Steve Cornell

Sex and Marriage

When couples are preparing for marriage, we help them by looking at the well-known sources of marital conflict. One of them is sex. I explain to engaged couples that the reason for conflict over sex is the very thing that makes it possible. It involves men and women.

Generally, male and female approach sex very differently and couples need to understanding this to minimize the conflict. Analogies are always inadequate but, when it comes to sex, I suggest that men are like microwave ovens and women are like the crock pot. What I am getting at is that the act of sex registers more with men than the relationship leading to it.

If couples want to have a better love life, husbands must be more intentional by taking initiative in cultivating the relationship. Wives must be intentional and take initiative in sexual matters. Wives must realize that they are God’s source of protection for their husbands in the area of sexual temptation. I don’t say this to lay any blame on a wife when a man refuses to resist temptation but, far too often, wives do not take the sexual part of marriage as seriously as they should.

I tell wives-to-be that when a man goes to bed with a woman, there is a good chance he thinks about sex most nights. But when he feels like he always has to be the one to initiate or even has to ask for sex with his wife, a man’s self-respect will be damaged in ways that lead to other problems. This is particularly problematic when a woman uses sexual advances to win a man before marriage only to shut down sexually in marriage. In these cases, deeper changes in thinking need to happen to protect the marriage.  

Open and humble communication are essential in this area. Couples must view sexual frustration as a threat to their marriages. Prolonged sexual abstinence is forbidden in marriage. Scripture specifically identifies this as an opportunity for the evil one to tempt married people because of lack of self-control (see: I Corinthians 7:3-5).

If interested in further consideration of this aspect, consider, “Do you wish you had more sex in your marriage?

Steve Cornell

Sex – differences between men and women

Do you wish you had more sex in your marriage?

I asked this question one night at a large gathering of men from our Church when I was assigned the subject of sex for a Men’s Fellowship night.

When men get together, it can get interesting. When the subject of sex comes up, it gets really interesting! I told the men that I planned to talk openly with them about something that is on all of their minds. 

I asked, “How many of you wish you had more sex in your marriage?” and the response was loud and affirmative. With a kind of male grunt (unique to the species), the men quickly acknowledged their desire for more sex. This might not sound great to women but the truth is that most husbands want more sex in marriage — more, that is, than their wives desire.

A main source of conflict

Counselors have agreed for many years that sex is one of the four or five main areas of marital conflict. I love asking young couples preparing for marriage why sex is a big source of conflict in marriage. If they’re striving for purity in their relationship, one of their toughest challenges is keeping their hands off each other! 

Most engaged couples don’t understand why sex would be a source of marital conflict. It sounds strange to them. So premarital counselors must look down the road and help them to think realistically about life — and, reality is not unclear on this matter. 

I tell singles and engaged couples that one of the primary reasons sex is a source of conflict in marriage is the very thing that makes it possible. I always get a look of confusion from them until I say: “It involves a man and a woman!” Then, after awkward laughter, they return to their confused look. To help them understand, I use the following illustration:

Microwaves and Crock-pots

The point I am making is that men and women typically approach sex differently. A somewhat simplistic illustration I use is the difference between a microwave and a crock-pot. Men can tend to be like microwaves when it comes to sex; women tend to be more like a crock-pots (I didn’t say “crack-pot”!).

Do you get the illustration? Sex for women is typically part of an overall relationship. It tends to be more of a physical act for men. Please understand that I am not validating all that could be implied by the illustration, I am just trying to illustrate general facts.

In most marriages, sex will be more of an area of intentional giving for women. Relationship-building will require more thoughtful intention from men.

A primary reason sex becomes a source of conflict is this fact that husbands tend to want more sex in marriage than their wives. When you factor in how a man often tends to connect his sense of self-respect to sex, things can get really bad if he feels rejected or like he is always the initiator.

I’ve sometimes observed resentment from husbands over the way their wives were sexually aggressive before marriage and shut down after marriage. Some single women (sadly) assume that they must use sexual advances to “win” a man. In doing this, they give him the impression that this is how life together will be.

Couples who don’t follow God’s plan for sexual purity often don’t realize that they’re inviting more trouble into marriage. The need for sexual restraint doesn’t end with marriage. And I’ve talked with men who resentfully express how they had more sex with their wives before they were married. 

Lest I sound like I am picking on women, in a similar way, men are often guilty of using intentional relationship building to “win” a woman only to shift into complacency after marriage. The pastor who performed our wedding charged me with these words: “The graces you used to win her love, use to keep her love.” I need to be reminded of this charge.

Sober words for married couples:

When it comes to the sexual part of marriage, couples should pause over these words:

“But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband. The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (I Corinthians 7:2-5, NLT)

If couples want to have a better love life, husbands must be intentional and take initiative in building relationship and wives must be intentional and take initiative in sexual matters. 

Wives, please remember that you are God’s source of protection for your husbands. Couples must view sexual frustration as a threat to their marriages. Prolonged sexual abstinence must not be permitted in a marriage. Scripture specifically identifies it as an opportunity for the evil one!

Teach singles 

Men and women are different. Without some prior discussion about this reality, the differences will likely become unnecessary sources of selfishness and conflict. Many images have been used to explain male/female differences. Men are from Mars, women from Venus; Men are like waffles; women like spaghetti. The differences are real and should be studied by couples preparing for marriage. Once understood, couples should consider the way God can use their differences to build stronger oneness. 

A unique challenge in the Church

The challenge to allow differences lead to oneness is sometimes hindered by an unfortunate tendency to use biblical references to headship and submission to diminish the uniqueness and contributions of wives. When a husband insists that life conforms to his dominant identity, he violates God’s original plan for marriage and fails to embrace the original truth that it’s not good for the man to be alone. 

I’ve also observed women who suppress their identity under more dominant men who frankly need their gifts and strengths. Sometimes these women entertain misguided understandings of headship and submission. Trying to be “submissive wives,” and letting their husbands be “leaders of their homes,” these women violate the original design by not fulfilling a complementary role for husbands who badly need their unique gifts. 

The original plan assumes the necessity of individuality and uniqueness (in both husbands and wives) for the completion of oneness. The two must become one — without one disappearing into the other.

 Steve Cornell 

Overcoming desire with desire

 

Adapted from David Powlison’s “I Am Motivated When I Feel Desire.”

Can you change what you want?

Yes! This is central to the work of the Holy Spirit. You will always desire, love, trust, believe, fear, obey, long for, value, pursue, hope, and serve something. You are motivated when you feel desire. God does not anesthetize us; he redirects our desire. The Holy Spirit works to change the something, as he leads us…. The desires of the heart are not unchangeable. God never promises to give you what you want, to meet your felt needs and longings. He tells you to be ruled by other, different desires. This is radical. God promises to change what you really want! God insists that he be first, and all lesser loves be radically subordinate.

The best way to understand this is to think about prayer. Prayer means asking, and you ask because you want something. You ask God because you believe he has power to accomplish some desired Good. When Solomon prayer for a wise and discerning heart, God freely gave Solomon what he wanted (1 Kings 3). God was delighted that Solomon did not ask for a long life, riches, and success, the felt needs of most people in power. Solomon had not treated God as a genie in a lamp who exists to grand him three wishes. What we want by nature—the cravings of the flesh—expresses our sin nature. But Solomon had learned to know what he really needed. He had learned to pray according to the will of God, and it pleased God to answer him. The Lord changes what we want, and we learn to pray for what delights God, to want what he wants.

God challenges the things that everybody everywhere eagerly pursues (Matt. 6:32).

What desires of body and mind (Eph. 2:3) do people naturally follow? Consider our characteristic passions: desires of the body include life itself, air, health, water, food, clothing, shelter, sexual pleasure, rest, and exercise. Desires of the mind include happiness, being loved, meaning, money and possessions, respect, status, accomplishment, self-esteem, success, control, power, self-righteousness, aesthetic pleasure, knowledge, marriage, and family.

Must these rule our lives? They did not rule Jesus’ life. Can these cravings really be changed? The Bible says Yes, and points us to the promises of God: to indwell us with power, to write truth on our hearts, to pour out his love in our hearts, to enable us to say “Abba, Father.”As we have seen, many of these things are not bad in themselves. The evil in our desires does not lie in what we want, but in the fact that we want it too much. Our desires for good things seize the throne, becoming idols that replace the King.

God refuses to serve our instinctive longings, but commands us to be ruled by other longings.

What God commands, he provides the power to accomplish: he works in us both the willing and the doing of his good pleasure (Phil. 2:12–13).

Can you change what you want? Yes. Does the answer to this question surprise you?

If felt needs are unchangeable, then it is impossible for us to learn to pray the way Solomon did. This reinforces our tendency to pray for our cravings. It reinforces a sense of victimization in those who were mistreated. It reinforces the tendency to press God into the service of our lusts.

The deepest longings of the human heart can and must be changed if mankind is to become all that God designed us to be. Our deviant longings are illegitimate masters; even where the object of desire is a good thing, the status of the desire usurps God. Our cravings should be recognized in order that we may more richly know God as the Savior, Lover, and Converter of the human soul. God would have us long for him more than we long for his gifts. To make us truly human, God must change what we want; we must learn to want the things Jesus wanted.

The Christian life is a great paradox. Those who die to self, find self. Those who die to their cravings will receive many times as much in this age, and, in the age to come, eternal life (Luke 18:29). They will find new passions worth living for and dying for. If I crave happiness, I will receive misery. If I crave to be loved, I will receive rejection. If I crave significance, I will receive futility. If I crave control, I will receive chaos. If I crave reputation, I will receive humiliation. But if I long for God and his wisdom and mercy, I will receive God and wisdom and mercy. Along the way, sooner or later, I will also receive happiness, love, meaning, order, and glory.

… the instinctive passions and desires of the flesh can be replaced with the new priorities of the Spirit.

This reorientation is not instant and complete, but it is genuine and progressive. Two of the greatest books of practical Christian theology—Augustine’s Confessions and Jonathan Edwards’s Treatise Concerning Religious Affectionsmeditate on this transformation. And one assumes that Francis of Assisi meant his prayer: “O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.”

The craving to learn how to love and understand replaces the craving for love and understanding.

Those who hunger and thirst for such righteousness will be satisfied. We have Jesus’ word. We have no promise, however, that God will satisfy the instinctive cravings of the soul. The Bible teaches us to pray, to learn to ask for what we really need. Can we pray the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer and really mean it? Yes. Can we long for God’s glory, for his will to be obeyed, for daily material provision for all God’s people, for sins to be forgiven, for aid in warfare with evil? Yes.

A wise Puritan pastor, Thomas Chalmers, once wrote of the expulsive power of a new affection. New ruling desires expel lesser masters from the throne. What are the new and different motives that rule in renewed hearts? What changed objects of desire characterize the master motives of the new, listening heart? How does God change what people want? The Bible treats these matters everywhere.

Idolatrous cravings hijack the human heart.

Both the Christian life and Christian ministry are by definition about the business of accomplishing a transformation in what people want. Such transformations lie at the center of the Holy Spirit’s purposes in working his Word into our lives. The lusts of the flesh lead somewhere bad: dead works. The lusts of the flesh have a specific solution: the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which replaces them. “He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Cor. 5:15). The desires of the Lord lead to somewhere good: good works. One key ingredient in reclaiming the cure of souls is to make this transformation central.

Note

The following passages get a start on this question. For each passage ask, “What does this person really want, long for, pursue, delight in?”

Pss. 42:1–263:1–873:25–288090:8–17Prov. 2:1–63:13–188:11Isa. 26:8–9Matt. 5:66:9–136:19–3313:45–46Luke 11:9–13Rom. 5:1–118:18–259:1–32 Cor. 5:8–9;Phil. 1:18–253:8–113:20–212 Tim. 2:223:121 Peter 1:132:2Rev. 22:20.

Facebook photos: good, bad and ugly

Are Facebook photos always innocent? Consider a few thoughts about Facebook photos – the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good: reconnecting with old friends

Facebook photos we can help us reconnect with friends and see their family without being invited to watch a slide show of their latest vacation! (Some of you are old enough to remember those). My wife especially loves to see pictures of the children. Facebook has allowed people to feel connected in ways unavailable not too long ago. In a mobile society, this has been a blessing. Good!

The Bad: flashes from the past

The dark side to Facebook has been especially tragic. A growing number of married people have used Facebook to connect with old boyfriends or girlfriends and start affairs. Facebook can easily become a private world of careless conversation—especially for people in difficult marriages. I recently counseled pastoral staff from a large ministry that is reeling in pain since their senior pastor connected with a girlfriend from college days through Facebook and left his wife, children and ministry to be with her. Bad!

Do Facebook photos play into this? Scripture emphasizes the eye as a primary gate to sin (Genesis 3:6; Joshua 7:20-21; II Samuel 11; Matthew 5:28-29). This should at least warn us about potential dangers. We (men especially) understand why Job said, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl” (Job 31:1). (Note: Always give your spouse full access to your Facebook account)

The Ugly: self-portrait on steroids

Facebook photos are often self-portrait on steroids! Perhaps some of this is innocent. It’s just so easy to post a million pictures of yourself! So why not? And why wouldn’t people want to see you in every possible pose and expression? I realize that this is tricky territory because it deals with motives. I also try hard to avoid reading motives into others. I try to always think the best of others unless proven otherwise. But it’s hard not to think, in some cases, that Facebook photos have become an outlet for self-absorption. I don’t intend to project this on anyone but to offer it as a point for reflection between you and God (or, if you’re under your parents, you, your parents and God).

Our college town is surrounded by Amish communities who oppose all self-portrait as idolatry. I wonder what they would think of Facebook photos?! I realize that they represent an extreme, but is it possible that Facebook photos are the other end of the extreme?

Concern for young girls

Young girls, in particular, like to post their photos. In some cases, their self-portraits number in the hundreds! When I was a young man, the only way I got a girl’s picture was if she “liked” me and wanted to “go out.” Young men can now access endless pictures of girls that would never like or go out with them.

What should we make of this? Some of the photos are fun and harmless. Others get ugly as they become edgy and seductive. Do young girls realize the dangers in this? Perhaps. Would they be disgusted by Facebook stalkers (as they call them) pouring over their pictures for lustful purposes? Are they gullible enough to think this would never happen? Or, is it possible that they find a very subtle form of sinful satisfaction in the possibility of guys “enjoying” their pictures? Ugly!

Note to parents

It’s likely that our youth see Facebook photos as innocent fun. If parents question them, they’ll probably get a “your kidding me look” and be reminded of how “everyone does it.” They might also think you’re being a little over the top!

No matter their reactions, parents are wise to help them understand the dangers—not just of the edgy stuff, but of the use of Facebook photos as a means of self-absorption. A teaching moment served up!

But be careful in your parental instruction because we don’t want to create a bunch of little youth group Pharisees. Expose gullibility but correct prideful criticism of others. Teach godly, humble discernment.

Note to pastors and youth pastors

If we use Facebook to “stay in touch,” with the flock, we need to be extra careful about viewing Facebook photos. I am not trying to be legalistic and I certainly don’t want to start any campaigns against Facebook! Yet our hearts are always looking for new ways to deceive us. If we’re not careful, innocent glancing at Facebook photos can subtly become occasions for evil.  

  • “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9). 
  • “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).

Steve Cornell


Addictions: battling obsessions

Addictions are a big problem—-especially, it seems, for men. As a man and as a pastor, I typically stay alert to thoughtful and transparent focus on this subject and I stumbled upon an article that I appreciated. It’s source is not one I frequent (menshealth.com) and is not expected to address the matter from a Christian perspective. But I appreciated the transparent and thoughtful way its author related to the battle of addiction. The closing line (used to promote the article) is what first got my attention. “Lasting pleasure, it turns out, comes when you successfully battle your obsessions, rather than submitting to them” (Tom Matlack). In principle, this is consistent with Christian perspective because authentic, joyful Christianity and complacency cannot co-exist. We are called to successfully battle obsessions in the context of a grace-based relationship with God (Romans 13:14; Ephesians 6:10-11; I Peter 2:11).

The landscape of addictions:

Explaining the landscape of male struggles with addiction, Matlack wrote: “It seems that at the very core of the American male’s predicament is obsessive behavior done with an irrational hope to produce deep and lasting pleasure. The porn industry is the biggest online business in this country; every month, Americans download 1.5 billion pornographic videos. Ten percent of adults admit to having an Internet porn addiction, and 70 percent of those are men.”

“Virtual poker is the second-biggest online business in the U.S.; by some estimates, as many as 148 million Americans—just less than half of the U.S. population—gamble regularly. Alcohol and drug addiction affects at least 23 million Americans; men are twice as likely to be affected as women. The Journal of the American Medical Association recently reported that 32 percent of American men are obese and five percent are morbidly obese. With this taste for excess in mind, I think it’s safe to say that the number of male addicts is large and growing”

“But I am not just talking about the category of behaviors defined as addictions; I am really talking, more broadly, about obsessive behavior. As I have looked more closely at my own problem with addiction, I have come to see booze as merely a symptom of a deeper problem in my life and in the lives of many men just like me” (The Addiction Habit http://blogs.menshealth.com/good-man/the-addiction-habit/2010/11/10/ ).

Kick your addictions: Two steps:

Another article on this site, Kick your addictions: A fool-proof way to change those bad habits offered two basic steps for successfully battling your obsessions/addictions:

Step #1: CREATE A NEW HIGH:Most people who try to quit an addiction miss the dopamine hit they’ve been getting, says Michael Levy, D.O., director of the Center for Addiction Medicine, in Nevada. Counteract this by boosting production of serotonin, a calming neuro-transmitter. Three things that will increase your output: exercise, fish oil, and turkey.

Step #2:MAKE IT HARD TO SLIPTo really change bad habits, you have to trash everything associated with them. “Some people say it’s their last cigarette, but they’re not investing in it, because they won’t throw away their lighters,”says Mark Griffiths, Ph.D., an addiction expert at Nottingham Trent University, in England. So, depending on your drug, that could mean eliminating anything from corkscrews to high-speed Internet. You’ll know what to toss. (http://www.menshealth.com/health/kick-your-addiction)

A Christian perspective on the two steps:

Step # 1:Christianity offers the alternative obsession. It’s called worshipping the Creator. Let me explain: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever” (Westminster Catechism, cf. Psalm 16:5-11; 144:15; Isaiah 12:2; Philippians 4:4). When we worship and serve the Creator, we experience the joy and fulfillment we were meant to flourish in and we bless those who know us. This is reflected in what Jesus called the greatest command of God: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, NIV). I am not comparing Jesus to an addictive substance but recognizing that God satisfies the longings of the heart and fills emptiness of life that lead addicts to their drugs.

Idolatry exists in a heart controlled by something other than God. When any activity becomes controlling in a way that dishonors God’s authority, it must be viewed as an idol.  This could include excessive activities and behaviors considered to be harmless. Things like work, exercise, listening to talk radio, watching cable news, internet use, reading, and sports can become harmfully addictive. Any behavior that occupies a place in our lives that hurts other priorities and relationships must be brought under God’s will.

When we ignore God or set ourselves up as God or try to define God on our own terms, we inevitably sabotage ourselves. We lose our sense of reference and direction (by ignoring God) and disorient and sabotage ourselves. We turn the good gifts of the creator against ourselves by excluding the worship of the giver of the good gifts. Everything becomes a means for meeting my needs not for glorifying the Creator and serving others.

Step # 2: Going to the source of temptation and dealing radically with it is what Jesus taught in rather shocking language: “You have heard that it was said, `Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away” (see: Matthew 5:27-30).

One of my favorite teachers put it this way: “If your eye causes you to sin because temptation comes to you through your eyes (objects you see), then pluck out your eyes. That is, don’t look!  Behave as if you had actually plucked out your eyes and flung them away, and were now blind and so could not see the objects which previously caused you to sin. Again, if your hand or foot causes you to sin, because temptation comes to you through your hands (things you do) or your feet (places you visit), then cut them off. That is: don’t do it! Don’t go! Behave as if you had actually cut off your hands and feet and flung them away, and were now crippled and so could not do the things or visit the places which previously caused you to sin” (Sermon on the Mount, p. 89, John R. W. Stott).

When the Holy Spirit is the controlling influence in a person’s heart (Ephesians 5:18), part of the outcome will be “self control” (Galatians 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit is the key to overcoming controlling behaviors (Galatians 5:16). He provides the power to replace them with qualities that bless us and all our relationships. “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT). Imagine life with someone characterized by these qualities!

At the heart of the matter:

This goes to the heart of the matter because we cannot experience the power provided by God’s spirit unless we live in continual dependence upon God. Here’s what this dependence looks like: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT). We cannot (in our own strength) live the blessed life God has for us. It doesn’t mean we passively wait for God to do it all for us. This is no “let go and let God life.” Instead, we work out what God works in us by the grace of saving love. “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13). The opposite of this way of life it to “lean on your own understanding.” It is to think and act as if you know best, better than even God. Instead, in ALL your ways (everywhere life takes you) consider your relationship with God and follow His will.

This means we must look to Him (His Word and Church) as our primary source for sustained victory over addictions. We need to consistently place ourselves under good biblical teaching and in transparent Christian fellowship. If these two practices are missing from you life, seek them immediately.

Steve Cornell

(See also: 8 Dynamics of Addiction and A plan for change)

Reality check on sexual temptation

 

What does it take to bring down a King? Consider one of the saddest moments in Israel’s history:

“One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her” (II Samuel 11:2-3a). This story doesn’t have a good ending. What began with a glance, ended in the needless death of a good man.

The sight of a beautiful woman has special power to hold men captive. The atmosphere changes when a good-looking lady enters a room full of men. This will always be the case and it’s not entirely wrong. God designed a natural attraction between the sexes. It’s a universal reality and arguably essential to our survival. But what is natural is easily perverted in the hearts and hands of fallen people. Attraction degenerates into lust and leads to sexual immorality. People get hurt.

Few temptations hold as much sway over a man’s heart as the sight of a beautiful woman. All the enemies of Israel could not combine to control David’s life like what he casually observed from the roof top. But was this an innocent glance? It’s possible that David knew in advance what he could see from the roof. It’s also possible that David should have been somewhere else. Prior to the verses describing what David saw from the roof, we read, “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem”(II Samuel 11:1).

Do you think a point is being made about King David not being where he should be? Or, not being focused on more important concerns? Maybe. But whatever the factors, men will always be drawn by the sight of beautiful women.

The gate to temptation

Of human senses, Scripture emphasizes sight as the igniting source of temptation. Consider four examples:

  1. Eve was drawn to the forbidden fruit after “she saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it” (Genesis 3:6).
  2. When a man named Achan hindered Israel by giving into temptation, his confession exposed the common path of temptation: “When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them.” (Joshua 7:20-21).
  3. David saw the beautiful woman, sent and inquired about her and finally sent messengers and took her (II Samuel 11).
  4. Jesus emphasized the power of sight to cultivate a heart for evil when he said, “…I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28).

A covenant with your eyes or pluck them out

What can we learn from this pattern? Consider Job’s example when he said, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl (Job 31:1). We must cut off the source of temptation to conquer it.  In relation to sexual temptation, Jesus spoke in radical terms, “…if your right eye offends you, pluck it out” (Matthew 5:29). Although not intended to be taken literally, Jesus advocated dealing decisively with the source of evil.

This is the big battle for men. The power of lust is real and difficult to overcome. Dealing with sexual temptation is a daily battle for men and most women really do not understand the intensity men experience.

Christian apologist Josh McDowell once said, “Show me a man who can control sexual passion and I’ll show you someone who can control every other area of his life.” 

A word to the married

Sex is a major source of marital conflict because of the thing that makes it possible: It involves men and women and they approach sex differently. Understanding this can help solve some problems. Men are like a microwave; woman are like a crock pot. The act registers more with men than the relationship leading to it. If couples want to have a better love life, husbands must be intentional and take initiative in building relationship and wives must be intentional and take initiative in sexual matters. Wives you are God’s source of protection for your husbands. Couples must view sexual frustration as a threat to their marriages. Prolonged sexual abstinence must not be permitted in a marriage. Scripture specifically identifies it as an opportunity for the evil one (see: I Corinthians 7:3-5).

Winning the battle

This battle cannot be won without strong support and consistent discipline of our minds. A good place to start is to maintain daily time with God in Scripture and prayer. Memorization of scripture also fortifies the soul against temptation. An added help comes from consistently placing yourselves under biblical teaching and in transparent Christian fellowship. But always remember that feeling temptation is not wrong; acting on it is the problem.

One just for men

A proverb just for men admonishes, “Do not give your strength to women, nor your ways to that which destroys kings.” (Proverbs 31:3). King David could not take back that moment of temptation and sin. Gratefully, he found forgiveness with God but not without significant damage and loss. A moment of passion can easily turn into a mountain of trouble.

Questions for Discussion

1. What words best describe your experience in relation to sexual temptation?

Victorious, struggling, defeated, overwhelmed, good days and bad days, ____________________.

2. What are your primary sources of struggle with sexual temptation: TV, internet, movies, magazines, books, relationships, etc…

3.  How does the following teaching of Jesus relate?

Matthew 5:27-30 - “You have heard that it was said, `Do not commit adultery.’But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

John Stott explains: “If your eye causes you to sin because temptation comes to you through your eyes (objects you see), then pluck out your eyes. That is, don’t look!  Behave as if you had actually plucked out your eyes and flung them away, and were now blind and so could not see the objects which previously caused you to sin. Again, if your hand or foot causes you to sin, because temptation comes to you through your hands (things you do) or your feet (places you visit), then cut them off. That is: don’t do it! Don’t go! Behave as if you had actually cut off your hands and feet and flung them away, and were now crippled and so could not do the things or visit the places which previously caused you to sin” (Sermon on the Mount, p. 89).

4.   What do you find most helpful for overcoming sexual temptation?

5. What can we learn from James 1:13-18?

6.   Read and discuss the following

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov 16:18).  What level of pride is required to believe that sexual sin could overtake Lot, Samson, David (“a man after God’s own heart”), Solomon, the Corinthians and a host of modern Christian leaders, but not me?  Paul’s warnings deserve a prominent place on our dashboards, desks and computers: “But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Gal 6:1); “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”  (1Cor 10:12).

God does not want us to be presumptuous, but neither does he want us to be paranoid.  We do not have to live each day teetering on the edge of immorality or paralyzed by the fear of a sudden fall.  In the specific context of seeking to be sexually pure and resisting sexual temptation, the wise man says this to his son:

“My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble; when you lie down you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared” (Prov 3:21-26).

If we walk daily with Christ, being alert to what’s happening in our minds and implementing steps of  righteousness and wisdom, then we can go our way “in safety” and “not be afraid.” (From: Sexual Temptation: How Christian Workers Can Win the Battle,  Randy C. Alcorn ).

7. Find someone willing to memorize the following Scriptures with you: (it helps to have to say them to another person)

Ephesians 5:3-5 “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”

1Thessalonians 4:3-5 “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; …”

Hebrews 13:4 “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

Proverbs 6:32 “But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself.”

Proverbs 28:13,14 “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.”

Psalm 32:1-2,5 “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.  Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’– and you forgave the guilt of my sin”

1John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Romans 13:14 “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

1 Peter 2:11-12 “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

Steve Cornell