There is Hope in Knowing the Truth About Sexual Sin
In this segment, Pastor Ed Buch goes into part two of the myths about sexual sin that are common in the church today. He shares insightful truths that can help bring about freedom in the lives of those who’d heed the truth. (from Podcast Episode #316 - Coming Out…of Homosexuality).
Brooks: Pastor Ed, Today I wanted to continue our discussion of Christian myths when it comes to sexual sin. And today we’ll talk more about myths that people sometimes believe about the proper answer concerning the issue of sexual sin. So, let's get right to the first one. I want to first talk about the idea of just containing or controlling sexual sin. This is basically the concept that somebody should just try to keep their sexual sin from getting worse. People believe that this is step closer to getting out of the problem. What would you say to that?
Ed: Well, I would say that that's a lie. Your sexual sin and my sexual sin will not stay contained very well at all. And you’re talking now, Brooks, to someone who has spent a number of years, probably close to 10 years with a secret sexual sin habit of masturbation, fantasy and lust. However, all that did was keep the door wide open for me, so that eventually I was just, in a sense, ripe for the picking and when an opportunity came along for me to engage in an adulterous affair. That's exactly what I did because I had kept that door open all along, thinking that I was just giving over in a certain way, but not going that far. Because I initially wasn’t going into adultery, I thought that somehow I could contain it and I’d never cross those lines.
That phrase right there, “I'll never cross that line,” or some version of that, is a common thought that people in sexual sin hold onto. What they end up realizing is that the circumstances do arise, and will arise, that cause them to cross lines. They never thought they would cross those lines. And this whole lie that “We can contain our sexual sin,” really Brooks, is based on the notion that our lust somehow can actually be satisfied. But that is never what happens with lust. Lust can never be satisfied. We continually lust for more, and over time, in fact, we need more frequent engagement with our sin. If it's some form of sexual sin, such as looking at pornography on the computer, instead of doing it just once a month, now I'm at it once a week, and then it’s once a day, and then I'm spending hours a day on the computer looking at my pornography. That's the progression in terms of the quantity.
However, it's even worse than that because it also requires an increase in the potency of what we're engaging in. So that we move from one form of sin, or pornography, to other types of pornography which often involves some sort of fetish, perversion, or something else. It takes greater and greater quantities, of more and more potent forms of our sin to try and even temporarily satisfy the lust in us.
Brooks: Yes, that’s certainly something we can see in Solomon's life. If you read the book of Ecclesiastes, he certainly didn't seem to ever find a bottom to his desires for more.
Ed: That's right.
Brooks: Well, let's look now at another idea people sometimes have about dealing with sexual sin, and that would be confession. Obviously, confession is in the Bible. It's an important part of dealing with any sin. But in my experience, I spent years confessing sin and then going back to it. So, evidently, they're can sometimes be something wrong with confession alone. What would you say to somebody who might just be confessing their sin?
Ed: Yes. Again, this is one of the common things that people get caught up in, and it leads them into a cycle of hopelessness rather than actual growth out of their sin. We see this a lot from the men who come into our residential program. They've been going for years to alter calls, to accountability partners, to support groups and repeatedly confessing their sin, but their addiction hasn't diminished even in the slightest, as they've gone through that cycle. And that's because confession must be coupled with repentance.
That's the Biblical picture that we see: confession can't stand alone. It needs to be coupled with repentance, and that repentance must really and literally mean a turning away from my sin. So, in Biblical counseling, we often speak in terms of putting off the old sinful way the sexual sin and putting on some new godly behavior in its place. That's what needs to be coupled with the confession. A lifestyle of sexual sin needs to become a sanctified life. We need to learn what it means to walk in the Spirit. Because if we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). That's the promise we have in Scripture.
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Brooks: Okay, very good. So, we want to see true repentance as a follow up to confession. Can you help us further define what real repentance would look like in somebody's life?
Ed: Well, I can give you a few things off the top of my head. An obvious place to start with repentance is just taking Romans 13 Verse 14, to “Make no provision for my flesh.” So, I need to cut off those things that have been feeding my flesh or my sexual sin. And frequently, if the sin is something sexual, frequently, that's going to look like getting rid of my internet access. Or at the very least, installing some sort of adequate filtering for that connection.
I also may need to think about my television viewing habits, the movies that I have, the catalogs that I have in my house, and anything that I've brought in the front door that really can be used to stir my flesh and get me into a sensual mindset. I need to cleanse my house of those things. I need to do a major house cleaning and get rid of that stuff. That would be an example of putting my repentance in action. That would be part of the “Putting off” that I was talking about earlier.
Hand in hand with that, however, is that you've got to have something that replaces those things in our lives. Biblically, we want to put on habits of daily prayer time and reading the Bible. If I'm married and have children, then having family time. Things like that. I definitely would need to get plugged into a church. And not just any church, but a church where I'm getting solid Biblical teaching, and where I'm able to engage in meaningful fellowship with other growing believers.
Brooks: That really helps to flesh things out a little more on the practical side, so thank you for that.
Brooks: All right. One more myth that I wanted to address regarding dealing with sexual sin in someone's life is the matter of a profession of faith. The myth is that a profession of faith all by itself is enough for someone to feel comfortable about their walk with God, even when they're not yet seeing victory over sexual sin. For a lot of people who come to us, that's their situation. They've been a professing Christian for years and they still haven't seen any change. So, what would you say to someone who feels satisfied that they've just professed to believe in Jesus? Is a profession enough?
Ed: Well, I'm going to say no. It's not enough, Brooks. Because I believe that's what the Bible teaches us: having a profession of faith is a beginning, a first step. But I think there are examples in Scripture, many examples, of people who started well but did not finish well. I think of Paul's second missionary journey, in particular. He undertook that journey because it was on his heart to go back and visit the church that he had founded, and to see how the people were doing. He was very concerned that their profession of faith had somehow withered away in the face of whatever opposition might have come along behind him. He wanted to go back and encourage them in the faith, to help them mature and grow their faith. He wrote to the Thessalonians that he wanted to supply what was lacking in their faith and longed to see them so that he could impart that to them.
I think Peter also spells this out pretty well in the beginning of his second epistle. He says plainly that we must add to our faith. And he goes on to list a number of things. He says to add to our faith, virtue and to virtue, knowledge, to knowledge, self-control. To self-control we’re to add perseverance. To perseverance we must add godliness, and to godliness, brotherly kindness. And then at the pinnacle of all of that there's love (2 Peter 1:5-7). Agape, love, is what God is really after. But we have to add those things to our faith. Faith was just the first step. And Peter even says that we need to be diligent about it (verse 11). This is a lifelong journey of spiritual growth that we've undertaken, while faith and a profession of faith was just the beginning of it.
Brooks: You know, Pastor, I can't help but think at this point about our residential program. Because it seems like so many men discover for the first time that they are finding a real answer to their sexual sin in the program. And I have a sense that it's because there were a lot of things they might have been missing for that answer in their lives before the program. Over the years, what have you discovered to be some of the essential elements that people do find, as being part of the real answer for them, when they come to Pure Life?
Ed: Well, I can probably answer best from my own personal experience. I am a graduate from the program, as of 2004. One of the keys, for sure, that the Lord imparted to me was that repentance was not just a one-time act, but a lifestyle. And somehow my understanding of Christianity hadn't gotten that truth nailed down before Pure Life. I remembered earlier in life going to an altar, making a profession of faith and repenting of my sins. In my mind I had repented, and I was finished repenting. I thought that I probably didn't need to ever revisit repentance. Man, I learned how wrong I was as I read the Bible in a clearer atmosphere, with Biblical counselors to help me and guide me deeper into what God’s Word really says and means. I realized that repentance is a walk. It’s a lifestyle that we must engage in repeatedly and daily.