All posts tagged Lust

Chastity Versus Modesty

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“The Christian rule of chastity must not be confused with the social rule of ‘modesty’ (in one sense of that word); i.e. propriety, or decency. The social rule of propriety lays down how much of the human body should be displayed and what subjects can be referred to, and in what words, according to the customs of a given social circle. Thus, while the rule of chastity is the same for all Christians at all times, the rule of propriety changes (p. 94).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

I wonder how many angry e-mails C.S. Lewis got for this statement. To clarify Lewis’ quote, he goes on to compare how a fully clothed Victorian woman may be equally modeled with a tropical lady in a bathing suit. His point is the culture, climate, and generation play a significant role in defining modesty (as well as beauty, I might add).

So what is the danger in treating chastity (abstaining from sex outside of marriage) and modesty (dressing in a way that does not draw undue attention or provoke lust) as synonyms? Both are good. Lust is adultery of the heart (Matt. 6:27-30).

But one is timeless and the other is not. One is universal and the other is largely influenced by personal taste. For someone with a foot fetish, an open toe shoe could be downright indecent by the standard of modesty above. By treating them as synonyms we begin to define divine law by sways of human taste. This will inevitably create great conflict between people of different gender, culture, or generation.

Another danger is that we run the risk of defining protecting another from lust as taking responsibility for another person’s sin. When this happens we enslave some in a regulation of modesty in the attempt to free others from lust. This can easily become a form of codependency.

There is also the risk that virtue becomes vilified. Beauty becomes only a context for lust. Flavor becomes the trigger for gluttony. Fun becomes the temptation to laziness and triviality. Charisma and an out-going personality become flirtatiousness.

Beyond this there is the tenacious tendency of human beings to obey the letter of a law while revolting against its intent. Someone can dress very modestly and still be seductive. But when we define modesty in purely exterior expressions we miss the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Does this mean we should remove any attempt at defining modesty? No. But I would agree with C.S. Lewis that ultimately we can only define modesty as a form of loving our neighbor and not in terms of a dress code. Let us dress in a way that seeks to bless our neighbor’s pursuit of God.

It is only that attitude that will protect our heart from fear or pride while at the same time protecting our neighbor’s eyes and heart from lust.

So what does this mean practically? It means we have to do a better job of getting to know one another and allowing ourselves to be known. For years I dressed very modestly for a guy (usually not the gender reference point for this conversation, I know). But my motive was fashion-laziness and an affinity for old things. I still like a dirty hat with lots of “character.”

In that “modesty,” I never asked how my appearance influenced others. I was self-centeredly caught up in my own preferences. I have started to ask the question a bit more (with my patient wife’s 11 years of encouragement) and it hasn’t changed my fashion that much; other than my clothes are slightly less baggy. But I believe the question that guides my thinking is becoming more godly and serving to reinforce a more consistent mindset to think of how I can influence others for Christ. Maybe that’s “modesty on mission.”

10 Pre-Marital Questions on Sex (Part 2)

This series of blogs comes from FAQ’s from the guys in Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry. They represent a conglomeration of questions from many different husbands-to-be during the Engaged Discovery Weekend. If you are interested in serving as a marriage mentor or are engaged, click here to learn more about Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry.

How do I keep my thought-life pure leading up to the honeymoon? What about masturbation—is it sinful? How do you navigate from the sin of lusting for your fiancé to the lusting of your spouse (or is that a sin)? How does attraction change when you get married and begin having sex?

These questions are more than (but not less than) practical. They require more than a “how to” answer; they presuppose “what is it” questions. What is the difference between a single person’s lust, an engaged person’s anticipation, and a married person’s delight? What is purity at each stage: dating, engagement, and marriage? Until we define what each of these things are, we will not effectively answer any “how to” achieve or avoid questions.

It is easy to think of purity as the absence of lust or sexual desire. But it is wrong to think of purity as a mere void of activity, desire, or thought. When we think of purity this way it tends to lead towards passivity, legalism, prudishness, and an idea that Christian romance (at all stages) is boring or less than secular romance.

Purity is the full engagement and enjoyment of all that is wise and godly at a given moment. Purity is active, engaging, grace-filled, celebratory, and exciting. We should ask the question, “How has God allowed me to enjoy my fiancé or spouse at this time?” rather than “What won’t God allow me to do yet?” In the latter question, we presuppose that God is holding out on us before we even consider an answer or application.

When we fully engage (body, soul, mind, imagination, emotion, affection, will) and enjoy what God calls good, we are pure. We must remember that marital sex is good; not just the act itself, but all the planning, preparation, anticipation, imagination, and conversation that leads into it. This may even include the thoughts, desires, and conversations of one fiancé towards the other.

At this point, I think we have to introduce a new category of thought in order to proceed well. The conversation is now moving from “what is good” to “what is wise.” We are not talking about pre-marital sex, but about anticipation of marital sex. This anticipation is not wrong. However, the timing, duration, and type of thinking may prove unwise if it leads to sin (sexual activity – intercourse, fondling, or masturbation) or conflict (from sexual tension or trying to change the other’s standards).

I would go so far as to say that the anticipation of marital sex (both for pre-marital and married couples) which does not lead into sin meets every criteria of thought given in Philippians 4:8 – true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. This realization is part of the transition from viewing sex as shameful to viewing sex as good (see previous post in this series).

With this in mind, the principle to be applied is found in I Corinthians 10:23-24.

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

If the exercise of my freedom leads me to sin, it does not take my freedom away; rather I should lay down my freedom to pursue the true life God has for me in the Gospel (Luke 9:23-24). For instance, if anticipating marital sex leads to the expression of sex contrary to God’s design – either outside of marriage pre-martially or self-sex through masturbation – what is lawful (joyful anticipation) is no longer helpful and does not build up.

Practically, this requires giving up something that is permissible to be abstained from until it can be practiced in a way that does not harm another or violate the conscience (that is the whole point of I Corinthians 10:23-33, but there it is applied to food sacrificed to idols). However, no longer is this abstinence rooted in guilt, fear, or shame. Rather, abstaining is now a matter of worshiping God (declaring Him more valuable than the desired object) and love for others.

This is the essence of how attraction changes as you get married. No longer is attraction a mere feasting on the body, voice, and character of another person for my own delight (which is all sexual desire can be outside of marriage) and the satisfaction of my own desires. Now affection is a way to “build up” your spouse through affection and appreciation and to celebrate the unique good pleasure that God has provided for the two of you to exclusively enjoy.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Sex and Sexuality” post which address other facets of this subject.

Podcast: Radio Interview on Sexual Sin Seminars

Wednesday (February 8, 2012) I had the privilege of being on the “Called 2 Action Today” show with Steve Noble to talk about my two upcoming seminars: “False Love: Overcoming Sexual Sin from Lust to Adultery” and “True Betrayal: Overcoming the Betrayal of Your Spouse’s Sexual Sin.”

The podcast from this show can be found here.

I appreciate Steve’s willingness to have an open, candid, “no sacred cow” conversation about issues that are too often ignored in the life of the church. We got the chance to talk about the importance of both sides of the issue: (a) how to overcome a struggle that directly affects the majority of the church — sexual sin, and (b) how do we care for the offended spouse who is often neglected even when a church is willing to minister to the offending spouse?

Steve had a great grasp of who is affected (men and women; singles and married) and what is at stake (the freedom of God’s children and the testimony of God’s church). His questions and commentary brought both of these to the forefront.

I appreciate his willingness to bring this issue and these seminars before the Body of Christ in RDU. I would appreciate your prayers as we seek to shed the light of Scripture and the hope of the gospel on this subject that is normally marked by darkness, shame, and despair. If you are able to attend we would love for any pastor, counselor, small group leader, lay leader, struggler, or friend who wants to be to offer hope to join us.

Night One:

False Love: Overcoming Sexual Sin from Lust to Adultery
February 12, 2012 // 5:00 to 8:00 pm
The Summit Church; Brier Creek South Venue
2415 Presidential Drive, Suite 107; Durham, NC 27703
Free – No RSVP Needed

Night Two:

True Betrayal: Overcoming the Betrayal of Your Spouse’s Sexual Sin
February 19, 2012 // 5:00 to 8:00 pm
The Summit Church; Brier Creek South Venue
2415 Presidential Drive, Suite 107; Durham, NC 27703
Free – No RSVP Needed

Book Review: Closing the Window: Steps to Living Porn Free by Tim Chester

Pornography is a cultural epidemic. No one who is in ministry will be able to avoid counseling people who struggle with pornography. Sexual sin is an awkward subject that is frequently avoided because of the shame and discomfort associated with it. There is a desperate need for resources that speak to is subject in a way that draws from the shame-breaking hope of the gospel and points people into biblical community for lasting change. It is for these reasons that I am grateful for Tim Chester’s book Closing the Window.

Early in the book, Chester draws upon this quote from Martin Luther to alert the reader to how vital it is for the church to speak to subjects like pornography.

“If you preach the gospel in all aspects with the exception of the issues that deal specifically with your time, you are not preaching the gospel at all (p. 10).”

Strengths of the Book

There is great deal to like about Closing the Window, so for space considerations I will highlight those in a bulleted format which mixes my thoughts with excerpts from the book.

  • Avoids Stereotypes: I was grateful to see that Chester did not offer a “system of redemption” that would only serve a particular type of person or origin of struggle. While he writes primarily for a male audience, he acknowledges the significant rise in pornography usage among females (p. 9). It is a relief not to have to consider whether the personality of a counselee will match with the envisioned audience of the book.


  • “In our culture sex is everything and sex is nothing (p. 120)… One of the things that porn does is to make us think marriage is for sex. But it’s the other way round: sex is for marriage (p. 125)… So what is sex for? It is, first and foremost, an act of unification, uniting two people into one flesh (p. 122)… That’s why porn—along with all sex outside of marriage—is a sham, a fiction, a lie. You can no more ‘try out’ sex than you can ‘try out’ birth. The very act produces a new reality that cannot be undone (p. 123).” Tim Chester in Closing the Window


  • Biblical Narrative: What may stand out most to the reader is how seamlessly Chester ties his book with the themes of the gospel. While avoiding the temptation to become too academic or theological, the reader is constantly drawn to understand his/her life as part of God’s great story of redemption. Too often when books are divided into “theological” and “practical” suggestions, an implicit message is sent that “the Bible needs our help to be relevant.” Chester does an excellent job of revealing the Bible to be a powerfully practical mirror.


  • “Porn is easy. It’s trouble-free and its pleasures are instant. Marriage is hard work. It involves two sinners being thrown together in close proximity (p. 127)!… Marriage is a gift for service, and sex is gloriously given to cement that partnership. But don’t let sex become the goal of your marriage—otherwise porn may seem like a good supplement (p. 129).” Tim Chester in Closing the Window


  • Undressing Pornography: In chapter one Chester gives twelve points about the effects of pornography that do an excellent job of removing its deceptive appeal. Without diminishing the fact that pornography is wrong, Chester vividly portrays how pornography is dangerous and disgusting. I found his ability to make pornography, which thrives on being appealing, look revolting to be very effective.


  • “It is not difficult to see how porn feeds off these cultural expectations. It creates a fantasy that perfectly matches each of these fears. If you fear failure, then porn promises success—you always get the woman. If you fear rejection, then porn promises approval—a woman worships you. If you fear powerlessness, then porn promises potency—women are under your power (p. 50).” Tim Chester in Closing the Window


  • Positive: It is easy to hammer a subject like pornography. But I do not believe any reader of Closing the Window will feel beat up as he/she goes through the pages. Chester only highlights the sinfulness of sin to point to necessity and grandeur of Christ. As I read, I was constantly left with the thought, “God is so much better than porn and offers everything porn’s empty promises uses to entice.”


  • “Here are three common reasons why people want to kick their porn habit: (1) to prove ourselves to God – so he will bless us or save us; (2) to prove ourselves to other people – so people like us or approve of us; (3) to prove ourselves to ourselves – so we feel good about ourselves… None of these reasons work, because they put ‘me’ at the center of my change project. And putting myself at the center is pretty much the definition of sin (p. 68)!… For some people, porn offers redemption, in terms of acceptance and affirmation, an alternative forgiveness. ‘I just want to feel that I’m OK. I turn to porn instead of God because the gospel doesn’t tell me that I’m OK. It tells me I’m a wicked sinner and Jesus died in my place. The gospel demands that I change. Porn says, ‘You’re OK just as you are (p. 57).’” Tim Chester in Closing the Window


  • Idol-Killing: Chester’s vision for change is not satisfied with habit-breaking. He gives a clear and convincing call to identify and kill (mortify) the idols that motivate the pursuit of pornography. Yet even in this call for deep and decisive change, Chester is honest about the common (universal) human struggle with idolatry, so that the person who comes to Christ in repentance for pornography realizes they come to the same cross as every other recipient of God’s grace.


  • “But I’ve found that many men can stop habitual masturbation more readily than they imagine. Once they’re persuaded that life without masturbation is better than life with masturbation (p. 93)… Every time we worship God we’re reminding ourselves that he is bigger and better than anything porn can offer (p. 99).” Tim Chester in Closing the Window


Ministry Usage at Summit

As Summit revamps our men’s and women’s purity ministries, Tim Chester’s book will be a core resource that we use. Of all the books I read on the subject, it did the best job of capturing the gospel-centered, Bible-based redemptive tone that we want to promote in all our ministries. If you are interested in learning more about our men’s and women’s purity ministries, I would encourage you to attend our upcoming seminar.

False Love: Overcoming Sexual Sin from Lust to Adultery
February 12, 2012 // 5:00 to 8:00 pm
The Summit Church; Brier Creek South Venue
2415 Presidential Drive, Suite 107; Durham, NC 27703
Free – No RSVP Needed

Teacups and Playboy: Women and Sexual Sin

Guest Post by Ashley Peterson, Small Groups Associate at The Summit Church

I grew up in a youth group that just loved to separate the guys and the girls to talk about gender-specific issues. Now, if you want my unsolicited opinion, there are few things in life that are more distracting to a teenaged girl than sitting in a room wondering what all the boys are talking about across the hall.

Especially when the girls were being told the same thing over and over and over again. Inevitably, a slightly awkward older woman in a pajama-esque pant suit would spend approximately forty-five minutes attempting to charm the uninterested as she prattled on about what was apparently the weightiest issue facing our walks with Christ: the way that we dressed.

A group of impressionable young women in jeans would listen as she warned us not to dress like five-dollar hookers, because the animals masquerading as young men across the hall only wanted one thing. Now if we were really lucky, she might admonish us all to view ourselves like Jesus did—as delicate tea cups instead of paper Starbucks cups [can I get an amen? Anybody?]– but the bottom line always seemed to be what not to wear.

Interestingly, no one ever pulled her aside to tell her to leave her pant suit in 1978.

Across the hall, the boys were talking about sex. They were talking about the dangerous allure of pornography, of just how tempting it was to have sex before marriage, the sinful nature of masturbation…these boys were being equipped to fight the battle like the men that God had created them to be.

But no one ever talked with my friends and I about any of that. Delicate tea cups can’t handle those sorts of things, I suppose. Unfortunately, a generation of tea cups grew up steeped in the subliminal message that sexual sin is something that only men struggle with—but never women.

If you’re a woman reading this, you just rolled your eyes. You know all too well the battle being fought in the hearts, minds and bedrooms of the women that fill the sanctuary every Sunday morning. I’ve struggled with it, my friends have struggled with it, the women in my small group struggle with it…ladies, shall we let the boys in on our secret? Hold onto your hats, gentlemen: we have sex drives too.

The problem is, we don’t talk about that in church. While the men are being warned and equipped, we are quietly sitting on the sidelines, pretending to be unaffected and unconcerned as the battle rages on.

As a church, it is imperative that we debunk the dangerous myth that sexual sin is an exclusively male problem. Women struggle with masturbation. They struggle with pornography. They wrestle with the desire to have sex before marriage, and so many of us live with the crushing weight of guilt that comes from losing a battle that we were never equipped to fight. And it’s not the pant-suited lady’s fault; the responsibility for our sin is our own.

Ladies: you are not alone. It’s time for us to recognize the severity of the problem, and to combat our sin like the women God created us to be. Let us be the generation that acknowledges the battle, and fights it well.

To that end, I’d like to invite you to join me to be equipped to fight. On February 12th, from 5:00-8:00 at the Brier Creek South Venue, Brad Hambrick is going to be giving a training seminar on how to combat and deal with the ramifications of sexual sin – False Love: Overcoming Sexual Sin from Lust to Adultery.

Ladies, you need to be there regardless of whether or not this is a current struggle for you. You may not be actively engaged in the battle right now, but it’s a guarantee that you know someone who is. Your sister, your best friend, the girl in your small group, your husband-this is a battle being waged across our church.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Pornography” post which address other facets of this subject.

Sexual Sin Assessment Tool

This resource is taken from the “False Love: Overcoming Sexual Sin from Pornography to Adultery seminar notebook.

Instructions: Read the following descriptive statements. As you read them, think of your total experience of sexual sin; not just where you think you are “now” after committing to change. The purpose of this evaluation is to give a complete picture of what needs to be changed. Any dishonesty on this evaluation will severely impair your ability to overcome sexual sin and live in healthy, real relationships. Mark the answer that best fits how you respond:

(N) almost never, (R) rarely, (S) sometimes,
(F) frequently, or (A) almost always.

When completing this evaluation, it is important to note that “sexual” or “attractive” do not have to mean visual. They are meant to carry the broader connotation of the word “intimate.” This involves both closeness and excitement.

Click here for 67 question assessment tool and scoring key: Sexual Sin Evalution

The progression of this evaluation goes from objectifying people, public visual lust, private narrative lust, soft pornography, hard pornography, interaction with a real anonymous person, emotional affair without touch, sexual touching without sex, one time affair, affair in an ongoing relationship, pseudo-marriage affair, illegal sexual activity, and same sex attraction. However, this progression is not meant to imply that this is the developmental cycle of sexual sin.

There is adultery that did not begin with pornography. Pornography does not necessarily lead to adultery. The purpose of the progression is to provide the rational for why Jesus would teach that to look at someone with “lustful intent” is a form of or seed for adultery. While the progression is not an inevitable slippery slope, reading the descriptions of the full journey into lustful depravity should sober you towards your sin. Figure 1 provides a visual of the “small steps” between lust and adultery.

 1. Objectifying A Person: Reducing people to a certain set of appealing features and measuring people’s value by how much they please you.

2. Public Visual Lust: Using the objectification above as a scoring system and savoring actual people.

3. Private Narrative Lust: Allowing the scoring system to develop into a story in which you interact with someone in your imagination.

4. “Soft” Porn: Using television or catalogs to provide more “choice” but non-nude objects of lust and imagination.

5. Full Porn: Pursuing nude images and videos on the internet or other media forms and having the imagination expanded by professional “story tellers.”  The frequency, duration, and perversion of this activity can vary.

6. Interaction With a Real, Anonymous Person: The other participant in the story becomes a real person with a real voice and a free will.  This can be 1 (900) numbers, provocative chat rooms, strip club, or “sexting.”

7. Emotional Relationship with a Known Person Without Touch: No longer is the other real person unknown.  They have a real name, face, and history. They know your real name, face, and history.

8. Emotional Affair with Touch, Without Sex: This is probably the rarest item on the list, although it is frequently said to exist.  This is a relationship with a real person with kissing, massage, and other non-intercourse affections.

9. One Time Sexual Affair:  Now the intercourse barrier has been crossed, but (as in the case of a prostitute or drunken business trip fling) the relational connection may be low.

10. Affair in Connected Relationship: In terms of marital threat, the sexual affair is now secondary to the deepening “love” between the spouse and adultery partner.  Sex is no longer a mere expression of passion, but also devotion.

11. Affair as Pseudo-Spouse / Leaving: No longer is the faithful spouse making the decision regarding divorce.  The unfaithful spouse is the active party seeking to dissolve the marriage in order to pursue their adultery partner.

Read Matthew 5:21-30. In this passage Jesus deals with two subjects—anger and lust—in the same way: identify the heart issue, warn against the full grown sin, and call for radical action even at great personal cost. If your instinct is to rebuttal that people should not face prison time or execution for common anger, you are both right and completely missing the point. Jesus is warning you not instructing your spouse. If you focus on what Jesus did not mean (even if you are correct), you will neglect what He is saying to you… personally… right now… in this passage. Jesus is saying, “Take whatever steps are necessary to remove lust from your life. Unless your excuse is of greater consequence than losing an eye or hand, it is just that—an excuse.” The question before you now and throughout this study is, “Am I wanting to hear from God to receive words of life or am I distracting myself by arguing with the words of others?” With that question in mind, score your evaluation.

Question: Am I a sex addict? Is “sexual addiction” even a real thing? Would that make my sexual activity not sinful? The relational dynamic of sexual sin complicates the traditional view of addiction, even if you adhere to a disease model. Many of the books referenced in this study use the language of addiction (we reference these books because they have valuable insight into the description and assessment of sexual sin struggles). The False Love materials use the term addiction to refer to a life-dominating sin struggle, but do not believe that all sexual sin addressed in this study are necessarily mean you are an addict. If you wonder if your sexual sin has an addictive quality, answer the ten questions below. The more items you mark “yes” the more life-dominating your sexual sin has become.

“This is the way sin always is. It will always demand more of you. And meanwhile, as you have been more or less certain that you’ve been controlling your sin, it has actually been controlling you. Subtly, unrelentingly, it has reshaped your mind and your heart in very real ways (p. 21).” Tim Challies in Sexual Detox

  • Repeated failure to resist sexual impulses
  • The amount of time and degree of offensiveness of your sexual sin is increasing
  • Unsuccessful efforts to stop, reduce, or control your sexual sin
  • Spend a significant amount of time obtaining sex or arousal
  •  Preoccupied with sex, sexual behavior, sexual humor, or planning for next arousal episode
  • Engaging in sexual behavior when it interferes with job, school, home, or social expectations
  • Continue sexual behavior when it negatively impacts marriage, social, emotional, or spiritual life
  • Increasing in intensity, frequency, depravity, or risk is necessary to obtain the desired effect
  • Sacrificing social, recreational, or other healthy outlets for sexual release or relationship
  • Experience distress, anxiety, restlessness, or irritability if unable to engage in the behavior

A Bacon Strip-Tease

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease – that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you come to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that is contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us (p. 96)?” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

As an avid fan of the Food Network, I am not sure whether I should be convicted by this quote. Yet Lewis is making his point in a very provocative way. We treat the young male and female body in ways that would seem peculiar to an outsider of the human race.

There are plenty of things that are beautiful which we do not mass-obsess over like we mass-obsess over a naked human body: sunsets, the ocean, lightning, a stream in the woods, an eagle soaring in the sky, or the stars at night. We usually enjoy these things, but we don’t sacrifice our budgets, families, and dignity for a glimpse at them.

Those things that we mass-obsess over tend to be either the human body or the creation of human beings: music, sports, fame, food (yes, bacon), cars, or houses. We constantly place ourselves in physical, financial, relational, or moral jeopardy to have these things.

Can there be any doubt that we are a race obsessed with ourselves? We even make movies based upon the premise that other beings are as obsessed with themselves as we are (i.e., Plant of the Apes or countless movies of computers taking over the world).

Maybe instead of trying so hard to see a naked body, we need to wake up and see ourselves. Maybe we need to look in the mirror as intently as we look at a screen, stage, or through a window. Maybe our common experience is not as common sense as we’d like to pretend.

What does this mean? I cannot mean that we become non-sexual beings who forsake passion, attraction, or the recognition of beauty. It does mean that we have to stop making excuses for these features of our humanity to drive our lives.

We have become such willing slaves to self and sin that we have begun to call slavery, freedom. We have begun to call death, life. We have begun to define our life dreams in terms of a nightmare. And in keeping with our folly we seem surprised and offended when our dream comes true.

The solution cannot be elimination of these desires. We would cease to be human. The solution can be a new Master and obsession. Actually, this is the only answer for the human condition. It is the only thing that brings balance, life, hope, love, and health. Living for our Eternal Creator rather than His temporal creation is our hope.

The solution is not to try harder to avoid the bacon strip tease. We must recognize what our bacon-addiction reveals about our personal human condition and cry out to a Savior who is larger than our absurdity. Allow this illustration from C.S. Lewis to alert you to the parts of creation that have begun to make your soul salivate as only God should.

10 Pre-Marital Questions on Sex (Part 8)

This series of blogs comes from FAQ’s from the guys in Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry. They represent a conglomeration of questions from many different husbands-to-be during the Engaged Discovery Weekend. If you are interested in serving as a marriage mentor or are engaged, click here to learn more about Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry.

How do we control the carnal nature of ourselves and replace it with selfless love that the Bible teaches with regards to sex in marriage?

I think the most effective place to begin with this question is with the verb “replace.” The verb implies that we need to remove one type of desire, discard it, find another type of desire, and fill the void with this new desire. I would recommend we use the verb “transform” instead.

Let me illustrate the difference with an extended quote from Joshua Harris as he summarizes C.S. Lewis.

In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis tells an allegorical story about a ghost of a man afflicted by lust. Lust is incarnated in the form of a red lizard that sits on his shoulder and whispers seductively in his ear. When the man despairs about the lizard, an angel offers to kill it for him. But the fellow is torn between loving his lust and wanting it to die. He fears that the death of the lust will kill him. He makes excuse after excuse to the angel, trying to keep the lizard he says he doesn’t want.

Finally, the man agrees to let the angel seize and kill the lizard. The angel grasps the reptile, breaks its neck and throws it to the ground. Once the spell of lust is broken, the ghostly man is gloriously remade into a real solid being. And the lizard, rather than dying, is transformed into a breathtaking stallion. Weeping tears of joy and gratitude, the man mounts the horse and they soar into the heavens (p. 27-28 in Sex Is Not the Problem Lust Is).

Lewis is portraying that selfish lust is a distortion of selfless love. It is the real thing made perverse. Our goal is not ultimately to destroy the perversion, but to die to it so that God can transform it back into the blessing He intended it to be. It is not the desire that dies, but self. As desire is freed from the bondage of self, it becomes the reflection (image) of God it was intended to be and transforms from a curse (burden) into a blessing.

It is always good to quote C.S. Lewis if you want to sound smart (hence, I quote him frequently), but this concept needs to become more practical if God is going to use it to “transform” our lives. The following list of ideas is meant to help you transform selfish lust into selfless love.

1. Focus on your spouse’s pleasure during sex and foreplay. Getting lost in your own pleasure during sex tends to make the experience shorter and less intense. Watch her eyes and face. Listen to her voice. Give a massage that helps her to relax and prepare for sex. As you massage express thanks for the things she has done to grow tense or tired (see #3 below). Rejoice in the fact that God has allowed you to love this woman in a way that blesses her and brings her joy.

2. Daydream about how to make sex more meaningful and satisfying for your spouse. Daydreaming tends to be a very self-centered practice. We think about what we want most. Then (because our spouse cannot read our mind) we have a tendency to be disappointed. Counter this by allowing your desires to drive you to become a more creative and expressive lover. At the end of the day you are more likely to experience a dream come true if you daydream this way.

3. Verbally affirm your spouse during sex. Sex can be verbal. “I love you. You are my best friend. Thank you for giving yourself to me. You are an incredible blessing. You make me feel very loved. I enjoy loving you. It is a joy to be your husband,” and similar statements should be made frequently. Occasional references to key events in your courtship, honeymoon, marriage, or future dreams can be meaningful especially during foreplay.

4. Do not stop loving your spouse after the climax of sex. It is easy to become selfish again after climax and to retreat back into one’s own world or think the love making is over. Taking time to continue to hold, caress, talk, or look into each other’s eyes is an important way that you were not just engaging is a highly pleasurable form of personal recreation, but that you were making love to a person who is immensely important to you.

If these do not sound exciting to you, then there is some transformative work that God needs to do. In light of these things, I would encourage you to meditate on Luke 9:23-24. Pray that God would allow you to see the Gospel in your marriage (Eph. 5:32) to such a degree that even in sex your greatest pleasure would be found in sacrificing your pleasure for your spouse’s. Trust that when this happens, you will have found the “(sex) life” (v. 24) you were aiming for all along.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Sex and Sexuality” post which address other facets of this subject.

FAQ’s About Sex, Lust & the Gospel


How should I think about sex?

Here is a quote that I believe captures the glory of sex and cautions us against the over-emphasis of sex.

“Our Christian task is to remember that every sexual union is profound.  It always points to the deeper union that we have with Christ by faith.  Sex mirrors the glory of God in the gospel.  It exists because it expresses God’s oneness with His people, His fidelity to us, His ownership of us, His self-sacrifice, and the pleasure we can take in this relationship… Sex is a good thing, there’s no question about that, but we don’t need sex.  Humanness, found in Jesus, is not defined by sexual intercourse.” Edward T. Welch in “The Apostle Paul: On Sex” The Journal of Biblical Counseling (Fall 2005).

How does sexual sin (or any other sin) begin to change me?

The article “Not Again Sin” by Brad Hambrick [SIN_article_Hambrick] takes you through nine questions to help you see the influence of your sin in your life. Often, like David, we miss the subtle changes. He moved from sense of entitlement about rest (staying home “because he had already won many battles and deserved a rest”) to a sense of entitlement about pleasure (having Bathsheba). Chances are, he didn’t see the connection. When we see the ways our sin influences us, then our resolve to avoid temptation becomes stronger.

What should I do if I struggle with pornography?

Act now! You need to talk to somebody. Private sins, like pornography, fester in anonymity. We would highly recommend you join our Freedom Group on purity.

Install accountability and blocking software on your computer. For free accountability software on your computer, see If you want a slightly more sophisticated program, see

How hurt or offended should I be by my spouse’s pornography problem?

The article “Is Pornography Biblical Grounds for Divorce?” by Brad Hambrick [PORN_MARRIAGE_article_Hambrick] is meant to walk couples through this question. Don’t let the title make you think it’s a debative article. It attempts to walk a couple form hurt (intense and personal) to hope (real and honest). The article walks a couple through understanding the hurt, what to ask, who to involve, and what each spouse should do next.

A sample piece of advice: don’t let your wife be your primary or exclusive accountability partner (or vice versa). These dual roles of spouse and accountability are hard to balance. The wife should be allowed to ask any question she would like to know, but the husband should protect his wife by not forcing her to perpetually ask him uncomfortable questions or risk her husband being alone in his battle with pornography.

What do I do if my spouse has been unfaithful?

Don’t continue to hurt alone and in silence. Yelling at your spouse doesn’t count as speaking up. Infidelity should not be handled alone.  The powerful emotions of anger, betrayal, fear, shame, shock, and the corresponding temptations to denial, blame-shifting, manipulation, and quick fixes are too strong to be navigated alone. Reach out to our counseling office for help (919.383.7100).

What if my struggle stems from insecurity?

Our culture tells us that the universal solution to all our problems is to love ourselves more. The Bible predicted this and warned against it long before psychology “discovered” it (2 Tim. 3:1-2). Focusing on and thinking more of self doesn’t provide relief from insecurity – it makes it worse. Staring in a mirror longer and closer doesn’t excite us any more about our appearance. This is especially true when we “score” ourselves by appearance, instead of treasuring who we are in/to Christ and what God has done for us and is willing to do through us.

The following four articles should help you think through this further.

How should I talk to my children about sex and lust?

You should talk to your children about sex and lust. If you don’t, somebody else will. With that said, it is an intimidating and awkward subject. Paul Tripp’s booklet Teens & Sex: How Should We Teach Them? provides an excellent brief discussion of how to have these talks (yes, plural). Joshua Harris’ book Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is): Sexual Purity in a Lust-Saturated World  is an excellent PG book on lust written for teens with a gospel focus.

Pastor JD talked about not dressing for attention. This is not an attack on style and is difficult. Carolyn Mahaney has written a four page “modesty checklist” [PARENTING_Modesty Checklist_Mahaney] that takes you from heart to heels. It is an excellent tool for parents to talk through with their daughters (and their sons concerning what attracts them to girls).

How do I train myself to be “captivated by God’s beauty”?

Too often a phrase like this can be good rhetoric, but hard to apply. There are no picture magazines of God’s beauty and our captivation in God’s beauty is more declaration than self-gratification. If this question intrigues you and you want to make a reality in your life, I would recommend chapters 25-27 of Future Grace by John Piper (only 30 pages total for all three chapters combined). The title of chapter 27 is “Faith in Future Grace vs. Lust.”