[I'm copying this post of Cat's to the devotional section because I believe it fits here]
I am writing to discuss some thoughts I have on escaping sexual immorality. What I have to say applies to any sinful temptation really but I'm particularly focusing on sexual issues because for us boylovers a sexual sin can have devastating consequences in this life as well as in the next (cf: Matt 18:6).
There are many kinds of sexual sins and we boylovers are no less in danger of them than others of different sexualities. However, unlike others, we will rarely get given second chances or get to be able to freely go and talk to people when we are struggling with a temptation.
I think the two sins that stand out most are extra-marital sex and real life (as opposed to fictitious cartoons/stories) pornography. There are different opinions on how sinful these things are and I don't intend to discuss that here at all. I'm going to write with a presupposition that pornography and any sex outside of marriage are sinful. (You do not need to agree with my presupposition on these points to appreciate what I'm saying in this study.)
Here is a reality: we will be tempted.
There is no escape from this. No avoiding it. The degree of the temptation will vary person to person and in different seasons of one's life. Nevertheless, temptation will come our way, there is nothing we can do to stop it and it's best in my thinking to be prepared for it.
James anticipates this reality when he writes: "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." (James 1:12)
To be clear, he lets us know that this temptation to sin does not come from God but begins with something within our own selves: desire.
"13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death." (James 1:13-14).
Notice he does not say that the desire is sinful.The word used here for desire: "epithumo" is neutral (neither good nor bad). It can represent sinful desire (Rom 6:12), desires for general earthly things that are neutral of themselves (Mark 4:19) and it can represent holy desire (Luke 22:15 "Jesus "desired" to eat the Passover with his disciples). (It is unfortunate that the NIV translates "epithumo" in James 1:14 as evil desire).
Wishing you could have something is common to man and comes from things like our basic drives, instincts, preferences, sexuality and personality. Whilst these things have been damaged and corrupted to some extent by sin I don't think any of them are sinful on their own per se.
James lays out a clear path from desire to sin and shows that several things have to happen to desire before SIN happens. Desire can lead to temptation but isn't temptation of itself.
Let me unpack the passage a bit:
"one is tempted when he is drawn away". Desire makes us want stuff. But temptation begins when our desires draw us away. Draw us away from what? Obviously, the answer to that question is the moral will and love of God. God sets boundaries for us, in the case we are considering: no sex outside of marriage and no porn. When our sexual desires (not sinful of themselves) draw us to look for satisfaction in sex outside of marriage or towards pornography then we have entered temptation.
"Enticed": I think the enticing is the specific thing or situation or person that desire is drawing us towards. It is the realisation that if we just go in a certain direction satisfaction will be possible. I start with a feeling of sexual desire. I believe that God has a boundary for me to enjoy that desire within. I either get married or I masturbate. But suddenly someone who is not my spouse seems gettable. I think... "I could have that person" and I have now entered into temptation.
To illustrate this stage meet Jonny. Jonny is a 20something boylover who's feeling horney. He's single, a virgin and a godly young man. It's been a few days since Jonny has masturbated and he's very much in the mood for some sexual release. He's home alone and the computer is just sitting there... an open door to the world wide web. The desire he's feeling can draw him away from godliness with the idea of how good it would be to tug to some porn. Jonny's desire is drawing him away and enticing him; he has entered into temptation.
Notice that by James' reckoning we haven't yet reached sin. Some more things need to happen before it becomes sinful.
"When desire has conceived". James introduces the analogy of child birth. Desire, the egg, is fertilised by enticement and it conceives. This is the planning stage. When we are in this stage we are in serious trouble. Sin is forming inside of our heart and all it needs is an opportunity and opportunity can happen so quickly and once it does we will run quickly into sin.
In the planning stage we have chosen our target and are making schemes and plans about how we can get it and have it. We still haven't directly sinned, but again, it's only because we lack opportunity. The planning stage is all about finding a way to make opportunity happen. I call this "intent". I have chosen to sin, I just need a chance to make it happen.
For Jonny the planning stage will only take a few moments. He knows some sites and how to get to them. He's thinking, "all I have to do is go to www.... and download that video". His desire has conceived now. He has a plan and he's only seconds away from making it happen. He has decided to sin and opportunity is right there. If he was at work or school he may have to wait a bit before his opportunity to enact his plan but now he has every intent on doing it as soon as he can.
This is what I believe Jesus was talking about in Matt 5:28 when he speaks of adultery in the heart. A mental plan has been made. It's more than just a fantasy of something we desire, as is so often condemningly taught. Intent to act has been established and the only thing needed is opportunity. This opportunity may never come. You may want to have sex with someone who isn't at all interested or whom you can never get alone with but the fact remains that IF you could make it happen, you would do it. Jonny might get home from work to find that his family are all there and since the computer is kept in a public location he can't use it to look up porn. He feels disappointed and has to rethink his plan... "hmmm... when can I get alone on this puter?... mum's going out shopping tomorrow afternoon..." but his overall intent remains.
Now Jonny may be wrestling with his temptation. He may be saying, "I'm in trouble here, I really intend to do this and I know it's not right but how can I stop myself?... I really want this." I will look at the answer to that important question a little later.
"it gives birth to sin" Now, after all of the above, we get opportunity and sin arrives. We actually DO what we planned. For Jonny it's sitting at the computer, downloading the vid and watching it. The sin was not the desire but the actions that the desire led to when it was drawn away from the will and love of God.
"sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death." Sin, like a baby, often begins small and grows. What starts out as a minor dabbling escalates as we refine our plans and get better at finding opportunities. We become educated and skilled at sinning. What we put up great resistance to at the beginning, becomes easier and easier to justify. We become hardened and deceived (Heb 3:13) and ultimately face the consequences and judgment that our sin leads to. For Jonny that could be a full blown addiction to porn, it could be getting caught and outed to his family, or worse, it could be getting caught and arrested and thrown in jail.
Let's look at this dynamic in another situation:
Max has been hanging out with his yf for months and even staying over at their house. He strongly believes that sex with kids is sinful and wants to be faithful both to God and his yf in this regard. However, lately the little guy has been taking swimming lessons and he just looks so delicious in his speedo that Max has been experiencing very strong sexual desires for his little mate. So far nothing sinful has happened but Max has entered into temptation. His desire is being enticed and he's being drawn towards seeking unholy pleasure from someone he loves. He knocks this on the head pretty quick and tells himself that he would never seek such a thing " this is taking action against intent.
One evening however, Max is asked by his yf's mum to babysit. It would mean being alone with his yf but he feels committed to behaving so he says' yes'. The night goes very nicely, they eat dinner together and watch a movie snuggling on the couch. Max notices that the little guy's pjs are pretty tiny and it wouldn't take much to get him to expose himself. Now his desire begins, in just seconds, to conceive... to plan. Without questioning his motives very much, he begins to tickle his yf. He knows that if he does this the kid will squirm and potentially expose himself and that is just what he wants.... but just by playing dumb, he deceives himself into believing it's just harmless play. Sure enough the plan bears the desired fruit and they yf becomes exposed on several occasions. Again without much conscious thought, desire conceives again and Max begins to make direct genital contact with his exposed yf trying to maintain the spirit of the tickling game. Sin is born.
I will now take a look at what we can do to endure temptation.
First and foremost I believe that honesty about what we desire is just so important. Denial about the things we desire doesn't make the desires go away. It only pushes the desires into the subconscious mind along with the enticing and planning and makes it easier for sin to sneak up on us. Neither does rule making and loudly outcrying against the wickedness of sin help one to overcome it (Col 2:20-23). I wish for a Christian church that can accept the existence of desire and know that on their own they do not constitute sin. I believe that where we are free to admit desire, we are more at liberty to seek help and guidance in enduring the temptations those desires can lead us into. I find this sentiment reflected in 1 John 1:8-10 " 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us."
This is the starting point for enduring temptation: forgiveness.
"Do you despise the riches of God's goodness, forbearance, and long suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" Romans 2:4.
"14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."Heb 4:14-16.
When we know that we are welcome to come forward with our struggles, that the door to God's room is open to us, that He's willing and desiring to help us, that there will be no condemnation or reprimand given to the one who comes to Him for help then we are at a huge advantage.
When we can find other Christian brothers who will treat us with the same kind of loving support then we are really in front.
Asking for help is just so important. We were never meant to struggle against sin on our own. The greatest protection you can have against your desires turning into sin is to be in good fellowship with God and with other Christians with whom you can confess. Confession is such a strong biblical principle but one that is little taught in protestant churches in my experience. We've already seen the passage in 1 John 1 where we are taught that, "if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleans us". A few verses prior John says, "7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." This connection between fellowship and cleansing is, I believe, enabled by confession.
James spells it out clearly when he says, "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." James 5:16.
There is great enduring power in being able to come honestly before God in prayer and say, "Father, I'm really struggling here. I really have strong desire to take this thing and I know it would be sinful to do so, but I really want it. Please have mercy and give me Your grace so that I may be able to walk in love and not indulge my desires sinfully."... or less formally... "Dad! Help! I'm in trouble again. Get me outa here!!" If Jonny, feeling his sexual hunger drawing him away to porn, is able to pray like this and then go to a trusted brother and say, "man, can you pray for me, I'm really feeling tempted to look at porn" then he can look forward to God's faithfulness healing him, forgiving him and cleansing him from all unrighteousness.
Relationship is so important for all aspects of our Christian walk. But there are some things we can do and are responsible to do on our own. Of course fellowship with God and other Christians can help you get your personal responsibilities established and in place but at the end of the day there are some things that you are responsible to do and to maintain.
The first of these is setting boundaries.
"A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it." Proverbs 23:3
"But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil its lusts." Romans 13:14.
"Flee sexual immorality" 1 Cor 6:18.
If we know that we struggle with a certain type of temptation then it's our responsibility to keep ourselves clear of opportunity. Jonny can let his family know that he struggles with porn (he doesn't need to tell them specifics) and ask them to keep a running check on him. He can avoid being alone with a computer if he knows that for him that's going to be an opportunity he'll find hard to resist. Max wants to do right by his yf, but if he knows he has trouble exercising self-control then it's his responsibility to make sure he's not alone with his yf.
There is no blanket set of rules; no one-size-fits-all. Some guys can be alone with technology and not have any trouble keeping away from porn. Some guys can be alone with a yf... even bathing him... and still behave appropriately. The goal is to know your own temptation, know what is a danger for you and then keep away from it.
Again this is where honesty is so important. We need to be really honest about what we desire and what is drawing us and enticing us, about exactly what we wish we could do and about exactly how far we know we are willing to go. It can be very difficult to admit these things to ourselves, we may not like the kinds of desires we find lurking in our darkest places, we may not like to admit the things we are willing to do if we only had the chance, but knowing that God sees all and knows all and loves us anyway, that He's ever ready to come to our aid with love and acceptance, makes us well equipped to face this responsibility.
It's important to be self-aware, to know that if you have intent then any opportunity that comes your way will be a likely occasion of sin and one you'll run to quickly when it presents itself. We all want to believe we are more self-controlled than we actually are. But as the Scripture warns us: "if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" 1 Corinthians 10:12.
Setting boundaries, whilst necessary, is simply not enough on its own to help us to endure temptation. The reason is, is that it is impossible to set perfect boundaries. In this modern world in which we live, Jonny will find it very difficult to never be alone with a computer. He may set his computer in a public place, he may even go so far as to not have an internet at home, but none of this will matter if he's still nurturing intent. Somewhere he'll come across an isolated internet connection and an opportunity to look at something. Likewise Max can be vigilant in not being alone with his yf, but then suddenly find himself left in a room where everyone else suddenly walks out right when his yf is in the middle of changing into his swimming costume. Or he may even get so blindly bold that he makes a grab for his yf's genitals in a public place (no one can see his hands under the water at the swimming pool).
Thus our second and equally important responsibility is to deal with any intent we are nurturing.
There is a process in Scripture called "renewing your mind" (Rom 12:1-2) also referred to as "putting to death the old nature" or "bringing every thought in to captivity to obedience to Christ" (2 Cor 10:5).
"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." Colossians 3:5.
"22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Eph 4:22-24.
Practically this works as prayer and meditation on the Scriptures along with some serious self-talk. I suggest the following kinds of steps:
*Look at what you intend to do and what opportunities you'd need to make it happen. We all give ourselves certain permissions. We say it would be ok if we do certain things. The more honest we are here the easier it will be to deal with what we find. Max first gave himself permission to covet his yf's body. He then gave himself permission to expose his nakedness. Finally he gave himself permission to touch him sexually.
*Confess your intent to God. "Father, I really want to do this and I'm looking for an opportunity."
*Confess the will of God. "Father I know that you want me to keep away from this sin. I know that to engage it would be sinful, but I still want to do it." Scripture here is the guide to know the moral will of God.
*Ask for help. "Father, if left to myself I know I want to do this sinful thing, please help me to renew my mind, to make what I want come into harmony with what you want".
*Choose to abandon the intent. Take away from yourself the permission to act. "It is not ok if I do this. I must not do this." Basically this is what the bible calls repentance; a willingness to confess and abandon sin. ("He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy." Proverbs 28:13).
Getting to repentance can be quite a wrestle. I've had occasions where I've had to pray, "Father, I don't WANT to repent of this. I want to be able to do this. Please give me even the desire to repent." and when I have, I've found that the desire to repent does follow.
*Embrace a holy way to meet your need. There are alternatives to sinning... always. Sometimes we must let go of having something we want, but there is often a holy alternative that will meet some of what we desire and where there is not we need to embrace that and be content with what we have and what we are allowed.
Jonny is wrestling with his temptation. He's made a decision to look at porn but he knows it's a bad choice. He's on his way home from work to an empty house and so he prays: "Hey Dad, I'm heading home right now and I really want to look at porn when I get there. I know this is not what You want me to do but I'm feeling pretty hungry for it right now. I'm pretty sure that without Your help I'm going to sin. I'm sorry that I want to do something against Your will. Please give me to strength to abandon this intention. It's not ok for me to look at porn and I want to choose to do Your will. Thank you Jesus for giving your life so that sin may not be my master. Amen."
When Jonny gets home he decides not to turn the computer on until after he goes and has a tug in the shower. His intent has been put to death and he endured temptation.
Now this kind of mind renewal takes time and effort. Sometimes in the heat of a moment of opportunity, intent can arrive in a split second, sometimes without us realising it. Max had no intent of sexing with his yf when he started to babysit him. He thought he was safe. But in the moment an opportunity presented itself, intent appeared suddenly and he acted. This is why we need a mix of boundaries and mind renewal. Boundaries protect us from situations where sudden intent may spring up and mind renewal protects us from those times where our boundaries fall down and sudden opportunity presents itself.
Max could have begun renewing his mind as soon as his desire started enticing him with his yf. Putting to death any intention he had to see his yf as a potential sex partner; determining in himself to be content with loving him in and affectionate but non-sexual way. If he was honest with himself he may have decided that babysitting him alone was not such a good idea and perhaps suggested inviting someone else over to join them. At the very least he could have called someone and told them of his temptation and asked them to hold him accountable.
So just to come back full circle, boundaries and mind renewal will be most effective in loving open fellowship with God and our Christian brothers where we can confess and pray. God is not a rule maker and formula creator, He wants us to be in dynamic relationships. There is no mastering temptation, there is only walking in the Holy Spirit. It's only as we call God, "Daddy" and are lead by His Spirit that we can hope to put to death the deeds of the body and live. (Rom 8:14-15).