Every Man's Battle and How to Win It
It has been my experience through four decades in pastoral ministry that every community is only as strong as its men – as strong as their faith, their ingenuity, their confidence, their resolve, their commitment to walking in the ways and will of God.
I praise God for dynamic women in our communities, our churches, in our families, in our businesses, and in our homes, but there is a marvelous effect in any community when its men, specifically, are leading well.
It has also been my experience that no man can lead well who is not practicing sexual purity in his life.
Temptation is every man’s battle, and every woman’s as well. We all face temptations of pride and greed and rebellion, of unbelief and unkindness and unfaithfulness in our lives. But most men I have met throughout my life would readily admit that the number one temptation they face, day in and day out, centers on remaining sexually pure.
We’re bombarded with TV ads, magazine ads, movies that leave too little to the imagination, Internet sites that find us, regardless of how strong our filters are, and what we’re left with is an overly sexualized culture, just looking to take us down.
Certainly, this isn’t a new problem. We read of ancient men – prophets and kings, military leaders and shepherds, all who had wandering eyes. But I like to think our challenge is still greater today, with technology enabling instant access to smut. It’s in our face 24/7, and if we’re not careful, we’ll dumb down our spiritual life, settling for far less than holiness requires.
Second Corinthians 6 holds the key, I think, to living as men of honor, men who seek hard after God. “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers,” it says. “For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
The first verse of the next chapter then says: “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
We’re not to mingle lawlessness with righteousness, darkness with light, idols with the temple of God, which according to the New Testament is our bodies – marrow and bone. Instead, we are to perfect holiness in the fear of God. What a great life goal to have!
Now, to how we accomplish that goal.
Prepare for Spiritual Attack
I carry around a little acronym in my mind and heart for each time I face that overly sexualized culture I mentioned earlier. The acronym is PURE, and the “P” represents “preparing for spiritual attack.”
No one – including me – is above sexual temptation. First Corinthians 10:12 reminds you and me both that we who take a stand should “take heed, lest we fall.” We can think that we’re so steady we’ll never lose our footing or trip, but King David probably thought the very same thing. And his story is a reminder to every man that any of us can be attacked. We have a very real enemy of our souls, who seeks to devour us as a hungry lion who has found his prey.
But the good news is this: when we arm ourselves consistently – day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment – with the presence and power of God, we become victors, not victims, over sin.
Be vigilant. Stay sober-minded. Prepare for this battle in your life. And trust your loving Father to help you flee temptation’s grip.
Undo Defiling Associations
The “U” in PURE represents “undoing defiling associations.” This one takes raw honesty, I’ll admit, because for any man who has negotiated his sexual purity by giving into temptation from time to time, admitting those failures feels like a fate worse than death. Confessing impurity is a special kind of awful, but the resulting freedom is second to none.
So, even if your wife, your children, your colleagues at work think you are morally upright, if you are falling prey to sexual temptation, you simply must find a confidant with whom you can candidly confess. You must own up to your failure so that freedom can be your. First John 1:9 gives assurance that this is exactly what will take place: “If we confess our sins,” it says, “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Cleansing from all unrighteousness – isn’t this what we truly desire?
Then, going forward, rid yourself of any and all “defiling associations.” If there are people or places that promote temptation in your mind and heart, get them out of your life. Sever the ties. Bid fond farewells. Save yourself from agonizing harm. This may mean adding filters to your Internet, discontinuing all private communication with certain work associates, making sure your spouse is present whenever you visit certain neighbors, avoiding situations in coffee shops or restaurants or hotels or business meetings that you know only lead you astray.
For more that 35 years, I have made it a practice never to go to lunch (or breakfast or dinner, for that matter) with a woman other than my wife, unless my wife also is present. I don’t travel alone with another women, even if that means a simple, cross-town car ride. And this isn’t merely for the sake of appearances, although that is also a worthwhile goal. It is for the sake of my soul. It is to help me remain sexually pure.
Rarely does a week go by when a man doesn’t request a meeting with me to discuss his moral failure. Maybe it centered on indulging in online pornography or maybe he had begun placing too high a value on compliments from his assistant at work. Maybe it was that he actually met that assistant at a local hotel at 2:00 a.m., while his family was visiting his in-laws two states away. What he once prized as his “secret sin” now was consuming every aspect of his life. As the old saying goes, we don’t keep secrets, as much as our secrets keep us.
We must rid our lives of the associations that are keeping us in bondage, in sin, and in pain.
Remember the Consequences of Fatal Attractions
A movie came out in the late 1980s that set men’s feet on the straight-and-narrow path better than any good sermon ever could. Dan Gallagher – played by Michael Douglas – was a successful and happily married attorney living in New York who had what he considered “an innocent weekend fling” with a female business associate turn very, very bad. The “other woman” refused to cut ties with Dan and wound up terrorizing his entire family as a result. In the end, the attraction did prove fatal, as Dan’s wife shot his mistress in the chest. But perhaps equally devastating to the philandering husband was having to repair the breach of trust he’d caused with his wife, his daughter and himself.
We do well to remember the consequences of fatal attractions – the “R” in our PURE acronym – which often include a broken marriage, the loss of loved ones’ respect, the loss of employment, exposure to disease, the destruction of our witness and testimony for Christ, the loss of leadership in the church…the list can go on. Sexual sin seems enticing on the surface, but there is a monster lurking underneath. The Bible refers to that monster by name: Sin Against Your Own Soul. This particular sin – the sin of sexual immorality – wages war in your mind, in your body, in your relationships, in your Christian witness, and yes, even in your soul. Which is why the aftereffects can be so terribly tough to move through. But again, this is where Jesus paves the way, beckoning us onward and upward toward that perfected holiness we seek.
Engage in Positive Spiritual Activities
There is a fourth letter in our PURE acronym – “E” – which stands for engage in positive spiritual activities. You and I never will win the battle against sexual temptation simply by telling ourselves “no”: no to this, no to that, no to this, no to that. In addition, we must say some appropriate yeses: yes to holiness, yes to cleanliness, yes to righteousness, yes to faithfulness, yes to God’s presence and power and peace.
We can say yes, for example, to fortifying our faith, by writing God’s Word on our hearts. For starters, I recommend memorizing Psalm 119:11: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Next, as that verse says, go ahead and start “storing up” in your heart other gems from the living, active Word of God. 2 Timothy 2:22 might encourage you: “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Or how about Psalm 51:9-11, for those times when you’ve failed but long to get back on God’s path? It reads, “9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.”
We can also say yes to purifying our thoughts. Philippians 4:8 reminds us that we have control over what we think about, and that we can choose helpful, healthy thoughts. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable,” it reads, “if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” To purify our thoughts, we must meditate, the verse says, on things that honor God.
We can say yes to having an accountability partner. As I mentioned earlier, if you are struggling with sexual sin, find someone more mature in the faith who can listen to your confessions and encourage you along healing’s path.
And finally, we can say yes to magnifying the Lord Jesus in our lives. What countless millions of Christ-followers have discovered – and what you certainly will discover, too – is that when you fully devote yourself to living for Jesus every day, you’ll find He gladly mops up your life’s messes, left and right. He’ll clean up your mind, your heart, your attitude, your actions, your desires, your cravings, your habits, and your sin. In fact, over time, you’ll notice that your love for that sin is being replaced by an insatiable love for Christ. Your prayers will deepen, as you genuinely long to sit in His presence and learn more of who He is. You’ll tell Him earnestly, “I really don’t want any part of something that will compromise my intimacy with You.” You’ll find purity taking hold of you, where sin once had full reign.
Ephesians 5:3-5 raises the bar on our activity as people of God: “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. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (NIV, emphasis added).
Not even a hint of sexual sin, it says! This is why we need the power of Christ working in our lives, right? Not. Even. A. Hint.
May perfected holiness have its way in our lives.
Author Randy Alcorn once described sexual sin in terms that have stuck with me ever since: “A battering ram may hit a fortress gate a thousand times and no one time seems to have an effect; yet finally the gate caves in. Likewise, immorality is the cumulative product of small mental indulgences and miniscule promises or compromises, the immediate consequences of which are, at the time, indiscernible. One thought is the fabric of which we weave our character and our destiny.”
Let’s be wise stewards of each thought we indulge, each decision we make, each action we take, so that we don’t run the risk of our lives’ gates caving in.