Friday, December 18, 2009

In preparation for our youth/college retreat to Big Bear next month focusing on the theme of God, Sex, and Purity, I read Josh Harris' book to prepare my mind and teach me helpful truths about pursuing purity and Christlikeness and resisting the poison of lust.

Harris, Joshua. Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is): Sexual Purity in a Lust-Saturated World. Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2003. 185 pages

“I’m against lust, but I’m also for God’s plan for sexual desire. Yes, lust is bad. But it’s bad because what it perverts is so good.” (11)

“Some people have the mistaken notion that God is anti-sex. In fact, He’s outspokenly pro-sex! He invented it. What an incredible thought! Passionate sex was God’s idea. He isn’t embarrassed by it. Song of Songs is an entire book in the Bible dedicated to celebrating pure sex in marriage. Part of the challenge Christians face in a lust-filled world is remembering that neither sex nor sexuality is our enemy. Sex is not the problem—lust is the problem. Is’s the enemy and has hijacked sexuality. We need to keep reminding ourselves that our goal is to rescue our sexuality from lust so we can experience it the way God intended” (12, emphasis added).

“To lust is to want what you don’t have and weren’t meant to have. Lust goes beyond attraction, an appreciation of beauty, or even a healthy desire for sex—it makes these desires more important than God. Lust wants to go outside God’s guidelines to find satisfaction” (20-21).

“Today, we are often misguided in three key areas:

  1. The wrong standard for holiness
  2. The wrong source of power to change
  3. The wrong motive for fighting our sin (p.23).

“God’s Word shows us how to get on the path to freedom. It shows us that the key to escaping the cycle of defeat is to embrace God’s standard for holiness, His source of power for change, and His motive for fighting sin” (p.24).

What is the God’s standard when it comes to lust? How much lust does God want us to allow in our lives? The answer is not even a hint!” (p.24). à Eph 5:3

“[God] wants us to eliminate any kind of impurity in our thoughts and actions. He wants us to dig down into our hearts and uproot sexual greediness, which is always seeking a new sensual thrill” (p.25).

“Sexual purity is clearly something only God can bring about in your life and mine. God’s standard of not even a hint quickly brings me to the end of my own ability and effort. It reminds me that God’s standard is so much higher than the standards I place for myself that only the victory of Christ’s death and resurrection can provide the right power and the right motive needed to change me” (27).

Quoting John Piper in Future Grace, Piper writes: “We must fight fire with fire. The fire of lust’s pleasures MUST be fought with the fire of God’s pleasures. If we try to fight the fire of lust with prohibitions and threats alone—even the terrible warnings of Jesus—we will fail. We must fight it with the massive promise of superior happiness. We must swallow up the little flicker of lust’s pleasure in the conflagration of holy satisfaction” (quoted on p.29).

“Think about this: The sinless Son of God, who perfectly obeyed God’s commands for purity and never lusted, was completely human. That means Jesus was a sexual human being. God didn’t fudge on the Incarnation. God became one of us—a living, breathing, sweating, desiring, feeling human being. Jesus wasn’t a sexless, lifeless half-man. He had sexual urges and desires. He appreciated the beauty of women. He noticed the beauty of women. He was really a man…and none of this was sinful!” (p.34-35).

“It is so critical to understand that our sexual drive isn’t the same as lust. For example, it’s not lust:

  1. to be attracted to someone or notice that he or she is good-looking
  2. to have a strong desire to have sex
  3. to anticipate and be excited about having sex within marriage
  4. when a man or woman becomes turned on without any conscious decision to do so
  5. to experience sexual temptation. (p.35)

“Pray to God about your lust … open, humble dialogue with God could transform the way you view your sexuality. God doesn’t just want us to cultivate a hatred for lust; He wants us to cultivate a gratefulness and appreciation for the gift of sexual desire He has planted in us (38).

“Lust is a sexual desire minus honor and holiness. When we lust, we take this good thing—sexual desire—and remove from it honor toward fellow humans and reverence for God” (quote from John Piper on p.38).

“When we choose lust, we are actively rejecting God (cf. 1 Thess 4:7-8). (p.39)

Lust is an endless cycle. The payoff of lust is a continual lust for more. Even when you indulge in every kind of impurity, you’re still filled with a continual lust (41).

“As Christians, embracing our sexuality looks radically different. We don’t obey every sexual impulse—nor do we deny that we have sexual desires. Instead, we choose both restraint and gratefulness. For us, sexual desire joins every other part of our lives—our appetite for food, our use of money, our friendships, our dreams, our careers, our possessions, our abilities, our families—in bowing before the One True God (42).

NOTE: “only the power of the gospel can rescue us from the prison of our sin, and only the motive of grace can sustain us in the ongoing struggle against lust” (47).

“Here’s what you have to remember. You need to be rescued from your (lustful) sin. You need God’s grace. And not just on your bad days—you need God’s grace every day. There’s a name for this process of tying to save yourself…it’s called legalism (49).

“Nothing we do in our pursuit of holiness adds to our justification (p.52).

“God isn’t just saving us from sin; He’s saving us for a life of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). Yes, there’s sacrifice involved. The call to follow Jesus is a call to put our sin to death, to crucify it and then let the Holy Spirit control every part of our lives—including our sexual desires. He asks us to give up chasing the lustful desires that could please us temporarily. Yet on the other side of that sacrifice is freedom and true pleasure (57).

“Bigger outbreaks of sin are usually triggered by smaller sins that I wasn’t diligent in guarding against[ and repenting of]” (64).

Romans 13:14!!

Richard Baxter says: “Keep as far as you can from those temptations that feed and strengthen the sins which you would overcome. Lay siege to your sins, and starve them out, by keeping away the food and fuel which is their maintenance and life” (quoted onp.65)

“For many men and women, the Internet isn’t just a little battle; it’s the main battleground where they’re tempted daily to indulge in lust. Escaping this temptation requires radical action.” (71)

“If you’re not struggling with online pornography that’s good—but please don’t assume you’re safe. If you’re not willing to fight the little battles of purity today in this area, you’ll more than likely end up ensnared in something bigger in days to come” (71).

Great questions for Discussion on Purity/lust/Porn:

  1. List your own top three lust triggers. How can you avoid them? What causes you to lust (places, people, locations, areas, clothing?)
  2. What time of day or week are you most tempted by lust (school, parties, church?)
  3. Which locations are the most tempting for you? How can you limit your time in those places?
  4. What five little battles do you need to be fighting more faithfully? Describe in detail what it looks like for you to fight—and win—these battles (p.75).

Hear the truth and OBEY IT – James 1:21-22

“Lust always starts with something good…it takes God’s design then distorts it” (85).

Al Mohler once said: “Men are tempted to give themselves to pornography—women are tempted to commit pornography.” If you’re a woman, you don’t have to pose for a picture or star in a pornographic movie to commit pornography. When you dress and behave in a way that is designed primarily to arouse sexual desire in men [and be noticed by people and reveal parts of your body that should be covered] you’re committing pornography with your life (87).

“There is a difference between dressing attractively and dressing to attract” (92).

NOTE: “sexual release is NOT the antidote to lust. If you think it is, you’ve got a sad surprise coming—lust will be waiting for you after your honeymoon with a whole new batch of lies” (93).

Masturbation: “Some guys say they can masturbate without lusting. They say they think nonsexual thoughts and do it merely for release. It’s not my place to judge the hearts of these people. I can only speak for myself and say that I highly doubt this is possible (102)

à Jer 17:9

Masturbation is self-sex. It is self-centered sex. The WRONG attitude says that sex is solely about you and your pleasure. Your body. Your genitals. Your orgasm. It isolates us from others and makes pleasure SELF-focused. (103).

Jeffrey Black writes: “The goal of pornography and masturbation is to create a substitute for intimacy. Masturbation is sex with yourself. If I’m having sex with myself, I don’t have to invest myself in another person (105).

Good note:

A good piece of advice: GET MARRIED. Unless God has removed your desire for sex and has given you a clear vision to serve Him as a single person, then assume that you’re supposed to get married and either make yourself ready or begin pursuing it” (111).

“More Christian singles should be running toward marriage” (112)


“I’m not going to tell you what you can and can’t watch. But I do want to look at how we can practice biblical discernment and wisdom when it comes to our viewing habits” (116).

Today’s media, especially TV, seeks to define reality for us. It wants to tell us how to think about sex, about marriage, about our desires, about sin. The danger of not bringing God’s standards to bear in what you watch isn’t only that you might see a naked body, but that the values of a sinful world will shape what you’re living for” (117).

“The TV and film industry stir up feelings and emotions that bypass our minds and go straight for our affections. The incredible power of media is that it can make something evil look good or exciting without appearing to make any argument at all!” (118).

à Rom 1:32 – beware!

Good principle from Mrs. Wesley to her son, Charles: “Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself” (120)

Another practical application: “you should be able to honestly give thanks to God for the portrayal in its totality of that which you partake of. This is wholesomely biblical. If you can’t bow your head and sincerely thank God for a movie, or a symphony, or a video game, or a party, or a music song, or a newscast, or a book—then for YOU that activity is wrong. Stop arguing with yourself, and move on to something else!” (121).

Remember: “media is after your heart. It’s not trying to reason with you—it seeks to disguise its message so that you’ll welcome it and let your guard down” (122-23).

“There is NO such thing as a ‘must-see-TV’” (p.127)

“Our enemy goes after people who have isolated themselves from other Christians. Stragglers make easy victims. Without other people to encourage them, watch out for them, and confront small compromise in their lives, they often end up drifting into serious sin” (133).

“An accountability relationship is one in which a Christian gives permission to another believer to look into his life for purposes of questioning, challenging, admonishing, advising, encouraging and otherwise providing input in ways that will help the individual live according to the Christian principles that they both hold (136).

“When you humble yourself and take the step of confessing lust (b/c we all do), God will give you more grace to battle that very sin (140).

à1 Pet 5:5

“Repentance involves a change of heart and a decision to turn away from a sin. It’s proven over time and involves an ongoing choice to put sin to death!” (142).

Discussion questions:

  1. Do I view this sin as an act of rebellion against God?
  2. Is there true sorrow over my sin or do I merely dislike the consequences?
  3. Am I cultivating a hatred for this sin?
  4. What further action do I need to take?
  5. What will I do the next time I’m tempted in this way?
  6. What preemptive actions can I take to avoid this sin next time?
  7. What activities or thought patterns do I need to turn from? (p.142).

SPECIFIC questions for accountability partners:

  1. How did you do guarding your eyes at work today?
  2. Did you masturbate this week?
  3. Did you view porn online this week?
  4. What are you meditating on when you wake up in the morning?
  5. Have you been memorizing Scripture to combat the lies of lust?
  6. Is your relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend pure—totally? (p.144)

“Part of sin is dissatisfaction with God. Lust’s power comes from the promise it gives that something besides God can make us happy. What this means is that the only way to overcome the power of lust in our lives is by finding better promises. The key to holiness is satisfaction in God—faith that He is more to be desired than anything this world has to offer. We’re not just turning away from lust; we’re turning toward true satisfaction and joy in God” (158-59).

“What you see in your spiritual life today is the direct result of what you’ve put in the soil of your life in days past” (163)

àGal 6:7-9

“Some Christians sow to the flesh every day and wonder why they do not reap holiness” (164).

How do you find satisfaction in God?

  1. Choose to make it the number one priority of your day to spend time with God
  2. Have a plan for what you’re going to do during your time with God (167-70)

Galatians 6:9 – never give up!

How to fight internet porn:

  1. Identify what’s leading up to lustful indulgence on the internet (174)
  2. Resolve that no technological convenience is worth sinning against God (174)
  3. Examine your mindset when browsing and the amount of time spent online (175)
  4. Have an accountability partner that consistently asks about your internet activity (175)
  5. Redefine ‘over the line’ (it’s not the edge of the cliff)
  6. Use website filters, blockers, and accountability software as a final line of defense, not the first (176)
  7. Fight this sin the hardest when you’re feeling strong

How to Repent: (178ff)

  1. Pray
  2. Identify the sin
  3. Embrace the Gospel
  4. Take steps to STOP
  5. Replace your sin with righteousness
  6. Seek fellowship as a means of grace
  7. Review the previous steps repeatedly!
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