I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here, but in light of some recent conversations (and conversations I’ve had throughout my ministry), I want to share some considerations in the form of questions you may not have thought through before that may help you in your battle against impurity.
1. Are you upset that you “messed up” because you dishonored your God or because you broke your streak?
People often fall into the pit of guilt and despair because they gave into temptation when they were “doing so well.” It is not uncommon for the man sitting across from me to tell me how long he had not looked at pornography or masturbated. To me, this kind of thinking is all wrong. Like all other sins, impurity should bother you because of the holiness of God and your adoration of Him. When you are more upset that you broke your streak of being pure for x number of weeks, then you are focused more on yourself than you are on God. In other words, when looking at the question above, former worships God but the latter worships self, the former leads to heart repentance while the latter leads to legalism, the former turns to grace but the latter relies on human effort. It is the difference between godly sorry that leads to repentance without regret and worldly sorry that leads to death (2 Cor. 7:10). Remember: just because you haven’t committed the act in a while doesn’t mean you’ve repented; it may simply mean you’ve been busy or your internet is on the fritz. God looks at the heart.
This is about having a high view of God. Ultimately, the more you love and adore your Savior, the more you will want to obey Him not merely out of an adherence to the law but out of a hatred of dishonoring the object of your greatest affection. It is the difference between the young men and the fathers in 1 John 2. One of the keys in battling impurity is not merely memorizing and meditating on rich and helpful passages on lust and purity but also meditating on the character of God. Learn to worship God not only for what He has done for you but also for who He is.
2. What are the other sins that are enabling this vice?
The sin of impurity is wretched in and of itself. However, you may be losing the battle because you are only focusing on the impurity and, subsequently, only seeking the Scriptures where this particular issue is addressed while neglecting other contributing sins. One glaring sin that leads to impurity is selfishness/pride. Especially for the married man, but also true for the single man, immorality takes quite a bit of self-centeredness to go through with. The sin of lustful passion in 1 Thessalonians 4 is prohibited, in part, because it defrauds your brother. As John MacArthur writes, there are “destructive social and spiritual implications of illegitimate sexual activity.” In my experience, those who struggle greatly with impurity exhibit selfishness and a general lack of consideration in other areas.
Single men: pornography and/or masturbation are training you to be selfish in bed which will affect your future marriage and violate the selflessness that you are commanded to have in all relationships including, if not especially, your marriage (even while having sex). Married men: it takes an especially wicked degree of selfishness to perform such acts with anyone (including yourself) that is not the wife you have committed to.
There may be other sins that are involved such as laziness, a lack of gratitude to God, or unbelief in His promises, to name just a few. Be sure you are not so fixated on the main problem that you fail to prayerfully and realistically evaluate your life for other issues that may be peripheral or may turn out to be the actual main issue.
3. Why are you not physically satisfied by your wife?
Impurity will naturally affect your relationship and attraction to your wife, but I want you to also consider other issues in your marriage that may be hindering your pursuit of purity and holiness. Are there marriage issues that need to be dealt with? Is your wife denying you her body in violation of 1 Corinthians 7:3? Are you depriving her? If so, why? Is your marriage upside down because you are not fulfilling your roles? These are just some questions to think through and may lead to a long overdue hard talk with your spouse. Perhaps a counselor should be sought.
4. Is a belief in a false generalization hindering your battle?
I understand that it is a roundabout way of sharing about an embarrassing struggle by referring to the sin that “all men struggle with.” This may be a generalization that you merely vocalize but do not believe. In case you do believe it, let me assure you that I know for a fact that not all men struggle with this issue. When it comes down to it, however, it really doesn’t matter how many people struggle with impurity. One of the dangers of believing this misconception is that you use it as a justification to give in to temptation (“after all, I am a man, and all men struggle with this, so…”). Additionally, there is danger in finding fellowship in that which Christ died for rather than Christ Himself.
5. Are you measuring success in days or holiness?
This ties into our first question, but I want to elaborate. Aids such as internet filters and accountability partners remove distractions so you can deal with the holiness of your heart. Do not fool yourself into thinking that you have conquered this sin because your internet block has kept you from looking at porn. After all, you have enough in your head to make you sin for the rest of your life without ever looking at another woman (or man). Additionally, the fear of having to tell your accountability partner that you messed up is merely a help so you can start addressing the sin out of a fear of God. I often send my kids out to play in the backyard so I can focus on my work but it does no good if I send them out to play and just twiddle around on Facebook all day. Use the removal of temptations to get to work without distractions.
The sin of lust and its various outworkings (masturbation, pornography, unbiblical sex, spousal abuse, etc.) is downright nasty but also one of the sins that men and women often give up on or simply get used to. It must be battled in such a way that you can proverbially say you have torn out your eye (Matt. 5:29). In this post, I have written in a way so as to address a man’s lust for a woman though these questions should help in other scenarios whether heterosexual or homosexual. I pray this is a help to you in your pursuit of holiness and a high view of God.