Sexually, are you walking with God on His terms? I wasn’t. During college, I had memorized the dates when each of my favorite pornographic magazines was delivered to the campus bookstore. On those days, I’d sweep through their door as they opened for business at 9:00 a.m. to snatch up the latest copies. In my first year out of college, I had four girlfriends at once and was sleeping with three of them. I was swamped in sexual sin.
But one lovely May evening I committed my heart to Christ, and shortly ditched the girlfriends. Within a year, God introduced me to my wife Brenda, a pure lamb who had never strayed from His paths.
I had never seen such purity. Inspired, I knew something had to be done about the pornography. Since my wedding in 1981, I have never purchased pornography, nor have I viewed cyber-sex on the Internet.
Trouble is, I was like most Christian men
Like the boy who ignores his neck and ears at bath-time, I had only cleaned up so far. I still lingered long and hard over lingerie ads in the Sunday morning newspaper inserts. My eyes still locked on joggers and other thinly clad women. On business trips, I still watched PG-13 and R-movies. These didn’t warrant God’s attention, or so I thought.
But God’s standard was far higher than I had imagined, and soon I sensed that I was paying some prices in my spiritual life over these things, including a distance from God. What is God’s standard?
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality.Ephesians 5:3
A hint? Not even a hint? As a new Christian, I wasn’t sure what that meant.
Neither did anyone else, it seemed. Christian brothers responded to my questions, “You can’t control your eyes! Don’t worry about this. God understands!” Or, “You can’t control what you think about! Who knows where thoughts come from?”
No one seemed concerned, so I just pushed more heavily into church activities, hoping to eliminate that distance from God. I chaired the Young Couples Activities Committee, and soon earned a reputation as an effective Sunday school teacher. I seemed the model Christian.
But I knew the truth
I was paying prices, and the bills were piling up. Do you recognize any of the following in your life?
I was paying a price with my God. I couldn’t look Him in the eye anymore because I had already prayed nine hundred times about my sexual sin and had still done nothing. Every Sunday in the sanctuary I saw men in true worship, but knew I wasn’t making similar connection with Him.
I was paying a price with Brenda. I couldn’t give myself fully to her, suspecting that one day she’d discover my sin and loathe me for it. It was too risky to give her my whole heart. And then there were Brenda’s dreams. More than once she rushed downstairs with tears and terror on her face while I was in the very act of viewing lingerie ads. “I just had a horrible dream. Satan was chasing me, and I was racing desperately to find you so you could protect me. I called and called, but no matter where I ran, I couldn’t find you.” Torn, I wondered, “Has my sin crushed my spiritual protection over her?”
And what about my precious son? Might this be a generational sin? I was tortured, crying deep inside, “Will I pass this on to my son? Is there no way to be free from this?”
At work, if I lost a couple deals in a row, I’d wonder if God taken off His hand of blessing from my life. At church, I never arrived prepared to minister to others. Every Sunday morning I would arrive at church needing prayer and forgiveness over what I’d just done with the newspaper.
I had no peace. I was paying prices in every area of my life, but the worst was that distance from God. I hated it.
Two Bible verses chased me
The first one echoed daily:
“Why do you call me ?Lord, Lord,’ but do not do what I say?” Luke 6:46Jesus had a point. Was He my Lord, or wasn’t He?
The second made my head spin:
“I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.” Job 31:1
A covenant with the eyes? How can eyes keep a promise? While I didn’t understand, one thing was certain — I had clearly fallen short. Meditating upon this verse again and again, I was convinced that Job could help me.
Then one day I was driving down Merle Hay Road in Des Moines having just failed God for the millionth time. Tormented by grinding guilt, I’d finally had enough. Slamming my fists into the steering wheel, I shouted, “I don’t care what it is going to take or what it will cost, I am going to make a covenant with my eyes. It stops here.”
I had engaged the battle
Perhaps you need to engage the battle. You are robbing your wife. You are robbing your God. How long must they wait? Isn’t it time? You need a covenant with your eyes. God made men differently from women. We actually draw true sexual gratification through our eyes. While our wives are supposed to be our sole vessel of sexual gratification on the earth, most men are drawing a good bit of their sexual gratification from the environment surrounding them through their eyes. Consider my story.
As part of the covenant, I set a blockade around my eyes concerning joggers, billboards, movies, lingerie ads and the rest. About three weeks into the process, my desire for Brenda leaped off any known scale. Since only she could pass the blockade, she looked mighty fine. She noticed the jump in my desire, but passed it off as a temporary little jag, saying to herself, “I’m sure this will be over soon! Men are so weird!”
But before long she began to worry, asking herself, “What if this is permanent?” Finally, she couldn’t take it anymore, turning to me and leveling the question, “What am I doing to make myself so attractive so I can stop it?”
It was clear what had happened. Evidently, far more of my sexual needs were being filled through my eyes than I had imagined. I’d been blind to it, but having blocked these outside channels, my full sexual desire was now aimed solely at her.
You, too, are likely drawing some sexual gratification from outside your home. To be sexually pure, you must train your eyes to “bounce” away from sights of pretty women and similar sensual images. “Bouncing the eyes” is the foundation of Job’s covenant with the eyes.
By nature, of course, your eyes bounce toward the sexual. Until now, you’ve always looked to your heart’s content. You must build a reflex action by training your eyes to bounce away from the sexual immediately, like the jerk of a hand from a hot stove. When your eyes bounce toward a woman, they must bounce away immediately.
How do we train the new reflex?
This habit of your eyes is no different from any other habit. Experts say that anything done consistently for twenty-one days becomes a new habit. I’ve found that with strong conscious effort over a six-week period, your eyes will learn to consistently bounce away from the sensual.
I’ve been overwhelmed by e-mails from men who are now free from sexual sin after years of struggle. My book Every Man’s Battle was written to provide a detailed, step-by-step plan for building this covenant with the eyes. In this process, you must define your greatest enemies to your sexual purity, the most obvious and prolific sources for sexual gratification outside of your wife. Where are you weakest? Where do you look most often? For me, I had no trouble coming up with my Top Six:
You’ll then need to define a defense for each one. In Every Man’s Battle I share the details of my defenses and the obstacles to victory. Your mind and eyes will initially resist this discipline, and will fight the blockade. My own experiences will teach you what to expect.
But in the last analysis, the key to sexual purity lies not in your eyes, but in your heart. Are you committed to God’s standard? In Ephesians 5:3, God said we must not have even a hint of sexual immorality in our lives. We struggle with this standard. God cannot possibly mean this as it is written!
Knowing we’d argue, He followed verse three with these verses so we wouldn’t be fooled by our own empty logic:
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things, God’s wrath comes upon those who are disobedient. Therefore, do not be partners with them. Ephesians 5:6-7
Jesus hung on the cross that you might be free. He was beaten into hamburger. Doesn’t He have the right to set the terms for your sexuality? Shouldn’t He expect you to follow? Why do you call Him ?Lord, Lord,” and do not do what He says?
Fred Stoeker, co-author of Every Man’s Battle (WaterBrook Press), regularly writes and speaks to men about sexual purity. He works with “restoration teams” that help restore pastors to ministry after adultery.