“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5, NIV).
John and Mary are a very normal couple. They met in high school through a church youth group, dated in college, and got married. Now they are trying to rear their three children while they both are working.
John is on the move upward in his job, but he struggles with the time it takes to stay competitive with the other young executives. As a Christian, he disdains the drinking and sexual teasing that are a part of his work environment, but he fears not participating in some of it. Mary had a good job, but she struggles with being prepared for it and the time it takes. She feels a sense of loss every morning when she has to drop the kids off at the sitter. She is thankful that her boss, Bob, is so understanding. He is such a Christian man and very good to her.
John and Mary are very active in church. John serves on various committees; Mary sings in the choir. They attend a couple’s Sunday School class, which is about the only time they do anything together. John occasionally feels guilty when he experiences feelings of sexual attraction for women in their class. Mary often looks at other successful men and wonders if their wives have to work as hard as she does.
Lately at night, John and Mary have fallen into the routine of going to bed at different times. Mary is exhausted from all her activities and the accomplishments of getting the kids in bed. John is exhausted, too, but his stress prevents him from sleeping. Sex between the two of them has become infrequent. While John is angry about this, he doesn’t express his feelings well and keeps them bottled up.
Mary goes to bed and John stays up. Lately, to deal with his stress, John allows himself to drink a beer while watching some TV. More and more he has become fascinated with the movies on some of the cable channels. John also finds himself curious about the 1-900 phone numbers that flash on the screen late at night. Usually, they have a very attractive woman asking a question such as, “Do you need a friend?”
What will happen to Mary and John? There is nothing dramatically wrong with either one of them. They are, however, experiencing the stresses of our current culture. That culture is full of economic, social, and sexual pressures. Although they may not fully accept it, John and Mary are lonely. Other people and other sexual stimuli are continually a part of their lives, a reality which could tempt them to sin sexually. How will they stay faithful and true to each other?
That is the question that forms the basis of a new workbook titled, Faithful and True: Sexual Integrity in a Fallen World. This is a 12-week study guide that can be used by men and women in any church who want to create support groups for the purpose of remaining sexually faithful.
As Colossians 3:5 reminds us, God commands us to remain faithful in marriage and to avoid lust and perversions of all kinds. Yet we know that sexual sin has plagued people of faith for generations. Abraham committed incest (see Gen. 20:12-13); Samson, God’s strongest man, visited a prostitute (see Judg. 16:1); David, God’s anointed king, committed adultery and murder to cover it up (see 2 Sam. 11); and Solomon, God’s wisest man, loved many women (see 1 Kings 11:1-2). If some of God’s greatest leaders succumbed to sexual temptation, how are we to remain faithful?
We live in a time when sexual stimuli and messages are all around us. Pornographic images can be seen on commercial TV; and the content of some cable TV programs is unspeakable.
Popular music, movies, and radio are all places where we get bombarded. Advertising lures us with sex. Even some advertisements for blue jeans suggest child pornography. Computers offer new, instant forms of sexual acting out “online.” And at our grocery stores, we are hit with sexually suggestive magazine covers as we check out.
Perhaps we have become desensitized to the effect this has on our minds and spirits. Paul warns the Ephesians about this: “Having lost all sensitivity they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more” (Eph. 4:19, NIV).
I know the struggle to be faithful personally. From the time I looked at my first pornographic magazine at age 12 until I finally got help for my problems at age 37, I struggle with sexual sin in my life. This while I was a pastor, counselor, husband, father, and leader in my community. No one really knew the fire that burned inside of me for 25 years.
Faithful and True has been written out of my experience of finding personal healing, as well as the experiences of my wife and me as God rebuilt and restored our marriage. It is also written out of my experience of working with hundreds of men and women who struggle with sexual temptation, sin, and even addiction. Thanks be to God, in the face of the cultural and personal battles that many of us fight, there is hope through Christ Jesus.
There are a number of lessons that the Faithful and True workbook is based on:
? We can remain faithful as we participate in a community of faith. We all need other people in our live. As a young pastor, I thought I could do everything; that I didn’t really need others. I was on a pedestal and didn’t know who to talk to about my problems. Countless numbers of times I confessed my sins to God and asked him to take away my lust. I didn’t find help, however, until I confessed my story to other people who could support and encourage me in my struggles. Faithful and True is designed for support groups of men and women who come together weekly to offer each other support and accountability.
? We are vulnerable to sexual temptation if we are lonely. All of us seek to be nurtured and loved. Yet, many of us are not good at finding healthy ways of being with others, including our spouse. We can confuse sex with love and be tempted to think that a cure for our loneliness is through sex. This, after all, is a message that culture teaches us. When we stay stuck in our loneliness, we often become angry. Loneliness and anger can lead us to think that we are entitled to get our needs met somehow. Faithful and True provides learning activities to help us explore and express our feelings, and to build healthy relationships.
? The battle over sexual temptation will be lost if we keep it a secret. Keeping our thoughts, preoccupations, and desires inside ourselves only serves to make them more powerful. When we express them appropriately to others who can help, the power of the secret will be taken away. We will get honest feedback and support that will help us stay faithful. The support group nature of Faithful and True groups will help anyone come out of hiding and provide a safe and anonymous place to be honest.
? Sexual temptation is fueled by a deep sense of personal shame. For many reasons, some of us have felt that we are a mistake in the sight of God. We have thought that not even Christ could save us because our sins are too great. Shame can drive us into sexual preoccupations which we think alleviates our pain. In small groups studying Faithful and True, people will learn that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus (see Rom. 8:38-39), and that many others share similar sinful thoughts and actions.
? We can deal with sexual temptation if we truly surrender it to Christ. Many of us have tried, but find it difficult to let go of something which seems to have medicated our feeling and our stress for so long. Surrendering means really letting go and agreeing with ourselves that we won’t be involved again. This is not telling God how to heal us; it is not being angry with Him because He doesn’t provide healing the way we want. This kind of surrender is different from praying to God to take away our lust. Sexual stimuli and the feeling of lust are a part of life. We must learn to deal with it and find support, community, and healthy relationships with our spouse and others. We must truly trust God to provide for our needs.
Historically, how often have we talked about sex at church in healthy ways? Has our own shame, embarrassment, or sense of propriety kept us from doing so? Are we like many who have said, “In our church we don’t talk about that!” If we don’t, however, we are condemning ourselves to the messages that culture will teach us. This is particularly dangerous for our young people.
Faithful and True is divided into two parts. In Part One, support group members will work to develop a plan for healthy sexuality in their lives. This involves much more than understanding the biology of sex. Healthy sexuality ? remaining sexually faithful ? demands that we must take care of ourselves in five dimensions. These include the care of our physical bodies, the exercise of responsible and accountable behaviors, the maintenance of healthy relationships, the nurture of our minds and emotions, and most important, the sustenance of our spiritual life. Each unit of the workbook involves a week’s activities to help develop a strategy for each of these dimensions.
Part Two of Faithful and True is written for those who have been involved in some sort of sexual sin. For some, their sin will be a one-time experience. For others, it remains part of a longer addictive compulsive pattern. The support and accountability of a group will be essential in finding grace to turn from committing these sins again. Those who are able to complete both parts will begin a life-long pattern of sexual health and faithfulness. The strategies in Part two have been successful with thousands of men and women who have found freedom from their sexual sins. Each unit of Part Two will develop these strategies around key issues.
Marriage is a sacred connection between a man and woman. Jesus reminds us of the Old Testament description that a man and woman become one flesh (see Matt. 19:5). Paul compares this relationship to the relationship between Christ and His church (see Eph. 5:22-33). Remaining faithful to this sacred relationship always will be challenging.
For couples like John and Mary, being faithful and true is not only possible, it is the opportunity of the gift of marriage. They can know a spiritual experience and joy that few couples experience. No matter what level of sexual sin has damaged a marriage, healing and restoration is possible. Even couples so damaged can become faithful and true, trust can be rebuilt, and spiritual joy experienced.
Copyright © 2006 Dr. Mark Laaser, used with permission. Read more at faithfulandtrueministries.com