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Indeed, in a world that is saturated with sexuality and all its lurid manifestations, the Christian man faces the greatest of challenges: "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity . . . " (Ephesians 5:3 NIV) Not even a hint.
Michael is a talented teacher at a large church. He's also a schoolteacher and a minister's son. He's a coach. He's a handsome 28-year-old and respected as a man of integrity and godliness. And despite being married to the beautiful sweetheart of his dreams, he realized that the struggle with lust and sexual purity was every man's battle long before a book told him so.
Now he leads discipleship classes using the breakthrough book Every Man's Battle by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker. What Michael has discovered is that he and virtually every guy he knows is the "every man" in Every Man's Battle.
"As a teenager, I started really struggling, not only with the things that I saw on TV but also things that I exposed myself to through magazines, videos, that type stuff," Michael says. "What I noticed and what is pretty common with all the men we've dealt with in this study is that everybody so easily retains all of that material. And you usually allow yourself to see that stuff at a time of your life when you are nowhere near where you need to be spiritually. But then when you get to the point where you're supposed to be spiritually, you think that all of that will just go away. But, if anything, it intensifies."
Indeed, in a world that is saturated with sexuality and all its lurid manifestations, the Christian man faces the greatest of challenges: "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity . . . " (Ephesians 5:3 NIV)
Not even a hint.
Yet seemingly every scintilla of modern culture has in some way been colored by fallen man's skewed sense of sexuality. Not only is there simply not enough modesty and reserve anymore; there are simply not enough clothes—at least not the proper kind. This can happen anywhere—even the church is not exempt.
Make no mistake: This isn't just an issue of pornography or fantasy or adultery. The heart of the matter is actually the heart in the matter—namely, the Christian man's heart that, while renewed, still must fend off all the old habits, thought patterns, and fleshly attitudes so often pockmarked with one of Satan's favorite calling cards: lust. Fantasy, pornography, and adultery really are symptoms by degree.
The Christian man wades into a sensory overload cesspool every day as he seeks to make a living, serve the Lord, honor his wife, raise his children, and remain pure. Forthwith he must summon the raw determination not to look at the scantily clad women on every other billboard; or ignore the attractive co-worker who insists on wearing what she saw on MTV; or pick up any of the magazines at the doctor's office because of the ads and sex articles; or turn the channel during the football timeout because of the racy beer commercial; or press the remote button again because the next channel's movie or commercial is even racier; or . . . well, the assault is interminably pervasive.
It is informative to gauge the impact of hardcore material first: ABCNews.com reported on January 28, 2003, that the pornography industry's $11 billion annual revenues surpass those of the National Football League, National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball combined. Just imagine: Sports wither in comparisons of men's interest levels. Further, in 1992 Christianity Today magazine surveyed 1,000 subscribers (mostly men), and 49 percent indicated they had viewed pornography within the previous year. Smart Business magazine reports that 20 percent—a full one-fifth—of the Internet is pornography. If the hard stuff is so popular, it follows that the softer is even more prevalent.
Combine this with the fact that most Christian men historically have been too intimidated, embarrassed, or guilt-ridden to discuss the dark alley of sexual impurity. Most still don't realize the problem's universality. They often careen through days of impure thoughts, quick prayers of penitence, lustful glances, more quick prayers . . . and perpetual frustration. Some figuratively throw up their hands and believe themselves filthy; they assume no one will understand.
Into that cavernous void, Arterburn and Stoeker parachuted with Scripture in mind and pens in hand.
"It's been such a surprise that men have used it as an excuse to finally open up about something they have been keeping a secret for so long," Arterburn says in an interview with In Touch magazine.
Every Man's Battle is not the first Christian treatment on the subjects of lust, sexual impurity, and their rotten fruit. Reliables like Dr. James Dobson and Cal Thomas have seen their respected advice joined by transparent and determined voices like Pat and Marsha Means, Kathryn and Paul Wilson, and Laurie Hall. She begins her book An Affair of the Mind (distributed by Focus on the Family) with her poignant account of having to undergo AIDS testing because of her husband's infidelity with prostitutes. Arterburn even endorses Pat Means' book Men's Secret Wars. There are many other sources of helpful materials, like focusonthefamily.org's "Husbands and Wives" link and www.netaccountability.com, an ingenious approach to online surfing accountability, developed by Dr. Chuck Swindoll's Insight for Living. Promise Keepers (promisekeepers.org) offers a similar product called "Eye Promise."
Yet perhaps no other source has helped men forge through the mire like Every Man's Battle, its workshops, and accompanying books Every Young Man's Battle and Every Woman's Desire. Together, the trio is approaching 750,000 units sold.
"If we can get men to take this battleground and to win this battle, I think we're going a long way in having personal revival within communities and churches—and within the hearts of men," Arterburn says. "So I think it has reverberations beyond just a guy not picking up [an adult] magazine on a newsstand because it's the right thing to do."
Arterburn and Stoeker detail effective requisites of the battle. First, men must avoid the deception of desiring an excellent record of integrity. Why? Excellence is a mixed standard; obedience is a fixed standard. Obedience to God's Word is the goal. Granted, God has wired men with a sex drive (as the book details), and men are easily gratified through eyes that serve as portals to the mind. Yet men must choose not to sin, not to look, not to lust. Next, the authors outline a practical battle plan to thwart Satan's advances:
Bouncing the eyes: This idea may seem obvious, especially to the female mind. Yet many men—even Christian men—are so engrossed in popular culture that they find this suggestion almost novel. Bounce the eyes? You mean you want me to train myself immediately to look away from anything or anyone sexually appealing who isn't my wife? Hmmm.
Precisely. It will take weeks if not months of practice. But it is attainable for the serious student who desires the fixed standard of obedience. It grows easier over time, as reported by legions of Every Man's Battle readers, including the aforementioned Michael.
"I haven't really approached anything that's been as practical as these steps are," Michael says. "The whole idea of training the eyes to bounce was very helpful to me. It's something that I have to continually refresh on. It's easy to revert to old habits, but the practicality was good."
Avoidance: Men must bounce their eyes at the unexpected. And they must simply avoid the expected. A Christian man should have great difficulty rationalizing a subscription to a premium cable channel. He also should know never to surf the Web alone if he struggles with Internet pornography. Some men even have asked hotels to remove the TV from their assigned rooms on business trips. Avoidance is common sense, but, as one Southern football coach drawled: "Common sense ain't so common anymore."
Finding a Sword and Shield: Your greatest weapon is to saturate your mind with the best possible input, God's Word, and then wield it in times of temptation. Be prepared to use verses like 1 Corinthians 6:18 and Ephesians 5:11 (look them up; you're going to need them).
Accountability: Scary word, isn't it? Yes, this age-old mechanism is promoted by Arterburn. And by everyone else of repute. The reason? Because it works. Get over the fear so you can get on with the victory.
"You need to find someone near you whom you can trust, someone with whom you are willing to be totally vulnerable,'' Swindoll says on netaccountability.com. "Now, this is a hard step. But pornography gains strength in privacy, in solitude, in darkness. Trust me, you will not find victory confronting the problem alone. You need a friend."
Telling Your Wife: Those of you who are married may not feel comfortable divulging to your wife explicit details of your past struggles, but it is wise to use aids like Every Man's Battle as springboards to open, honest discussion with her. Men have discovered their wives to be incredibly compassionate, though some initially have been hurt.
Starving the Eyes: As you learn to bounce your eyes, you also must learn to starve them. Keep 'em bounced, and resolve to achieve the standard espoused by Every Man's Battle: You can consider yourself sexually pure when no sexual gratification comes from anyone or anything but your wife. Many men, like Michael, have enjoyed near-miraculous results by swearing off the "junk food" of lust.
"We create in our minds that image of what we think is the perfect woman, and the way it affects your marriage is that your wife can never live up to those standards," Michael says. "The great thing for me in my marriage was as you begin to starve the eyes, you begin to see your wife as that focal point. And as she begins to understand more about what you're trying to do for the marriage, then she becomes responsive to that, and, man, you see her in such a different light and see what God has blessed you with through your wife."
Now there's a hint every man should embrace.
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